If you’ve been an AnimalSense student for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us trainers tell you over and over that you need to mark your dog’s good behavior in some way. Basically marking behavior is a communication tool between you and your dog. “Sparky, you are doing that right and I love it. Keep doing that.”
A marker is a word (I like to use YEAH!) or sound (like a clicker). When your dog does something you like, mark the behavior by clicking or using YEAH! Then make sure that marker is followed with a reinforcement of some kind–praise, petting, treats, a smile and a thumbs up, eating an ice cube, going out in the yard, playing with another dog, going for a walk, etc. The list of reinforcements is endless. Whatever your dog likes can be used as a reinforcement for good behavior.
One thing to remember about use of a clicker: if you click, you must treat. If you want to use a different kind of reinforcement, use your verbal marker only.
Because you’ll now be paying closer attention to your dog and marking their good behavior and ignoring their bad behavior, timing becomes important. Mark the good behavior while it’s happening. For instance, you are in the kitchen cooking dinner. Usually your dog hovers around behind you waiting for you to turn your back so he can surf the counter. But this day, for whatever reason, your dog lays down for a few seconds. That few seconds of laying down should be marked and reinforced in some way. If you wait until the dog stands up, to mark the moment, you’ve missed the window of opportunity.
You can work on practicing your timing. I just found a fun website. It has 13 different, FREE, online games which let you practice your timing. They’re a lot of fun and also beneficial!