Needed: EASY Beginner Shaping Trick

brenda taulbee

New Member
Hello all!
So Kenzii is about a year and a half old now, and a genius when it comes to certain things. She's picked up tricks in a day or two that I expected to take several weeks. However, when it gets into the free shaping stuff she's not exactly creative...

When I tried to teach her toy recognition I started with one object, "Googley Eye Dog" and would sit down with her and "Dog", my clicker and a bunch of awesome treats. First she would see the treats in my hand, run through her lengthy repertoire of tricks then flop down, frustrated and tired or slink away like she was in trouble for not finding the right one. I don't think she even noticed Dog was in the room with us. I was looking for anything directed at the toy, from a glance to a nose or paw, but didn't get anything the first few sessions. After those first few sessions, every time I picked up Googley Eye Dog, Kenz hid somewhere to avoid another frustrating session.

I've also tried teaching her to stand on a scale, but I wanted to try it with free shaping rather than luring, so I clicked and treated for any sort of interest in the scale. Even a single paw on the scale would have been progress in my eyes, but now it gets the same reaction as Dog does. It's frustrating, so she avoids it.

I would really like to expand her abilities beyond simple lure/click/treat behaviors, or command/treat behaviors, but I'm not exactly sure what's simple enough for her to realize "Ah, when I think outside the box I get that awesome treat. This isn't so hard after all!" I realize I've been spoiled up to this point, with such a good student, but I think we've hit a wall. :msnsad: Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Experienced Member
I highly suggest doing free shaping with a completely novel object or something she rarely sees. Most people use a cardboard box, one big enough for the dog to get in but low enough for the dog to step in. As soon as I put the object down I get ready to click since a dog will sniff anything new. I also like putting the object in a hallway between me and the dog. That way I can click for the initial approach and throw the treat away. The dog should get the treat and run back to you, and thus the box, but you can click as soon as they reach the box. For some dogs, a rug works better than a box so you can click stepping on it where they wouldn't offer pawing the box. And while I usually throw the treat away to set the dog up to do it again, I sometimes might throw the treat in the box to encourage interaction. That way I can also click again as the dog is reaching in to get the treat so I have a high reward rate.

Regardless of what you use and where you do it, click the smallest response. I try staring at the object intently and click when my dog turns his head the tiniest bit, or even flicks his eyes. This is insanely hard and easy to give up on for the first couple lessons. If you get really frustrated there's nothing wrong with starting out luring interactions and then switching to free shaping.


Experienced Member
Are u moving around and reseting or just standing sitting one place. 1 min is about enough per session, go do something else. Dog loses interest pick item up and place elsewhere. Walk around object, look AT object. Important to reset and move around and be active so the dog seeks and looks to you. Give a high enough frequency of reward and they learn faster b/c it pays better. Take smaller baby steps, ear flick toward item, glance, weight shift, LOOK HARDER pay off more at first. Then they get it...OHHH so its the ball!! now what should I try with it???

If ur teaching toy named targeting first get ur nose and paw targeting down of any item close and distance in several locations and distraction levels. Don't always use the kitchen for example. Then when u get the paw target down name one toy "bone." Touch bone C/T paw bone C/T put out another toy. Touch bone now ignore if dog touches ball C/T for touch bone. Don't speak, don't say good. My KP trainer thinks this dilutes the clicker somewhat, and I see her point. I also later taught whoops when I meant that's not quite it but close-no treat keep trying. this prevents picking up the item and running off or dumping out the laundry you want them to drag. But friendly and still encouraging.

Don't go too long 1 min go do sit heel fetch come back 1 min different spot slightly-help them generalize and keep it interesting. when they get frustrated STOP end on a good note with something they KNOW that pays. :doglaugh:

Try shaping dog in a box or a suitcase, shape turning over plastic or metal bowls, stacking them, nosing a soccer ball NOT BITING it. hide food under bowls and have them target the bowls. at first all have food then one--make them guess right use the nose. make sure its smelly enough to smell and dry enough not to make all the bowls smell and be confusing. i.e. not wet treats.