When training your dog the basic commands you should integrate marker training into your UberDog training sessions. We use the words “good” and “nope” to let our dogs know what we do want out of them and to let them know when they are not doing the correct command. Do not expect for your dog to know verbal cues immediately, repetition is key in training your dog to fully understand what each of these means. Verbal cues are the last thing your dog understands (he can learn up to 160 verbal cues though!), what he will understand first is your body posture, tonality of your voice and a tap on the neck. That is why marker training is very effective, you always have your voice on you (as opposed to using clickers) – so you can let your dog know at the exact moment when he is doing the right thing! It is also easily transferable to different scenarios with different handlers as long as you stay consistent with one word. Be consistent with the word you choose and only use one word! If you have a tendency to say “good boy” or “good job” you will be marking two different instances for your pup. Dogs think and react very fast, so the instant your dog does the command you want from him tell him “good!”
Marker training creates dogs that want to work; you are training your dog positively instead of negatively. This is known as active training verses reactive training. The old ways of training – with force, yank and crank, is reactive training and this can cause your dog to shut down. You want your dog to be excited for training everyday, and using rewards and positive training will accomplish this and make training both enjoyable for your dog and you! In the beginning stages follow up your marker word with a reward of either food, praise or a tug session so your dog understands good things come when they hear that cue.
You should begin your marker training when you feed your dog in the morning and evening. Start by hand feeding your dog increments of his food by marking (“good”) when he looks up at you, then reward with the food. It is important to alternate your hands when doing this, so your dog doesn’t know where the reward is coming from. If you don’t change your hands, he will know and instead of looking up at you – he will look at the hand that feeds the reward.
Then begin using marker training for the other commands such as sit, down, etc – as soon as they do the command mark it! It is also very important when you mark the action that you only mark it once. Training your dog is exciting, and we are easily thrilled when our dog gets what we want so it is human nature to say “good” repeatedly. This is not giving your dog a clear sense of what behavior he did that was marked, so make sure to mark only once!
If your dog is struggling with a command, such as “come,” you want to mark it with a “nope” to let him know that is not what you want from him. If he comes running at you, then flies by you – tell him “nope” and then repeat that “come,” square your body up to your dog and have a reward ready in the center of your body so that your dog comes all the way to you. You can also back away from your dog to encourage him to come to you, if you begin to chase him then he will think it is a game and continue to play. Once he comes to you mark it with a “good” and give him a reward!