How to Begin Shaping
When I started training Rain, I captured behaviors. Sit, down, come, walk on a loose leash, go in your crate. Then I wanted to try things that were a little more complex -- things that Rain didn't necessarily offer. A fold back down. Walking across a dog walk. I was in a puppy class, and the trainer showed me how to lure the fold-back down. Perfect! Gradually, I found myself luring almost every new behavior.
And one day I realized that Rain had no clue what he was doing. He was following the lure completely blindly. Without the lure he NEVER offered a lured behavior, even once the food had been replaced with a hand signal. Those behaviors were't part of his conscious repertoire. Worst of all, I realized that he had no clue what the clicker meant. It signalled that food was coming, but that was all.
So I decided to try pure shaping. I started with the simplest behavior I could think of: a paw whack. We stood there, and for several sessions the only behavior I clicked was the movement of his front right paw. I didn't lure it; I didn't provide any extra info accept the click.
When the lightbulb went on, it really went on. He really figured out not only WHAT I was clicking, but he figured out that the click was somehow tied to it.
My suggestions are:
One of the best ways to learn how to break things into tiny steps is to play the game with a person -- essentially Charades in reverse. Take turns clicking and being the "clickee." It really helps you figure out how to break an exercise down. (It's also a fun party game.)
For example, in my class, one student wanted to shape another student to walk backwards from point A to point B. She concentrated on location first. He got that he was supposed to go from A to B, but he got stuck there. I switched tactics and got him to offer the backwards walking, THEN concentrated on position.
Believe me, in the game, the person being clicked is as ACTIVELY involved as you are -- and that's the GOAL of shaping your dog. You want him actively trying to figure out what you want him to do.
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List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com