No Reward Markers: Why I do not use them…

Why I DO NOT USE “No Reward Markers”…

The other day when I was playing frisbee with Twix, I really had a BAD throw and said, “OOOPS” and Twix just kept driving for the frisbee and my words did not bother him in the least. It made me think about no reward markers and how that situation could have been much different if Twix would have thought I was talking to him. The last thing that I would ever want is for my dogs to worry about what I say when I am frustrated with myself. I loved that Twix did not care that I was disappointed in my frisbee throwing capabilities and just kept going after it anyway.

Many dog trainers use No Reward Markers (NRM). A No Reward Marker (NRM) is used when the dog does a behavior but gets it wrong. So, if the dog is learning to do the weave poles and he enters at the second pole, but should know to enter at the first pole, a trainer would say, “BUMMER, or TRY AGAIN”. I personally DO NOT think that NRM are necessary. I believe that NRM can be punishing to the dog. My thought is that if the dog got it wrong, why do we (trainers or handlers) feel the need to tell the dog with our voice? If I do not click, give a “Yes” or “Yep”, or get really excited over the amazing job my dog did, then my dog knows that he needs to try again. I do not need to tell him he was wrong. He already knows he was wrong because he did not get a marker signal, I did not say anything. Not saying anything, is information to the dog. Sure, by not saying anything and by not getting a marker signal the dog could view that as punishing, but I did not add fuel to the fire by making a bigger deal over it. People that use NRM, usually use words such as: BUMMER, TRY AGAIN, or OOPS. Okay, so hear me out on this… How many times do you use these SAME words when YOU do something WRONG? My thoughts are… If I toss a frisbee and I throw it horrible and say, “OOPS or BUMMER” then my dog would think that I am telling him that he is doing something WRONG. The fact is that I AM doing something wrong. I messed up and it had absolutely NOTHING to do with what the dog did. If I used and trained with NRM, then screw up a frisbee throw or almost run into a jump on an agility course and yell out, “OOPS”, then my dog would think that he did something wrong when he was doing everything right. In a case like that if I trained with No Reward Markers, I would have just punished my dog for something I did wrong. That is not fair!

This is just my opinion…