ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Beginning Shaping Success

Debbie Otero wrote:

So do I just click the head turns that are the furthest? Should I start trying to get him to stand? or will he most likely just get up anyway in an effort to turn his head further?

What's next??? :-)

First of all, Debbie, I love your excitement over "discovering" shaping! It is truly my favorite training technique as well.

When I approach free shaping I tend to be very, very flexible and open. Particularly when just getting started with a dog, I let the dog tell me where the shaping session will lead. I know this all sounds very free flowing and Zen, but that's what's fun about it. If you're not working on a specific target behavior, just go with the dog. It's all part of changing our approach to training, not just our techniques. It's letting go of more than the leash.

Rather than having a logical step by step plan (which I often do when I'm working on something in particular) allow the shaping session to surprise you. Does that make sense?

For example, I had a real breakthrough with Katie, my crossover Lab, in a shaping session. We were doing 101 things to do with a box, and Katie was being rather cautious, trying one thing and waiting, then trying something else. I just kept CTing for everything. Pretty soon she was flinging the box across the room, then jumping in it with both front foot, then scooting it across the floor, almost faster than I could keep up with the clicking. It was an AHA! moment for her, a realization that anything having to do with the box would be reinforced. That moment, which came just from following her lead, is one of my most prized training memories.

Another one, again with Katie. You see more dramatic changes with crossover dogs, I think. I was reinforcing creativity. Anything new or different was CTd. Things already done once were not. This is tough for some dogs and Katie was getting a bit flat. Then she leaped up and brushed my lips with her muzzle. A kiss! A totally new, and out of character, behavior for her. I realized that SHE GOT IT! By being open to anything, she learned more on her own than I could have taught her. Again, does that make sense?

So, I've learned to be very fanciful and impractical in my shaping sessions. I remember a scientist who was questioned about the usefulness of his experiments (might have been Michael Faraday?). In response to that question he asked "Of what use is a baby?"

Deb Jones (loving this list!)
Katie (#1 shaping dog)
Sully (#1 Golden boy)
Copper (who's only known clicks & treats)

copyright 1999 Deborah Jones


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