The K9 Companion class began as an entry level training course for dogs that are 6 months or older. The concepts, however, can be used for all ages of dogs including puppies. The class introduces you to reward-based training techniques that will help you communicate to your dog a basic vocabulary of commands and will strengthen the bond you have with your dog to help make him or her a better house companion. Please review all the weeks because information in latter weeks make be useful immediately. Certainly there are various sequences in which the exercises may be taught and you should do what works best for you and your K9 Companion.

"Yes" as a Marker

The word “YES” is a communication tool and as a marker means three things.
1. You just did something I like.
2. The behavior is over.
3. A reward is coming.
The moment a desired behavior happens you mark it. The marker then causes a reward to appear. The marker does not generate a behavior, rather it signals, to your dog, exactly what made you so happy that you were willing to give a reward. To mark behavior you can use any word (YES) or sound (click) that is quick. In this class we’re going to use a sharp YES. Remember that the behavior causes the marker word (YES) and the marker causes the reward (food) to happen. So, let’s get started teaching your dog this concept!

For this class we will be using food as a reward but other great rewards include touching, your voice (that’s right, good dog!!) producing a toy, allowing the dog to finish an interrupted behavior, having the opportunity to play with other dogs, getting into the car to go for a ride, and even something as simple as going out the door.

Three to five times a day this week, take 5-10 tiny pieces of treats and say YES and give 1 piece to your dog immediately. Your dog can be doing ANY neutral, but acceptable, good behavior. Don’t say YES if the behavior is unacceptable such as jumping on you, barking or mouthing your hand.
Remember, you get what you pay for. Don’t ask for a behavior at this time.

Make sure that you do not move towards or have the treat in your hand as you say YES.

There must be a very short span of time between the word and the treat. If there is not time between the marker and the reward, the reward will overshadow the marker and your dog may learn "selective hearing" and will not understand that when he hears YES that it means that what he is doing in that VERY second is exactly the behavior you asked for.

Say YES at random intervals…..YES/treat wait 10 seconds, YES/treat wait 5 seconds, YES/treat wait 8 seconds, etc. Do different things during this exercise… walks across the floor (YES/treat), dog looks at you (YES/treat), dog lies down (YES/treat), etc.

At this time you are not training your dog to do anything, rather, you’re making the word YES be very valuable. Try not to say YES at any other time because it now has a special meaning for training.

Another idea is to use your dog’s daily ration of kibble for this. Measure out what he gets and use a piece at a time as a treat. Especially with small dogs, you don’t want to increase the amount of food they eat so much that they start gaining weight!