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Categories: Marker Training

Q. I read an article that says using a 'no reward marker' is aversive to dogs and doesn't help tell the dog that they did not succeed or did something wrong. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Hi Cindy, I saw an article recently on the subject of marker training, specifically the use of a no reward marker or negative marker. The article argues that the use of NRM's while it may not seem like it, is actually "aversive" to the dog and that it does not help to tell the dog that they did not succeed or that they did something wrong. They said that dogs learn faster if just encouraged through what they do correctly. This is the first I had ever heard of this idea and I know you have a lot of experience so I wanted to know your thoughts on the matter. Thank you, Sam

A. Hi Sam, I think like many things it's really dog dependent. Of course, it is an aversive of sorts and depending on the dog and their drive level, it may be more aversive to some than others. If you do your foundation right and the dog is motivated for the reward you have to offer, teaching them that a NOPE simply means TRY AGAIN is extremely effective. Let's face it, life has aversives and adding some very mild stress to a dog during training is not a bad thing and may actually make the dog more likely to keep working through a problem in the future. If the dog is very sensitive or not motivated then I am sure it may make the dog feel defeated. Training is an art as much as a science so this is one case where knowing the dog and what it needs makes all the difference. It's really up to the dog to determine what is aversive anyway and many people who proclaim that they are positive reinforcement only trainers should probably ask their dog's opinion about that. Simply because they don't use training tools or physical/verbal corrections doesn't mean they are not punishing the dog in some way from the dog's point of view. I try to evaluate and do what I think is best for the dog in front of me. My 5 dogs vary wildly in motivation and desire for traditional rewards like food and toys. It's all about finding what works best for each individual dog.

  Response:

Thank you Cindy!
  
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