Learning to Shape


New Member
I've read up on training via 'shaping' technique..and when we put it into practice, it turns out we have a few issues!

Hopefully someone can give me a hand!

I tried to teach 'stand on box' via the shaping technique, (from the lessons) and I noticed that Kiera has learned the "watch me" command too well.

I had to encourage her to go towards the box and even be curious about it. After every new reinforcement, she returned to face me - sit - and made eye contact and held it for a few minutes. She knew I had treats but didn't understand I wanted her to try a new movement in order to be reinforced. I had to motion towards the box quite a few times.

We trained in an area with no distractions, as recommended. I think she was expecting me to lure her towards the box. How do I switch over from 'luring' to 'shaping' more smoothly? I think she's prone to relying on techniques we've used in the past.

Any help is appreciated!


Experienced Member
It is hard when first trying to get your dog to be freeshaped if they are used to luring methods. They are used to you telling them what to do, and now they have to think on their own. She may even feel as if she's doing something wrong since you're not rewarding the eye contacts, and sits.

I would recommend that you don't even gesture to the box since she will then come reliant on your gesturing. Maybe don't even look at her in the eye. But most importantly, be patient and lower your shaping criteria. She doesn't have to go all the way over to the box for the first step. Just reward a tiny glance in that direction, then a full head turn, etc.

It will still take time and she will still probably come back and sit after every click, but once that light bulb clicks, training goes a ton faster. It will probably take shaping a few different exercises for your dog to truely get that she has to do something first to be rewarded. I've also found that once your dog starts to get what you are wanting, there's a little dip in behavior where they start testing it and offering all of their old behaviors before going back to what they were doing. I don't think your dog is doing that yet, but Kiera probably will later. Good luck!

Jean Cote

Staff member
In the beginning, try reinforcing for nose taps on the box. Click the exact moment that her nose touches the box. Then you can increase the distance between you and the box.

After a few sessions and that she figured out the nose taps, you can then increase your criteria. Which means, that you will stop reinforcing for nose taps, but you can reinforce for anything else (maybe a touch with a paw).

It really takes time for the dog to understand that her behavior is what control the clicker.

You might also want to try something more simple like lying on a carpet or finding a toy on the floor. :)


New Member
I am also brand new at this, but I found that I had to throw the treat at/in the box when I was treating them after the click. If they came to me for the treat they stayed there, if I threw it closer to where they were near the box they would be more likely to investigate the box further. This might be wrong, but it seemed to work. They really grasped the clicker quickly. I taught Patrick to wave and Jack to cover his nose on the first day.