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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thankful for Positive Training!

One of the things that I love most is learning about how to communicate with our dogs and thereby teach them new things.

I have doing some "shaping" training recently, and it is tons of fun. I've been doing this type of training for a while but I'm revisiting the science behind it in an online course that I'm taking now. I taught Shyla to wave using this technique.

Here's the idea behind "shaping". I think of something that I want to teach my dog to do that he has never done before. I get my clicker and a lot of treats. Then, I click every time that my dog makes a movement that is even remotely starting him toward what I want to teach. The click communicates that he's doing something good. I give him a treat after every click.

Later in this post, I'm going to show you a very short example video. I taught R to touch a target with his nose. I chose to use R for this because he has little experience with "shaping". The target is the red bulb-shaped object on top of a short pole in the photo below. R is heading toward it in the photo.

I gave him no verbal cues at the start. I simply stood there and waited to see what he chose to do. You'll see that he initially wanted to walk backwards because that's his favorite thing that I've ever taught him.

My first click is because he got somewhat close to the vicinity of the target. I then wrote "missed it" in the video when he made a quick glance toward the target, and I missed clicking it. After that, I did a bunch of clicks for him glancing at the target.When he went back to solely walking backwards, I didn't click. I waited for him to orient toward the target again.

Very soon, he understood! He repeatedly walked to the target and hit it with his nose!!!! He figured that out simply from the feedback that I gave him with the clicker.

I find it so astounding that I can communicate how to do a completely novel behavior using "shaping" - basically by clicking and treating every increment toward doing the behavior.

Here's the short video. I hope that you enjoy seeing R in action.

I am so thankful that this type of positive training, and other methods of positive training, have been developed and are being adopted by so many dog owners. It's fun for both the person and the dog! There's no punishment for mistakes. Rather, the training is done totally by giving positive feedback to encourage the behaviors that you want more of. I love it!


  1. i am so amazed i almost fell off my chair while watching. 1.21 seconds and R learned if he touches the red ball he gets a click/treat. i have not heard of this. our Jake is such a quick learner but we never tried anything because we never have. he is 13 so maybe not now but for future dogs.

  2. You all do such a great job on the training front, bravo!

  3. R is a quick learner. It's fun to see him trying other tricks first to see if that's what you want.

  4. That was so much fun! You are a smart boy, R!

  5. Incredible work! You could practically 'see' his brain working on what he needed to do.

  6. Fun with a clicker , a treat, and a swaying red ball on a stick. I smiled the whole way through. Yes, positive, never negative, you have heaps of patience, and it all pays off so handsomely. He is a truly wonderful boy.

  7. It's a good method, though never tried it.

  8. I have had good luck using the clicker with Mabel. That was a fun video to watch!
    Hazel & Mabel

  9. R is so smart. He seems to know just what you want him to do. Looks like a lot of fun.

  10. I can never get over how satisfying these positive reinforcement training are for me and my dogs. It is a total blast watching them catch on. R was so cool!

  11. We took a class doing that kind of thing one time and it was fun.

  12. Oh, what fun to watch. The video 'caught' the attention of the resident dog at my house...who was adopted (from the local humane society) by my son and daughter-in-law...maybe I will ask them if this is ok to try with him!

    Thanks for sharing!

    --Jean Marie

  13. Thanks for joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

  14. Loved watching that! What a smart boy R is! He got what you wanted SO quickly! And wagging his tail the whole time!

  15. You taught him a new behavior in just a little over a minute! Oh wait, you probably edited. But still....R is such a beautiful boy. I love that tail!

  16. Yay, great job, R! Luke and I have done some shaping too and had a lot of success at it and fun with it. R reminds me of him with the backing up. If Luke is unsure of what I want, he will often resort to one of the tricks he knows, and it always makes me smile. :)
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  17. This training is awsome KB!

  18. Wow that is incredible, what a smart boy R is, so quick to work out what you wanted from him. I really must have a go with Rita she would enjoy the extra stimulation.


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