Marker Training 101

ZiggyTeaching your dog new tricks and commands should be fun for you and your pup.  Training should begin as young as possible and will continue throughout the life of your dog.  When a puppy is young, it is best to use a system of training called marker training. Marker training is a form of clicker training, but without the clicker.  At Sublime K9 Dog Training, we have found that many clients do not follow through with clicker training because of the need for a clicker at all times as well as treats.  To make it easier for success for all, we use a word (yes) instead of a clicker to train our pups.

Marker training is named so because we use a sound to mark the behavior that we desire.  When training your dog, it is important to have good timing to reward the behavior that you want.  Sometimes when we are rewarding a dog with just treats, our timing can be off.  We may fumble with the treat pouch or drop the treat and then we miss the moment that we want the dog to remember and repeat.  To prevent this from happening, we use a sound and then deliver a treat.  To get started, you would “charge the mark”.  That means that you are going to teach your dog that the sound you have chosen means that he will get a treat.  To do this you simply say “yes” and then follow with a treat.  You will repeat this until you are sure that your dog understands that when he hears that sound, he has done something right and will get a reward.

One your dog looks excited to hear that word you have chosen or sound you can begin training.  Choose a command or trick of your choice.  You can use the treat as a lure in the beginning to try and get your dog to perform the behavior you are looking for, but once your dog understands the game, he may just begin offering different behaviors and all you have to do is mark them.  For example, you say sit, and your dog’s rear hits the floor.  You immediately mark the behavior and give the reward.

Remember that repetition is key to learning anything new.  So keep practicing and make sure that your dog masters one command before moving on to the next.  If you want some help, call us at 631-241-6482!

Achieving A Reliable Recall

Will your dog always “come” when called? If not, your dog could be in potential danger. Long Island, known for its awful traffic, is crowded and most people live near a busy street. If your dog was to get out the front door, it is imperative that he comes back in the house when you say “come”. Along with the potential for the command to save your dog’s life, it also comes in handy in many other situations. If you knew you had a reliable recall, you could take your dog hiking or in public and have him off leash. If you have company and want to get your dog out of the way or an uncomfortable situation, this command is key. Accomplishing a perfect recall, takes some practice and some enthusiasm. If you are looking for a reliable recall, practice the following methods and you will be able to achieve great results.

First, be fun and enthusiastic! Remember that if you are not fun or appealing, your dog will choose to do other things besides come to you. If your dog is playing outside and you say come in an angry voice, your dog will most likely choose to stay out and play. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t want to come to someone, why would your dog? That means that when you call your dog to come, you want to be positive and praise him as he is coming to you and when he gets to you. Most people stand and wait until the dog gets to them to praise. I have found that if you cheer your dog on while he is coming towards you, then he will want to come and will move a lot faster.

Second, you should start teaching and practicing the come command on leash. Do not expect your dog to come off leash if you have not successfully mastered it on a 5’ leash and then a 20’ leash. When your dog is 100% reliable on leash you can begin to try the command off leash in a controlled environment like a fenced in yard.

Third, play games with your dog that involve coming to you. You can play Puppy Ping Pong. In this game, each person has a small training treat. Form a circle and each person takes turns saying “come”. Remember to praise as your dog is coming to you and then when your dog arrives say “yes” and give a treat. Then the next person would do the same. It is best to begin in a small space with lower distractions and go in the same order, so your dog can get the idea of the game. Once your dog starts predicting who to go to next without even saying the command, you want to start spreading out throughout the house. Then make it more of a challenge by hiding throughout the house and letting your pup find you.

Fourth, practice a restrained recall. This is based on the principle that any time you restrain a dog they will want to break free. This requires two people. One person will restrain the dog while the other shows the dog a treat and then backs up. The person with the treat calls the dog’s name three times, enthusiastically and then says “come”. When the person says “come”, the person restraining the dog releases him. The dog will run to the person with the treat. Doing this builds the dogs drive and desire to want to come.  See the video below for an example.

Remember that training takes time and persistence. Keep working with these methods and you will be well on your way to a reliable recall. If you would like some help in achieving your training goals, call for a free evaluation at 631-241-6482.