Free Shaping

Free Shaping Webinar 

Free shaping is a clicker training method where we build successive approximations without luring.

This is what known as independent learning as opposed to lure and reward training which is dependant learning.

Lure and reward training can sometimes give perceived results as the dog is physically doing the behaviour because it is following food but may not actually truly understand what it is doing. Are they just following food?

Shaping involves problem solving and therefore deeper learning takes place. It is great mental stimulation and will tire a puppy’s brain quickly.

A good way to start shaping is with a large target such as a mat or a cone or other object. This is going to enable success.

There are some rules to follow with shaping for it to be successful.

1) Sit in a chair or give some other signal that shaping is happening and it’s time to get creative.

2) Work in a structured manner, repetitions of clicks and treats or a time frame. For a puppy I would recommend 6 clicks and treats then a rest for a minute.

3) Make is as easy as possible, handler skill involves breaking criteria down to enable success.

4) If using a target object make sure you remove it during the breaks.

Shaping involves you starting by looking at the whole process of a behaviour for example a paw lift or wave.

For the dog to complete the action it needs to

1) Shift weight onto one paw

2) Start the paw lift from the shoulder by tensing the muscle

3) Then the elbow will move

4) Then the paw will start to move

5) Paw lifts

6) Height Increase of the paw

Most people would start to shape a paw lift by looking at the paw for movement, this is actually step 4 !

You start by clicking the first step and then once you can see your puppy knows what it is being clicked for you can withhold your click and look for the next step and so on,  building the behaviour step y sbtep. This is why the learning is deeper because your puppy will have worked out each little increment.

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Shaping is a skill and a style of learning so remember with a puppy you are teaching a behaviour  and also a new skill! you may need to reward good skills along the way.

Here is a video of Mia at 11 weeks old doing a puppy shaping game where I click anything she does and she has lots of options, this teaches her to be creative and offer behaviour which is  part of the skill of shaping.

I would recommend to start with this before you try to specifically shape something , just reward what your puppy offers you, as long as it is appropriate.

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You can them move onto a specific behaviour, here are two examples using a target . A puppy should naturally locate in front of you so put the object there.

‘Go Round a Cone’

  • Trainer sat in chair, deliver food by left side of chair
  • Build criteria (movement towards cone), click, reward delivered by left side of chair
  • Build criteria gradually (from movement towards cone to going around), click, reward delivered by left side of chair
  • End result, click, reward delivered by left side of chair
  • Add cue, click, reward delivered by left side of chair

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‘Touch a Target Mat’

  • Trainer sat in chair, deliver food away from you in front
  • Build criteria (movement towards target mat), click, reward delivered away from you
  • Build criteria gradually (from movement towards target, looking or sniffing it), click, reward delivered away from you
  • Paw target mat contact, click, reward delivered away from you
  • End result, click, reward delivered away from you
  • Add cue, click, reward delivered away from you

Watch the Video 

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