001 002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009

Shaping Challenge

Posted on 02/11/10 35 Comments

Okay, it is mid winter (for some, okay hard to imagine it as winter here in Florida). Here is a challenge for you all. Sometime before the

Of course I had to take this photo from a past winter since I have not seen the snow yet this winter (sorry if I sound a bit glib)

weekend (that is two days) shape your dog to do something new. Come up with something not related to anything you have been working on. If you need ideas check out the puppy one hundred (and thirty five) or refer back to the mostly tricks list we came up with before that. Or come up with something completely different. Either way, enrich your dog. Shape a new response and report back to the blog what you have shaped and how the session went.

To make this a bit more interesting I will randomly select on of posts and send them a hard cover copy of Shaping Success.

Today I am grateful for John who flew all the way to Florida only to drive me up to Cincinnati and back home. Okay I am a little bit spoiled.


  1. sharon empson says:
    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 1:51am

    Susan: shaping. I decided to teach my Terrier cody to “close it.”
    This is how I started.
    I had him practice touching my hand. Then I had him practice touching my hand with a sticky note on it. Then I moved the sticky note from my hand to the door. Then I had him touch the door at the place of the sticky note. When he progressed well and was hitting the sticky note very well, I removed the sticky note and taught him to touch the door with his nose.
    Then I began rewarding him for the really hard pushes with his nose. As he got that I added the words “Close it”. He now closes the door, or cupboard door when I leave it open and ask, Cody, close it. He gets a big kick out of it.
    At the present time I am teaching Cody to pick up all the dog dishes each morning and bring them to me. Then he will be putting them in the dish washer.
    This behavior Cody started on his own. He would pick up his dish and take it to his mat to eat his breakfast. So, I reinforced this behavior. Everytime he picked it up I would make a real big deal about it! After breakfast I would ask him to touch his bowl. I did this for about a week or so. Then I moved away from it and asked him to bring it to me. When he did I rewarded him. Now when he eats breakfast and the other dogs are done, he looks for their dishes and bring them all to me. Of course he is rewarded after each one. Now my next move is to put my hand in the dishwasher and shape cody to bring me the dishes to my hand in the dishwasher. Then I will remove my hand and reward Cody dropping the dishes into the open dishwasher.
    Bindi I am shaping her doing the stand and holding it. I began by placing my hand in front of her nose and drawing it away from where she was sitting until she comes into a stand. then I reward her. I am in that phase right now. I plan on doing this until she can stand without my hands or fingers being in front of her.

    Well that is about it. My other dog Terra is not in training right now. She is a barker whenever I ask her to do anything. Right now I am working or her “enough” command so she knows to stop barking.

    thanks again for your teaching. I love it! so do my pups! sharon empson


  2. Helen says:
    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 9:48pm

    This was so fun. I managed to get Tilly to lick her lips on the cue of “yummy”. I also taught her to cover her face when I say, “Oh dear!” and she can close the kitchen drawers and cupboards. We are now working on opening the fridge and getting out a soda/beer.


  3. barrie says:
    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 9:58am

    My pre advances in dog training attempt:


    on the bucket behavior and then my post advances in dog training attempt on lifting a hind leg like she’s taking a whiz:


    Explanation of both behaviors and setting up the environment to get the behaviors:



  4. Gvmama says:
    Monday, February 15, 2010 at 7:08pm


    On a rainy day stuck in the RV, every time my male dog looked at his privates i clicked and treated him. It wasn’t long before he understood “ARE YOU a boy or a girl?” It gets a lot of laughs.


  5. Crystal (and Maisy) says:
    Monday, February 15, 2010 at 8:53am

    What good timing! I just put together a video of Maisy’s latest adventures in shaping: push something with your nose.



  6. A&J says:
    Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 10:19am

    This was one of the harder tricks to teach, maybe because it requires such focus and stability. … however, forced me to try all different kinds of things to achieve success in a short time frame (as well as figure out the video feature on the cell phone.) Here are the results for Session 7 this am. I included the first round for a laugh, as under pressure of being taped, I blurted out the wrong cue (its the one for weave between my legs, which is what I has doing to get him pumped.) My abbreviated notes below. Thks! Fun blog!

    *Fri. Session 4. (1) by 30 sec. 4pm. Reward: cat food leftover. In half crate, while mixing CGs in with Grids outside, did an impromtu session. 3 responses to finger point, lifts to bum on his own,
    *Fri. Session 5. (3 ) x 2 min. 7pm. Reward: Pork and hamburger. Too excited, flailing paws. Last round had 2 solid responses to finger. Ended there. POA: Watch excitement level before start, this exercise needs focus! Add verbal, almost there. Set-up reqd, to square bum for success.
    *Sat, Session 6. (6) x 30 sec. 7am. Reward: canned dogfood (switched to something soft for this learning stage, since he was hacking on the drier treats. ) Offering responses. Set-up helped after each response (feeling of instability may have caused flailing before) – hand touch, sit, then “pretty”. Added cue, no finger point. Position has a brief hold, 1 sec, without support or flailing, so this is my goal achieved for two days. POA: fade set-up, add into trick sequences, build duration.


  7. Meghan says:
    Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 4:28pm

    I started shaping her to cover her eyes with her paw. I’ve done 3 sessions and they are going really well! I’m now trying to get her to hold it a tiny bit longer each time. I’m really happy how well it is going as I’m pretty new to shaping still.


  8. Jen says:
    Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 10:14am

    I am working the same thing as Barrie, trying to get my dog to circle around a little step. We’ve worked it before but never finished it to a complete circle. I got about as far as half way around yesterday. A few times, he put all four legs on it, and circled by stepping over it. I may just have to make a smaller one for him if he keeps trying that.


  9. Anne says:
    Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 12:46am

    I LOVE shaping!!! these ideas are great and I need some new ones.

    Here’s one of my favorites, and it was tough to build the duration!



  10. A&J says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 10:11pm

    Marge: Enjoyed those clips! 🙂


  11. Bronwyn says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 7:33pm

    I have two dogs, both standard poodles. One is 3 and the other is 5 months. For the shaping challenge I have shaped the puppy (Kepler) to walk under the older dog (Pi). This was my first time working both the dogs together, and I was impressed by how well it went. They were both able to focus very well, despite the interaction with their playmate. Pi has a pretty solid stand-stay. I started by clicking any movement of Kepler towards Pi, and then clicked just movement towards the middle of Pi’s body, and then a head drop. From the head drop it was only a few more times until Kepler was moving under the other dog. It took 3 training sessions in total; I’ll start putting a word cue on it next time.

    Another thing I have shaped this week is for Kepler to fetch me a Kleenex out of the box. That was fairly straight-forward, since he has a retrieve already. The trick was clicking before he had a chance to shred the tissue. Now I just have to put that on a word (achoo!), and that will be a neat trick.


  12. rogersmmr says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 7:28pm

    Ok – 1 more. I’m addicted to shaping. In this one, I taught Rounder how to throw the ball to me. I am so happy to find a community of people exploring the benefits of shaping and K9 communication. 🙂



  13. Paula says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 7:07pm

    I began this week with the idea of teaching Zen my BC to walk on her hind legs rolling a big exercise ball in front of her. I was primarily interested in the good physical conditioning aspects of this trick but it has really evolved into a pretty cute trick. On our second session, she started offering pulling the ball backward toward her thus walking backwards with it of course! 🙂 I am now working on longevity on the ball and suppose at some point will go back to the original plan and teach her to go forward. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to shape the offered behavior! It is great exercise …. she is tired when our short sessions are done 🙂


  14. Ferreh says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 7:00pm

    I have a new (to me) Aussie that’s 2 years old and is a certifiable ball crazed NUT. I recently bought her an assortment of Orbee balls, including a really cute football shaped one. So I’m going to attempt to shape her to “go long” – run out for me to throw it – when I get ready to throw the football and I’ll eventually use the cue “go long” for the behavior.


  15. Helen says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 5:21pm

    I am shaping my dog, Tilly, to lick her lips. I’ll add the cue “yummy” to it once she is offering the lick lip.


  16. Kelly says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 3:09pm

    WAAAH!!! I can’t play this week — my dogs are across the country from me. I’ll take up the challenge when I get home, and in the meantime, I’m enjoying reading what everyone is teaching their dogs!


  17. Marge Rogers says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 3:07pm



    I didn’t do these over the weekend, but they are 2 of my favorite shaped behaviors. I love shaping!

    BTW – just got my copies of Crate Games, Ruff Love and Shaping Success. Love them all and learning a lot. Thank you!


  18. Dori says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 2:24pm

    I tried too. This was fun.
    Once I got my toller out of the dryer, I got her doing “Buttsky” Which is turning around and climbing her back legs onto my lap while I kneel on the floor. Then we are set to do left right practice or all sorts of things. But getting her to the right starting position to practice left and right turns was a challenge as I was always spinning her and taking her back end mid way. Now she sets it up.


  19. Jackie Garton says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 1:18pm

    Tuesday night I started shaping my 2 yr old BC to turn off the kitchen light. I took a small blue sticky note and had her touch it while I was holding it. (Clicking and treating for each touch.) Then I hung it on the wall about nose level below the light switch. (Still clicking and treating for each touch.) I slowly moved it up the wall until it was just above the light switch. By then she couldn’t touch it with her nose so she started touching it with her feet. When she accidentally turned off the lights I would jackpot. We did two 10 minute sessions for her to really get it and now I’m sending to the light switch. 🙂 So much fun.


  20. A&J says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 12:16pm

    I decided to try Sit Pretty with my 16 mos old BC puppy. (Word of warning to DogNerd : I’ve trained open the fridge door (whereby I promptly rewarded him with a goodie from the fridge) … this one can backfire when decide to open on their own, which gets heavily reinforced when mama comes running. 🙂 I may have to add to it like you are going to do, and bring me that bottle of water (or glass of wine, hmmmm!)) When I have a challenge (hole in my training, difficult skill, something on Susan’s blog(!)), I do a detailed log, more of an effort than the journal, but well worth it (guess who’s recommendation that is??) :). My notes are below, a bit boring, but in short after three sessions, he is holding a sit pretty position for 1 second without support. More to follow, as it’s not on cue yet!

    Thurs. Session 1: 5 min; 6pm. Rewards: some of his dinner.
    * Lured several times to establish “muscle memory” and prevent the slouch sit, my intent was that he would support himself up against the couch, but he decided to use my hand with one of his paws, so I went with it. Offered position with support of one hand, maintained position. Rewarded several of these, placement of reward slightly above head. Got one independently without hand support (albeit shakey), jackpot, hand touches, played over to dinner bowl, “stand”; break; “where’s your dish” (four paws in for a little more REA); “break”, “hoover” (eat).
    * PoA for next session: Do more motivational games to start to get a bit more psyched; break up into short “sittings”; be ready to add a cue.

    Thurs. Session 2: (3) x 3 min; 9 pm. Rewards: food treats.
    * Got him pysched with HTs, retrieve, and tug. Was making an effort to sit up on his own, but not quite having sustained balance without using my hand. Decided not to add verbal cue, but my pointed finger is now a cue (with no food in that hand). Also end of day, so best performance not expected (from either of us!), so kept it short and happy.
    * PoA for next session: get 1 to 2 sec hold independent of my hand before add verbal. Use better food rewards (get out the hammmburrgerrr).

    Fri. Session 3: (1) x 3 to 5 min (I lost track as we were having a blast); 7 am. Rewards: hi-value treats before breakfast and after a 30 min run.
    * Psyched for food, so didn’t need much tugging to get ready to “work”. 5 attempts with supt of hand, 1 attempt, no supt, ½ sec? Was able to work with distraction of second dog near his dish, but alas the cat distraction was too much (note to self, make sure cat isn’t hiding under chair staring at working BC.) Resumed with two more barely supported, and ended with one sustained for a count of 1 sec for sure. Jackpot, breakfast. Fun session, happy puppy, and laughing mama.
    * PoA for next session: Get longer duration in posn, count of 2. Add “pretty”. Up the treat value. Be ready to add release with toy reward.


  21. Carolyn says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 11:20am

    I’m going to teach my 4 yo Aussie to go get her leash. She loves her leash- it means great stuff is going to happen -but she doesn’t like to retrieve. I figured this would be something that she’d like to go get. She’s not toy motivated so I’m hoping that teaching her to go get stuff may let her find some fun in toys.

    My 9 year old daughter is going to work with her one year old aussie mix. She wants to teach her to put away her toys. Her dog loves toys and they are everywhere! (Now if only I can have success in shaping my daughter to put away her toys…hmmmm)


  22. Trudie says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 8:34am

    I’m working on walking back through my legs rear end first.
    It is not easy at alI, I wonder if it’s because I’ve worked so much on giving value to my “reinforcement zone” my dog doesn’t want to turn his back on it. He’ll turn a full turn around in it, but not a half turn with a retreat.

    I’m trying with him walking forward thru my legs from behind, then moving back. This way its tempting to use some luring. I do remember Bob Bailey on one of your posts saying do whatever you can to get the behavior.

    In the morning my dog likes to greet me with turning around and shoving his bum against my leg. I’m going to work on capturing this behavior when it is offered. And I’ll do this as long as it takes.


  23. Christine says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 8:26am

    As I have a 10 week old BC puppy I went with tricks/games that will be helpful for agility. All work has been through shaping and rewarding the behaviors we like, it’s amazing to see their little minds go! For the challenge I went with a ‘Nose Touch’ as well as a ‘Back up’ the nose touch because I wanted that connection and have been reading through ‘Ruff Love’ and was reflecting on some things that I had not yet connected in our early training. So, we started last evening and for his dinner we placed the bowl out in front to which he sat quietly awaiting his release. However, we opted to teach the nose touch which he picked up very quickly, I moved to each hand and did a few repetitions on each with the quick reward delivered into the hand that he touched. This am we revisited and I just opened my hand and he was like ‘Hey I know this game!’

    The second we shaped was for backing up, I want to ensure he has proper body awareness even at this age so we have been very quick to reward him taking a step back (they naturally do it when they go to sit) so I just had my timing ready for when he started to rock back to deliver the treat quickly and low in my hand. In about 10-15 seconds we had 3-4 steps so we will continue to challenge from there! His RR was ever 3 seconds on the back ups and about every 2 for his nose touch.


  24. Sally says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 8:06am

    Well I thought I would shape my youngster to pick up a plastic bottle and place it inside a rubbish bin. I thought it would be pretty simple because she has a lovely retrieve to hand of anything else and thought I could then just hold my hand over the top of the bin and have her place the bottle it in my hand and slowly fade out my hand so she was dropping it in the bin. Only problem is I didn’t count on the fact that her favorite thing to do with ice coffee bottles is to take them away and crunch them. So we will have another go at work through that one tomorrow. Might even get a video camera out.

    The other thing we tried shaping was to go and jump on a skateboard. Well obviously I have flogged a 2o/2o position on her contact plank and other assorted objects far to much because the first thing she offered when I put the skateboard down on the ground was to assume a 2o/2o position on the end of it.

    The one that is on my list of things to start shaping would be a handstand. I think it looks kind of cool.

    Great idea for a challenge though, I tend to neglect shaping and it was a good thing to give a go.


  25. Russ says:
    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 2:45am

    I’m going to attempt to shape my 10 year old Shar Pei to snore while she’s awake. I feel that our first session was somewhat unproductive. When I marked the behavior – she woke up, yawned at me with a very annoyed look on her face, took her reward and immediately resumed her slumber. I’m not sure if an unconscious action can be shaped into her conscious state, but we’ll see.


  26. Chelsey says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 11:32pm

    I was feeling the same thing last thursday. So I took backing up to another step.

    I started with my aussie/bc girl Zoe backing up over a small step. Then I used a small box, which I put next to a wall to prevent tipping. This was familiar to her because it was like a 2o2off position. Then I stacked a second box, where she had to really think about where to put her two back feet.

    After that I went to a board with rubber matting to prevent slipping. By this point she was kicking her feet up high, so I started with a fairly high angle (~75 degrees) and upped the angle almost immediately as it transferred. Now she can ‘back up’ onto a board that is virtually upright into a very flashy hand stand position.

    Here is a video of our progress (excuse the training class going on in the background).


    I am using a clicker because I want to isolate feet movement and her using her core muscles to balance rather than leaning on the board to build strength and flexibility to eventually be able to do this trick without a wall. Today she is doing less leaning and has started to *briefly* use one foot to balance off the board.


  27. Kari says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 8:45pm

    Boy, what to choose. So may tricks, so little time. I think I will have to take this challenge, but picking what to shape might be the hardest of all!


  28. barrie says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 8:13pm

    We did three very short sessions today in an attempt to shape Jellybean (really crazy 2 year old ACD) to put her paws on a tall bucket and walk around the bucket with her hind legs in an attempt to work on rear end awareness. We ended the first session on the high note of getting both paws up on the bucket at the same time (I started off with a very low bucket) then session two was getting two paws on the bucket without getting any one paw responses and our third session I worked on clicking for tiny muscle premovements towards stepping with her rear feet. At the moment the cue seems to be the appearance of the tall, orange bucket. Does it only count if I get it on complete stimulus control between now and end of day tomorrow? I will be impressed with myself to have her walking around the bucket with her front paws on it by the end of the day tomorrow! I would say impressed with both of us except that Jellybean is extremely capable – much more so than I am!!!


  29. DogNerd says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 7:30pm

    Okay, I’m going to try and shape my 9 month old Vizsla “7” to open the fridge and get me a bottle of water. In two, 3 minute sessions 7 is starting to mouth the tug toy attached to the fridge and pull a *little* bit. Because I have previously shaped some vocalization (woops!) during our sessions this will also be a chance to let him know that only quiet offerings will get rewarded.


  30. Sam says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 5:41pm

    I picked up the challenge: Shaped Bliss (10 months old) to close kitchen kabinet doors. The second challenge I put to myself is to shape her to roll herself in a blanket. We have gotten to her lying flat with the blaker in her mouth !!! This second one was the hardest Bliss thought. But she really combined her skills of taking hold of something and laying flat on her side. She understood these seperately but this shaping exercise encouraged her to try them together. Great fun for both of us. The exercise is not finished yet as I want her to roll over while holding the blanket. However, I realised this skill was not yet in place. I am looking forward to our next sessions, see if my communication is clear enough!!


  31. Kathryn Johns says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 3:30pm

    It is definitely winter here in the U.K. and with shorter than usual walks I thought I’d try this challenge.
    I seem to have shaped my puppy to touch his bum – very funny but not quite what I was aiming for!
    I started by observing him for a couple of minutes and clicking pretty much any movement he made. He did a lot of head turning to both sides so I chose to concentrate on only head turns to the left and clicked/treated only those. It was going quite well and I was definitely getting deliberate turns to the left as he caught on to what he was doing to make me click.
    Then came the fateful moment when what started off looking like another turn of his head actually turned into that reflex movement you get when the dog has an itch on its back end and his head spins round to his bum to have a nibble at it.
    Well you know the saying ‘what you click is what you get’ – guess what I clicked and guess what I’m getting! There doesn’t seem to be any way back to just getting head turns today even if I try clicking very quickly. He is only 6 months old, very keen and convinced by that one click/treat that he knows that’s what I really want. It is so funny I may just add a cue!


  32. Lee says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 12:42pm

    I’d love to give this a try Susan but the challenge for me is finishing a behaviour so it is on cue. I get bored half-way through – usually while building duration, and move on to something else. The finish product looks like a confused dog with no tricks 🙁


  33. Chris says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 12:26pm

    I have a 19 week old BC pup, I started shaping this week for him to put his left paw on his up side down bowl and his right when it right side up. I also used a clicker. This is the very first time I saw one of my dogs love the way I shaped and he is looking for more. It’s fun to watch now when he flips the bowls and use his correct paws. I checked out the list and I think I will try retrieving a kleenex from the box tonight. You got me in a Shaping mood.



  34. Trudie says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 9:39am

    Oops! My computer submitted before I was finished.
    It is obvious I need to address the problem of adding verbal cues: establishing one before working on another…


  35. Trudie says:
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 9:31am

    I just got out my book “Superdog” by Mary Ray, and realised my dog does not know number one: “in front” on cue.
    To help your dog get the idea that he must always place himself standing in front of and facing you, she suggests that one method could be to place a small footstool in front of you and move around it, then fade this prop.
    As soon as my dog saw the prop he wanted to get up on it, as I had previously shaped this behavior but never attributed a verbal cue ! In the same way, when my dog sees a balance board, a skateboard, an open box of any size, a ball of any size, he rushes with glee to climb on, touch, etc !
    So I decided to work without the prop.
    Now, my dog is rapidly offering very nice standing in front. It is tempting to add the “in front” cue.
    However, on the the cue “come”, the dog should come and sit directly in front of you.


Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *