ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Getting the Behavior

I was thinking about "Get the Behavior", and just thought I'd list the "clicker approved" ways this can happen. This will be "old news" for a lot of you, but some of you may benefit from this synopsis.

There are essentially four tools for "Get the Behavior", and they are capturing, shaping, luring, and modeling.


This is when you literally see the dog do the desired behavior in its finished form (or very close to it), and you click and treat for it. Chandler has a very nice fold back down. It is a behavior that occurs essentially in its "finished form", and so I am able to take advantage of many opportunities he offers me to capture, click, and treat the behavior. Sometimes dogs who are clicked for captured behaviors will look puzzled, as if they don't have a clue what they just did to get the treat. But over time (and many repetitions) the laws of Operant Conditioning will result in a behavior which is being offered regularly enough that you can begin to put it on cue.


I wrote a very long post about this a while back (which I believe may be on the Training Treasures page), so I will try to summarize. In shaping, you click for small approximations of the eventual desired behavior. When the "small approximation" is being offered, you raise the criteria and begin looking for something a step closer to resembling the eventual finished behavior. Over time and many repetitions (and raising the criteria in small increments) you will eventually have "shaped" the behavior into the finished form you would like to see. It is when I use shaping that I see the most definite indications of "thinking" and "figuring it out" on Chandler's part.


Think of luring as the "donkey following the carrot on the stick". When you use luring, you maneuver a treat around in such a way that the dog - in his attempts to get at the treat - will give you the behavior you are after, or some approximation of it. It is debatable how much the dog is "learning" when you use luring, since the dog's focus is more on "Where's that treat?!" than it is on what he has just done that has resulted in the click. Still, if you are struggling with a situation where the dog is offering you nothing to capture or to shape, luring can be a useful way to get the ball rolling. However, luring should be faded as quickly as possible so that the behavior does not remain dependent upon the presence of the treat. Some people fade a lure into a hand signal which they can continue to use indefinitely.


This is the classic "Push the dog's butt down onto the ground (or fold his rear legs) to get him to Sit" approach to getting a behavior. In modeling, you literally *manipulate* the dog into the behavior (or some approximation of it) that you want, and then click and treat. As with luring, it is debatable how much the dog is actually learning when modeled into a behavior, but modeling can have its uses when you just seem to have run out of ways to get the behavior and you need to get your training back on track. And - as with luring - you will want to fade the modeling as soon as you possibly can.

One of the other things I didn't catch onto right away was that you can use these four things in combination with one another. For example, if you are trying to shape a behavior, and the dog just doesn't seem to be giving you ANY kind of approximation of what you are eventually after, you could lure - not for the entire behavior, but for some small approximation which you can now click for - and then you can go back to shaping with no lure. If you use your imagination, you will come up with other ways to use these four, together and/or in combination as well, in order to proceed towards your training goals.

Finally, I didn't list Targeting because I think that targeting is a *result* of using these. For Chandler, I was able to capture targeting because he offered it to me as a finished behavior right off the bat, and now he is very reliable with it. For other dogs, I have seen descriptions of using shaping to teach the dog to target. So targeting is *extremely* useful, and can be added to your arsenal of ways to "Get the Behavior" once the dog has learned it, but I don't see it as one of the four "Basics" in the same way that Capturing, Shaping, Luring, and Modeling are.

I hope this has been useful.

Pat B!
copyright 1999 Pat B


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