Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Clicker vs Marker Word

Dog training now available in Newberg, Sherwood, and the surrounding Portland, Oregon area!

I know lots of people who use positive reinforcement to train their dogs, many whom have taken classes where they have been taught to use a "marker" word in place of a clicker.  "Is that bad," I have people ask me when I tell them the still need to pick up a clicker.  No, it's not bad, the clicker is just a bit more effective and has a clearer meaning most of the time than that of a marker word.

Let me first explain to those who might not know what a "marker word" is.  Instead of using a click to mark the behavior you want your dog to keep doing, you use a word, such as "Yes," or "Good."  Both the clicker and the word are doing the same thing, marking the good behavior so the dog knows what you are asking of him the next time you give that signal or say that word.

The biggest difference is the fact that the clicker does not use emotion. "What's wrong with that," you may be asking.  "I always thought emotion was a good thing!"  Well it can be, but emotion can be a double edged sword.  You see no matter how hard you try, you can not always keep emotion out of your voice when you say "Yes", or "Good."  When you are excited and happy then that's great! In fact I pair the word "Good!" with my clicks a lot of the time, however, what about the days when you are tired, you've had a bad day at work, or with your kids.  We all have them, more often then we would like to admit.  Then you drag yourself out to train the dog, what emotion is going to be coming through your voice now?  No matter how hard you try, your dog is going to pick up on the stress in your voice.  Now they hesitate, even if it's just slightly, they may recognize that stress in your voice and match it with the time they got in trouble for doing something.  Now you have just laced your good behavior marker with something not positive or happy.  Not really through any fault of yours, and most dog handle it fine and still train well and you may never think anything of it.  However it gets filed away in their brain, now there is a hesitation linked with what you are teaching them, and it weakens your marker.

When training your dog, you want the strongest happiest marker you can get.  The stronger the happy emotion you can evoke with your dog, the more successful you will be.  This is why I use the clicker, and why I say, words are good, but the clicker is better.

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