Just Had Our First Free Shaping Session

Discussion in 'Dog Tricks' started by DaniG, Sep 20, 2012.

  1. DaniG Well-Known Member

    So, I'm not usually into free shaping. In fact, I've had so much success with lure/reward I have never even used freeshaping in any of my training. I've always been the kind to go in with an idea in my mind of the behavior I wanted, and then come up with a plan to get that behavior (often using a combination of lure/reward and shaping).

    However, I decided today Lin-Zee and I would play with free shaping, in the process of getting her to go into a bowl (Lin-Zee is my 8 lb Papillon). And man did she have fun with it! And I had her offering both front paws in the bowl in a matter of minutes! I wish I had taped that session.

    So, for anyone that gets stuck in their old ways, even if you think your old ways are fabulous (Lure/Reward remains my favorite), sometimes stepping outside your box can be a lot of fun! :D
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  2. sara Moderator

    Actually, not to be nit-picky, but you had a "Shaping" session, not a "Free Shaping" one :) Shaping is when you have a goal in mind (Like getting her feet into the bowl), free shaping is when you let the dog train you (you click for any offered behaviour and then go from there... Mouse has become quite good at teaching me what to click for! LOL)

    But good for you! I used to prefer the lure method too, but now I totally dont like it at all, and try to avoid luring as much as possible. I prefer seeing the dog think for itself, not just react to me :)
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  3. DaniG Well-Known Member

    I always understood free shaping to be not giving any cues, regardless of whether there was a goal in mind. As I've said, I have never been huge on it, so I never looked that far into, read a few definitions and went "Oh that's nice, not for me," and carried on.

    Regardless, the point was that I put the object out in front of her, gave her no cues, and waited for her to offer me something (which happened to be what I wanted to begin with). Which is not something I tend to do.
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  4. DaniG Well-Known Member

    Actually, reviewing all of the google definitions, it is a bit fuzzy.

    Some specifically talk about having a goal in mind (Honey the Great Dane's mom's site that won't let me C&P, "And you can “free shape” – by doing training exercises without any preconceived notion of where you want the behavior to go" Whole Dog Journal),

    while others say it's all about not giving cues ("The term free-shaping was conceived in order to provide a term for shaping wherein no contrived trainer provided prompts are utilized to evoke the approximations. " from James O'Heare; "We've got a dog that's all fired up and ready to rock, so let's begin free shaping! The most important idea here is to let your dog offer the behavior" from some other free shaping site).
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  5. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    I use a combination of lure/reward, shaping and free-shaping, depending on what I'm after and mine and Alfie's mood at the time. Sometimes he just doesn't seem to want to think for himself but would rather be guided through the motions, so to speak. Other times he's really up for working stuff out himself. I don't think there's ever only one right way of doing things - everything depends on the dog and the trainer and what works best at any given time.

    It's great that you were willing to try moving outside of your particular box, though. I think we all tend to find our comfort zone and stay within it as much as possible but moving outside can sometimes be a real eye opener :)
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  6. Pawtential Unleashed Experienced Member

    Shaping is something I am still trying to get my head around completely. I sat down with my newest rescue McKenna a few nights ago to have a go...

    Goal: Get McKenna to jump through a hoop
    Setup: Training room - no outside distractions
    Treats: Soft Oceanfish & Chicken Meatballs (pea size) - very smelly
    Dog: McKenna - 4-5 month old terrier mix of some kind - no previous training
    Prop: Hula Hoop
    Positioning: Me sitting with hoop between my foot and the wall

    Session Notes:
    Allowed McKenna to explore room and be sure she was comfortable.

    Presented and positioned hoop.

    Rewarded any glances or movement in that direction. If she wandered away, encourage back and reward any tiny thing...

    Rewarding happened where she was to not positionally lure her into the behavior.

    Was going for rapid reinforcement but she looked at me or around the room mostly. She sat, redirected into licking herself, got up, sat and gave great eye contact which she was verbally praised for, scratched and then laid down and again I am clicking for any glances or paw movements directed at or near the hoop. She is not afraid of it - just not overly interested in it.

    30-35 clicks (which took approx 4:30 min) later we still have not offered even a paw touching it, much less walking through it.

    My normal way of teaching this would be to place treats on the other side and click as she walked through. I switched to this and she did it several times positionally lured and then offered a walk through on her own after less than 10 clicks.

    I love the idea of shaping as it encourages thinking - but how do you get them to even start thinking? 101 Box I can see as an exercise in building confidence in offering behaviors but what if they realistically just look at you or walk away?
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  7. Jean Cote Administrator

    In my experience, when my dog is looking at me I know it's because she's waiting for me to tell her what to do. You have to be careful with that, because if you start to lure her in that moment or let her 'off the hook' then she'll always be dependent on you, any time it comes remotely difficult your dog is going to look at you and just wait.

    Ideally, you'd want to create a shaping map before you do any type of training, and I talk about this in my upcoming presentation on shaping. So that you have a 10-15 criterias in mind before you start the training, and you'd ideally only focus on 3 per training session.

    30-35 clicks for looking and walking towards the hoop might be a little too much. I personally use only about 5-7 reinforcement per criteria. And then let the dog try new stuff so that I can reward the next criteria.

    But that's just my experience. :) I'm no expert.
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  8. MaryK Honored Member

    Looking forward to your Shaping Presentation Jean. I'm a bit confused by it all at present.
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  9. curls139 Well-Known Member

    I've also been looking into thisat the moment (what a nice coincidence!) - - an am confused, so help would be appreciated Jean. Thanks so much
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  10. Jean Cote Administrator

    Ok give me a few days, I will send you the video as soon as it's edited. (I recorded it yesterday)
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  11. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    I trained Alfie with the hoop the same way as you. Free shaping is great in some instances, like when I wanted Alf to target a post-it note, I just waited until he got curious about this thing stuck on the side of the table. He's a curious dog, so I knew I'd get a lot of interest.

    I've found that thinking comes with experience. Once they realise they the get clicked for doing things they've decided to do themselves, they start thinking more. Now, if Alf's bored, he'll start offering me behaviours he knows might lead to a treat and some training but if that doesn't work he'll go around trying things (put a paw on the shelf, knock a cushion on the floor... all sorts of things) so I can capture them relatively easily if I'm aware of what he's doing and not in the middle of doing something else.
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  12. SD&B Experienced Member

    Once in a while, I'll mix up things with the old 101 things to do with a box. Or sometimes I'll throw a different object out there and let the dog go for it. I've done it with a metal bowl. I've found that it has helped Barney become more confident with that particular object. Anyway, we do it mainly for fun and encouraging interaction and thinking. It's a great deviation from routine. Even when I don't get a specific trick at the moment, it helps lead to tricks. For example, the 101 things to do with a box led me to try asking Sundog to put all 4 feet in smaller and smaller boxes. Now she can put all 4 feet and sit in an itty bitty box.

    I would love to see a video that explains free shaping and what you can do with it. That would be awesome.

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