Teaching Marker Word and Food Reward Delivery
Age appropriate: You can start teaching this task immediately. Nice and food reward will be reinforced and quickly learned by your pup so they should understand that the word Nice means food delivery for desirable behavior within the first week.
Purpose: Marker words and food reward communicate to a dog that the behavior they just did was desirable. We can shape the dog's behavior to meet our expectations using the marker word and food reward.
We will be using marker word and food reward training for the self-control practice, the verbal cue Touch, and the verbal cue Place.
Objective: Marker word training and food reward is a way to communicate to the pup that their current behavior is desirable. Using the marker word Nice and food reward will help you communicate with your puppy raiser for the essential task of self-control in addition to verbal cues Touch and Place.
Week 1 of Nice
- You will introduce the verbal cue response with the puppy on leash. You can start by sitting on the ground with them or sitting in a chair in a quiet, distraction free environment. The pup will need to remain on leash for quick food delivery.
- Note: The introduction to Nice works best with a slightly hungry pup so don't practice this right after meal times. Or, you can use part of their meal while practicing and then feed the rest of the pup's food in a bowl when you're done practicing.
- Let the puppy lose interest in you. They might start chewing on a bone, sniffing the floor, or just lay quietly next to you. Say the word Nice in an enthusiastic, happy voice and immediately deliver the food reward to the puppy.
- After a couple of seconds the puppy will lose interest in what you are doing again and move away. Again, say the word Nice in an enthusiastic, happy voice, and immediately deliver the food reward to the puppy.
- As the pup continues to wander away or lose interest continue randomly saying Nice and offering immediate food delivery. This will communicate to the puppy that the word Nice means food delivery from you. This will be a positive association and by the end of the first week the puppy should recognize that Nice means food delivery and expect the food from you when they hear the marker word.
- Practice this task 1-3 times a day in short sessions, 5 minutes or less with the puppy allowed to move around the room no more than a leash length away from you.
Week 2 of Nice
- Continue practicing 1-3 times a day in short sessions with the pup on leash in a quiet, low distraction environment.
- We will now start introducing the marker word Nice when the puppy is doing a desired behavior. We are going to start with eye contact.
- When you are sitting on the ground or in a chair say the marker word Nice when the puppy moves towards you in any fashion. Some pups will catch on quickly and remain near you. Other pups will get distracted, wander away, and then wander back to you. Both scenarios are great! Continue using the marker word Nice and food delivery for any effort to remain close to you or moving closer after becoming distracted.
- After 1-3 sessions the pup will start remaining close to you in a sit, stand, or down position. You will say the marker word Nice and offer food reward after the pup makes eye contact with you.
- Continue using the marker word Nice and delivering the food reward for eye contact at home and in public. The pup should "check in" frequently when you are rewarding this behavior.
- We will use marker training with the verbal cues Touch and Place as well as self-control scenarios.
- Marker training can easily communicate with the pup that they are offering the desired behavior. For example, when the dog continues to walk on a loose leash past a distraction like food on the ground you can say Nice and offer food reward. You just showed the dog that their behavior was what you expect from them walking by food distractions on the ground.
- Using marker training ensures the dog is getting a high value reward and clear direction from their puppy raising for exhibiting self-control.
- Self-control is not a natural trait for dogs so it must be taught. Learning through positive reinforcement like marker word and food reward training will give the dog an excellent foundation with self-control so they can continue training to become a guide dog.