Looking for a fun way to build new behaviors while building your chops as a trainer? Try shaping! Shaping is the process of building a particular behavior gradually using a series of small steps to achieve the final behavior. It is a helpful addition to your training toolkit—especially useful for teaching behaviors that are complex or difficult to train in another manner.
Living in a multi-dog household can be enjoyable and fun, but it can also be chaotic—especially when it comes time for training. How do you teach one dog new behaviors in the presence of another dog? The simplest way to solve this challenge is to either separate the dogs or keep them together and station the non-working dog on a mat.
Does your dog respond to cues reliably at home but fails to respond when you ask for those same cues in a new environment? Your dog isn’t being stubborn on purpose. He simply doesn’t know the behavior to the extent that you think he does!
Have you ever been out on an enjoyable walk with your dog, rounded the corner, and suddenly come face-to-face with another dog? Or maybe it’s a child on a skateboard. In an instant, your relaxing walk turns to chaos with your dog barking and lunging at the trigger as you desperately try to move past. What if, instead of lunging toward the trigger, you could teach your dog to move in the opposite direction?
Here’s a common scenario: Your dog loves to chase toys. You pick up a toy and your dog dances wildly in anticipation. “Throw the toy, human! Throw it!” You toss the toy and your dog chases it… and then disappears. Game over! Many dogs love to chase toys, but they don’t always bring the toy back. How do you teach your dog to play interactively?
In Part 1 of How to Create a Safe Place for Your Dog, KPA faculty member Debbie Martin demonstrated how to establish a safe station for your dog when she is feeling anxious or fearful. Now, in Part 2, Debbie demonstrates how to desensitize a dog to sounds that cause anxiety and fear, and how to teach her to go to the safe place when she hears the sounds.
Is your dog fearful of loud noises or events, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or even the vacuum cleaner? Or is your dog fearful of certain people, like children or strangers? Creating a safe place where your dog can escape as needed can help reduce your dog’s anxiety during stressful situations. It also helps establish clear boundaries—if the dog is in the safe space, the dog needs alone time and does not want to be pet or played with.
Is your dog obsessed with chasing balls and toys? It’s tempting to try and wear out your dog by mindlessly throwing the ball over and over again. However, often this only increases your dog’s arousal and risk of injury. By being thoughtful and controlled about retrieve games, you will not only provide safe, physical exercise but mental exercise as well!
As trainers, we need to be able to depend on our dogs’ ability to respond to the correct verbal cue and not to other stimuli. Verbal cue discrimination training is an important skill; it ensures that your dog responds only to the correct verbal cue and not to other words. It is particularly useful in dog sports, such as canine freestyle, where many verbal cues are given and the dog must differentiate between them.
Shaping, teaching a new behavior by breaking it down in small increments, is an essential tool for teaching complex (and often useful) behaviors. In this video, KPA CTP Megan Ramirez uses shaping to teach her dog Rim Shot to flip a light switch—in just a three-minute training session!
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