Dog Training with Marker Words

Nose work training

What are they and how do they speed up the training process

 When you take a dog training class with Kentucky Canine Coach LLC  you will be asked to select a reward marker during your first session with us. A reward marker is a very clear way of communicating with your dog which increases your dog’s understanding of the content we are teaching and decreases how long it takes your dog to learn new behaviors. It allows you to capture your dog’s correct behavior from across the yard and allows you to tell your dog that he was correct without even having a treat in your hand. It is one of the most powerful tools in dog training. That’s great news since you take your voice everywhere you go.

What is a reward marker? A reward marker or a bridge word is used to tell your dog the exact minute they performed the correct behavior.   

A great example of this is if you were teaching your dog to make eye contact with you. If you asked your dog to look in your eyes and then simply fed him a treat you would be treating him while he was looking at the treating your hand not your eyes.   The moment you move your hands your dog WILL instinctively look at your hands. However, if you were able to use a word to say “that’s correct, now your food is coming” you can mark while your dog’s eyes are still on your eyes before they look to the treat. 

Another important example would be if your dog was at a park off leash and you ask your dog to leave something, you want to be able to pinpoint the exact minute they left the object, even if it’ll take five to 10 seconds for your dog to make it across the field to you. Timing on your rewards is critical.

Why don’t we just use good boy? Technically you can use good talk good or good boy, but often times this word is used very frequently by strangers meeting your dog or by family and friends when they’re interacting with your dog. We want our marker word to be a special word that is used only when we will produce a reward after it.  This word is only between handler and dog. If we choose to use good boy and our dog jumps up on somebody and they say good boy then they’re reinforcing that incorrect Behavior.

When to use a marker word? Imagine that your marker word is a camera and you want to take a picture of the exact moment your dog does the correct Behavior. If I was working on teaching sit, I would use my marker word the second my dogs butt hit the floor or if I was working on down I would use my marker word the second my dog’s elbows hit the ground.

What word should I select for my marker word? It doesn’t really matter as long as you consistently use it before giving your dog the food reward. I personally use “yes”. Marker words that I typically recommend for my students are yes, nice, super, yup or sweet. You can also elect to use a clicker instead of a marker word. Timing and how you use the word is more important than what word you select.

How do I use a marker word? Start dog training by “Charging” your marker word. Have a handful of treats and take your dog to an area with very little distraction and say your marker word then give the treat.  It should go, marker word pause food reward with only one to two seconds in between.   Repeat this a few times in different low-distraction areas with good treats and your ready to go train your dog.

Good luck in training and have fun!

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