There are three things we’ve seen FDSA students struggle with over and over again – even advanced students and excellent trainers! We’ll call them the 3 Ts: Timing, Tautology and Treat Placement. This post gives you an overview. If you’re going to delve further into marker training for precision behaviors, the 3 Ts are something you want to print out and tape to your fridge!
The marker cue needs to happen before you deliver the primary reinforcer.
Example: click – pause for a split second – treat.
You want a single marker cue before the primary reinforcer.
Example: “Get it” is my marker cue for tossing a treat for the dog to chase.
“Get it!” – pause for a split second – toss treat.
Do not add a click before or after your verbal marker! “Get it” itself is your marker – and it’s the only one you need.
Treat (or toy etc) placement
This is a subcategory of timing related to location specific marker cues (LSMs). If you use location specific marker cues (i.e. you want a different marker cues to indicate different modes of treat or toy delivery), you MUST say your marker cue before reaching into your treat pouch or moving your toy. “Otherwise,” to quote Shade Whitesel, who says it better than I ever could, “you are just teaching the dog that 5 different marker cues all mean the same thing: look at the hand to see where and what you will get.”
Whether the 3 Ts are obvious or not in any exercise or class you are working on; whether they are being addressed directly or lingering in the background: they will always be by your side. Keeping an eye on them will make you a better trainer, and take your dog’s understanding of what you are trying to teach them to the next level!