I know that some of you are having a hard time going outside to exercise your dog in this cold weather. Shaping is a great way to give your dog mental stimulation which will definitely exercise your dog’s mind. A tired mind is a tired dog. For dogs who love to learn this type of training is fabulous. Read more to learn what is shaping is and how to do it.
I love shaping with my border collie, Seiki. He has learned to crawl, roll over, close the door, close the drawer, wag his tail, shake his head “no,” spin, rewind, and more through shaping. When I am training my dog to do shaping I get to be lazy and warm 🙂 I also don’t even have to use my voice.
What do you need to shape your dog a behavior or trick? The first thing you need is an idea of what you would like to train your dog to do. You will then need to break the behavior up into small approximate steps in your mind or you can write down the steps. See below for more details. You also need something to mark each step when your dog performs a step correctly. I like using a clicker. The clicker says “You did the correct movement / behavior and you are immediately receiving a treat.” You can also use the word “yes” as a marker.
Here is an example of breaking a behavior into steps with shaping:
Behavior: Seiki is learning to shut the door with his muzzle.
1.) Seiki looks at the door C/T (Click and Treat).
2.) Seiki moves towards the door C/T.
3.) Seiki moves even closer to the door C/T.
4.) Seiki touches the door with his muzzle C/T.
5.) Seiki pushes the door with his muzzle C/T.
6.) Seiki pushes the door for a longer time period C/T.
7.) Seiki pushes the door for even a longer time period C/T/
8.) Seiki pushes the door for so long that the door shuts. Yahoo! The terminal behavior is met!
9.) I continually reward step #8 with Seiki and when it is predictable that he is definitely going to shut the door I add the command “Close” immediately before he exhibits the behavior.
When you start shaping your dog to do something, you may reward any behavior that is an approximation of what you want. Then you begin to become more specific and only reward behaviors that are moving closer to your terminal goal. Stop rewarding easier behavior or the behaviors that your dog was initially displaying and only reward the ones that are closer to the goal. Then only reward your dog when he / she performs the terminal behavior.
Shaping takes practice and it is important that you start somewhere. Test the waters and give it a try. Click here to watch a video for a great example of shaping and of course call Four Legged Scholars if you would like a session on this 🙂
Yea now your dog is tired and you are warm 🙂
Johanna Teresi, Professional Trainer and Owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC