Hi, it’s Linda from Cause and Effect Dog Training.

In this video, we’re covering marker words. What they are and why we use them. A lot of people who train their dogs do use food, and that’s fantastic. I do too, but you need to do it in a certain way. If you use it in a way that you ask your dog to sit, he sits and you give him food, then he is learning to associate the sit with food. But what happens in the dog’s mind, and I have clients that say this all the time, “my dog will only do what I want if I’ve got food. But if I haven’t got food, he won’t.” That’s where your marker words come in. When we’re talking about marker words for pet dogs, I really only use four. The first one and one of the most important ones is your reward marker.

A reward marker is a word or a noise. It’s something that predicts food is coming. Most trainers will use the word “yes.” It’s said in a higher pitched tone so you’re not looking at the word, you’re really looking at the sound. We pair that word with the delivery of food. So in the dog’s mind he starts forming an association or a bridge between that word and the reward delivery. When that’s paired really well, and you get to the stage where you can say “yes” and your dog flies back to you to get food, then you know it’s done correctly.

From that point we can start slowly weaning that food reward away so that we don’t have to give it every single time. The other advantage of having a reward marker word is that once that’s paired I can ask my dog to do something. I can say, “Yes” and it tells my dog that what he’s done is correct, and it promises that thae reward will come. So I can take my time delivering that reward them. It doesn’t have to be immediate as it does in the beginning. Marker words are basically taking something that means nothing to the dog and giving it meaning so that we can train with it.

The next marker word that I generally use is what we call a duration marker. We use this duration marker, again, it’s just a word and the word I use is “good.” What it does is, tells the dog that whatever it is doing is the correct thing and to keep doing it. For an example, if I had my dog in a stay and he’s remaining in position, I could tell him “good” and he forms the association that, “Okay, that’s fine. I’m doing the right thing.” The next one is what we call a termination marker. Most people use it. This is “no” or “argh.” This marker word tells the dog that what he is doing is the wrong thing. You’re not going to get a reward for that, and you need to stop doing it.

The last one is what we call a release marker. Quite often when we have dogs, especially dogs who are a little bit drivey and want to keep working, or even when playing with them they want to keep playing, we use this word that tells them, “Okay. Training is done. You’re finished. You can go and be a dog, and there’s no more opportunity to earn your reward. For me, I use the word “free.” Markers words are very important for ongoing training, but it also makes your communication with your dog very accurate and clear. And really, dog training is all about the clarity of what you’re asking to make the learning easier for your dog.