Mark and Move: Training in Smaller Spaces

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In a set-up or in real life, it’s critical to adjust to the situation or stress level. The best way to do that is to work at an appropriate distance where you can do regular BAT and just follow the dog around. Sometimes that’s not possible. For example, the training space may be too small, you might be working on actual greetings (up close), or the dog is anxious just doing things on his own. In that case, you might need to use something more directive, like Mark & Move.

A marker signals that a behavior has earned a reinforcer. Mark any behavior in the first column with any marker in the second column. Then move away and give any consequence in the third column. There are other behaviors, markers, and reinforcers, so be creative. If you use a marker normally associated with food or toys, provide those after moving away.

Behaviors

Markers

Consequences after Moving Away

  • Moving away
  • Looking at you
  • Looking away from the trigger
  • Relaxing some body part (ears, tail, open mouth etc.)
  • Looking at the trigger

 

  • Question Marker: “Done?” with weight shift away
  • Verbal “yes” or Hand Flash (deaf dogs)
  • Clicker
  • Cues: Find It, Touch, Come, etc.
  • Calm praise
  • Food on the ground
  • Food to the mouth
  • Toys to find or play with
  • Nose work, Agility, etc.
  • Perform cue for mark/reinforcer
  • Praise
  • Attention
  • Massage/petting
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Agility obstacle
  • Nose work

Example: mark “looking at the trigger” with a clicker, move away and toss treats to find.

Behaviors are listed from least to most intrusive, meaning that if we mark for moving away, that’s less distracting than if we mark as soon as the dog sees the trigger. If the dog is more relaxed, use behaviors near the bottom. If you are in a really tight space, pick behaviors from the bottom. The markers are sorted approximately from least to most intrusive. For example, the dog has the choice to move away or not when you use the question marker, but will almost always turn to you if you click or give a cue. The consequences are listed from least to most distracting.

Note that the more distracted the dog is, the less they can pay attention to learning about the trigger, so use the least intrusive version of Mark and Move, i.e., higher up on the list. I have found that training takes a long time if you need food to help the dog stay calm. BAT is fastest when the dog is relaxed and doesn’t need your intervention to explore the area and learn about the trigger on his own.

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