Effectively Marker Training Your Dog

In marker training, how a dog responds (or behaves), determines whether the marker will be positive or negative.  A positive marker is either the word “yes” or the sound of a clicker, followed by a reward. The most common rewards used during marker training are food, toys or affection.  

We suggest you stick with food during the early stages of training. Often, affection does not motivate a dog enough to learn and a toy may be too distracting.

What happens when the dog fails to provide a desired behavior?  They receive a negative marker and the reward is withheld. A negative marker can be “no, nope, ah-uh or try again”. The dog is then given another chance to figure out what is expected of them.  Handlers must move slow and do their best to help the dog succeed. It is frustrating to repeatedly fail.

Marker training requires a dog to use their brain to figure out what their handler wants. The method is effective because success feels good — even to dogs. Especially when rewards are involved.

For the dog nerds, like us, here are the technical terms relating to training:

marker training is operant conditioning 

rewarding the dog is a positive reinforcer 

withholding a reward is a negative reinforcer 

Charging the mark is the precursor to marker training. That is the technique used to teach dogs to associate the marker to the delivery of a reward.  It is important for dogs to understand the association before you begin training sessions. To read our blog post on charging the mark, please visit: https://iscdt.com/charging-the-mark-in-dog-training/.  We also created a video.  You can view it at: https://youtu.be/83VX8wmdUtA

Have you heard of “good” used as a marker word?  It isn’t necessarily wrong to use “good” to mark behavior, we just don’t use it  Good is introduced to our clients later in training, after the dog fully understands a command and is ready for duration work (or stay). It allows us to teach a dog to remain in command without having to repeat “stay…stay…stay.” Essentially, good helps us “show” a dog to stay, instead of “telling” a dog to stay. Show, don’t tell, is our motto.

One of the last items to discuss is proper timing. Proper timing is crucial in dog training. You must mark a behavior the moment it happens.  

Here are examples of how improper timing can affect your training efforts:

Marking a behavior prematurely: You tell your dog to sit and mark the behavior the moment the butt hits the floor, but the front paws are in the air.   

Your dog learns sit means, butt on the floor and front paws in the air. Sounds crazy, but dogs sometimes wrap their paws around your arm in an attempt to grab the treat during the luring stage of sit.  

Marking a behavior too late: You tell your dog to sit.  He sits, then moves out of the sit while you mark the behavior. 

Sometimes dogs stand or slide into a down immediately after they sit.  This delayed marker communicates to the dog that sit means drop your butt to the floor, then immediately change your position. 

Proper timing: You tell your dog to sit.  With paws on the floor, dog’s butt drops to the floor – you immediately mark the behavior. 

Dog learns a proper sit.

Delivery of the treat: While the mark must come the instant the dog provides the behavior, the treat does not have to come as quickly. Deliver the treat after the marker.  

Timing for negative markers: In the event that a dog ignores a command, a negative marker is given within ½ second of the command.  

Proper negative marker: sit (½ second) no (wait a beat), sit (½ second) no (wait a beat) sit, “yes” the moment the dog sits  — follow with a reward

Improper negative marker:  

“sit no, sit, no”  in a rapid succession, or  

 “sit, sit, sit, no, no, no”.

Below is a video demonstrating proper marker training (using both positive and negative markers.  

What command will you teach using marker training?  We want to hear about it.

Charging the Mark in Dog Training

  The starting point. Day One. First thing you teach your dog before you introduce commands. 

Charging the mark teaches the dog to associate the word “yes” or the sound of a clicker, to a high-value reward.   Once the dog hears the marker word or sound, a treat is delivered. We will explain the process in a bit. First, let’s provide a little more info. 

While a reward in dog training can be a toy, praise or food, we recommend you stick to a high-value food reward when teaching your dog to charge the mark. The other rewards may be too stimulating or not stimulating enough during this stage of training.

What is a high-value food reward?  A treat your dog greatly enjoys.

 Below we describe instructions for clicker training.  This method is the same regardless of whether you use a clicker or a verbal marker.  For the visual learners (like me), we also included a video. Remember,

The object of charging the mark is for the dog to associate the sound with the reward.  

Are you ready to get started?


  1. Click
  2. Immediately deliver the treat to your dog *
  3. Repeat  steps 1 and 2

* Notes:

  • your dog does not have to do anything for the treat.  Just click and treat.
  • repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times, cut treats up so they are on the smaller size. This will prevent your dog from consuming too many calories.  If your dog enjoys their dog kibble, use that instead of treats.

You can practice this exercise when your dog is standing, sitting or laying down. Don’t issue any commands, just do it when you notice your dog in different positions.  After a few days, surprise your dog by doing it when they are not paying attention to you or looking in another direction.  

When your dog looks to you during the surprise exercises, he understands this process and is ready to move on to the next step of training.

Take your time and enjoy practicing this method with your dog.  When your both ready, join us for the next training lesson. We will define marker training and show you how to use marker training to teach your first command.

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com

Six New Year’s Resolutions to Adopt NOW If You Want Dog Training Success!

6.  Use a Leash: When your dog is learning obedience, a leash is a helpful tool. Have your dog drag a short leash so you can stop naughty behavior and help them gain focus outside of training sessions. ***

5.  Be Realistic:  Don’t issue commands to your dog unless you’re confident your dog understands the command.  Just because your dog responds in a low distraction setting such as your home, doesn’t mean he understands the command around distractions or in a different setting.  Slowly build training success around higher distractions and in new settings . 

4. Be concise:  Give your command once. (ex: Sit, rather than sit…sit…sit).  It is important that dogs follow commands the first time. Just think how much safer your dog is when they return to you the moment you say “come”  rather than repeating, “come…come….come…come.”

3. Be generous:  Reward your dog when they follow commands or do the right thing. Rewards can include: food, toys or affection (petting/verbal praise).

2. Be Consistent: Stick to the same training words your dog learned. Swapping words is confusing for the dog. When your dog grabs something, tell them to “drop it”.  Refrain from saying, “knock it off, don’t touch my shoe, stop that, give it to me.”

1. Be Kind:  Dog training is a learning process for your dog.  Don’t yell or show frustration if they struggle. Never hit your dog.  Your pup is your best friend. Keep your tone and body language cool, calm and confident during training.  Make sure you communicate your delight when your dog succeeds. 

***Safety Note:  The leash should not drag on the ground. Cut it so it hovers above the ground. We don’t want your pup to trip over it or to get caught while they are in motion. Never leave a dog unattended with a leash on. (even quick bathroom breaks). Remove the leash at night and when the dog is outside or in the crate/play yard.

K McKnight

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com

The Compassionate Dog Trainer

 In past articles we have shared the importance of patience and open-mindedness while training dogs.  If you would like to read those articles, visit https://wordpress.com/view/iscdtfordogtrainersblog.school.blog

Today, we reveal the next trait:


Empathy is one of the most important skills we possess as humans. The ability to understand and relate to another person’s feelings from their point of view rather than our own. This provides healthy relationships in both our personal and professional lives.  Empathy allows us to show compassion. Compassion is necessary when training dogs.

Each day we meet dog owners who struggle with behavior.  Behavioral issues range from housebreaking to jumping or lack of impulse control to aggression.  

Dog trainers know that most problems are the result of learned behavior, as well as, a lack of structure, rules and consistency.  It is easy to mislay an empathetic understanding with blame when clients fail to follow training practices and advice you teach them.   Blame is not an effective approach in helping your client and it could cost the dog their home.  

We need to remain sympathetic toward owners and their situation, while transforming them into successful trainers for their dog.   No one wants a dog who lunges at animals or people they pass on a walk, nor does anyone want the inside of their house used as a giant canine bathroom.  Owners don’t intentionally do the wrong thing. They simply don’t understand how to fix the behavior. 

People love their dogs and inadvertently allow human emotion to hinder training success.  Here are some possible reasons clients struggle with dog training success:

1. They feel bad imposing rules on the dog.  

2. They don’t like change and therefore, struggle to enforce change on their pets.  

3. They lack understanding as to how dogs with structure thrive compared to dogs without structure.

4. They believe they don’t have the time needed to train their dog.

It is our job to help them understand that:

1. Dogs are happy and well-adjusted when they have routine and rules in place. 

2. The absence of a leader confuses and even frightens dogs.  Dogs hate to lead the pack.

3. Human-Canine bond strengthens through dog training. 

4. Training increases dogs’ confidence. 

5. Training encourages the dog to respect you. Not in a  fearful way, rather similar to the way a child respects their parents.

6. Most importantly, training is the key to achieving training goals and stopping negative behavior.

When dog owners hire us, we want to form a team and work together to accomplish the client’s goals.  You help more dogs when you are empathetic to their owner’s situation and help them overcome obstacles (even if they placed those obstacles in the way of success).  Regardless of the situation, show empathy toward your clients and work hard to change their train of thought. Only then can you help the most important subject of your job:  the dog! 

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com

Written by Katie McKnight

Traveling with Your Dog Shouldn’t be Stressful

We want our dogs to travel with us, yet their presence can cause us to stress.

What if they soil inside?

What if they break something?

What if they get loose and run away?

Stress can cause us to fall back into bad habits of yelling at, or punishing, our dogs. In turn, the dog is stressed and more likely to mess up.

When you travel with your dog, limit the dog’s freedom to ensure they don’t destroy anything or climb on furniture (remember, not everyone wants dogs on their furniture).

It is not foreign for a fully housebroken dog to mark or have an accident inside a hotel or visiting home. Our first rescue dog never went on furniture and was fully housebroken, yet the first time we brought her on vacation, she jumped on the bed and urinated on it. Anxiety caused this behavior.

The same dog had the habit of licking dirty dishes in my dishwasher. While I did not condone it, it was a behavior I had not yet conquered. When we visited my in-law’s house, I was careful not to allow her access to the kitchen while we cleaned up after meals to ensure her tongue was not in the dishwasher. My father-in-law would have thrown all his dishes away if he’d ever witnessed the behavior.

Another error dog owners make, especially when stressed, is failing to issue commands to their dogs. Instead, they scream the dog’s name repeatedly and wonder why the dog isn’t listening. Be mindful of your words when communicating with your dog.

If your dog is not following commands, don’t get frustrated or angry. Dogs do not generalize. Assume your dog does not understand the commands in this strange location or with the added distractions. Use this opportunity to advance training by calmly working commands. Be sure to provide plenty of rewards when they comply.

Finally, make sure your dog has ID tags that include your cell phone number rather than just your home number and home address. This way if your dog were to escape through an open door or gate, you will be alerted the moment someone finds them.

Here are a few items to bring with you on vacation:

  • crate or play yard
  • leash your dog can drag indoors to ensure they stay close by
  • harness
  • gates to limit access to other rooms
  • toys/bones to keep them entertained
  • walking leash
  • training treats
  • ID Tag that includes your cell phone numbers
  • A dog seat belt to keep them safe during car rides

A little hard work now will make future trips more enjoyable for you, your hosts and your dog.

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com

Written by
Katie McKnight

Eight Proven Ways to Get your Dog to Sleep Later

Does your dog wake you up early on your days off from work?  Do they struggle settling down at night when you want to sleep?  Here are tips to get your adult dog to settle at night and/or sleep later in the morning. 

  1.  Refrain from feeding and interacting with your dog the moment he wakes up.  Delaying meals and attention will deter pushy behavior.
  2. You can delay your dog’s feeding schedule up to one hour by gradually pushing it back.  Each day, feed your dog fifteen minutes later. Within four days, your dog’s meal times will be one hour later than normal. 
  3. Dogs are easily awoken by the sun and sounds.If they sleep in a crate, cover it. For dogs who sleep outside crates, keep the room dark.  Use of a sound machine will drown out sounds inside and outside the home, especially on garbage pick up days.
  4. Make sure you dog has a warm, comfortable bed to sleep on.
  5. Give your dog plenty of exercise each day.  Scheduling evening exercise helps empty the bladder and may help a dog sleep better.
  6. Make sure you bring your dog outside to eliminate right before bed.  
  7. If you and your dog rise with your alarm, set it 15 minutes earlier for several days. When the alarm goes off, hit snooze and roll back over, avoiding eye contact and interaction with your dog.  Every few days deduct five minutes, until you can set your alarm for the correct wake-up call. By that time, your dog will not be triggered by the alarm. When you get up, start your morning routine without interacting with your dog for 15 minutes. This teaches the dog that the alarm is not a feeding bell. 
  8. Do not permit your dog to drink water late in the evening. This may cause your dog to rise early for a bathroom break.  

Note: Due to bladders that are not fully developed, puppies who awaken during the night should be taken to the bathroom.  It is unfair to expect puppies to sleep late in the morning or throughout the night. If you struggle with housebreaking issues, check out our online housebreaking course, which includes help from a certified dog trainer. Visit https://iscdt.com/product/iscdt-housebreaking-lesson/ .

If your adult dog begins to show signs of incontinence, take your dog to the vet to rule out urinary tract infections and digestive issues, rather than assuming it is behavioral or making any of these changes in their sleep habits.

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com

Changing A Dog’s Name

Two questions we receive often are:

1. Is it possible to change a dog’s name after you adopt them?

Answer: You can absolutely change your dog’s name. Many people change the dog’s name to represent a fresh start for the dog, especially if the dog’s past was negative.

2. How do you teach dogs their name?

1. Go to a room that is quiet and low distraction
2. Say the name ONCE in a happy voice
3. When the dog looks at you, say “yes” to mark the behavior *
4. provide a treat and affection
5. Repeat steps

Advance your training:

1. Practice Steps 1 – 4 in different rooms of your home
2. Slowly add distraction levels and locations for practice.

*can use a clicker in place of the word “yes” to mark the behavior.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for dog tips and information. Have a question? Leave it below in the comments.

Watch our non-fancy, video to see the training steps in action.

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Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com

Learn How Patience Will Improve Your Dog Training Prowess

Last Wednesday we kicked off our ten-week series on the “Traits of a Professional
Dog Trainer”, with an article entitled, How Open-Mindedness and Flexibility Improves Your Dog Training SkillIf you missed it, please click this link to read it: https://wordpress.com/view/iscdtfordogtrainersblog.school.blog

In addition to educating yourself in the craft of dog training and working with numerous dogs to increase your skill, there are ten traits that will make you stand above other dog trainers.  This article covers the second trait:


Dog training is not only about the dog and it goes far beyond teaching commands.  Teaching the dog is the easy part. Our job is more about the ones who pay for our services — People. 

In this world of Amazon and Grub Hub delivery, it is easy to fall into the belief that everything happens with the click of a button and the blink of an eye. When it comes to shopping and food delivery, that is often true. These companies make our lives incredibly easy with their door-to-door service.   

When it comes to learning and mastering a new skill, patience and time are the key to success.  Here are areas patience plays a vital role in your career as a dog trainer.

New Trainers. It is important that new dog trainers have patience with themselves.  It takes time to learn a new craft and it takes even longer to master your skill. The ability to train your own dog isn’t enough. Your dog will improve your skill, however, it takes at least one hundred dogs to drastically improve your dog-handling practices.  You must work with different breeds of dogs, temperaments and levels of knowledge. Each dog you work with, provides different scenarios for you to learn.  

Don’t compare yourself to a trainer who has worked in the field for years.  Doing so will only frustrate and prevent you from moving forward. Stop believing you will never reach the level of success as the trainer on television or the one with the hundred Youtube videos.  Instead of wallowing in self-doubt, spend your free time working as a dog trainer’s apprentice. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities with rescues and dog shelters. You can also gain skills by working with your family and friends’ dogs.   Focus on the dogs you work with and enjoy your path to a new career.

Clients. Clients often require several reminders when it comes to proper leash handling and issuing commands.   They put off implementing a tool, such as having the dog drag a leash or practicing with the dog on a daily basis.  Often times, as the dog behavior improves, the humans become complacent in their training, which leads to old problems resurfacing.

In order to successfully train a dog, we need to train the owners too.  It is important to remember that the owners are also learning a new skill set.  They need to adjust their body language and learn to keep their emotions in check. They learn a new vocabulary, hand signals and leash handling skills.  Often times, they must change bad habits they’ve practiced for years, because these habits likely contributed to their dog issues. Sometimes trainers forget what it feels like to train a dog for the first time. This leads to frustration with their human clients.

We certainly cannot place blame on them.  We are hired to help them fix the problems, not point fingers.  Dog trainers need to help their human clients overcome obstacles by providing gentle reminders and willingly revisiting  old lessons. We need to help them move forward in their training by guiding them through a difficult lessons rather than grabbing the leash and doing the work for them.  

We teach humans to train their own dogs. In doing so, we provide them with an entirely new skill set.  Practice, time and repetition is how we help them succeed. None of us are born dog trainers. Practice patience with your human clients while they learn. 

Dogs. In our last blog we discussed how dogs learn differently. In this post, we are going to discuss other ways patience plays a role in dog training.  

Recently we had a client with a five-month old dog.  We taught the dog sit-implied stay during the first lesson. At home, the owner could cross the entire room and back without the dog moving.  Three days after the lesson, he decided to show off the new skill during a party in a friend’s backyard. Naturally the dog failed and the owner expressed frustration at our second lesson.  

The client didn’t know that dogs simply cannot generalize when it comes to commands and behavior.  We explained to him that there are four stages of learning for dogs.   He learned that dog training does not happen overnight and agreed to follow our training module. A couple of weeks later, his dog achieve their goal of a sit-implied stay in different environments.

No one learns to perfect a command overnight.  Pushing too fast or too hard leads to frustration and failure.  Dogs are no different. We need to help our clients understand that dogs’ brains are wired differently than ours.  Repetition, consistency and slowly adding distraction will help them achieve their goals.

Patience is an important skill for life and when training dogs. Remember to include patience in your dog training program.  Also keep it in mind when it comes to your own education and growth.

Until next time…keep up the great work in discovering your passion,

Katie and Jessica

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com

Written by: Katie McKnight

How Open-Mindedness and Flexibility Improves Your Dog Training Skill

Knowledge through education, skill obtained from hands-on experience and growth acquired through continued education are three excellent attributes to look for when hiring a dog trainer.

There are actually ten additional traits that professional dog trainers should possess in order to provide exemplary service to their clients. Over the next ten weeks, we will discuss each of those traits and why you should apply them to your training practice. We are going to begin this ten-week journey with Trait One:

 Open-mindedness and Flexibility.

I greatly enjoy listening to podcasts on dog training while driving from one lesson to the next. I recommend that everyone reading this blog explore different podcasts, blogs, books and articles on the subject of dog training. If you can, I suggest attending seminars too. Each of these outlets will help you gain continued knowledge in this field.  

Last week, I picked a podcast on puppy nipping.  I have techniques in place to stop puppy nipping, but am always on the hunt for alternate ideas.  The more knowledge I gain, the better equipped I am at helping my clients overcome problems, especially if  my current techniques don’t work for a particular dog.

I settled into the program, eager to learn something new.  Instead, I listened to ten minutes of the speaker bash other trainers by name and every single method each trainer offered. Aside from feeling a strong distaste toward her mean-girl behavior, I couldn’t help but think she was stunting her growth as a dog trainer by isolating herself from other trainers and their techniques.  Refusing to be as closed-minded as she, I pushed past my anger and forced myself to listen to the entire program in order to hear the tips she promised to provide. Then I unsubscribed, deciding I am better off following positive influences.

I use the example of the podcast to open a discussion on flexibility and training a dog with an open mind.  Closing our minds to ideas and suggestions is an easy road to stumble upon in this field. No one expects you to agree with or follow techniques that do not sit well with you. There are plenty that make me cringe. Just be careful not to burn bridges.  A trainer who uses a technique that you do not like, could one day provide a source of information that helps your client dog. Below are a few tips to help you avoid this common pitfall.

When it comes to clients:

When a client asks your thoughts on a technique that differs from your methods, refrain from eye rolling, snickering or insisting the technique they proposed is foolish. Instead, start a conversation.   

Ask them how their dog responds to the technique and then listen to their feedback.  Considering they hired a dog trainer, the method likely isn’t working for them or they simply struggle with the execution of the command.  Instead of blurting, “I knew it wouldn’t work,” help them solve the problem in a constructive and positive manner.

An open dialogue demonstrates to your client that you possess knowledge, professionalism and are approachable. 

When Working with Dogs:

Not all dogs learn the same.  They have their own personalities, temperaments, ability to focus, and they learn differently.  If a dog struggles, rather than assume he is incapable of learning, we need to realize we have yet to figure out how to teach that dog. Although your method works for most dogs, this one may require an entirely different approach.  You will have to utilize different techniques to help this dog understand and learn. Do not hesitate to dig into your trainer’s toolbox and examine the different techniques you have picked up over the years. This is where respect and tolerance of other trainers comes in handy.

When It Comes to Other Dog Trainers:   

Should you struggle while training a client dog, you need to turn to someone for guidance. That is only possible, if you interact with other trainers in a positive and professional manner. Most skilled trainers will happily provide insight, suggestions and referrals to one another.  Those who don’t, should not be on your “go-to” list.

It is in our best interest to listen to other trainers discuss techniques they’ve used, even if the techniques are different and uncomfortable for you. Ask questions and gather as much information as possible on the topic, then file it away in your trainer’s toolbox  for future reference. One day, a technique you despise, may be the only thing that works for a particular client or their dog (I am not referring to training tools. It can be any technique). That one crazy idea may be what that saves a dog from being surrendered to a kill shelter.  Trust us, it happens. It is the dog trainer’s responsibility to offer their clients every opportunity to succeed with their dog. Be sure to approach everything in life with an open mind and willingness to learn.

Dinosaurs are extinct.

One final thought.   Try your best not to become prehistoric in your thought process. If you refuse to open your mind to new ideas when it comes to dog training, someone else will come along and woo your clients away with their flexibility. Like dinosaurs, your prehistoric business will become extinct. 

Katie McKnight

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com


Four Tips to Improve Training Success

Do frustrated dog owners mention that their dog follows commands better when they know a training session is about to begin?

Have them skip their normal routine of training. Here are some tips to help:

🐶 Ditch the treat pouch. Instead keep treats in your pocket

🐶 keep treat stations hidden around your home. You can keep bowls with treats high up and out of sight. This prevents a walk to the treat drawer before practicing. When the dog follows a command, mark the behavior and then reach into the secret stash to reward.

🐶 have your dog drag a short leash around every time you are home, this way you don’t leash him up before a training session. It also helps in redirecting dogs in real-life situations. Remember, to remove the leash when the dog is unattended.

🐶 practice at different times throughout the day. We all know they can tell time 🤨. Shake up your schedule a bit.

ISCDT – Teaching you to train them

Our 18 week online program is a hands-on program where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to the school. We also offer a 2-week and 4-month in-person internship. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com