Training the Easy Way – Shaping (1)

Did you know that many dog trainers focus on teaching appropriate behaviors? The way they do this is through a procedure called shaping. 

B.F. Skinner was a proponent of shaping behaviors in different types of animals. A reporter challenged Skinner to train a dog to do something new because he did not believe how quickly shaping could be used to teach behaviors. Skinner taught a dog to run up a wall in 20 minutes using shaping and the reporter was convinced!

Today, dog trainers often use shaping as a means to train animals ethically, quickly, and in fun ways. Obedience training uses procedures called operant conditioning, which focuses on how consequences change behavior. Dogs learn that when good things happen – like treats! – after they do something the trainer is looking for – like a command – they are more likely to engage in the behavior in the future. Shaping involves catching behaviors that you want to see, even if they aren’t quite perfect by rewarding the occurrence of that behavior. Successive approximations are the stepping stones to obtain the perfect behavior – these behaviors get closer and closer to the final behavior we want to see by rewarding closer and closer approximations to that final target. 

Our trainers at Beyond the Dog use shaping procedures in all of our trainings. And, these methods are not limited to dogs! Our trainers have had extensive experience with other animals too, like teaching rats how to play basketball or pin the tail on the donkey, training zoo animals to present themselves to vets without requiring anesthesia, and even train dolphins to perform different tasks. These training sessions often resemble a game to dogs and trainers alike because the focus is on the good things the animals are doing, rather than punishing the incorrect things. This helps establish and strengthen the bond between you and your pet!

You are only limited by your creativity! 

Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, Inc. The World’s First Look at Shaping: B.F. Skinner’s Gutsy Gamble Gail B. Peterson