Using a Marker Word

A Marker Word is any sound you use to tell your dog when he/she did something right. It is the first thing you should teach your GSD and even though we sometimes believe that our GSD knows and understands what we are saying, it is very important to actively train this special word.

It can be a powerful tool if taught and used correctly because it can speed up communication between you and your GSD. It can also act as a reward itself! After many repetitions, your dog hears those words and feels happy.

Once you teach your dog this special word, you need to learn how to correctly apply it. It should be noted that using a marker work is the comparable of using a clicker. The key is to use it to reward your GSD whenever he/she does something correctly.

At the moment, you may feel that your GSD dog never does anything right, however, with a little practice and a trained eye, you will see that there are literally hundreds of opportunities to reward your dog and teach him/her to behave properly and obey your rules.

What is a Marker?

Any sounds that can communicate to your pet he did something right!

  • Words: “Good dog”, “YES!”, “TOP”, “GOOD-JOB” a clicking sound with your tongue or any other word you can think of.

If you want to use a word as your Marker, make sure it has these specific characteristics:

  • Short and sharp
  • Comes naturally to you when you are happy
  • You don’t use it too often in other conversations around your furry friend
  • It can’t be confused with other commands or your dog’s name
  • Clicker: little plastic device that makes a distinct and sharp noise

A clicker is a great tool because as it has ALL the above characteristics. But it is a device you must take with you when you want to train, hence why, we prefer the word.

If your goal is to have a well-mannered GSD use a word. If you want to have a GSD to participate in obedience competition, sports, special services then use a clicker. Also use a clicker if you are really into canine training and would like to teach your hound tricks, games and more. Having said that, you can always use both in combination. Just make sure you teach them well!

How to teach your GSD the meaning of a Marker Word?

This is going to be the easiest thing you will ever teach to your pet!

  • Say the word (or click with the clicker)
  • Immediately give your GSD a treat
  • Repeat when he/she is laying down
  • Repeat when he/she is sitting
  • Repeat when he/she is chasing looking the other way
  • Repeat when he/she least expects it
  • Do it 10-15 times per training session for a few days
  • Use some of the kibble from his/her dinner and breakfast to do a few rounds without over feeding him/her!
  • You are done when you can tell your GSD gets excited as soon as he/she hears the sound and before you hand him a treat!

The idea is for the dog to associate the sound with the reward this is referred to as Classic Conditioning.

Again, it doesn’t matter – yet – if your dog is doing something good or not. You just want him to learn that the sound means a reward is coming!

~~ TIP ~~

If you do this often enough, the sound itself will become the reward!

Why is it important?

  • When training a new behaviour, the act of giving a treat to indicate that he/she does something correctly, would create a distraction for him/her, resulting in an interruption and break in concentration from the task at hand. With a marker you can be considerably more precise!
  • It is not necessary to follow every mark with a treat. The sound will be rewarding on its own! (But you can’t stop giving treats forever or the effect will disappear through Extinction).

When do I use the Marker Word?

User the marker EVERYTIME you want to communicate to your GSD that he/she is doing the correct behaviour!

If you are training your GSD “down”, you say the word as soon as he/she is lying down – NEVER before or after. Give him/her treat ONLY if he/she is still lying down.

Timing is the key!

If you say the marker a second or two later, you might be telling your pet heshe did something correctly ~~ but it’s not what you wanted it to be!

Stay focused if you are late, don’t say anything at all. You will get another chance!

Praise vs MARK!

You want your marker word to specifically mean: “What you just did is exactly what I want you to keep doing!”

It is praise, because your GSD feels good on hearing it, however, only use it to mark a good behaviour. You can use any other form of praise, like petting or talking softly, to “spoil” your GSD for a job well done!

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