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How to Clicker Train Your Dog (Part 3): The 5 Magic Words of Clicker Training

September 9, 2013     Ed Frawley

There are 5 magic words used in marker training. These words are taught to the dog and once understood, can be applied to every exercise you want to train for your dog.

5 Magic Words of Clicker Training

As you see in the image above, these 5 main words to clicker/marker training are:

  • READY?
  • YES
  • NO
  • GOOD
  • DONE

I'll be going through each word and how it is used as well as what it means. Please note that these 5 magic words will be written in ALL-CAPS.

READY

READY can also be used as ARE YOU READY? It marks the start of a training session. Be sure you always have a reward to give to the dog once he starts to offer behaviors.

As your dog gets more accustomed to starting the training, we advise you only start training if the dog demonstrates he is ready to play. We call this engagement. Engagement is a learned skill that occurs regardless of surroundings and any other distractions.

If your dog doesn't want to play, then you as the owner need to put the dog away and think of other ways to get it engaged next time. It is important to have a relationship with your dog. If the dog isn't engaged with you, then don't try to teach him behaviors or exercises. Simply put him away or just take him out for a walk.

YES

When se say YES, we are giving the dog a positive marker. This is the word we use to bridge the time between a favorable behavior and delivering a reward. For example, when your dog remains calm in a new setting, you can say "YES" and then give him a high-value reward. When this concept is introduced, dogs will very quickly learn that everytime you say YES, they will be receiving a reward.

Note that only the term YES should be used. Some trainers will get overly excepted and say YES multiple times and add in a compliment. Dogs will get confused. I'll explain this more later but as of now, simply use the term YES.

Additionally, YES is used as a "release command" when the dog does something right. So instead of YES simply being a positive compliment with a reward, it also means, "Good job. Here's your reward. Now you can stop." You are giving him freedom to interact with you after her receives his food reward or toy.

GOOD

Contrary to YES, GOOD says, "I like what you're doing and I want you to keep doing what you're doing."

It is a positive marker just as YES is but it doesn't tell the dog to stop. It encourages the dog to keep going. We use GOOD when teaching our dogs to stay down. When we tell our dogs to stay down, we don't mark it with a YES when they successfully stay down. Saying YES will mark the release and give the dog permission to get up and receive his reward.

With GOOD, you can say it as many times as you like to get the dog to continue to do what he is doing.

NOPE

NOPE can also be used as NO instead. Remember to stay consistent with these. When you tell your dog NOPE, you're telling your dog, "You just made a mistake. Do the exercise again." This doesn't mean that you as the handler is angry or are going to give a correction. It simply means he has to repeat the exercise correctly in order to get a high-value reward.

It will not take long for the dog to figure out that NOPE means "Do it again."

DONE

DONE (or BREAK) tells the dog that the training session is over. Sessions can be finished for just 5 minutes or it can mean we are done for the day.

When you say DONE, the food or toys are put away. Show the dog your empty hands. Your dog will understand that the training session is over.