We us a training method called marker training. Clicker training is a type of marker training that has become very popular in recent years that uses a clicker to mark good behavior. The principal behind marker training that makes it successful is that you can click or use a marker word (I use the word yes) with split second timing. You can’t reward quick enough without a marker for a dog to be able to easily associate a particular behavior with the reward. A reward must come within a second of a behavior for a dog to be able to make the connection between the behavior and the reward. A marker becomes the bridge between behavior and reward, connecting the two in the dog’s mind. It gives the trainer a tool to mark the exact moment that a dog has done what has been asked of him.
The first step in marker training is to teach the dog that the sound of your marker will result in a reward. The dog doesn’t have to do anything. You just click or say yes in a consistent tone and then reward. The principal behind marker training was discovered by a scientist named Ivan Pavlov and is called classical conditioning. He always rang a bell when he fed his dogs and eventually his dogs began salivating just at the sound of the bell. Just like Pavlov’s dogs that were classically conditioned to salivate when they heard a bell, you will be classically conditioning your puppy that when he hears the marker sound, he will be rewarded with food. Eventually, the sound of the clicker or marker word will make a dog feel good just by hearing it in the same way that Pavlov’s dogs salivated just by the sound of the bell even when there was no food. Doing this basic marker training with a young puppy will give you a very helpful tool with his training for the rest of his life.
When raising a new puppy, I always wear a treat pouch around the house with pieces of meat….cut up chicken, beef, or whatever I might have. The pieces need only be about the size of the eraser on the end of a pencil. The treats should be high value to the puppy and easily and quickly chewed and swallowed. Don’t use treats that crumble. Soft ones are quicker for a dog to eat so that they can refocus on you sooner. If I’m treating a lot during the day, I’ll ration out a puppy’s dog food for the day and use that. I literally wear my training pouch all day long only taking it off when I go somewhere. When my puppy does what I ask, I mark the behavior by either saying yes or using a clicker. Then I give him a piece of food. Marker training makes learning go much quicker. I believe it to be the very best training tool available.