FAQ on Marker Training

What is Marker Training?

  • Marker training is a simple way of dog training that communicates with the dog what behavior is correct and desired by the handler. 
  • It is a science based teaching method that simplifies communicating with the dog with positive reinforcement.
  • Teaches the dog through their own thinking and actions instead of luring, correcting, or physically manipulating the dog into the correct position or behavior. 
  • It allows the learning of behaviors to be established quickly with food reward. 
  • The dog has to make the choice to offer the behavior. The more you reward the desired behavior, the more the dog will offer that behavior again for their reward. 
  • Gives the dog the opportunity to offer the correct, desired behavior for food reward. 
  • Get to tell the dog "Great Job!" with marker training and food reward instead of waiting for the poor behavior and telling the dog "No"
    • The marker word we use is “Nice”

Why Do We Use It?

  • Science/researched based to be an effective, efficient way to teach dogs.
  • Marker training works well in conjunction to teaching self-control in dogs
  • More positive way of teaching than alternative methods.
  • Fun for the dog and puppy raiser!

How Can We Use It?

  • We will use marker training and food reward for the verbal cues “Place” and “Touch”
  • We will also use marker training and food reward for teaching self-control
  • Show the dog the behavior that we want them to offer.
    • When we start marker training with a behavior, we offer a high rate of reinforcement. Then we decrease the food reward as the dog becomes savvy with the behavior.

What is a Marker Word?

  • A marker word is a tool we can use during the learning stage of certain behaviors or verbal cues.
  • It communicates to the dog that what they were doing in that exact moment was the right thing. A marker will be followed up by food reward.
    • We will always use the word "NICE" with our marker training
  • The marker word “Nice” communicates with the dog that food reward is on the way because they did something correctly.
    • Start with the dog's daily allocated kibble from their meals. If the dog does not eat their full meals or kibble, we can problem solve from there.

Why Food Reward for Reinforcement?

  • When using marker training, a reinforcement is needed after the marker word.
  • Food reward is an easy, high value way to reward the dog for their choice.
  • Food reward reinforces the marker word.
    • The food reward relays to the dog the behavior they were marked for was desirable and results in something they enjoy.

Mechanics of Marker Training

  • Food reward will always be given after “Nice” is said to mark the desirable behavior
    • When the pup is young they might squirm, change their behavior, or get excited. Regardless of the action after you said “Nice” food reward is still given.
    • As the dog gets older and more mature we can wait for the dog to maintain position or relax, but when the pup is young the food reward is delivered quickly.
  • Magnetize the left knee at the finished behavior.
    • In the beginning, you want to quickly deliver the food reward regardless of the pup’s position.
    • After the marker word recognition deliver the food at the left knee to prevent the dog from curling in front, jumping up for food, or demanding food at other locations.
  1. Relax your right arm, it should be at your side. Do not place your hand in the treat pouch.
  2. Say the marker word, “Nice” in a happy, higher pitched voice
  3. Get one piece of kibble out of the treat pouch and give it to the dog
  4. Relax your arm again and wait to mark the next behavior as needed.

Marker Training Guidelines

  • The dog should be parallel to you, facing forward.
    • Young pups (under 4-5 months) might squirm and wiggle. Simply place the kibble at your left knee to help them get back into position until it is a patterned behavior.
  • Have the treat pouch behind your right hip
    • Avoid using a pocket or bag. Using these can create undesirable habits every time you reach into your pocket or the dog hears a bag.
  • Feed one piece of kibble at time
  • Do not allow the dog to pick up the kibble if you drop it on the ground.
    • Pick the kibble up and give the pup a piece of kibble from your treat pouch.
  • If you say the marker word by mistake, give the dog a piece of kibble. If we stop rewarding for even though we say the word, the word loses value to the dog.