Getting started with shaping

At the beginning of February, Betsy and I started an online class taught by Sue Ailsby called “Shaping”

Shaping is something that I’d heard a lot about, and I knew the general concept of what it entailed, but for some reason hadn’t ever been interested in trying or learning properly.

In retrospect, I have no idea why I felt this way, because shaping is a ton of fun!

Betsy showing off the key ingredient required for successful shaping: A clicker

I wasn’t sure how Betsy was going to react to suddenly being shaped, after being prompted/lured for her entire life. I was a bit worried she simply wouldn’t accept it, and shut down.

I was wrong, luckily!!

By the end of the second week, I had had tons of successful shaping sessions – here’s some of the stuff we managed to shape together:

  • lick her lips
  • rest her chin on her paws
  • turn her head to the right
  • put her two front paws on top of a target
  • do a circle around a bar stool
  • crawl into the (clean) fireplace and lie down
  • climb on top of the coffee table

Some of these things she picked up so quickly – many in one session, and some of the trickier ones in 2 or 3. As she got more accustomed to being shaped, she became quicker at figuring a problem out.

The rules of pure shaping are: No prompts, no lures, you just sit/stand and click when the dog makes a movement that will eventually lead to them doing the “right” thing. The fact that it works, and works so well, still amazes me.

Betsy showing off licking her lips on cue

Warning: This video isn’t insanely exciting, but here’s a few of our early attempts at shaping –

One thing we still haven’t done much of is more advanced shaping – Betsy has learned some fun simple behaviours but we haven’t forayed into anything more complex. I definitely still feel like we are beginners after taking the course, but at least we both understand the basic concept of how to shape now!

If you haven’t done much/any shaping and you’re looking for a fun way to spend some time with your dog without having to leave your house, I totally recommend taking this course 🙂

(We just did it at bronze level, which is cheapest, as you don’t get any instructor feedback, but I found that it worked perfectly for our needs!)

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