Lesson 2 – Clean up your Mechanics

Dogs are masters of discrimination; they recognize patterns faster than you can imagine and so we must be smarter trainers than they are and have clean mechanics.

If you mark your dog for a behaviour at the same time you are reaching into your pocket for the treat, what exactly is your dog learning? Not much. They are not seeing a predictive pattern of MARK > REACH > FEED reward. Instead, they are going to focus on the hand reaching for the food and the mark will mean nothing to them. 

We’re going to practice our mechanics together so that you can build some “muscle memory” and (try to) stay ahead of your dog. Watch the video below and follow along with the following tools:

  • A clicker (or a verbal marker)
  • A treat pouch, fanny-pack, or deep pocket that is easily accessible
  • Your dog’s meal portion or a baggie of pea-sized, high-value food rewards 

Pay close attention to the order of events in this video: MARK > REACH > FEED. I am using a clicker, but you can use the verbal marker “YES” or whatever you prefer. Short and sweet and novel!

In this video, you will see the mechanics with a live dog, however, if you feel uncoordinated, use a bowl on a chair instead of a live dog to start. 

Now you can move on to learn about Marker-Based Training Rules!