An excellent way to get started with shaping—and a fun enrichment game—is to shape a dog to do something with an object. The object can be anything: a bucket, a target, even a simple cardboard box, as demonstrated in this video by KPA CTP Zach Ruth! At first, the dog will most likely want to investigate the novel object by glancing at it, sniffing it, even pawing it. Great! Click and treat for any interest in the object. Be sure to toss the treat a few feet away from the item to reset the behavior. After a few repetitions, the dog will begin to realize that interacting with the object results in more treats. The dog may begin to try other ways to interact with the box. This is a great sign! Keep clicking and treating for every interaction. If the dog interacts with the box in a way that you particularly like (perhaps getting into or onto the box), you can then capture that behavior by only rewarding for that particular interaction.
Congratulations—you just shaped a new behavior and helped your shelter dog make a good impression on potential adopters! For more low-cost, high-value enrichment ideas, as well as other tips to improve the lives of the cats in your care, check out KPA’s Shelter Training & Enrichment course!