THE PURPOSE OF EVENT MARKERS
Event markers communicate to your dog the precise moment they perform an action that earns them a reward. The reinforcer is then delivered directly to your dog’s mouth, to the floor, or utilizing one of the many training devices that work to deliver food remotely. The event marker is the culmination of the behavior and that the dog is now free to collect their reward without further expectation of performance.
USING CLICKERS AS EVENT MARKERS
Once your dog understands that the click (or other verbal/visual conditioned reinforcer) means the food is on it’s way the event marker becomes a precise and effective means of reinforcing behavior. Using a clicker is one more tool at your disposal that will help you achieve your goals. Learning to use the clicker requires an open mind. It also requires consistent practice to master good timing and you have to master good timing to be a good trainer whether you use a clicker or not. A clicker simply helps your dog learn faster because you identify the target behavior and clearly communicate that to your dog.
PRACTICING EVENT MARKERS
Prepare your primary reinforcers and set them on your table or place them in your treat pouch. Identify a simple behavior that your dog does predictably such as when your dog twitches his ear, blinks, or turns his head. From a neutral position watch your dog closely for the desired behavior. You’re not asking the dog to do anything, you are simply waiting for the dog to act so that you can mark the behavior. Remember to deliver the reward promptly, otherwise the click won’t mean anything. Refer to our blog on Getting Started with Clicker Training for information on how to classically condition the primary and secondary reinforcers.
101 THINGS YOUR DOG CAN DO
In her book Clicker Training for Dogs Karen Pryor shares a games called 101 Things to Do with a Box. In this game the trainer clicks the dog for novel interactions with an object. A box, in that case.
In this video the trainer demonstrates a variation of 101 Things to Do With a Box by clicking Serendipittie whenever she performs a novel or new behavior. Same game without the box! Your dog is constantly offering you different option so start clicking and see what your dog decides to do next.
Now that you’ve got the gist of the game go back and watch the video again. This time take special note of all the various behaviors Serendipittie offered. What was she doing with her feet, her tail, and her head? How many individual actions did you count and how specific can you be? Can you identify exactly what behaviors the trainer was clicking in the video? Recording short training videos of yourself working with your dog is a great way to identify how accurate you are when you are clicking your dog.
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Give the exercises above a try and let us know in the comments below what you behavior you reinforced using an Event Marker!