What is a Marker?

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A marker is a tool we use to communicate to our puppies that they just performed a behavior we would like to see them repeat in the future. We can use lots of things for markers, but one that you’re probably already using is verbal praise! What words do you use for verbal praise? “Good Dog” and “Yes” are two common verbal markers, but you can use whatever you’d like.

What’s important is that across your training team, the markers that you use are consistent. Choose a marker that will be easy for everyone on your training team to remember, and easy for your puppy to differentiate from other speech that they hear often.

When we’re talking about markers, another thing that’s important to remember is that timing is critical! Try to time your marker so that it’s given at the exact moment your dog is performing a behavior you’d like to see repeated (after asking for a sit, we mark as soon as their butt touches the ground). At Busy Dog, we have a game we like to play to test the timing of our markers by teaching a tennis ball to land in our hands. Give your marker cue as soon as the ball touches my hand.

After practicing this exercise, what did you notice about the timing of your markers? Were you too early? Too late? Did you teach the tennis ball to land or fly?