Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shaping Success and Going Back to Square One

Jasper trying to find Boomer
Over the (almost) year, I had learned a lot from training dogs. The first method I knew was clicker. My interpretation for a clicker "back in the day" was something to click once the behavior is happening always, not just when they are learning something new. i.e. if your dog knows sit already... there isn't a point in clicking it, but still reward it if you need to! Anyways that was all I knew. The second method I learned was compulsion. I was the "dominant" one. The lady who introduced me to compulsion had a very fine trained dog however, the look, and the body language in that dog was very slow, avoiding eye contact, and definitely nervous. When the lady told the dog to sit, she would slowly, slowly sit. That just confused me why the dog was so slow to listen to a basic sit. Anyways, she worked as a SAR (search and rescue) dog trainer so she must have known what she was doing. So I went ahead, and lip curled (making the lip press firmly on the puppies front canine) my dog when he herded me or mouthed me so he would feel pain back and stop. I also did the alpha rolls if he jumped or bit as well. Sometimes I would get in his face and just be nasty to him saying STOP, ENOUGH. After a week or two with that, I couldn't take it anymore, I felt hopeless.

Running from Boomer
I stopped with the whole compulsion thing and went back to straight clicker. My pup did very well on it. He was easily lured into things and did whatever I needed him to. Jasper was a pro, he still is a super star but I have learned a couple things lately. I have learned much more about the clicker and a new thing called shaping. I have shaped before, but not shaped every single thing on my dog. Most of the time it was lured, and then slowly faded out. My dog didn't have to think, he was just easily tricked into being lured. Most dogs are lured with food or physically forced (like pushing the dog's bottom down to the ground to sit.) Not only does it not let the dog think for himself, he also hasn't learned anything. It also creates stress and confusion to the dog because he is clueless at what to do. Looking closely, they may even show a paw, lip lick, whine, or look away as a form of stress. It would be like someone telling you all the answers on a test, and then when the teacher asks you a question from the test, you need a constant reminder from the person who told you all of the answers. Just like a dog who will only sit with a lure, or hand signal, but not respond to any verbal at all.

Jasper, Ricky, and Lucy
I am training Jasper's siblings "Ricky" and "Lucy" with only shaping now. At first I used lures, but as we all found out, they needed a constant answer for a while and wasn't understanding the concept. Lucy couldn't do a down without a lure of a hand, so we started shaping it and now she knows how to do it without! Shaping has already found them amazing results... they love to work and love to think! Their will to work is of course great though because they have people all around them that train the two. Of course you will get a puppy like that, and it is a shame others don't understand the concept, because these pups are superstars. Their parents "get it" and man I am happy they do.

Jasper and Boomer at an Open Field
Anyways, what I am trying to say is, I have learned a lot overtime and feel the need start all over again with Jasper and take baby steps! I have let go of a few things and started to feel too comfortable with having him off leash all of the time. Now, this doesn't mean he won't ever be off leash, it just means I need to work with him on leash some times. Ricky is learning to walk with a loose leash with lots of distractions, so when he is ready, I can start training Jasper with him as well. We can work on walking our dogs with lots of distractions around soon too. So first up is walking correctly again. Second is, I would love to go back and shape more things. I just love a thinking dog! We are working on shaping a stand and man, he is getting it! It is so fun! So I will leave my blog at this: looks like we are back to training basics again. Woohoo! I love training!

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