Communicating with your Dog: Marker Training

Establish a Marker (click or “yes”)

Do the exercise three times times a day at least with about 15 treats each time when your dog is hungry in a non-distracting environment.

Marker training if one of the most effective developments in dog training to become widespread in the last ten or fifteen years.  Trainers of gun dogs, trick dogs, service dogs, pet dogs, zoo animals — even those who once looked down on the method  —  now embrace it.  The method emerged from training military animals such as dolphins trained by the military to rescue lost naval swimmers or to locate underwater mines.

How Does Marker Training work?

It is  simple. A marker is a precise stimulus  (usually a unique sound like a click or an uncommon word like “yes”) used to communicate with your animal.  Simply, you are wiring your dog’s brain to associate the click or “yes” with a reward.  This becomes a clear, specific, and motivating way of telling your dog, “I like what you did, and you have earned a reward.”    When I say “mark your dog” I mean click or say yes and give a treat.


You use the marker when your dog does what you ask, or when on his own he does something that you like —like a sit or a down.  When you see what you like you immediately click or say yes and give him a treat. This gives your dog instant, specific feedback.  In the early stages of teaching and learning you always should follow the marker.

Using the marker also gives you a second to get that treat out of your pocket or pouch.

What happens if you dont use a marker?  Your training becomes less clear to your dog.  If you DON’T use the marker and then fumble around in your pockets and take a few seconds to get out the treat, the dog may have already forgotten or stopped doing what he did that earned him the reward.  He won’t really know what he did that earned him the reward.

That is why we always click immediately when we see the behavior that we we like.

Step one: Establish the clicker or “yes” as a marker.

To teach that click or “yes” means treat: Grab a handful of really yummy treats cut into small pieces.  Go to a place with no distractions.   Click or say “yes,” then immediately give your dog a treat.  Sequence is key.  The treat must immediately follow the click.

Then do a few while sitting down, while moving about one or two steps, indoors and outdoors.

How do you know when you have successfully installed a marker?  The dog will turn and look at you excitedly as soon as you click or say yes.


  • Click or say yes only once.
  • Use delicious treats at the beginning.
  • If click or say yes you MUST treat.
  • The clicker or marker word is not a remote control, don’t shove it at your dog.
  • Do not use your marker as an attention getter or to call your dog!

About Laurene

Laurene von Klan is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer serving West Los Angeles
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