Dog Training: Communication is Key
At Gray House, dog training is all about communication. You need the ability to communicate to your dog in a way your dog can understand and appreciate.
By opening up a clear line of communication, your dog will have a newfound trust and respect in you, strengthening the foundation of your relationship and making life easy for both of you.
What are Dog Training Techniques?
There are three aspects to establishing clear communication with your dog – proper dog training method, proper technique, and proper tools.
While methods are the syntax that makes your communication with your dog make contextual sense, techniques are the actual words you use to communicate in that syntax.
Most dog trainers explain how they train their dogs by only describing the techniques they use. This means you may be familiar with some of the techniques explained here. But keep in mind without our method of operant conditioning providing context, many trainers won’t give you the full picture of why the way they train your dog works, making it very hard to implement that training yourself. This is one way that Gray House Dog Training stands apart.
Clicker Training: A Positive-Only Trainer's Go-To
Marker training is the ideal technique to execute operant conditioning. Why? Because it marks a dog’s behavior and indicates to the dog whether you want to reinforce that behavior or punish for it.
You have very likely heard of the most common form of marker training – clicker training. If you haven’t, clicker training is the positive reinforcement trainer’s go-to. A plastic and metal clicker are used to mark a dog’s good behavior. Indicating to the dog that it is going to be rewarded, typically with a treat. After some repetition, the dog is more prone to repeat the behavior done just before the click, ‘earning’ the click and the reward that comes with it.
This technique was developed by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov in the 1890’s. Pavlov used bells to indicate to dogs when their supper was ready. He discovered that after repeating this ritual over time, his dogs would begin to drool at the sound of a bell, even if it wasn’t feeding time yet. We call this process classical conditioning.
The Four-Marker System
Most trainers only use markers for positive reinforcement: click = treat. At Gray House, I developed a four-marker system that not only indicates reinforcement, but also indicated correction. This provides clarity, letting your dog know what behaviors he should perform and what behaviors he shouldn’t in any given situation.
The four-marker system includes a reinforcement marker, a punishment marker, a ‘keep it up’ marker, and a ‘try again’ marker.
The Reinforcement Marker
The reinforcement marker is the clicker. When the dog hears the click, the dog knows it’s done a good job and can now cease its behavior and receive a reward. You can also use a verbal marker like ‘Yes’ for this; however, using a clicker provides you with a faster response time that will allow your dog to respond more accurately and quickly over time.
The 'Keep it Up' Marker
The ‘keep it up’ marker exists to build duration in the behavior your dog is performing. Many trainers refer to this as intermediate bridging. It lets your dog know, “You’re doing a great job, and if you keep it up, you’ll earn a reward.” This marker should have a positive verbal tone. Although your reinforcement marker might be neutral if you use a clicker, your dog will still be familiar with the positive tone of your voice.
The 'Try Again' Marker
The ‘try again’ marker lets your dog know it is making the wrong choice and it needs to rethink how it is behaving. It resets the dog’s mind to literally try again. This marker needs to have a negative verbal tone to it and is followed by a repetition of the command.
The Punishment Marker
Finally, the punishment marker indicates to the dog that its behavior is unacceptable, and it is going to be punished for that behavior. The punishment marker will also be given in a negative tone, which will give more power to the ‘try again’ marker as well.