Streets Doesn't Understand Free Shaping..

Discussion in 'Training Challenges' started by luckylego, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. luckylego Experienced Member

    Hey guys..

    Has anyone had a dog that just doesn't quite "get" the concept of offering behaviours and free shaping? One that's just too focused on waiting for the cue?

    My boss is a trainer, and we were discussing the difference between Streets and Lego's personalities the other day.. Lego is very much a thinker. She can problem solve her way out of almost any situation in no time at all - and it makes her incredibly easy to work with in other aspects of training. Streets on the other hand is solid.. But only when she's being TOLD what to do. She follows direction very well, but doesn't seem to be able to problem solve like Lego does (which is why we can't give her brain toys to play with, because unlike Lego who interacts with the toy, Streets just shreds it to get at the food). My boss' theory was that dogs who are clicker trained and whose owners use free shaping to work with them, are essentially taught to problem solve by teaching them to try offering different behaviours until they find one that works.. Again, just her theory.. But so she suggested that I try using the clicker a little more for some free shaping sessions with Streets to see if that helps. So last night when I got home, I grabbed my clicker and a cardboard box and placed it in the middle of the kitchen floor. Now, I was warned that Streets might not "get it" at first, and so to click her for very small interactions, such as just looking at the box. But when I called Streets in, she couldn't care LESS about the thing. All she knew was that I had my clicker out and that meant she was ready to work! She knew I had treats, and so it just became kind of this stalemate.. While I was standing there waiting for her to interact with the box in some way, she's just sitting there totally focused, staring right back at me and whining. The only way I could get her to even notice the box was to put my finger on it, and even after multiple attempts of doing that, she still continued to just sit and wait for me to give her a command, or would impatiently nudge my clicker. I tried to simplify things, and replaced the cardboard box with the doormat, but again, she would only even acknowledge the object if I physically touched it and encouraged her to look.. And even then, she always came back to waiting for me to tell her what to do. So at this point I'm not really sure how to even approach this with her - its almost like she's just TOO focused on waiting for the next command, and no matter how long I wait for her to offer a behaviour it just doesn't come. If anything it just frustrates her :confused:.. She'll start to whine and impatiently bounce around me, nudging my clicker hand and then sitting/laying back in front of me to wait for a cue. Its much different from working with Lego, who has worked with a clicker for quite some time now, and will offer up countless behaviours one after another to get the right one. She's determined to do whatever she needs to get that reward, and it's part of what makes her so fun to work with - anything is possible! I would love to have the same with Streets.. Especially since we're starting agility.

    So my question is.. Have any of you guys ever dealt with a situation like this before? How do you encourage your dog to start using their brain a little more?
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  2. brody_smom Experienced Member

    My guess is that, like people, dogs are individuals, with different strengths and weaknesses. This can also be determined by breed to an extent. Border collies are famous for their problem solving skills. Dalmatians, not so much. I think free shaping takes time to learn, and one session won't do it for many dogs. I find for Brody that he is more likely to try to work with an object if I bring it into the room when he is already there, but he needs a hint about where to start. He will always begin by offering something I've taught before with a different prop, for example, picking it up in his mouth or touching it with his nose or paws. It can get frustrating if he simply is not offering the behavior I want, so I will give him some clues. Until they start to really problem solve on their own, a combination of luring and shaping can really help get the ball rolling. Like you said, Streets doesn't go in for the puzzles, she needs more clues.
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  3. charmedwolf Moderator

    I've noticed if a dog is used to be told what to do it does take long for them to get into the role of shaping. They just don't understand yet. Think of it as a really smart kid that just flies by in classes, they don't study but they pass with fly colors every time. What happens when they need to study? I can almost guarantee they won't know how to study because it was never needed before. Thinking for the dog was never really needed so they don't know how.

    At this point she doesn't really get the point of the box but you have a plethora of other behaviors you could click for. Does that impatient bouncing end up near the box? Does her ears twitch towards it? If you need to, hold it in your hand, smudge some really smelly treats on it. Is it cheating? Kinda but you know what? Sometimes you need to cheat to learn.

    Another thing you can do is try a moving shaping game like "Choose to heel". It sometimes easier for a dog to think on the move then just sitting there like a bug on a log.

  4. sara Moderator

    Fantastic post Charmedwolf! I was going to say basically the same thing but you said it sooo much better than I could lol
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  5. luckylego Experienced Member

    Hooraayy!! I've had a tiny breakthrough with Streets .. But given her history, and how she was when I first got her, this small improvement means quite a bit. She was so shut down that its just nice to see her start to use her brain for the very first time :love:

    I read through your guys' suggestions and decided to take the advice and "cheat"..

    During our next free shaping session, I zipped up my empty treat pouch that I use for walks and tossed it on the floor, then clicked every time she moved to investigate - which, because it smelled so yummy, happened quite often. After our first session, I still wasn't quite convinced that she'd actually gotten it.. She was actually only mildly excited about me clicking and was really more interested in investigating my pouch.

    Yesterday however, I noticed a small difference.. This time when she was going to touch the pouch with her nose, she paused and I saw her eyes dart back towards me, just waiting for me to click and treat! It was like a light just flicked on in her brain, and she was continuously repeating the behaviour, going back to touch the bag with her nose and anticipating a treat..

    Today was definitely an improvement.. She quickly realized what we were doing and proudly danced over to touch the bag with her nose - she was so thrilled with herself! The problem is.. Now I want her to push the behaviour further, but when I don't click for touching the bag anymore and wait for something more she just gets confused and shuts down. Once that's happened she's pretty frustrated, and then the whining and stressy laying down/sitting/sneezing/sniffing the clicker starts. So my question is.. How do I get her to keep going, and try new behaviours? If I hold off on clicking and wait, it just seems to end the whole session by causing her to shut down.. How do I get past this?

    I see so much growth in her already, and it makes me so proud, but I'd love it to continue!
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  6. brody_smom Experienced Member

    What is it that you want her to do with the pouch? I would give her more input like moving it slightly while still on the ground if you want her to paw at it, or lift it slightly if you want her to pick it up in her mouth. You know that old trick where you try to make her think it was her idea in the first place. When I wanted Brody to push a ball with his nose rather than biting it, I put some food in a small depression on our lawn, then put the ball on top of the food. He had to push the ball out of the way to get to the treats, and when he did, I clicked and treated, so he got double treats to start.
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  7. luckylego Experienced Member

    Hmm.. To be honest, I don't really have anything specific that I'd like her to do, I just want her to offer something more. For example, Lego is pretty used to the idea of free shaping. She knows that if she just keeps offering me behaviours (usually starting with a nose touch and progressing to more dramatic ones as she gets rolling), she'll find the one that gets her a reward. This makes trick training with her SO easy, because you have the potential to teach her so many different things - the sky's the limit! The problem I was having with Streets earlier is that she seemed to have just hit a wall.. She'd consistently shut down and wouldnt even acknowledge the pouch if I waited for something more. Buut I'm starting to think that, like Brody, she may just be a dog that at this point just needs a little hint..

    With that in my head, last night during our free shaping session I introduced a totally new object and brought a large rubbermaid bin into the room instead of her pouch. After bumping the bin once with her nose and getting a click, she knew what I was looking for. Since she was pretty consistent with the nose bump, I tried something else, and this time pointed to the bin and just said "paw".. Almost instantly she put her one paw on the bin. I repeated that several times, and then decided to try and see if she would offer the behaviour without the cue - no dice. She just got frustrated and started whining.. Then it became another stare down as she waited for instruction. But when I added the cue back, she got it perfect 95% of the time!

    So now I'm kind of confused.. I mean, obviously both dogs have completely different learning styles, Lego loves to figure things out and Streets needs instruction and cues.. I'm wondering however if you guys think its even possible to teach Streets to think like that? Or is that something that's more of a personality thing than training? My boss' theory is that her inability to perform without being told has to do with her history of abuse with her previous owner (she was used as a breeder, seriously malnourished and had her owner attempt to eat her alive).. That she likely had a very firm handler and received alot of negative attention. So I'm wondering if maybe that means there's a chance I can get through that darn wall she keeps hitting! It's not like this is vital to her training or anything, but I'd just love to get her using her brain a little bit - I'm always so proud to watch Lego experiment and think things out.. Plus it just helps make her trick and agility training so much simpler.
    brodys_mom likes this.
  8. sara Moderator

    Yup. When a dog is used to always being told what to do, not just in the case of a harshly trained dog, but dogs always lured also have major issues with learning to offer behaviours. Oliver is my crossover dog... meaning I trained him using a clicker... I didn't clickertrain him lol. He also has issues offering behaviours... Mouse on the other hand has been free shaping and shaping almost exclusively. .. and has no issues offering new behaviours... she has come up with some really weird things. .. all on her own lol

    I've been working on teaching Ollie to offer behaviours. It's a slow process and basically I have to be very careful to not let him get frustrated. He also likes feed back. But for him if I say "keep going" he'll try to figure out what I want.
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  9. sara Moderator

    Case in point... here's Mouse coming up with weird stuff... and not when I want her to!

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  10. brody_smom Experienced Member

    And Oliver seems content to just stand there and be Mouse's prop! So cute!
    southerngirl likes this.
  11. sara Moderator

    Lol Ya, he's a good boy!
    brodys_mom likes this.
  12. emmanef Well-Known Member

    luckylego, my 2 cents...
    When a dog has a) been abused and b) trained with negative punishment, it is natural that she will not try to offer behaviours. This has been punished repeatedly in the past, so doing nothing or only on cue is the safest option for her. I don't know how long you have her, but I am sure as your relationship and trust builds, you will see improvement. Take it slow and don't worry about it.
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  13. luckylego Experienced Member

    Thanks guys :) I totally forgot to reply yet again, but I really appreciate all the insight! I've had her for about 10 months now, and while she's definitely done a 180 in terms of temperment, she still has her quirks (terrified of noises, ducks and runs at a pat on the bum, etc). Buut we've been working really hard on her and it seems to be paying off.. I've been taking it really slow with her free shaping, and while she still needs tons of encouragement she is definitely catching on. I've actually noticed that she's started to get more and more excited about our training sessions, and in some aspects she's even surpassing Lego with how fast she's picking things up! Today for the first time she started offering up a few tricks without being asked in order to get a treat - which she's never done, so I'm hoping that's a good sign and means she's starting to try and use her brain a little bit.. But either way, she's definitely making progress, and that's pretty darn exciting to see :love:
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  14. sara Moderator

    That's a fantastic sign! Once they start offering up tricks they are totally starting to get that you want them to think for themselves!
    southerngirl likes this.
  15. luckylego Experienced Member

    SUCCESS!!! Oh god am I ever excited.. We had a breakthrough!

    I decided to try introducing a new trick to the girls last night and Streets just blew me away. We started on "hide your face" by putting a piece of tape across her muzzle and clicking whenever she tried to get it off. This went on for about 5 minutes when I decided to see what she would do if I took it off. For about 2 minutes we just sat their staring at each other in our usual stalemate.. And then to my surprise she veerrryy slowly and cautiously placed her nose under her paw and looked up at me as if asking if she'd done it right. I pretty much exploded with excitement and gave her a handful of the most high value treats I had on me... Then I waited again.. This time within 15 seconds she'd done it again, and then again right after. The only problem is, once she's offered it a couple times, she stops and doesn't know what to do anymore.. But I'll take the progress we've made!

    Out of curiousity, when would you start to introduce the verbal cue with that trick anyways? I don't want to ruin my cue by introducing it too soon, but I think it might encourage her a bit more than by just waiting for her to offer the behaviour... Yes? Any tips?
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  16. srdogtrainer Experienced Member

    River has not done a lot of free shaping and tends to be better when I tell him what to do. I have been working on it a little and have tried simple behaviors using an object. He has gotten it a little but when he does it right a few times in a row he thinks he should try harder and ends up doing more then he needs to. The other problem I have is when I try to train in the living room with a specific object and he gets bored with it he goes over and starts playing with the TV, changing the volume, channel or just turning it off and on. He has gotten the idea that if I sit down holding a clicker and treats he should start offering behaviors except he goes through his extensive list of tricks and doesn't generally come up with anything new.
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  17. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Brody and I are doing a lot more shaping than luring these days. It does take a bit more work and creativity on my part, and I find myself adjusting on the fly when he just isn't getting what I want from him. Sometimes it means moving out of a room where there are too many distractions. Or putting things out of reach, especially if they are props I have used before. Susan Garrett told me if he was getting distracted, then I wasn't reinforcing often enough. She said to reinforce him for sitting still or standing, basically anything EXCEPT the things I didn't want him to do, in Brody's case, biting or pawing at the prop.

    My challenge has become figuring out how to cue the behaviour once I have gotten him to offer it successfully on several different sessions. I have made the mistake in the past of giving a hand or verbal cue too soon, so I have been forcing myself to wait. I recently shaped him into the elephant walk trick, and had started saying "elephant" very slowly while he was doing his rotation. Then I decided to get him going in the other direction. This was harder than I expected, but, once he got it, then he wouldn't go back the other way anymore. The next session, I couldn't get a complete rotation in either direction, and I didn't know how to tell him which way I wanted him to go. Poor boy, he would take three steps to the right, then to the left, then to the right....

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