10. Shaping

Exercise 10.2 - Lure / Prompt Shaping

Last week in Exercise 10.1 we had a look at a Free Shaping exercise.  Free shaping is great for encouraging your dog to offer behaviours because he can’t be wrong. Anything he does that even remotely relates to the exercise gets clicked and treated.


Once the dog is easily offering random behaviours, then you can try other shaping techniques.


This week we look at a hybrid technique – lure/prompt shaping.  With this technique you’re still showing the dog what you want him to do by luring with a treat, or prompting with a target or other body language, and reinforcing increments of progress to the final behaviour.


Shaping “purists” tend to scoff at lure/prompt shaping, but it can be very effective at getting behaviours very quickly, although slower at teaching dogs to think creatively and offer behaviours freely. 


If you have something in mind that you want your dog to do, and you’d like to help him understand what it is you want, lure/prompting is a wonderful training aid. The key is to get rid of the lure/prompt as quickly as you can by fading it away, or turning it into your visual cue.


I’ve personally used lure / prompting for years to teach Lie Down in puppy and beginner obedience classes and I’ve never found a more effective method.  To teach the “Down” you simply lure the dog’s nose slowly toward the floor with a treat and click and reward as the dog makes any progress toward the floor with his nose or other body parts.


Jim does a demo for us in the video with the goal behaviour of crawling under a platform.  I’ve never shaped this particular behaviour before with him and could have used basic shaping without any prompting at all but by using a treat to get him started off in the right direction he learns very quickly.