Communicating with your dog can become  frustrating, especially since we are two different species. Dogs are going to pick up on your body language, tone of voice, and words you have taught them. Making clear communication with dog training will speed up the process to learn a new  behavior. One of the ways to do this is through marker training.

Giving a brief look into marker training, it is a way to effectively communicate the instant the dog performed something correctly or incorrectly or to continue what they are doing. The best thing about communicating these three things is it can be done quickly with your voice, it creates clarity for your dog, and can be done in any position.

The reason why this is important because dogs learn in the moment. If you tell your dog he did something good 10 seconds later or something wrong he will only comprehended what is happening at that moment.

So what exactly is marker training?  In general marker training is classically conditioning a specific word (neutral stimulus) into a conditioned stimulus to get a conditioned response.

Put it like this when we say YES the dog thinks REWARD!

When we say GOOD the dog thinks REWARD is on its way

The word NOPE means try again NO REWARD or NOPE can be marking a unacceptable behavior.

Quick example on why communicating this with our dog makes training so much easier. Originally we would teach a dog to SIT by saying SIT then putting food in their mouth. Hoping that the word SIT only means SIT and not the hand movement or gestures, and that we provide the food to their mouth at the same time or technically under 1 second. This would be the only way to convey this message and the end result of the position. The other issue is that this can only be done with the dog right in front of us, making distance work not completely clear. With marker training we can communicate what the dog is doing correctly or incorrectly. Markers allow us to relay with the SIT position the moment the dog completes it or does not, and allows the dog to be more active in their training approach. Teaching the SIT this way allows the command to be more versatile by allowing different distances, positions around us, and quickly performed.

Teaching the word YES. We do this by simply creating a fun experience with our dog. Loading up our pockets and hands with treats and luring our dog all over the place to create excitement. We then say YES and follow with the food reward. Continue doing this over and over again varying the amount of reward. The word YES ends up being considered a release word. Come Get Your Food!!! Do this consistently not just with training but when throwing a toy, putting the food bowl down or anytime they will receive a reward. The word YES is just that a word to be said ONCE. This word is not meant to be a praise word it is to be done as YES- FOOD YES -REWARD    NOT….  YES YES YES – REWARD. You will notice your dog is conditioned to the word when you say YES and they immediately look for the food, or when saying it at a distance they come running to get it.  You also want to phase out any movement you have been doing to the point where you can say YES and then reach for the reward. This way the dog knows the verbal word is the only reason for the release.

Using the word YES for commands. Simply we say YES to mark that exact moment the dog did what we wanted. We tell the dog to SIT the instant the dog’s butt touches the ground we say YES and the dog gets their reward.  This is so valuable in training to communicate to the dog the behavior that we wanted, and versatile into higher obedience.

Teaching the Marker GOOD. Good is used to tell the dog to keep doing what they’re doing and the reward will come. The best way to teach and explain this is with the STAY command. We tell the dog STAY the dog does not move we say GOOD then bring the reward to them. Say STAY again we take a step back the dog does not move we say GOOD then bring the reward to the dog. Saying GOOD is communicating to the dog that the food is coming. We always want to go to them and reward them without the dog breaking position. This creates an effective communication where we can get an understanding at a farther distance and or reward for the actual consistent behavior.

Teaching the Marker NOPE.  NOPE is communicated to tell the dog try again or the behavior is unacceptable. When we have a dog where the reward we have is highly desirable NOPE is learned quickly. Communicating with the dog in this way keeps them thinking especially when learning a behavior in higher obedience. You will notice if for example the dog understands SIT but you say the word and they do nothing or get distracted following with NOPE through the training process the dog will be active with their approach and try whatever it takes to get the REWARD. Using NOPE to mark an unacceptable needs to be proceeded only through a training program. With many dogs other training and understanding for the dog needs to be addressed before doing so. This is to create clarity and a better relationship overall.

Marker training opens up greater possibilities into basic and advanced training. Using marker training effectively will create more focus and engagement which will elevate your relationship with your dog.

These are all brief examples into communicating with your dog in marker training. Marker training when seen in action shows the great potential for dog training. Further instruction and experience will have to be given to fully understand the process and to grasp the timing and communication. Once the handler of the dog works through this it will become second nature into a new way to engage with their dog.

Aaron Zakrzewski – K9 Disciples Dog Training