What is Dog Markers Training
A marker is a tool that allows us to tell the dog exactly what behavior is being positively reinforced and it allows us to do so in a clear, objective and simple way. In other words, a marker turns out to be a tool that facilitates communication between the owner/trainer and the dog.
When we correctly use a marker to train our dogs, we speed up the whole process by making it faster and more efficient; it also prevents the dog from developing frustration during the training session for not to being able to understand what we want from him and what behaviors are being reinforced.
How do we use a marker, then?
1st Rule – We should mark the behavior at the exact moment it occurs. That is, if we want to teach a “Sit”, we should mark the exact moment the dog’s hind legs touch the ground; if we’re teaching a “Down”, we mark the moment the dog’s elbows touch the ground and so on. A bad timing will delay the learning process and will make it harder for the dog to understand what we want from him.
2nd Rule – Once the dog hears the marker, he knows he’ll be reinforced. As a consequence, it becomes a secondary reinforcement. A secondary reinforcement is a stimulus that is always associated with a primary reinforcement (something the dog naturally likes such as food, social contact …). Therefore, the marker must always be followed by a primary reinforcement. Whenever we mark a behavior, we offer the dog a reinforcement. Always. If we mark a behavior, but fail to reward the dog afterwards, we’re detaching the marker from its meaning.
3rd Rule – The marker must be unique and specific. That is, if we use a word as a marker, that word should not be used in any other circumstance. It should not be subjective or liable to change depending on, for example, the emotion associated with it.
Types of Markers
There are several types of markers:
The dog clicker is a small plastic object that has a metal lever in the center. This lever, when pressed, will emit the sound “Click!” which is a unique, objective and short sound. It’s very cheap and fairly simple to use. One of its disadvantages is that you need to be holding it with your hand (it can be a bit complicated to manage a clicker, a leash and a whole range of rewards with just two hands).
A verbal marker generally translates into a word that is selected and used for marking behaviors. It should always be said under the same tone of voice and as objectively as possible.
The visual marker is particularly useful in cases of dogs with hearing impairment. This may be an object that is pressed in order to emit a light or a specific hand gesture. It allows us to mark behaviors when the dog would be unable to hear the “Click!” Or “Yes!”.
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