Use Marker Training To Train Faster
I love marker training. It's great for teaching obedience commands and it is incredibly helpful for behavioral modification. Using markers in your training will help your dog learn faster and will streamline the training process.
A marker indicates to the dog when the desired behavior has been offered. Many trainers use clickers as markers (of which I am a big fan), but a simple word (such as "yes") used consistently every time the dog gets it right will do just fine. The benefit of using a marker is that it provides a very clear indication to the dog of which behavior is getting rewarded, which helps the dog learn behaviors more quickly. Without the use of the marker, rewards have to be impeccably timed in order to increase the frequency of the behavior. Think about it like this - I want my dog to sit. So I ask the dog to sit, and woohoo(!) he sits. So I give a reward. But my reward was not delivered at that exact moment when the dog sat. In fact, my reward was delivered about 5 seconds later because I was a little slow to react and I fumbled the food. So by the time I delivered the reward, the dog had not only sat, but wagged his tail, shifted his weight, lifted a paw and turned his head away from me. So which behavior did I ACTUALLY reward? This is why timing is so crucial in dog training and why markers are so awesome. I may not be able to deliver a food treat in 0.5 seconds, but I can say a word or click a clicker that quickly. By marking the behavior at the exact moment it is offered, we are able to clearly communicate to the dog what behavior is getting the reward, thus removing much of the confusion that can slow training efforts.
Christine Fasan is the head trainer and canine behaviorist for K9 Holistics. She specializes in German Shepherd Dogs and healing reactivity in dogs of all breeds. K9 Holistics offers dog training and behavior modification in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County. We also offer pet care services including dog walking and pet sitting. Please contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org.