An explanation of marker words and clicker training

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Pavlov was a Russian Psychologist who experimented on what could cause dogs to salivate. He concluded that if the food was presented after a bell ring that the bell sound alone could cause the dogs to drool. The dogs had begun to produce a physical response to a meaningless sound because they predicted the food. This is called 'classical conditioning'.

This is a powerful tool in dog training because after repetition your dog can learn that when the noise is made, that is what they are being rewarded for. This makes it possible for you to give the reward your dog slower, be more accurate with what you are rewarding them for and also reward your dog at distances.

For example, when training your dog to focus or look at you. They may offer the perfect eye contact but by the time you've got your treat out they've looked away. With a marker you could say 'Yes!' and they would know they did something right and would wait for the reward.

A marker is marking a moment in time when the dog has offered the correct behavior and will get a reward. Imagine your marker as a camera that can photograph the exact behavior your dog does.

Clicker training is a branch of this idea that involves using a device called a clicker. Is it personal preference if you would prefer to use this or a word that you can say. There are pros and cons to each, for a in depth explanation please check out the video 'Dog training secrets and techniques'.

To choose a marker word use something that slips off your tongue easily and that is one word. 'Good boy/girl' is fantastic for praise but not as a marker. Something like 'Yes' is a good idea as it has a hiss tone that sounds like nothing else.

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