Purpose: Being able to use a Marker Word is a critical skill when teaching a dog any behavior, and it’s especially important in the context of canine conditioning. The Marker Word tells the dog three things.
- The behavior or movement pattern they offered is correct
- A reward will be delivered
- When the behavior or movement pattern is repeated, another reward is available.
I introduce this concept by teaching a Nose to Hand Target.
Equipment: Hard treats
NOTE: These Pre Foundation exercises are really training skills all future exercises are built upon. If your pup is struggling with arousal levels increasing / decreasing, frustration, giving up, or a general lack of understanding, incorporating these Pre Foundation skills is sure to help!!
Targets: Introduces the concept to the dog that they have the power to make the Marker Word happen, and as a result earn a reward. This is different from “loading the clicker” or “loading the Marker Word”, as we are focusing on teaching the dog that their behavior makes the marker word happen (operant conditioning) vs just making a positive association (classical conditioning). In Teaching a Marker Word (Part 2), we will incorporate “proving” understanding, as well as increasing the number of repetitions we’re asking for before rewarding. If you’re introducing this skill for the first time, or reintroducing it to build a stronger foundation, it may be helpful to watch both parts before beginning.
1. It’s important the dog has a strong understanding of following a tossed treat, as we will use that to prime the dog and “capture” the nose to hand behavior as a result.
2. If your pup doesn’t immediately offer the Nose to Hand Target behavior, try moving or repositioning your hand. This can help activate the dog’s prey drive, and encourage them to try something.
3. Try not to help by touching your hand to their nose. The purpose of this exercise is to create the understanding that the dog can make the Marker Word happen through their behavior. Doing the behavior TO THE DOG removes the choice component… and defeats the purpose.
4. If your pup is still struggling, more reward history with the Following a Tossed Treat exercise and flat hand position may be necessary.