Using multiple markers to prevent mixed messages

Emily Larlham
Presentation given at the 2018 Conference

We all respond to multiple markers in our every day lives. For example, when the microwave dings, we casually walk over to retrieve the warm food. When the mail carrier honks his horn, we run to the front gate to retrieve a large parcel. It would be a little silly if we ran to the front gate when the microwave beeped. However, sometimes we put our animals in the situation where they are waiting at the microwave when the parcel is at the front gate. Although not always necessary, it is possible to teach our animals multiple markers in order to create clarity in our training.

With multiple markers we can teach an animal to anticipate WHAT reinforcement will be delivered, WHERE it will be delivered, and HOW it will be delivered depending on the marker. We can also teach our animals what behaviors to do after the specific marker. For example, stay in the same position or move to the appropriate reinforcement zone.

Emily will give examples and circumstances where multiple markers might be beneficial. For example, utilizing a different marker to teach a dog to relax at your feet at a café than the one often used when increasing speed and arousal.

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