Free shaping/clicker training

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#1
I read the Clicker Training 101 sticky, and got some good tips from it, but I'm looking for a little bit more in depth info.

I would like to learn more about shaping behaviors. Cooper is the first dog I've had that I think would really respond well to shaping with the clicker.

I understand the basics of clicker training. I have worked on 'charging' the clicker. He understand click=good. And I am using it to reinforce things he's already learned. He is super motivated to touch things with his paws and likes to stand on different objects, so I think we could have some fun, especially when weather doesn't allow us to get outdoors.

I guess I am just looking for resources that have helped you or that go into a little more detail about shaping behaviors. I'd love to hear any experiences or info you can share!
 

Maxy24

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#2
I assume we're talking about shaping without lures. Technically I think shaping is just rewarding for approximations of the behavior, however you get to them, but usually I think people are going for shaping without luring/prompting. Shaping can be really fun, especially for longer behaviors (I've never got the logic in doing it for something like sit, luring (or capturing if your goal is to keep treats out of sight) is just so much quicker, at least for a dog that's new to it). I especially like to use it when I become frustrated. Sometimes I get upset because nothing I'm trying is working. So I stop doing anything and let the dog do the work, I just watch, mark, and reward. I don't feel like I need to be figuring out what to do so it's less stressful. Like when I was trying to teach Tucker to cross his paws using a hand target. A solid week of multiple training sessions a day and I still wasn't able to fade the hand target, we made like zero progress. So I started over shaping and saw daily progress, it was much less frustrating.

Just remember it may take a little while for him to catch on when he's new to shaping. He needs to figure out to keep offering stuff that's similar to what's getting rewarded and figure out how to change up what he's offering slightly. Start with simple things like going and standing on a perch that's a few feet away. Or poking a bell with his nose that's a few feet away. Since he already offers targeting behavior that shouldn't be too tough. The first thing I successfully shaped was Phoebe to run across the room stand with her front paws up against a wall and get patted down. I don't remember the command, something to do with her getting arrested. It isn't that it was that complicated or intricate but it was the first time I'd ever shaped anything and I was amazed by how quickly it went. We went from her glancing at the wall to getting the full behavior super fast. The patting down actually took the longest since she's super touchy and would drop off the wall.

Anyway, I don't actually use it a ton because the only training I do with Tucker is reactivity/aggression related but I do enjoy it. It's cool to watch the thinking process.
 

Maxy24

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#3
Oh and generally it's good for the dog to have some strong "starting' behaviors trained, stuff that will be useful as the first step in shaping a lot of behaviors. Generally things like a paw target and nose target (and willingness to do it to lots of stuff) are helpful beginners in lots of behaviors.
 
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#4
So you have had more success with luring the dogs into a position or action?

The 'getting arrested' trick sounds cute! :)

I worked on getting Cooper to sit on a 'spot' which is a towel I use only for this. I had moderate success with it, but seems like I was missing something in getting him to understand I wanted him to sit on the spot rather than just near it. :dunno: But we have fun trying!

Cooper seems to get over excited when I use food rewards. I have a hard time getting him to focus on anything like my hands if he knows where the treats are hidden. I imagine he'd be similar with a target, but haven't tried it yet.

I am getting used to all this terminology. Is there a good resource that breaks it down a bit?
 

Maxy24

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#5
For some stuff I prefer luring, things that are super easy to get with a lure like sit or down. And I think shaping roll over would be way harder than luring it. But other things I think are easier with shaping, things you can't really lure easily like crossing paws. I also shaped heeling because I wanted him to focus more on his body position and less on the treat. Sometimes if they mindlessly follow the treat they don't really pay attention to what they are doing. So for me it depends on what I'm teaching.


Unfortunately I don't know of any resources that I can think of at the moment but I'm sure other members have some.

For sitting on the towel try looking up free shaping "go to mat". Essentially you'd start by clicking and treating when he looks towards the towel and then reward for him approaching the towel and eventually reward for interacting with it (sniffing it, pawing at it). Then you'd want to work up to having him stand on it (first with any paw, then work up to all four paws) then you'd want to get a sit or down. If he stands/sits/downs on it for any length of time reward that too. If you want to get him off to see if he'll go back toss the treat off of the mat so he has to go get it. Basically just start with looking at it and let him take it from there. Anything that gets you closer gets rewarded! Remember not to instruct him to sit, he has to figure it out himself. Also try not to repeatedly reward something you don't like, don't lead him towards the wrong behavior. For example if you're shaping him to go on the towel and have rewarded for sniffing his next step might be to bite the towel. I might reward that once or twice (because it's good he wants to interact with the towel) but would then want to try and get him to move onto something else or soon he'll be picking it up, not stepping on it.

If you'd like I can try and teach it over the next couple of days to my dog and video it. He's been shaped to perch on a book so he'll likely figure it out quickly (he already know I like when he stands on random objects).
 

Sekah

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#6
Youtube is a great resource when it comes to dog training. There's loads of videos that show free shaping in action. The general way to start free shaping with your dog is the 101 Things To Do With A Box game. Some stuff to get you started:
http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/101_things_to_do_with_a_box
http://www.clickertraining.com/node/167

[YOUTUBE]YSsBd2FxZYo[/YOUTUBE]

I use just about whatever I can when working on new behaviours with my dogs. I use plenty of luring, free shaping and structured shaping, among other things. I find luring is fastest but it can be difficult to fade. Free shaping is fun but I find it difficult to work towards a specific goal behaviour. Structured shaping is part of everything I do -- I manipulate the environment and reward successive approximations of my goal behaviour.

I worked on getting Cooper to sit on a 'spot' which is a towel I use only for this. I had moderate success with it, but seems like I was missing something in getting him to understand I wanted him to sit on the spot rather than just near it. :dunno: But we have fun trying!
The 'go to spot' behaviour is a fairly complex one for a beginner. If you're getting him sitting nearby the mat but not directly on it my guess is that you tried to add distance too soon before you built appropriate value for laying on the mat while you worked in close proximity to it. Go back a few steps and reward heavily for proper placement. Don't add any distance until he's stellar at it while you sit/stand nearby.


Cooper seems to get over excited when I use food rewards. I have a hard time getting him to focus on anything like my hands if he knows where the treats are hidden. I imagine he'd be similar with a target, but haven't tried it yet.
That's a self control issue. It may improve naturally over time, but you can hurry it along by playing Its Yer Choice games. Here's a video to get you started:

[YOUTUBE]ipT5k1gaXhc[/YOUTUBE]
 
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#7
Thank you for all of your input!

Maxy24- I would love to see your attempts with 'go to the mat' with your dog. Thank you!

Sekah- Thanks for the specific links. I have found so much on Youtube, but not exactly what I was looking for. I am definitely going to work on the 'It's yer choice' to get some impulse control so hopefully Cooper will start playing with objects when free shaping rather than just focusing on my hand/pocket/etc.

Also, could you explain what you mean by 'structured shaping'. I'm guessing this would be something like throwing the treats on the mat or box to encourage interaction?

I can't wait to report back with updates and most likely more questions!! :D
 

Sekah

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#8
Also, could you explain what you mean by 'structured shaping'. I'm guessing this would be something like throwing the treats on the mat or box to encourage interaction?
I'm not sure how best to explain it. Shaping is marking successive approximations of a goal behaviour, as you know. Free shaping is letting the dog create the behaviour without any input from you beyond marking/rewarding. Structured shaping is helping the dog out via luring, targeting, managing the environment, and breaking the desired behaviour down into little tiny pieces, then marking/rewarding.
 
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#9
Sekah,

Thank you! That's what I figured you meant, I just wanted to make sure I was thinking along the same lines. I think Cooper does best with this method as he is very eager to watch for cues from me. Can be something as small as looking at an object with my eyes and he tends to touch anything I point at with his paws.


I did one round of the 'It's Yer Choice' method with him and was pleased with how well he responded to it. He very quickly stopped focusing on the treats in my hand and started looking at my face instead. I was able to move up to putting the treats on the ground and covering them with my foot if needed. Yay for progress!! :D

I also played around with him with a clicker and a box. He is kinda getting that he needs to interact with the box. He kept putting his head in, which I rewarded for a while. When I stopped rewarding that and waited for a new behavior he would just sit and look at me. When I tapped the box with my hand he started using his paw with the box and I was able to reward for some new interactions. He kept flipping the box over :lol-sign:

I've been keeping the sessions short and sweet and a couple times a day. I'm enjoying our progress! Thanks for the input, can't wait to share more updates.
 
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#10
I don't agree with everything in it, but the book "When Pigs Fly" which has a subtitle I can't remember but it's something like "successful training with impossible dogs" has a pretty good explanation of shaping.
 

Maxy24

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#11
Okay so here's a video of our first time trying go to mat. To be honest I cheat a few times so it's not entirely FREE shaping. I changed my position so that he'd move himself a few times, he tries to be in front of me so if I move he moves to be in front of me and facing me. Later I'll have to make sure he actually knows to lie entirely on the mat no matter where it is, even if it's behind me. I'll do it again tomorrow with Phoebe and I won't cheat! That way you can see it entirely free shaped.

So we got to the point where he understand to make contact with the mat and lay down. He still doesn't have the positioning down pat. Sometimes he hangs half off. A few times he seems to forget that he needs to touch the blanket too, but he might have gotten that by the end. I guess we'll see next time!

Sorry that his positioning isn't the best for the video, you get his butt. His first click was just an accident on his part, he happens to walk over the towel while he's walking around. Then I click him for looking at/sniffing it a few times, then moving his feet while near the mat. Then he catches on fast. Except when he doesn't and lays down over to the side and slaps the ground :p


Oh and in case you're wondering Tucker sneezes when he's frustrated and no, my cats are not starved.

 
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#12
Fantastic! It was very helpful to watch this process, it really helped me see that I am on the right track with Cooper.

Tucker sure picked it up fast! Have you done quite a bit of shaping/clicker work with him before?

P.S.- The sneezing out of frustration is adorable... and your cats are as starved as mine thinks she is! lol :D
 
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#13
Ok, so now what?

Cooper is really getting the hang of interacting with the box, or even other objects, though we've mostly focused on the box. He offers up different behaviors and I just pick one to reinforce for that session.

What do I do now?

What is my next step?

I am new to this type of training. I guess I choose a behavior I like and put a 'command' to it so I can turn it into a trick. But it seems like I could go a lot further with this type of interaction... and I don't want to limit us to just 'tricks'. Even though Cooper and I LOVE tricks!

How do I bring this type of interaction into our daily lives?
 
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#14
My friend had once seen this thread. She thought that we would write in this thread, because she would also need advice on this. We had already told in a thread we had created that Lotta doesn't know how to work with my friend:
How to teach the dog to work with her/his owner?

Since Lotta doesn't know that, it makes her hard to be trained. This also makes Lotta hard to be trained:
Lotta doesn't always know how to offer things in training in order to get treats. Lotta often acts silly in training. :D Then she concentrates on it so much that she doesn't notice/understand that my friend is trying to teach her something. Then she doesn't understand either how she could get those treats.

I assume we're talking about shaping without lures. Technically I think shaping is just rewarding for approximations of the behavior, however you get to them, but usually I think people are going for shaping without luring/prompting. Shaping can be really fun, especially for longer behaviors (I've never got the logic in doing it for something like sit, luring (or capturing if your goal is to keep treats out of sight) is just so much quicker, at least for a dog that's new to it)......./

/........Just remember it may take a little while for him to catch on when he's new to shaping. He needs to figure out to keep offering stuff that's similar to what's getting rewarded and figure out how to change up what he's offering slightly...
My friend knows that that may take time. She is not talking about only one way to teach things though. When Lotta is acting silly, she may move fast. Then my friend should teach the behavior in small parts even when she's teaching something simple besides she's not talking only about free shaping. She already knows about things told in the following comments:

I use just about whatever I can when working on new behaviours with my dogs. I use plenty of luring, free shaping and structured shaping, among other things. I find luring is fastest but it can be difficult to fade. Free shaping is fun but I find it difficult to work towards a specific goal behaviour. Structured shaping is part of everything I do -- I manipulate the environment and reward successive approximations of my goal behaviour.
I'm not sure how best to explain it. Shaping is marking successive approximations of a goal behaviour, as you know. Free shaping is letting the dog create the behaviour without any input from you beyond marking/rewarding. Structured shaping is helping the dog out via luring, targeting, managing the environment, and breaking the desired behaviour down into little tiny pieces, then marking/rewarding.
So, my friend would like to know how could she teach Lotta to think by herself and offer things so that she would get treats. She was once suggested 101 Things To Do With A Box. So, that's one idea. Does someone know what else my friend could try?
 
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#16
In other thread one of you told that my friend should try your suggestions and tell you about it. However, we had not recently discussed about actual tricks and behaviors where you could have suggested something my friend could have tried. Could you at least try advising her in this?
 

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