Clear lines of communication between the dog and the handler is the most crucial components of a successful training program. If I ask my dog to perform a behavior, it is my responsibility to ensure that I have made the strides necessary to show them what it is I am asking them to do. The use of markers, especially in the beginning of training, is the basis on which my language becomes clear to my dog.
When I first begin working with a new dog, I want to start teaching them a marker word so that when they offer a behavior I want to develop, I can clearly show them exactly what it is they did that I would like them to repeat. Please note, that some people use clickers for the same purpose. In all honesty, I can be such a lame brain that I don’t consistently remember to bring one around with me. So, my voice can have the same impact – a short, succinct “yes” will clearly mark just as any thing else. For example, if I ask my dog to sit, and he offers the behavior correctly, I will mark ‘yes’ the second his bottom touches the ground and pay him for it with whatever motivator I am using.
“…I will mark ‘yes’ the second his bottom touches the ground and pay him for it with whatever motivator I am using.”
I will also use marker words to help build the duration, or longevity, of a behavior. Take again the ‘sit’ behavior as an example. After marking the appropriate action, I will reinforce the dog by saying ‘good sit’ or even just ‘good’ to help build the length of time that the dog can hold the position. This helps to encourage the dog and build that communication that helps deliver the expectation I am trying to explain as we go through training.
As behaviors become more complicated, using these markers assists in helping the dog to figure out exactly what the handler is asking as well as building duration of a behavior. Foundationally, we need these types of markers in order to help express exactly what we want out of the dog, encourage them for the effort they are putting forth, and engage them in their training. Markers are extremely powerful and a skill that should be implemented into every training program!
If you enjoyed this post, you should read Choosing Safe Toys For Your Dog here.
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