Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Northern California
there are a few different ways to load a marker... each person will say that their way is most effective either because it's all they know or because they've tried several ways and one works best for them and the dog in front of them. if it works, it works. bottom line the marker marks the correct behavior, the food is the reward. the reason you load the marker is to let them know, yes that was right and the reward is coming.
if your dog has learned sit and does it the way you want with the verbal cue, then just the reward is fine. the marker is a teaching tool. once taught - unless you're looking for a trained response that has no verbal (for example - hearing the door bell cues them to run to their bed vs a command of "go to bed") then the marker isn't necessary beyond the teaching phase. I don't introduce a verbal cue until the dog is successfully performing the behavior.
I load prior to and outside of the first training session. reason being - I want the dog to realize early on that they drive the marker by trying and offering behaviors. and I also want to make sure I have strong association of the marker to food. anyway... outside of the theory, I'll explain an example of how a typical loading session goes for me. I use a clicker because it's novel, precise and doesn't vary in sound like your voice can, but it takes some additional coordination that a lot of people don't want to bother with.
I take the dog to a somewhat quiet area free of lots distractions but not sterile. make sure the dog is engaged either my saying their name or petting... the first 3 clicks or so is for absolutely nothing and depending on how fast the dog chews, should happen in about 15 seconds... you don't have to wait long and you can move around a bit to encourage them but the next thing they do whether it's sit, look at you, take a step towards you or whatever, I click that once or twice... continue clicking for different random behaviors but not the same one more than twice because you want them to keep trying things. you should see the wheels turning, excitement begin and the dog attempting to get close and return to you about 10 clicks in... soon after you can try to distract them slightly by tapping something, when they look in that direction you click and if their attention comes immediately back to you then they're considered "loaded".... I throw em a party and take a break before starting the next session. teaching focus is a good next step.
that said, I do this most often with dogs around 14months old... takes about 2 minutes and 20 kibble with a food motivated dog.
ps. you want this to be fun and exciting with lots of praise but give the praise both verbal and/or physical as your pup gets the food but not between the mark and the delivery.... when loading you want the direct connection to be very clear. this also helps increase the value of your praise (which puppies typically don't need but it's a good habit to have) so that you can phase out food later.
TILDEN: Male: Blk/Red LHGSD: DOB: 12/24/06 65lbs of Love
KEYSTONE: Male: Sable: DOB: 2/11/13 55lbs of Go!!!!!
Last edited by Fodder; 01-07-2016 at 11:09 PM.