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!