Establishing a Marker (click or “yes”)
Marker training if one of the most effective developments in dog training to become widespread in the last ten years. You will find that trainers of gun dogs, trick dogs, service dogs and pet dogs — even those who were once poo-pooed the method now embrace it. The method is best known from the world of marine animal training (dolphins trained for the military, for example) where people need a way to communicate with animals that can’t be controlled physically.
How does Marker Training work?
It is fabulously simple. A marker is a precise stimulus sound (usually a sound like a click or a word like “yes”) used to communicate with your animal.
First, we teach the dog that the click means he will receive a reward. So, the dog develops a positive association with the sound, but he also learns that doing something results in a click sound which results in a reward (like food).
We, as trainers, use it to precisely and clearly tell the dog when he has done something we like.
So, as an example, when your dog does what you want him to do—like a sit or a down—you immediately click and give him a treat. This gives your dog instant, specific feedback.
Step one: Establish the clicker or word as a marker.
To teach that click or “yes” means treat:
Grab a handful of really yummy treats cut into small pieces.
Every time you click, give your dog a treat (do not click and treat at the same time; the treat must follow the click, not precede or coincide with it).
Do this first in a place with no distractions. Then do it standing up, sitting down, while moving about, indoors, outdoors. Basically, make sure your dog understands that the click means treat in all situations.
Do the exercise a few times a day for two minutes at a time until, when you click, you notice that your dog looks at you anticipating a treat.
- Click or say yes only once.
- Use delicious treats at the beginning.
- If you click or say yes you must treat.
- The clicker or marker word is not a remote control.
- Don’t use it to call your dog to you or get attention.