#30daysofcaninescience *Day 9*

In the Facebook forum for this course I bragged about my dogs already knowing today’s Skill-Up which was to get the dog to pivot with the front paws on a bucket by using the shaping method. I do this often at my courses and use my dogs to show how to start practicing. That means that I have been slacking with criteria, and always stopped at the same level. So turning the whole way around the bucket.. I don’t think so! 

Anyway. I also used my neighbour (and friend)’s dog, that knows the exercise a bit, but has had some trouble with it at times. 

Most of the shaping I’ve done lately has been to make Rusa do something fun, which means I have just had  a small idea of a behaviour and then I have let it go in any direction she wants, to end up with a behaviour that I didn’t plan for. I noticed in this exercise that I’m not used to direct the shaping in a certain way anymore. 

In the exercise we were supposed to use the bridge and reward placement to help the dog in the right direction. That’s something I have never done with shaping before, so I forgot it at the beginning. 

For me it’s difficult to put up written criteria since I go a bit with the flow. I move back and forth with the criteria depending on what the dog is doing. Sometimes just rewarding paws on the book, while trying to read how far the dog has come in his or her understanding of what I want. I then try to wait, and if the dog gets confused, I quickly move back to something simple. I think it’s really easy to frustrate a dog with shaping, so I rather make it a bit easier and let it take some time. 

I made one session with Rusa and one with Trakl. I ended far from the goal, but I’m not in a rush. 


  • Pros

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  • Cons

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  • Creativity

    It is great to see how creative the dog can be in trying to figure out what I want.

  • Exchange

    It's interesting to have this communication where we work towards a goal together.

  • Personality

    I love seeing how different dogs learn in different ways. For Rusa this is the best way to teach her something. She's rarely frustrated, very flexible and reflect a lot over what she's doing. If it's her that figure out what she needs to do, she understands better and therefore we get better results.

  • New behaviours

    It's so easy to make a behaviour go in an unexpected direction. Catching small movements and ending up with something new. Maybe not ideal for competition training, but certainly a fun game.

  • Precision

    You, as a trainer, really have to be focused at all times. You have to manage to be precise in your movements and marking. If you have very strict criteria I find it more difficult since my role in taking it in the right direction is very important.

  • Frustration

    It is very easy for both dog and owner to get frustrated when the right criteria is not happening. It's easy to get stuck in making the steps to big and ending up with a dog doing all sorts of things and getting stressed since none of them seem to be what is wanted.

  • Planning

    I think it's very difficult making a plan for shaping. To come up with criteria beforehand. You never know 100% what your dog is thinking and perceiving from their end of the communication. It's all individual. So to follow a written plan can be frustrating. Maybe your dog needs to go through other steps than you were thinking.


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