To better set our clients and their dogs up for success, in mid-2021 we simplified our Marker System from 4 marker words to 3 marker words. We are getting the same great results while making things simpler and easier for our clients to learn and maintain in the training process.
What are markers
Markers are words or sounds used to communicate or signal to the dog that he is doing something correctly or incorrectly and to release the dog from a behavior. They mark a specific moment in time when the dog performs an action or behavior. It’s feedback for the dog in its simplest form. Verbal markers clear up and improve communication in training and streamline the training process.
We use classical conditioning to teach marker words. For optimal conditioning, mark the behavior then follow-through within .5 to 2.3 seconds; 1 second is ideal.
Our 3 markers
We use three basic marker words: Good, No and Free.
- Good is a reward marker. It means “That was correct, you’re doing a good job, keep doing what you’re doing.” The “Good” marker is followed by a reward (+R) initially every time then some of the time. Initially the reward is food. As the dog advances in training, food can be replaced with praise and affection.
- No is a correction marker. It means “That’s not what I want” or “That’s not what I asked for.” It signals to the dog that his behavior was incorrect and to either fix it or try again. You will follow through with a correction which can be via slip lead pressure, a prong collar pop or e-collar stimulation, then restate the command if needed. As your dog advances in training, if he self-corrects when you say No, you can choose to correct him or not.
- Free is our release marker. Free means you’re released from whatever you were doing and implies “Come to me for the reward.” To teach Free you say “Free,” then step back, then reward the dog. Initially the reward is food; later it can be praise or affection.
Important to remember
Markers should be said the same way each time without emotion. Emotion makes things foggy and makes the dog feel he must interpret the marker. Just like a clicker is consistent, so should marker words.
The biggest mistake we see in marker training is referred to as layering – when the marker and the reward/correction are given at the same time. Classical conditioning requires one thing to happen then the next, but not both at the same time. Ideally, you want to:
Mark the behavior + pause + follow through (+R, +C, release)
Repetition is key to successful conditioning. It takes approximately 120 quality repetitions for something to be conditioned in a dog’s mind. Once your dog understands markers, better communication is established for the duration of your training journey.