Free Shaping

The best doggie mental workout!

Free Shaping is a great doggie mental workout - they have to do all the work, your job is to sit quietly, watch carefully and click the behaviour you want to encourage. Slowly and progressively asking for a closer approximation to the end product you have in mind before you click.


Keep shaping sessions short, 4-5 mins is plenty and very mentally tiring if your dog isn't used to it (which is why it's fantastic for adolescent dogs!).


The reward rate also needs to be very high with shaping as you're going at the dog's pace which is a lot quicker than ours usually especially once the dog gets the idea after a couple of sessions.  Be thinking along the lines of 15 clicks a minute which means your dog is getting positive feedback about every 4 seconds.


Use your dogs normal food ration for shaping as you need lots of rewards, a five minute session could use up to 75 rewards.



The Ten Laws of Shaping

By Karen Pryor

  • Raise criteria in increments small enough so that the subject always has a realistic chance of reinforcement.
  • Train one aspect of any particular behaviour at a time. Don't try to shape for two criteria simultaneously.
  • During shaping, put the current level of response on a variable ratio schedule of reinforcement before adding or raising the criteria.
  • When introducing a new criterion, or aspect of the behavioral skill, temporarily relax the old ones.
  • Stay ahead of your subject: Plan your shaping program completely so that if the subject makes sudden progress, you are aware of what to reinforce next.
  • Don't change trainers in midstream. You can have several trainers per trainee, but stick to one shaper per behavior.
  • If one shaping procedure is not eliciting progress, find another. There are as many ways to get behavior as there are trainers to think them up.
  • Don't interrupt a training session gratuitously; that constitutes a punishment.
  • If behavior deteriorates, "Go back to kindergarten." Quickly review the whole shaping process with a series of easily earned reinforcers.
  • End each session on a high note, if possible, but in any case quit while you're ahead.

Taken from Chapter 2 of Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor