Reward Marker / Marker Word

14June 2014

To begin dog training, you must first pick a Marker Word (Reward Marker) for when a dog does something you like.  

The Reward Marker, or Marker Word is the thing that tells the dog, “YES! that is exactly what I wanted you to do!”  It is then immediately followed with a reward (treat, toy, petting, praise).

Most people either use “Good” or “Yes” for their marker word.  It does not matter what word you choose, as long as you always use that same word (this is true of every cue).  Remember to keep a happy and upbeat voice when saying “Good,” and remain calm and confident.  Do not use any anger or frustration.  If you feel angry, frustrated, anxious or upset, you should put training on hold until you can calm down.

To begin, we must first “charge up” the marker word.  To do this, say your Marker word, then give a treat.  Very simple.  Say “good,” give a treat, repeat.  Do this 5-10 times to charge up your Marker Word.  By doing this, you are pairing the Marker Word with something the dog likes, therefore teaching the dog that this word means good things.  This is important.  The more you reward a dog for engaging in behaviors you like, the more the dog will want to engage in good behaviors.

Once your Marker Word is charged up, be sure to consistently use it EVERY time your dog performs as you request.  This is important.  Mark that good behavior EVERY time and your dog will be engaging in good behaviors on a regular basis in no time.  Remember to be consistent!

Along with your Reward Marker, you must also have a No Reward Marker.  
This is the opposite of your marker word.  

The No Reward Marker tells a dog, “No, that is not what I was looking for you to do.”  The important part is that the No Reward Marker tells the dog this while still encouraging him to try something else.  A No Reward Marker should not be the word “No.”  The reason I say this, is that it is very easy to get any anger or frustration you may be feeling to come out with a “NO!”  Instead we recommend the use of, “Uh-oh” or “Eh-eh.”  This still lets the dog know that’s not what we wanted, but does not discourage them from continuing to try.  It is very difficult to sound angry when saying “Uh-oh.”