Training Videos - Retrieve

Here is a video of a beginner shaping exercise to get your dog to pick up an object of your choice. Pick a favourite toy or something you think your pooch will be interested in.


Starting with the end behaviours of the retrieve is good and allows you to practice the pickup and hold every time. Once the dog has got the hang of picking the item up and holding it for you to take it's easy to toss the item just a foot or so and he/she will already be strongly motivated to bring it back to you to get his/her reward.


Shaping, if you've not done any before 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 surely progressively asking for a closer approximation to the end product you have in mind before you click.


Ignore other behaviours your dog throws in - Joe uses his paws a lot to start off with probably because we've done a lot of paw targeting recently but by the end of the short session he's worked out that it's nothing to do with paws.


Keep shaping sessions short, 4-5 mins is plenty and very mentally tiring if your dog isn't used to it. This videos are unedited so you can see the whole sessions, approx 3-4 minutes long.

Beginner Shaping Exercise - Toy Pickup



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