Clicker training / Marker training is a method of positive reinforcement training that has been in use for many years. Your dog learns that the sound of the clicker or the verbal marker (“Yes”) means a treat is coming. The marker is then used to indicate the moment he performs an appropriate behavior – either one you’ve asked him to perform or one that he voluntarily does. The marker is an instant feedback tool that tells your dog exactly what he’s getting rewarded for.
Clicker training / Marker training is better than using general praise for several reasons. One, people tend to tell their dogs how wonderful and lovely they are all the time for no specific reason. General praise happens regardless of the dog’s behavior in most households. The marker ONLY happens when a good behavior is being performed. Two, humans tend to be slow with treat delivery when rewarding a dog for a good performance, spending lots of time digging around for a tidbit stuck in a pocket. By the time Fido receives his reward, it’s questionable whether or not he knows what behavior actually earned him his treat. The marker helps to bridge that time gap and tells him exactly what it is he did that earned him reinforcement.
The clicker and the “Yes” marker can be used interchangeably. When you find yourself without a clicker, feel free to mark your dog’s desirable behavior verbally. You might also choose to use “Yes” as your primary reward marker. Just remember, use one or the other at any given time, not both.
Rule #1: Every time you use your marker, you must deliver a treat. Think of it as a promise to your dog you never want to break.
Rule #2: Have good timing. Mark at the exact moment your dog is doing the desired behavior, not a second before and not a second after. For example, if you’re marking for sitting behavior, make sure to do so when Fido’s rear end lands on the ground.
Rule #3: Your marker is meant only for marking good behaviors. Do not click or say, “Yes,” in an attempt to get your dog’s attention.
Rule #4: If you find yourself without a clicker and your dog does something very much reward worthy, do not let your dog’s behavior go without reinforcement. You can always use your verbal marker, “Yes” in place of the click.
Training Tip: If your dog appears to be frightened of the clicker, you can dampen the sound initially by wrapping a towel around your hand when clicking. You can also use a lighter sounding clicker. If your dog continues to be frightened, stop using the clicker and use the verbal marker, “Yes” exclusively.
© Give Paw Dog Training LLC 2017