Why use Shaping #1 – Instant feedback

One of the things I like most about using shaping (learning based on the dogs own initiative and no prompts or lures) to teach new things, is that I get instant feedback on the clarity of my teaching and the value of the rewards I am using. Dog trainers seem to focus way too much on getting the behavior and too little on actually reinforcing behavior. While luring might get you the behavior quickly, it is hard to tell if you’re actually building value for the behavior or for the prompts used. I think that using help often builds much more value for following our hand/the food/the target than for the actual behavior, and it is very hard to know what is what until you try to fade the prompt.

Using shaping gives you instant feedback on the value of your rewards (does the dog want to repeat the behavior that produces the reward). If you find that your dog loses interest in repeating the behavior, you should look at how you are rewarding rather than introducing a help (body language, encouraging chatter, cues, targets, lures etc.). This is harder than it sounds, it seems to be human to focus on prompting behavior rather than reinforcing it, but when you get in the habit of constantly evaluating value you will get addicted to the instant feedback that shaping provides in a much clearer way than luring does.

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