CCT Online Manners Class:
Welcome to your first lesson with your E-Manners Class at Courteous Canine Training.
Lesson plans will follow this general format:
Exercise Name → Lecture Information → Assignment (With Video Tutorial).
Once you have read all of the written material and watched the Tutorial, you will begin working on your homework assignment as described. The assignments reflect the written and visual information provided.
Please Note: It is important to work through the exercises in order. I have planned each lesson plan with great thought to making a logical progression of exercises. Once you have worked on the homework a few times and feel like you and your dog are getting the hang of the exercise, record a short clip of your session and send it to me for review.
Let’s get started!
What is Marker Training?
Marker training is a training system that involves using a reward marker (a word, sound, or clicker) to communicate to a dog that it has done something right and that a reward will be issued for that behaviour. It is a teaching method based on positive reinforcement. Dogs, like all animals, will work to achieve access to things that they like, and work to avoid things that they don't like. Behaviours that are rewarded will be repeated, and marker training gives you a great opportunity to reinforce appropriate behaviours your dog does. It is widely used today for teaching anything from everyday manners, to service dog work, to dog sports, to treating severe behaviour problems.
Benefits of Marker Training
The use of a marker offers clear, consistent feedback for the dog. It provides a clear connection between the behaviours the dogs offers and what the reward is for.
It allows you to develop better timing in rewarding the right behaviour. It also allows you to mark the right behaviour from a distance, so that if you can’t reward right away the dog still understands what behaviour is being reinforced.
When done well, it produces reliable behaviour very quickly.
It is extremely dog-friendly. There is no force, pushing, pulling, prodding, or physical punishment. Marker training is all about rewarding the right thing, and the dog becomes a willing, active learner rather than a passive participant. Dogs get excited when they are able to figure things out and when they understand how to earn reinforcement.
It helps to build a strong relationship with your dog. You become the most interesting thing to your dog, rather than the environment, and you become more relevant to your dog (which is a huge problem many owners face, when their dog seeks reinforcement from everything but its person).
Great mental stimulation for dogs. For most dogs, their days are severely lacking in activities to engage their brain, and often boredom is what leads dogs to perform unwanted behaviours. A few minutes of clicker training can be as fulfilling as a half hour of running. Dogs need to keep their brains busy. A mentally stimulated dog is a well behaved dog.
Using Markers in Training
Marker training is pretty simple. It follows three basic rules:
Get the behaviour.
Mark the behaviour.
Reward the behaviour.
The training process needs to happen in this order for learning to occur. First, you get the behaviour you want (using luring, shaping, etc - to be explained later!), then you mark it (with a verbal marker or clicker), then you reward it. Once you reward it, you start the process again. It looks like this:
Get → Behaviour → Mark → Reward.
Once you have done this enough times so that your dog is offering the behaviour freely, you can add a fourth step – naming it (adding a "cue" or "command"). That would look something like this:
Cue → Behaviour → Mark → Reward.
Over time, as the behaviour becomes well developed in a variety of environments, and around a variety of distractions, you don’t have to reward every time. But in the beginning, it’s best to reward each time so that you are sure the behaviour is strong. You can even begin to use life rewards (meals, petting, attaching a leash for a walk, removing a leash to play, going outside, a special toy, etc) instead of food. Using life rewards for good behaviour will go a long way to developing a happy, mutual relationship between you and your dog.
If you mark a behaviour - feed it. Even if you mark a behaviour by accident, or mark the wrong thing, it should be followed by a reward so that the marker/reinforcement relationship remains strong. A "free cookie" is better than the frustration created when a reward does not follow when it is expected.
Use markers when your dog performs the behaviour you want, not before you have the behaviour. Don’t use a marker to get your dog’s attention.
The best learning occurs in short sessions. 5-7 minutes several times per day is much more effective than one long training session. Most puppies require very brief sessions (3-5 minutes) as their attention spans are very short.
Don’t name a behaviour until you are sure your dog will do it. Naming it too early can lessen the effect of the cue, create confusion as to what the cue actually means, and slow down your training.
Use the smallest treats you can that will still be effective. That way you have the opportunity to give many rewards without filling your dog up. For instance, break larger treats into much smaller pieces so you can use it as ten rewards instead of one. The smaller, the better. You can even use part of your dog’s daily meal for training to prevent weight gain.
Marker training is wonderful for catching your dog doing something right! So often we are wrapped up in all the “bad” things that our dogs do, that we forget that when they aren’t doing something “wrong”, they are giving us a huge amount of “right”. Acknowledge that! If you notice your dog is sitting nicely rather than jumping, acknowledge it! If you notice your dog lying politely on its bed, reward it! If your dog stops doing something you don’t like and orients towards you, thank your dog! We don’t let our dogs know when they are doing the right thing nearly often enough, and in a lot of cases we can prevent many problems and encourage good habits simply by noticing when they get it right.