What is Clicker or Marker Training?
Marker training is a useful and proven way to train your dog. A marker communicates to your dog they have performed the asked for behaviour and that they will be rewarded. The marker pinpoints the exact moment the correct behaviour. A marker could be a clicker, sound or a word. Examples of words to use as a marker could be Yes, Yip, or Nice but you can use almost any short word or sound that you can say in a higher pitch tone.
The reward is often a treat but as you start to expand your training skills a marker can mean many things such as a toy, game, or defining where to get the treat from such as a scatter. Each reward will have a different marker.
When you use a marker you always get the promised reward even if it is said in error. As your dog starts to learn new behaviours you can start using the here comes a treat marker and swap it for a marker that means yep you did that right but I don’t have anything for you, (other than my eternal gratitude for being awesome) such as Good!
During training sessions I ‘pay’ my dog for everything because I am asking them to work. Outside of training sessions I will only ‘pay’ them if I have a treat or toy happy.
My basic markers are
Yes – Food reward
Nice – Toy
Good – Eternal gratitude
During training sessions I will use Yes most of the time with a couple Nice marks to split up the session and end the session.
How does the marker or Clicker work?
When you start using it the word or click means nothing so first you need to condition your bridge or marker. Essentially this means just giving it value.
To do this you need to decide on the marker and the reward.
If I am conditioning my Yes marker meaning food, I would have some kibble or treats in one hand (approximately 6-12 pieces)
● Say Yes!
● Give your dog a piece of food.
● Repeat until all food has been used.
● Say ‘All Done’ and show your empty hands to end the session
● Repeat a few times a day for 3-5 days and in a variety locations.
The desired response is your dog expects a treat to follow the marker and this will come with a few days of practice.
How do you use the marker?
If I ask my dog to sit and he sits I say Yes! and give him a treat. The food acts as positive reinforcement (if the dog likes the food) and you will see the behaviour more often.
Clicker or Marker training is so effective because it uses positive reinforcement (in the details form) and it pinpoints the exact moment the correct behaviour is performed. If we don’t use a marker we often end up rewarding something we weren’t planning to such as a sit instead of come, or a down instead of a sit.