Charging a Marker Word
The first training building block that all of my clients learn is how to properly establish a marker word. Heard of clicker training? This is your verbal clicker!
A clicker or marker word is meant to directly communicate to your dog when they've done the right thing. But, in order for this word to do its job, you must first charge it!
Get dogs attention
Say your chosen marker word in a voice different from your regular conversational voice (preferably 1 syllable, quick, clear and precise) My go-to's are "Yes!" or "Nice!"
Give dog treat AFTER word has been said
After a few repetitions, incorporate a snuggle between the word and the treat. "Yes!" --> snuggle --> treat
Charge for 30 seconds, twice a day. You'll know your word is charged when your dog hears it and, no matter what they're doing, they come running to you to get their snuggle and treat.
Remember, the snuggle and treat happen in your bubble. Do not reach for your dog, expect them to come into your bubble to get the reward.
Video instructions coming soon.
Understanding 3 D's through Sit and Wait
No matter what you're training your dog to do - from sit and waits to riding a bicycle - you will be gradually upping the challenge or determining their abilities based on 3 D's: Distance, Duration and Distraction.
In order to set your dog up for success, you do not want to increase all of these at once. Choose one D and gradually increase it to a reasonable level. When you go to incorporate another D, you will need to temporarily decrease the D you've already worked on in order to avoid overwhelming your dog.
The idea behind the 3 D's is to read the dog in front of you and only up the challenge when they've proven successful. In other words, we don't want to put them in 8th grade if they have yet to pass 1st.
Sit and Wait Demonstration
When teaching a dog to Sit and Wait, I first start with Duration:
Stand as close to your dog as possible (minimum Distance and Distraction), with treats at the ready.
Ask for a sit and, as long as their butt is on the ground, give them a treat (very small) every second. Gradually up the Duration between treats from 1 second to 2, to 5, to 10 and so on.
Note that Duration in which you are asking them to sit also has a play in this. Don't expect an 9 week old puppy who barely knows sit to hold it for 30 seconds right away. Release them from their sit with a release work like "Okay", "Release", or "Free". Take a break, then try again.
Next I will work on Distraction
Once you've managed to increase your duration between treats to 15-20 seconds, start to shuffle your feet back and forth without increasing your distance from the dog.
While increasing distraction, momentarily decrease duration between treats.
Continue to offer praise/cheerleading words (good boy/good girl/so pretty/so handsome - really anything as longs as its in a good, happy voice) while they are holding their sit
Next I will work on Distance
Once you've managed to increase your duration between treats to 15-20 seconds or so while shuffling your feet, start to increase your Distance from the dog. Start by taking 1 step away (still facing the dog), then step back in and give a treat.
Take two steps away, two steps back in and treat
Three steps away, three steps back in and treat, etc
Note that while you are increasing distance, your duration and distraction naturally also increase so be forgiving and work with the dog in front of you! If they have broken their sit 3 times, you've pushed too far - decrease 1 of your 3 D's and try again.
Video instructions coming soon
Does your dog know their name? Do they actually give you attention when they hear it? After all, the purpose of naming them is to be able to get their attention, right? If we look at a dog's name as nothing more than a cue for attention, we can better understand how to properly train said cue. As long as your marker word is charged, you will be ready to play some Name Game.
At a minimum distance, with minimum distraction, say your dogs name.
The second they respond, mark the attention with your marker word.
Allow them to make their way to you to get their snuggle and treat. "Fido!" --> (he looks your way) --> "Yes!" --> (he runs to you) --> snuggle --> treat.
If the dog doesn't look your way, DO NOT repeat their name. Instead, try the following:
make weird, repetitive noises that change in pitch
shuffle your feet
throw a big, loud, fun party on the other side of the room
DON'T FORGET to mark as soon as the dog looks your way and encourage them to make their way to you. Once they get to you, give them a snuggle but no treat (if you burn calories, you get the treat).
As you up the challenge with this game (increase 3 D's) be sure that snuggles and treats always happen within your bubble. Don't reach out for the dog or go to them. The idea is that they realize they have to be in your space in order to get the good stuff.
Ping-Pong. Once you've been able to increase your distance to a reasonable amount, ask a friend for assistance.
Stand across from each other with the dog in the middle. when the dog's attention is on the other person, call their name, mark when they give you attention, and give them a snuggle and treat when they run to you.
Gradually increase the distance between you and your friend. You can also incorporate some distraction by placing objects (furniture, toys) between you and the dog.
REMEMBER: Name Game is not meant to be a recall. It is a building block to a recall. If your dog is not giving 100% the behavior you are looking for (looking your way as soon as they hear their name then running to you to get snuggles and treats) do not throw in your recall cue.
Video instructions coming soon
There are some really wonderful resources out there and I want to share them with you! Stop by during office hours to rent one of my books or, download these free PDF's:
Keep an eye out for more!
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