Adding a Marker Word Will Speed Up Your Dog Training

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 29, 2024

marker words
David using a marker word to teach puppy Quest to sit

One of the most common mistakes people make in dog training is forgetting to introduce a marker word for dog training.

A marker word is an indicator that tells the dog its has done the thing you want. The marker word should be delivered the instant the dog does what you want, unless the thing you want has duration like potty training a puppy or training a dog to stay. In those situations, you would say the marker word at the end of the activity.

A marker word is your way of saying “thanks” or “good job.” Many people tell their dog “good boy,” or “good girl,” but because we also use that expression in situations where the dog hasn’t done anything new, it can be confusing for your dog. You always want to use your marker within 2 seconds of the dog doingthe action, if not sooner.

When you use a marker word, you are saying “good boy / girl,” you are just saying it in a way your dog clearly understands.

Using a Marker Word for Dog Training

If you are looking for the fastest way to train a dog, you definately want to use a marker. ¬†Marker words are the foundation that all the rest of your dog training will be built upon, so its important you start by “loading” the marker word. Loading the marker is what establishes its importance and value to your dog.

In this free dog training video on marker words, we explain what a marker word is, how to load the word and share tips on how you can use the marker word for dog training success. Many dog trainers say the marker is the best kept secret of dog training.

If you are having difficulty training your dog or puppy, introducing a marker is the answer. Watch the video below to learn how to use a marker for dog training.

Consistent use of a marker word, esspecially when training, will boost your dog’s confidence, accellerate your progress and make training easier. Teaching people how to use a marker to train thir dog is the first lesson we go over with our in home dog training clients.

Other Dog Training Markers

While marker words are the first marker we share with the people who hire us to train their dog or fix dog behavior problems, there are other types of markers. The clicker is a simple device you press to make a clicking sound. The click is the same thing as a marker word, but better. Studies show dogs learn up to 20% faster when using a clicker versus a marker word.

So why not only use a clicker for dog training? For some exercises like Hand Targeting, the dog trainer needs to have both hands free. So using the verbal marker word is easier.

For deaf dogs, some professional dog trainers use a flashing light or hand signal as their marker. Winston is one of the puppies currently enrolled in our puppy class. His guardian Merry uses the “thumb’s up” hand sign for his marker signal.

Winston's Thumbs Up Marker Signal

Since we dont always have access to a clicker or light to mark an action, at Dog Gone Problems we always start training dogs with a marker word as you can use it any time you need. Its more important to mark with good timing than use a clicker if it takes time for you to go get the clicker.

We want our clients to get the best dog training results, so we usually teach them to use both a marker word and a clicker. We just start by showing people how to use marker words first for puppy and dog training.

3 Pro Dog Training Tips to Using a Marker

  1. When saying your marker word, say the single word by itself it in a calm tone and try to not over-pronounce it. By using one word only, we make it easier for the dog to know which word is important.
  2. The most common marker word is “yes” and many people over emphasize the end of the word; “yessssss.” But many animals make a hissing sound as warning or negative, so adding that epmhasis on the “s” can send a mixed signal. Instaead say “yes” with a casual tone of voice and inflection and dont drag out the”s.”
  3. Half of dog training is NOT marking and rewarding a dog if it doesn’t do what you want.
    Rewarding an attempt or different cue may seem nice, but its actually confusing as the dog gets the same reward if it does what you want or if it does not. So if your dog is close, but doesn’t do the action, don’t mark. Instead make the next rep or task easier.

Summary on Using a Marker for Dog Training

  • Make sure to load the marker 6 or more times with 15-25 treats or pieces of kibble before you start using it.
  • Walk around your house loading the marker at least once in each room each loading exercise.
  • Deliver the marker the instant the dog does the action or within 2 seconds after.
  • Avoid saying other words for 5 seconds after using your marker.
  • Do not over pronounce the marker word or say it in an excited voice.
  • Use the marker consistently during training. Make a marker after each successful repetition.
  • Use a clicker for dedicated training sessions or distracting environments.
  • Always follow the marker with a reward (pet or treat) so it keeps working.
  • Only deleiver the marker for success. If your dog doesn’t do the action, don’t mark and make the next rep easier.
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This post was written by: David Codr