Shaping – Just Another Advantage of Clicker Training

One of the many benefits of clicker training is the ability to shape a dog to do behaviors they would not naturally do. Shaping truly utilizes a dog’s intelligence. One of the best descriptions I have heard is when someone described it as a “hot/cold game”. That is the best way to put it because shaping tells the dog he is getting closer and closer to the behavior you are looking for.

Check out this video of Loker and I where I teach him how to pick up an object by using approximations that lead to the goal behavior.

Notice how much I broke down this behavior. Here are the steps I’m looking for again:

Not all dogs need things to be broken down in to such simple steps, but many do so it is better to have too many steps than too few (in my opinion). You want to make sure the dog succeeds in accomplishing as many steps as possible to keep the rate of rewards high so that little frustration occurs.
The benefits to shaping are that you can create a dog that loves to learn and a dog that doesn’t give up or lose interest if they don’t get something right immediately.

 Some Things to Watch Out For

Shaping - Clicker training

While force-free training does not inflict physical pain or intimidation, it is still stressful. Think back to when you were in school, even when you were learning about a subject you enjoyed, it was still stressful to take notes and focus in class for extended periods of time. Well, it’s the same thing for your dog. Even though they might love the training and learning, they need breaks or they can tire and lose interest in training. If you train them for too long each time their attitude will change and turn from “Oh yay! It’s training time!” or “Oh great.. Time for another training session… ugh.” You always want to leave them wanting more. Watch for stress signals such as yawning, lip licking, and ears pulled back. If your dog gets too stressed, it’s okay to take a break and play for a little bit. Return to training and make sure your dog is getting things right more often than before (it is up to you to adjust the criteria he needs to get right).

Have a behavior in mind you’d like to know how to shape? Post a comment below to let me know and I’ll shape my dog to do it and share it here! Can’t wait to see what you have in mind!