The “Marker” and Other Key Words 


Keywords Information

A. Stands for AWESOME!!  We say “YES!” 

- This is your marker!

B. “Better Luck Next Time”  We say “Eh-Eh”

C. “Calling the dog off  the command”
  We say “Okay.”, “Free.”, or “Release.”


Communication in Key!
Communication is a big part of training our dogs. Many times we tell our dog things and just expect them to understand it and listen. We forget we never taught them to do that, nor did we communicate with them in the correct way.  When we choose words to use in training, we need that word to mean one thing and one thing only. So don’t say come and expect them to come right to you and sit when you commonly say things like “come here Buddy” when you just mean come with me to this other room. It can be a hard habit to break but it will make all the difference in communicating with your dog! So choose words you might not use every day but can easily be understood. 


You may be asking - but what words do I use then? That is really up to you. Some words roll off the tongue much easier for some than others. The second page of this sheet is a guide to help you understand the use of different words in order to help you choose! 

But first: We need to talk a second about your tone! Tone is very important in communicating with your dog. We don’t want to sound boring or mean but we also can’t sound like everything is perfect and fun all the time. High tones we associate with a praise. So things like YES!, Good Job, Good Dog, etc we say in higher exciting tones. Neutral tones are commands (sit, stay, come, etc). We don’t want our dogs to learn to wait for the “I mean it” serious tone or just the high pitched happy one. So commands should always be said in an even calm but happy tone. Corrections can be said in a deeper tone but we also don’t want to sound angry. Tone and timing can make all the difference in how your dog understands what you are asking.

Keywords in Depth Information

When thinking about words and tones to use in training it is easiest to remember your ABC’s. Use the following page to help you learn them! 

A - Stands for AWESOME! And is your reward word

 Timing is key in training dogs. So having a word to mark good behaviors is very important. We usually suggest using the word “Yes!” It is very easy to quickly get out in a very fun voice as soon as they do something right. You will find very quickly that even adding a “Yes!” to your training will help your dog immensely. It will give your dog instant reward and affirmation the he has done what you asked correctly. You will probably start to find your dog happy, ready to work, and smiling back at you just by adding this word (or any other word marking good behavior you choose to use.). Feel free to play with this, some dogs can handle a very high pitched and exciting yes. Some get so excited and crazy they need a simpler yes to keep them in a working mode. 

B - Stands for “Better Luck Next Time”

So things like UhOh, Oops, or EhEh. It is a neutral word and works much like your “Yes!” However, this word is to inform your dog he has not quite got it right. It is *not* a punishment. It is just a mark to say “Ooops, you did it wrong but let's try again”. It should be said in the same even tone as your commands. It is not an exciting word or a bad word. Just a marker to further help them understand exactly what you are asking. 

C-stands for “Calling the dog off the Command”

 This is used when you are done working with your dog and are telling him he is free from the command. We usually use the word “Okay!”. It is your dog’s sign that yes, he did it all correctly and he is free to stop listening and be a dog for a second. An example of this is when you tell your dog sit, then as soon as they sit you say “Yes!”, then say stay, then when you want to release the dog you say “Okay!”. This is his free word. It is kind of like a yes, in that it marks that he did it correct but he is also done with that command for now. A high tone but relaxed body is best to communicate this keyword. Sit. Yes. Stay. Okay. Simple words and simple commands timed correctly make for easy dog training! 


Loading Your Marker:

Objective: To teach your dog that the word “Yes!” means “good job” and that will get a treat.


Uses:  Marking behaviors as positive.

The key to using reinforcement effectively is reinforcing the behavior at the exact second it is occurring.  Although this does not sound that difficult, it is not always possible to administer a food reinforcer (which you will be using along with praise) at the exact second the behavior occurs. 


In order to enhance communication between dog and trainer, we pair a secondary reinforcer “Yes!” with the food.  The dog knows that every time they hear “Yes!” they will get a treat. In their mind, the word “yes!” and the treat are synonymous.  This means that the dog can be rewarded at the exact moment they are exhibiting the desired behavior. Although they may be across the room, the dog hears “yes!” and knows exactly what they did right, and realizes a treat will soon follow. 

Step 1: Say “Yes!” and immediately give your dog a treat. It should almost be simultaneous. Repeat this about 25 times in one session. Do two sessions per day for five days. (Hint: use your dog’s kibble from breakfast or dinner so you are not overfeeding!)

Step 2: Say “yes!” but do not immediately give your dog a treat. Gauge your dog’s reaction to the word. If they start looking for a treat, you know they understand you. If not, keep repeating step 1.


You’ve succeeded when:

Your dog readily looks for a treat upon hearing the “yes!”


Moving Forward:

When teaching your dog something new, use your marker word to shape the desired behavior. If teaching “sit,” make sure to say “yes!” as soon as your dog’s bottom hits the ground! Reinforce with a treat.