Shaping Games To Keep His Mind Sharp | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

Translate To Your Language

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shaping Games To Keep His Mind Sharp

It's been one of those days where not much in the training department is going to get done. I was able to steal away about thirty minutes to do more than just walk Wally around and let him do his business. Thank goodness he's very well house-trained. He kept poking at the door and whining and even opened it and was running back and forth in and out of the room, trying to get me to follow.

Anyway, during that small moment of availability, I ran through shaping basics with him. We went back to the first game we played with shaping where he just did something, anything, and I would reward it for a while, then stop and make him do something else.

There was no real point in terms of a final behavior. Instead, just him throwing out whatever to keep him in the mindset of trying something and seeing what happens, and when that doesn't work (i.e. he doesn't get food), try something else.

It's not a hard game to start or even teach. The hard part is getting the dog to get going, but starting that is easy if you just get ready to take whatever. I always start this game with him touching something since he is nosy...I mean curious...about things I touch. He has to see what it is, which means he's going to be following it with his eyes (and nose), tracking where I put it, and then going up to sniff it. All of those things can be marked and rewarded.

Once the object is down, that's when Wally really gets into it since he knows what's going to happen next. He'll poke it with his nose, paw it, even pick it up.

A lot of times, I don't even use an object anymore. I just sit somewhere near him and wait. I'll get a paw raised up or he'll stand up and come sit in front of me, etc. Once that starts, the game is on, and we just go from there with whatever I feel like rewarding. Now that he knows a lot of basic behaviors, it's easier for him to think of something else.

Though I did get a totally new behavior, which is why I love playing this game. He lied down. I kept ignore it just to see what he'd do. He put his head on his front paws. I quickly rewarded it. At first, he didn't get it. He thought it was just for lying down. I waited again, and he put his head down. Another reward.

The light bulb must have went on because he was now intentionally doing it. I would only have to wait a second or two and the head was going back down. In fact, if I waited "too long", he started barking...with his head down. Strangest thing I've seen.

Anyway, that's about all we could do today, but at least he got some practice in and got to have some fun.