What is an effective example of employing No Reward Marker strategy in dog training?
The idea of a No Reward Marker (NRM) is to simply provide data to the dog that she is making the incorrect choice. It is usually done with a verbal marker such as “uh-oh” or “oops.”
The most effective way to employ an NRM strategy is to use the NRM as simply additional data for the dog to learn. It should not be used as a punishment or negative reinforcement. Especially if you have a very sensitive dog, or one who’s excessively concerned about losing her food supply, excessive and careless use of the NRM can lead to her making negative associations with the very behavior you’re trying to eliminate.
If your dog seems to be getting commands wrong on a regular basis, you need to explore the reasons why. First, you need to look at the cues to make sure they’re as clear and clean as they should be. Then, you need to consider her mindset; if she seems listless, unenthusiastic or unmotivated, she may be tired, feeling unwell or bored. As long as she’s not unwell, it may be better to stop the session and return to it later.
You don’t want to keep saying “no” and “oops” over and over again.
Certified dog trainer Lisa Hartman clicker-trains her clients but will use the NRM once in a while IF “I have worked with the dog for a while and know that she does know the cue well, or if a dog is just displaying behavior I don’t like,” she says, “but mainly I don’t, because I focus on the positive and don’t like to give a lot of attention to the negative.”
The last thing you want to do is make your dog feel stressed or frustrated, because these feelings will keep her from being motivated.
Other things to keep in mind:
• Stay relaxed, make sure you smile and use the NRM is a happy, cheerful voice. Remember, dogs often take cues from the owners; if she sees you tense, nervous and unhappy, she’ll react in the same way—and the session will be less than productive.
• Keep training sessions short, no more than 10 minutes. This is very hard work for your dog and just a few seconds of intense focus can tire her out. You can always resume the next day.
• Sometimes, just like humans, your dog might be too distracted or excitable. If you sense this after a few minutes, stop and resume later the same day.