MARKER WORD TRAINING 
HOW TO LOAD-UP A MARKER WORD

FEEL SAFE – FEEL GOOD

All dogs need to feel safe before they can learn. When you start to do a short training session with your dog or puppy, they need to be feeling relaxed, alert and content.

Aim to train for only 3 minutes. You can do 3 or 4 sessions a day, but they need to be very short. Dogs learn best in short, repeated sessions, and puppies need very short sessions so that they don’t get tired.A good, short training session will make your dog more tired than a half hour walk – brain work tires dogs out and calms them.

CREATING THE CALM

If her body is relaxed, she’s wide awake and not hungry then she's ready to learn. We're going to teach her that being near to you Feels Good, and that learning Feels Good. The more a dog Feels Good about something, the more she will want to do it. The best way to teach her anything is to create that Feel Good sense about it, so that she always gets a buzz out of doing things for you. If I’d been given a little treat for every plate I washed-up, I’d be a much better washer-upper than I am … And I might even enjoy doing it.

EQUIPMENT

A treat pouch – it needs to be large enough to get your hand into comfortably and attached to your belt or waistband so that it’s easy to get to.

About 50 tiny, tasty and smelly treats. They need to be half the size of your little finger nail (or about half the size of a pea. Smaller, if you have a small puppy or dog) They need to be small because you’re going to be using a lot to start with. If you’re following our programmes, cut your dog’s food down by a quarter so that she or he doesn’t put on weight.

Marker word - you need to choose a word which will be used consistently to signify 'well done' to your dog. Short sharp words like: yup, yep, tee are all good words you can use. The important thing is to choose a word everyone in your household feels comfortable using as you all need to use the same word.

TRY THIS:

  1. Take 10 treats in your hand and stand in front of your dog

  2. Say the marker word and give her a treat from your hand to her mouth.

  3. Say the marker word again and give her a treat from your hand to her mouth.

  4. Do this with another 3 treats.

  5. Say the marker word, count ‘1’ in your head, and give her a treat

  6. Do this another two times.

  7. Put both hands behind your back.

  8. Say the marker word and give her a treat from your hand to her mouth.

  9. Say the marker word and give her a treat from your hand to her mouth.

  10. Move to another place in the same room and repeat steps 1 to 9.

NEXT STEP

Have another 10 treats in your hand. Stand in front of your dog and simply look at her (smile – make it Feel Good for her!) The instant she looks at you, say the marker word and give her a treat from your hand to her mouth.

Continue to Mark and Treat her each time she gets eye contact with you. Sometimes you can give her the treat in her mouth, sometimes drop it on the floor.

Try this 3 times, for no longer than 3- 5 minutes each time for two days. 

 

SOLUTIONS

If your dog seems unable to understand that the marker word means treats, it could be for one of the following reasons:

  • She won’t take treats from your hand. This could be because she’s fearful of being touched. If this is the case, try dropping the treat right in front of her nose onto the floor.

  • She doesn’t like the treats – try using cooked chicken. Most dogs will happily work for chicken.

  • She’s tired, or feeling unwell – stop the session and try again when she’s feeling more able to learn.

  • She wanders off and seems unable to concentrate – she’s tired. Or she’s feeling overwhelmed. Just stop the session and try again when she’s feeling able to learn. A tired dog can’t concentrate and puppies will often wander off because they’re feeling overwhelmed. Just leave her for a while and try again in 20 minutes or so.

  • She snatches the treats: If your dog is a snatcher, or tends to nibble your fingers as she takes the treat, put the treats on the floor at first.Then you can try marking and presenting your fist with the treat inside it. She may well nibble your fist, she might even paw at it. Ignore her – avoid saying ‘gently’ or anything at all. Let her work out that she needs to back-off and take things nicely. The INSTANT she moves her head away, open your hand and let her take it. It’s important, though, that this still happens within the 3 second Feel Good time. If it takes longer than that, Marking and Treating will stop working. Marking and Treating is about Feel Good – it isn’t about teaching manners. If your dog is a confirmed snatcher, practise delivering treats using this technique, without using the marker word so that the word doesn’t start to lose its effect.

  • She doesn’t seem to be reacting to the marker word: She may need you to go right back to steps 1 – 10 again. Some dogs can take a while to understand that the marker word means treat. Try giving the treat very quickly after the marker word. Then slow down and leave a small pause between the Mark and the Treat. Then go back to the Mark and Quick Treat! Vary it until you can see that she anticipates a treat when she hears the marker word.

THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER

If you get these things right, the marker word will always work for your dog. When clients feel the marker word has ‘stopped working’, it’s usually because of the following:

THE MARKER WORD HAS BEEN USED TO GET YOUR DOG’S ATTENTION.

The marker is a signal that the dog has made the right decision. It isn't to get her attention.

 

THE TREAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TOO SLOWLY AFTER USING THE MARKER WORD. Always give the treat within 3 seconds of marking. This is the only way to keep the Marker Word Feeling Good.

THE MARKER WORD WASN'T FOLLOWED WITH A TREAT.

Always follow the marker word with a tasty treat. Even if you marked the wrong thing!

If you don’t have any treats, don't use the marker word.