Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shaping Fun!

I decided to do at least something with each of the dogs before going to bed last night. It turned out to be a pretty productive night! I ended up doing some free shaping with Lok. He's never been very good at free shaping, but he was actually giving me a lot last night. We ended up with a side-step/shuffle back and forth with him crossing one front paw over another. Could be a cute trick, maybe. But I at least got him using his brain again. I haven't done any training with Lok in forever.

Elo is always fun to shape! He is the most creative dog I've ever worked with, possibly due to the fact that his training is 100% shaped--no luring. He learned right away to offer behaviors and loves it. Last night I worked on backing up, which I've worked on a little bit once or twice before. I got him backing up all the way across the living room, which at least twice as far as Jun has ever gotten in two years of training! I also really want to have a trick on cue called "count your legs" where he lays on his back with his legs straight up in the air. I shaped the first step for this tonight--lying down flat on his right side. Elo "gets" clicker training way better than the other dogs. He notices exactly what is being clicked, even the most subtle weight shifts. In fact, I think he might offer them to me on purpose. I wasn't sure whether he would offer me a lie down on his side, and just started clicking anything that seemed like a precursor to pulling his front leg under him, as well as placing treats in a position that might encourage that. Finally he leaned slightly further to his right than he had before and I clicked that a couple times. Then he went straight to a lie down on his side!! I love it! He may never have any of his tricks on cue, but he will have a ton of cute tricks! He loves shaping games! He is much more patient and persistent than Jun and much more confident than Lok, so we rarely get "stuck."

I don't currently have a (flashlight) clicker for Jun, since I lost hers and the one I bought to replace it doesn't work very well. So Jun just got to work on things she knows that force her to USE her devious little mind. We worked on stimulus control for shutting doors (only performing the behavior on cue). We worked on performing other behaviors (sit, stand, spins, sit pretty) while holding a dumbbell. And we worked on some distance stuff--getting her to bring an object to a target (specifically, taking her dumbbell and putting it in the dish washer--we're slowly working on a "loading the dish washer" trick, and I finally figured out an easy way to teach her to push in the tray, so we are getting closer and closer!).

Jun does NOT like to get very far away from me. I've finally figured this out. It's like there is some type of gravitational pull attracting her face to my thigh. That is the reason I can't get her to back up very far. That is the reason she has trouble with bringing an object to a target that is further than a few feet away from me. In disc--I used to think she was an "O-dog" just because of the amount of circling she does around me. Well, I've finally figured out she's ACTUALLY more of an X dog, if she gets more than 2 feet away. I've tried an around the world with her a few times--what I get does not even slightly resemble a circle. She will run out straight for a disc and bring it straight back to me, or even curve a little bit on the outrun or return. But getting her to stay a consistent distance away from me while running a circle--it's like fighting gravity.

So, the weird thing I've discovered . . . when I started working on asking her to bring the dumbbell to the target from a slight distance, I was initially going TO her to reward, thinking that if she got her reward at the target it would reinforce that that was where I wanted her to be. It was going ok, but not great. But for whatever reason, the past couple sessions I've started having her drop the object at the target and come BACK to me for her reward, and she's gotten much better. Why is this? Because she knows that once she does what is asked she gets to come back to me? Did I inadvertently Premack this?


  1. I can't believe you have only used shaping on Elo. I love free shaping but I usually start with a bit of luring for any trick that doesn't involve a prop. I don't know that my timing would be good enough to free shape a bang!

    That's a bit odd with Jun and the target, but if it works!!

  2. Laura, if I can do it, I'm sure you can do it at least twice as well! I love the result of a creative dog that doesn't depend on a prop to start offering me things! Could be that Elo is just naturally good at shaping, too.