"Yes!" "Good!" "Click" or use another marker.
Each month we have a staff lunch at All Dogs Gym when we talk about something of interest to the staff. Often it will be a presentation on a topic that they ask about, or one that helps staff—especially new staff—understand why we do what we do. Last month the topic was basic training using a behavior marker.
We’ve been using marker training (also referred to as “clicker” training) since the late 1990’s. In the beginning, dog owners and trainers who used other methods expressed skepticism about whether or not marker training will work for their dog.
When I was introduced to and subsequently embraced marker training, All Dogs Gym was the only school in the area to teach this “new” approach. At the time, many people thought I was crazy to abandon the training method I had espoused for over 20 years, had taught, lectured, written books about, and based a career on. Even some of my trainers (and friends) argued against the switch, and those who were unwilling to consider changing left All Dogs Gym to train for other schools. In the past few years, I’ve found it interesting—and even gratifying—that most of those schools now claim to offer “clicker training” for at least some of their classes.
I am always optimistic that our students will be bitten by the training bug as I was, and as all of our instructors and trainers have been over the years. Virtually every trainer I know (including casual, hobby trainers, dog sports enthusiasts and professionals alike) started out as “regular dog owner” training his or her own untrained, possibly even out-of-control dog. We all found training to be fun, loved the close bond it created with our dogs, and just as importantly, found friendships in the wonderful community of other dog lovers devoted to the species. This group includes our devoted class assistants—students and former students who enjoy helping others train their dogs. In other words, we came, we trained, and we stayed. And marker training makes dog training even more fun.
Marker training is more than just a training method. It is a philosophy that influences all aspects of our relationship with our dogs (and can even affect human interactions). Understanding the principles of marker training makes all our interactions easier; not just training behaviors, but having a well-mannered dog to live with, sharing our homes and our lives. A few years ago, in an episode of the TV show “House” Dr. House used a clicker to change the behavior of a child.
This TV show made me feel as if this approach to behavior modification is gaining broader acceptance.
I encourage all dog owners to explore marker training. In fact I wrote a book about it, THE THINKING DOG. Whether you’ve ever trained a dog by any other method or even if you’ve never trained a dog, this is a good book, if I do say so myself.