Last week we looked at luring vs shaping, so it’s only fair that this week we are looking at shaping vs shaping. Recently in one of our Inner Circle coaching calls, we were discussing shaping, successive approximations, and the role of failure in dog training (we may geek out a bit on dog training in IC Peeps!).
This led us to look at our Stages of Learning chart about how we think here at Say Yes about controlling the environment and then introducing failure, which ultimately leads us to greater and faster success and creates confidence for our dogs.
We start by making the correct choice for our dog extremely easy, and then later in the training when our dog is driven and confident, the correct choice is made much more difficult. The mid stages of training are where choices for our dog are introduced strategically. By the time our dog gets to the later stage of training, those hard choices do not overwhelm him as he has the skills and drive to make choices and work through failure due to the layers of learning and the care we take to protect our dog’s confidence.
In 2012 we made a video for one of our programs that has never been shared publicly… until today. It’s a look at the evolution of my approach to shaping dogs and how the application of the science can impact the success we have. In the video I’m shaping my two 8-year-old Border Collies, Stoni and Encore, to ‘get on and stay on a cooler’. The shaping sessions were filmed years apart. The clip of Stoni is from 1999 and the clip of Encore from 2012.
Watch the video below to see the difference in shaping sessions. The same behaviour that took me over 3 minutes to shape with Stoni, took under 1 minute with Encore!
This video comparison shows how the effective application of science allows our dogs to learn ten times faster. It isn’t that one dog is more brilliant, it is that the trainer is applying the science more effectively. The 15 improvements we noted between the 1999 session and the 2012 sessions are:
- The use of a leash to prevent “roaming”.
- Covering the slippery cooler.
- Removing the distractions in the area prior to getting the dog out to train.
- Standing closer to the cooler.
- Delivering the reinforcement to the dog on the cooler.
- Holding only one reward in the hand that brought the cookie to the dog.
- Not using a clicker which constantly drew the dog’s attention away from the work and towards the trainer.
- Starting the session with a tug game (getting the ‘D’ from my D.A.S.H. acronym that covers how we set up training sessions).
- Having smooth transitions, into and out of play or while removing the blanket, leash, etc.
- Not “Jackpotting”. Did you notice the variability in Stoni’s responses (rope pulling and sniffing) after each jackpot?
- Using a release word to help build the understanding of duration.
- Reducing the anxiety about the cooler by first value building with it covered.
- Using praise and emotion for successes.
- Using a “re-set” cookie to give the dog a chance to “re-load” the response.
- By having better mechanics as a trainer. (I think I was a little hard on myself on this point because my mechanics actually weren’t that bad in the video with Stoni, it was the application of the science more than the mechanics).
Is shaping just “shaping” regardless of how the science is applied? Is all “positive” dog training really the same? Successful dog training applies the science of training in a way that makes sense and is fun for both the dog and the trainer.
Let me know your takeaways from the video in the comments below.
Today I am grateful for everyone who watched the video above with no judgement of my attire or music choice (and if either distracted you, watch the video again:)).
And now it is 2023! I wonder if you will do another video again to demonstrate even more takeaway gems for us.
Super helpful and inspiring!
Thank you for sharing.
Loved this! Thank you for sharing. I learned to keep a leash on a dog to prevent roaming from you in Recallers. Real game-changer! Thank you!
This is the video that is my “Aha!” moment for why I was struggling with a clicker! My voice is able to offer a marker to my 15 wk old puppy without a distracting click.
AND…the click was making my 11 year old “clicker-trained” dog go nuts. 🙂
Love this! <3 Thank you for sharing it
Susan this is truly inspirational. I always felt that how we apply positive reinforcements, reward and the trainer’s skills/mechanics were key to shaping behaviour but this illustrates so clearly just how important these factors are. It is making me look very closely at how I am currently training and i see that applying your strategies will help so much. I am feeling so inspired! Thank you do much for sharing ❤
I would like to see the scientific explanation for this.
Great video. I always learn a lot from comparisons. I have a question about No. 14 “ Using a “re-set” cookie to give the dog a chance to “re-load” the response.” Is the “re-set cookie” the one being delivered after the first reward for jumping on the cooler? Sometimes Susan rewards 3 or 4 times for that behavior. Are those re-set cookies? Thank you.
Loved watching the changes. We all learn and grow, this just shows how much improvement has occurred though the years. We can all aspire to improve that way. Love the process. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Susan. This is so helpful to me to evaluate my own mechanics in training Bessie. It shows me what to look at more closely when I have trouble building her confidence with a task.
Susan, this was an incredible video. I am so grateful to you for being willing to share your own path and learning over time and help us unpack how you were able to set Encore up for success in ways you didn’t yet have in your toolbox with Stoni. (Let’s be honest – I was impressed by Stoni, too, doing things I’ve never dreamed of being able to do with my dogs). We’re now preparing for an 8 week old puppy to join our household, which already includes a great 9yo doodle. 9yo Scraps’ confidence and understanding have grown tremendously thanks to me learning to apply some of your techniques and I can’t wait to see what we can do with a puppy who is learning this way from the very beginning. Thanks for giving me the tools and confidence to build a great relationship with my dogs.
Awesome video! Thanks for sharing!
Analytical. Fun. So Susan! Thank you. I’ll watch this again and bank the knowledge for future use. At least that should be my intent!
Not a training question, more curiosity…
Did the knowledgeable voice in the background towards the end of the first video belong to Marion Bailey?
love this concept and train regularly for dog sports using many of the new reward base/science training methods
I have done its your choice with great results, but need to move it on to out in the world with the other dogs! my dog having been jumped on in an aggressive way, is wary and does a fear rush and bark, how do I move I.Y.C on, to counter this behaviour ? use your books for brilliant training methods .
Just tried this, my two picked it up really quickly, started with the footstool they sit on, then got a small plastic step and my looney tunes jumped on it and sat in seconds. It is the finer points that brings success that give me the buzz. Thank you Susan.
The first trainer had the distraction of the audience also. Great comparison. I didn’t get to see the luring video.
Thanks for showing the ways you have changed and grown as a trainer, that is admirable I’m a little unclear about why she clicked less, though.
It is a great example of shaping in stages . Now that I understand what it is, it is something I am trying to be careful to apply those principles… such a useful lesson in all dog training . Thank you.
I am new to Susan Garrett and with me being in Australian time zone, seem to miss some opportunities. I am curious as to why a cooler was used as a prop for this task when it is a naturally slippery object. I’d like to use what I have learned to help me gain skill with “bed” command when I want my dog Charlotte to settle on her mat and stay there. Please reply so I know this has worked.
Hi Elanor, in the video with Stoni, it was part of a competition between a dog being shaped and a human being shaped. The cooler is likely to have been chosen by the people attending the workshop for this ‘contest’. The video with Encore was a ‘repeat’ of the shaping challenge.
Could you explain what you mean by a “re-set cookie”? I’m confused on that.
Thanks for all you share!
Hi Holly, at around the 5:58 mark in the video, Susan gives Encore the “search” release cue to chase down the tossed cookie. This is the re-set as Encore chases the cookie then comes back to play.
Thank you for sharing. Again it’s not what you do but how you do it. Ive heard so many people say things like “I’ve tried that but it doesn’t work” Your video conparisons have quickly shown how thinking and reviewing processes is important and that we dont stop learning. That’s what is so enjoyable and rewarding. You’ve saved us a lot of time especiallly as you have also pointed out the differences. Such a good example and point to make.
The last time I really dug into dog training the clicker was more or less “the gold standard”. Now with my sighthound youngster I’m updating my knowledge, and this comparison was really helpful.
I would love to read a post on if/when to use a clicker, the pros and cons.
Thank you for providing all that awesome educational material!
Hi Conny, here’s a blog post by Susan about the clicker which might help:
The first trainer had the distraction of the audience also. Great comparison. I didn’t get to see the luring video. Hope it is in recallers.
Also noticed that Susan was MOVING AROUND as she delivered the reward cookies. This keeps the dog from thinking that handler motion means that the job is done. Along with the use of the “break” command, the dog knows not to jump off before being released. This is something that my coach (who LOVES the Garrett way!) harps on constantly when we are doing contact training. Made a huge difference in our performance at trials. Thanks, Susan!!!!
Loved this “(we may geek out a bit on dog training in IC Peeps!).”👍🏻👍🏻
Thank you for sharing! I’ve a 9 week old puppy coming home next week and my question is whether to use a clicker or not with shaping? What do you recommend?
Hi Karen, here’s a blog post by Susan on when it’s good to use a clicker:
Maya Angelou says, “When you know better DO better.” Great example of evolving Shaping skills and positive dog training and insights. Thanks for sharing.
This was a great comparison. Thank you for sharing the eye-opening differences. I couldn’t see the reset cookie or figure out where/what it was. Can you please point it out and explain?
Hi Gaye, it’s at around the 5:58 mark in the video.
Thank you Susan For a better understanding of how to shape.
I do not have a website. I have a small dog that just turned one. I have no training at all, but would love to learn how to create a little gentleman.
Join Recallers on Monday!!! Great set of videos to fun and gently teach your dog to make the best choices.
This was a lightbulb moment for me to see clarity is kindness. The dog is so much more confident about what is being asked. I now see the whole “team” communication so much better.
Thank you Susan!
Enjoyed your article. I also constantly pursue learning from my dogs, how these techniques teach them how to learn, faster; build confidence. It’s inspiring, addictive, and bonding. I only wish I had figured it out earlier in my career. Agree with your findings on the clicker; personally, I seldom use it now, rather, carefully timed verbal and gesture markers (can be tricky to teach other humans, but when training my own dogs, I use it almost exclusively). Thank you for shqring.
i forward youre fabulous training info to many. i watched this thinking, poor stoni, he hasnt a clue and neither do i ? what a loyal dog to jump on a slippery cooler? with zero confidence, yes.
im so glad i know you now, bc youve reached your ZEN, and hence, so have the dogs!
could we put a strip of rubbermaid drawer liner or rug holding pad on the cooler? then whisk it off?
i never felt clicker training was a genius invention, just an extra step for dogs brains to navigate?
i started watching bc i have the first real challenge of a dog in my border collie rescue, yet your methods have created a tremendous bonding with my basenji as well. he is an amazing ambassador for his breed which is generally labelled “untrainable, aloof, never to be trusted off leash or unfenced” this dog has 100% recall and is a brilliant, aware, joy to live with. so starting from day one w your theories absolutely WORKS. my bc had such a mishmosh of human interactions, we still get mixed signals but i blame myself. one of your most useful tools is the circle of emotions clock. love it, send it to everyone so they too can “get their dog”.
What a difference! Thank you for the insight and always keeping us moving forward in our training.
Wow thank you so much for sharing this. I know my training has changed in the last 30 odd years and got better, but this is very interesting, especially removing the clicker as a marker. My latest puppies are really benefitting from your shared knowledge. Just got to convert more gundog people!
The other big difference in training is the addition of the ‘break’ release. Susan wasn’t using that in the earlier video. In the later one the dog is used to getting on different surfaces and once rewarded staying in position until the break release. I think that has given the dog much more confidence. It is a clear boundary and behaviour learnt from very early on.
Always impressed that Susan is willing to share the evolution of her training. It shows how immersed she is in always improving on her skills. Which motivates me to do the same. Kudos Susan.
How did u introduce the cooler to the dog to get started. I am fascinated by your thinking and how you communicate with the dogs. I hv a new puppy and am also wondering how you came to move from clicker training. I understand you state the dog no longer concentrates on the trainer but how did you come to that conclusion?
I remember this video from previous on-line courses with Susan but this time I really get it because I have learned how to transfer value and I don’t depend on the clicker as I used to………great video!!
Awesome! Very helpful. More and more training things starting to fall in place.
My biggest takeaway is setting up the environment in a way that my dog doesn’t have to waste time guessing what I want, and possibly losing confidence because of it. I remember this message from Susan in Puppy Peaks. But this comparison video really underscored just how important it is!
WOW!!!! So many lightbulbs!!! THANK YOU
Fantastic video! Your work is revolutionizing dog training!