I'm getting ready to teach a tricks class* and started thinking about how I can introduce people to free shaping. I am sure that many people have heard of "the box game" and that many have given up. Free shaping is hard! The dogs who have been so used to getting lured for everything will just sit and stare. People are told to not say anything, don't move a muscle, and just wait. And so they do, and so the dogs stare while the drool starts coming down. Eventually either the dog or person gives up and they think that clicker training isn't for them. But I don't think it has to be this way!
Back to the box game, the original game is called 101 Things To Do With A Box and it's a creativity game invented by Karen Pryor. The dog is clicked for any NEW behavior he offers. So a paw touch might be clicked once, but a nudge of the nose the 2nd time, then climbing inside it, etc. I have never played that version. I think it's a great idea but I personally want the dog learning that a click means they are on the right track. I don't want them learning a click means to not do that again! I know an advanced dog CAN learn the difference between a traditional shaping session and the 101 Box game but I can see a new dog and person quickly give up.
The version that I recommend is clicking any interaction with the object. The 3rd or 4th time you play you can start to narrow down your criteria and actually work towards a specific goal. But the first few times I just want the dog to know that it is his job to interact with whatever I put on the floor. If I'm working with a person who has tried to play the game before and failed, I won't even use a box. They see the box as boring. Instead I'll put down a block to start pivoting skills, a small basket that the dog will eventually learn to jump in, or even a skateboard (rigged so it can't move on the dog). I will put down any object other than a box to try and get a fresh start.
I then have the person MOVE and TALK! While eventually I want the team to be able to sit quietly and let the dog think, I also want want both dog and person to be successful and have fun. They know how to lure, so let them do it for a little bit. Put the object against a wall and stand so the dog has no choice but to step on it or sniff it. Yeah he might delicately stretch his feet over it in the beginning so not one paw touches it, but still click the proximity to the object! Feed ON the object so that the block/skateboard/whatever seems to grow the treats. Treats don't come from you, they magically appear on the object! Is the dog still standing on it (eating it's treat perhaps)? Then click and drop another one on it!
When the dog starts to think that the magic object gets him the treats, then CHUCK the treat down the hallway. Dogs love thrown treats so it makes it fun, plus it resets the behavior without the person having to move. If the dog doesn't come right back to step on the magical treat growing object, then by all means move around the object to get his attention. And if you have to, sure go ahead and lure them up on it. But keep tossing those treats and gradually start moving away from the object. I don't find that it is long before I can get rid of that lure and have the dog offering interacting with the object. Remember to quit after a pretty short time those first few sessions so that the dog is left wanting to work. If you get stuck, try picking up the object, moving a few steps, and then putting it back down. Most dogs will reinvestigate the object so click right away and then end shortly after.
The beginner dog and person should go through the above for a few more sessions. The point is not to get the standing silently and waiting from the get go, but to teach the dog to interact with objects and the student how to click the little steps. When the dog is happily running over without any lure or movement from the person, then start the free shaping. Start defining the tricks and decide the tricks that you want to teach.
To summerize here is my advice for new shapers:
- Go ahead, move and lure in the beginning
- Throw the treat. Makes it fun and resets the dog. THROW IT!
- Do it in a hallway. This way if he gets stuck and you toss that treat, you can now re click the dog for running back towards the object (even if he was just trying to get to you)
- Drop the treat on the object in the beginning stages. Make the object magical!
- Pick it up, move a few steps, put it back down.
- Be prepared to start the training session as soon as you put that object down. Most dogs will go sniff the object right away, all dogs will at least look at it. If you aren't ready, you miss these first valuable clicks!
It may not be the conventional way to teaching shaping but I have had success with these methods. If I can prevent the dog and the person from giving up in those initial sessions then it is easier to start real free shaping.
Does anybody have any other tips in either getting the dog to start interacting with an object or to help the person learn the skills?
*I got roped into teaching classes at TCOTC. It's been a while since I've taught a class so I'm a bit nervous. Will be starting the end of January with this tricks class and a competition obedience class (all current students are at the novice level). They're desperate for instructors :)
Same video as in Lance's, just posted again :)
Vito's first experience in a trial was doing APDT in August. I was extremely proud of how focused he was and he quickly got his RL1 and his first leg in level 2. He has done two days of AKC rally starting in September and it won't be long before he gets his RN.
Vito's debut was the toller specialty. I wasn't planning on showing him yet but decided I had to since the specialty was here in Minnesota! I am glad I did as while he had some baby dog moments Vito has done extremely well in every trial and earned his CD this year. I am debating about what to do with him next but don't plan on doing Open for awhile yet.
Vito hasn't been in a regular obedience class yet this year except for a handful of drop in classes. My goal for next year is to find him one! This year 90% of our work was on heeling. The other time was spent on trying to get rid of him stepping on my foot for the left finish and on the front. I mostly succeeded on the finish but we are still struggling with the bounce off me on fronts when he is coming from a distance. Another issues I will tackle next year are halts- not bumping into me.
Vito currently has a decent start to all of the open and utility exercises. Retrieves need work on a straighter closer front but so far he has no problem with knowing to take the jump both directions from extreme angles. Broad jump I have gotten rid of the target but are still tossing a treat as he jumps. The drop on recall has been recently started and I am still using both verbal and hand signal to down him.
He has good signals and strong scent work. Vito still needs work on building distance for his go out, and has not seen directed jumping yet. Pivoting and marking is still done with targets, I have not added in the actual gloves yet.
Vito had his first experience in a trial in May doing tunnelers and jumpers. But I knew we weren't really ready so I consider his first real trial to be in July. He bounced a lot more than he ran for his first several trials and just now do I feel he is truly starting to get it and run. He did mainly CPE and managed to qualify for CPE nationals next year held here in Minnesota by finishing up his level 2 titles.
We struggled a ton with his running contacts, with a meltdown occurring in February. It got better and then we had another one in June. Fixed the last one with the toy set out again really close to the end this time and was able to move it further away again until I could take it away. So far all but 2 of his dogwalks in a trial have been good although we don't always get the next obstacle unless it's a jump straightish ahead. We are still slowly working on turns and I'm afraid we will be forever training it as I don't get down to practice that much.
His teeter was changed from 4ft on to a 2o2o as he started to hesitate at the pivot point a little too much. Too kamikaze for a running teeter and then too uncertain about the criteria of just stopping on it! I am much happier with his teeter now! In his first few trials he would stop and sniff and then switch back and forth between 2o2o and 4on. He will occasionally still do that to me in a trial.
Also worked on the paw vs nose touch discrimination with Lance in January. I will never do that again! Other tricks learned this year were sidestepping on my right, sticky target, pray, limping, penguin (needs lots of help still), hug, ostrich (another work in progress), and jump through my arms. I also worked on the sidestepping stuff I did with Lance, but struggled a bit more with Vito in learning to walk perpendicular towards me and also with facing out and sidestepping.
In May I went to a introduction put on by the MN Disc Dog Club and was hooked. At that time Vito had little interest in his disc, only wanting his beloved tennis ball. I picked up all the toys outside so he had no other options and it wasn't long before Vito became just as obsessed about the disc as his ball. I created a monster! In toss and catch competitions we seemed to get worse every trial. Vito would be so frantic trying to get to it that he would jump too early and while he would always make contact with it, he would rarely catch it. Many times he will twist himself in weird contortions trying way too hard.
We did make progress at home with teaching a back stall, overs, flipping both directions, and sometimes a vault off my leg (with a grab to the still disc). Vito is also starting to be able to do his tricks when a disc is out such as backward circles and weaving.
Vito's separation anxiety issues have gotten worse. He is doing fabulous if crated at a trial with people around, and is even doing ok when at work with me. But he is doing a little bit of howling when left home alone for periods over an hour. When I analyze the video tape it doesn't look like he is that anxious but he won't eat any of his many bones and just howls. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to afford it next year, but if a miracle happens I want to take Vito in to see a specialist at the U of MN.
Goals for 2011:
Have a solid running dogwalk WITH turns!
Enter open obedience at our club's October trial.
Prepare a novice freestyle routine for disc.
A look back at Lance's accomplishments in 2010.
Did 1 last AKC rally trial to get his Rally Excellent title. Was introduced to APDT rally and entered both of the 2 trials offered this year. Lance got his RL1, RL2, and now needs one more leg in level 3.
Finally got his last 2 legs in Open to get his CDX title in May! I expect an ongoing battle with remaining down on the stays when we get back to open, but in the meantime we have been working hard on utility exercises. Lance did his first trial with Grad Open in December and will continue to work towards utility next year.
This year I switched the way I heeled with Lance by keeping my arms swinging instead of up at my waist. I also am continuing to work on forging issues and changed the way I reward Lance by having him go behind me to get a treat on my right. I have also been playing around with what to do when Lance forges on me and while I had a little bit of success by slowing down I have just started walking backwards as soon as he forges and am liking the results better.
Early in the year I also changed Lance's go out from working with a target to having him do a paw touch to the wall/gate. We babystepped distance and now Lance can do a full length go out but still needs practice on doing so with the jumps out. Lance also went from only doing 3 metal articles to now doing the full utility scent exercise.
Did his 3rd ever agility trial in January. Did mainly CPE and finished up all level 1 titles, level 2, and is halfway through level 3. Did a few one day NADAC trials to get his novice jumpers, tunnelers, and regular titles. In March I changed from a 2o2o on the dogwalk to 4 on the floor. He did great with it but has recently started taking extra strides before downing in trials. I have been proofing it a ton in class and have pulled him from doing the aframe and dogwalk in trials unless I can put him back over it (as in some CPE games, NADAC, and ASCA trials). Lance's stutter stepping has gotten worse and I have started doing more jump chutes with him. Of course I haven't found time to do enough of them to make any difference.
Lance learned to discriminate between a nose and a paw touch back in January although I haven't done it since and he likely can't do it any more! We also did a little bit of work with praying, limping on his other front foot, crossing his front legs the other direction, sticky target, moving backwards in a beg, jump through my arms, marching in heel position (need work!), and the past two months our focus has been on holding his paw on his nose.
I've also done quite a bit of work this year on sidestepping exercises. Lance learned how to pivot and sidestep on my right, to sidestep towards and away from me while perpendicular across my body, and to face out away from me and sidestep. Facing out is really hard for him but he is doing pretty well with it.
Lance started seeing a chiropractor in June when he started to run by the contact obstacles at trials. He now seems much much happier and continues to see the chiropractor every 1.5-2months because of his structure. He is also getting cuddlier as he gets older (a whopping 3.5yrs!) and it's not uncommon anymore to find him sitting next to me on the couch or even on my lap! Petting him doesn't even cause him to jump off anymore :)
Goals for 2011:
Enter utility by our club's October trial. In the meantime keep entering Grad Open when it is offered.
Fix his 4 on the floor at agility trials!
Do jump grids!
He likes to taunt Vito with it. It's pretty easy to do, anything possibly throwable or tuggable grabs Vito's attention. But often it backfires since as soon as Vito gets it he runs over to the couch where Chuckles can not go on.
After pouting for a bit Chuck will go and grab another toy to try and trade it for his favorite frog leg.
Oh my. Vito started out the day really well and then we seemed to get a little bit worse every run!
Fabulous job on the short little course. Vito actually placed 1st out of all 45 level 3/4/5/C dogs who ran it. Nice running aframe and good weaves
A little scream after I released him from his 2o2o on the teeter, 2nd obstacle :) Same set up as yesterday with the wrap to the dogwalk and this time a 180 left afterwards. I knew Vito wasn't ready for that turn again so I planned to drive him off the end again. He didn't read the wrap this time so we did it again after he took the tunnel. Today his dogwalk seemed really nice, he looked like he did a little stride adjustment on the middle board right before the descent. Yay!!! Good rest of the course including a rear cross into the weaves, and nice aframe.
Vito was a little nuts before we even went on the course, doing some screaming at me. The run didn't feel connected at all, but it doesn't look as horrible on film. Vito didn't collect at all for the 1st set of weave poles, looked at me instead and screamed. He self released from his teeter if he even stopped for any time at all. I screwed up trying to do a send to a double that I didn't walk so Vito went around it.
Did a different plan then I walked (I do that a lot to myself!). Vito's weaves were broken :( Took 3 attempts to get the entrance the first time, had to them again for the 2nd #7 and it was fine. But broken again on the closing. I also wanted to avoid doing the threadle in the closing so tried wrapping him around the other side of the jump. Vito went really wide and even went around the pole marking the start line. Teeter was good at least!
What a wreck! Vito self released on the start line and I was so stunned that I stupidly didn't have him sit right where he was. Then he misses a jump, blows past the weaves to sniff the number sign, totally ignores my cues to NOT go in the damn tunnel. Idiot :) He wasn't even acting super excited and zoomy, just stupid! What a way to end the trial.
Here's video from Friday's 2 runs and the first 3 runs of today. I was going to include snooker and colors but it got too long and I don't really need to remember them :P
Us agility folk are hardcore! Despite a gigantic blizzard with 17inches of snow falling throughout the day, most of us managed to make it to the CPE trial. It was canceled after the first two games when we heard the plows were being pulled. Took us about 2hrs to get everyone shoveled out and pushed out of the parking lot.
I had pulled Lance from standard and put him in fullhouse because of our contact issues. And thankfully there was an aframe in fullhouse today! I planned it for last and tested him by continuing to drive past the end and sure enough Lance came with me instead of downing. I gave a simple "ah ah" and put him back over it and then he was a good boy :P
I was very happy with Vito's fullhouse run! His aframes were quite lovely!
Standard I wasn't all that optimistic about since I knew he wasn't ready for the dogwalk sequence with his running contacts yet. We don't practice that many wraps to the dogwalk and then it was a hard right turn to the weave poles of all things. On the positive side there wasn't any looming off courses straight ahead, but there was also a wall pretty close. I decided I was going to accelerate to hopefully drive him off the end and not worry about making any turn off it, no big deal if we had to redo the weaves because he wasn't collected.
Well when we actually ran it I thought he jumped. Vito didn't do a clean wrap up the dogwalk, went pretty wide, and then didn't have his pretty footing on the run down. While putting the video in extreme slow mo I can see that his hind feet were separated so it wasn't a real jump and he did clearly get his back paw into the yellow. While it wasn't the performance I wanted I'm not upset with it. I know he needs a ton more work on turns and just isn't ready for this type of sequence in a trial yet. The rest of the run went fine and we qualified! It was our last Q needed to finish up level 2 and last thing Vito needed to finish up the qualification for nationals! Since this is our last CPE trial we are entered in before the deadline I am relieved. I wouldn't have been too disappointed if he hadn't made it, but it was a nice goal I had.
After the trial Vito wanted to snuggle in bed but Chuck loves the snow! Lance joined him, but seemed lost.
Busy weekend, obedience yesterday and agility today! There was an ASCA trial this weekend and since they take day of show entries I decided to head on down with the boys and train their contacts in a trial environment. I was a bit bummed the contacts weren't rubberized and the aframe was taller than Lance is used to.
I entered him in two rounds of open standard. The first course had the dogwalk in the beginning and the aframe at the end which was perfect for us! He is much more likely to do his 4 on the floor in a trial on the dogwalk and he did it perfectly in his first run today. Middle of the course goes smoothly, even does his very first set of 12 poles in a trial, and then we get to the aframe. He gets to the top, stops and stares at me. I repeat his command for floor, and Lance takes a few more steps down, slowly, looks at me again and then gets to the bottom and lies down immediately. I praise him and we do the last jump and run for our treats. While I'm not thrilled about the creeping, at least Lance was thinking instead of launching.
In the 2nd run the Aframe was the 4th obstacle so I planned on leaving the course after I was satisfied with Lance's performance, whether after the 1st attempt or several. His performance wasn't horrible. No hesitation at all on the aframe and he did down, but still took an extra stride on the ground than I would like. I put him back over and he did a perfect 4 on the floor so I praised him and left the course to give treats.
I thought it would be good for Vito to get some more dogwalk practice in a trial so entered him in two rounds of novice standard. Since I'm debating about whether to enter him at 16 or 20in at the NADAC trial in a few weeks I entered him at 20 today. We jump 20 in practice but since he has mainly done CPE shows he has only had to jump 16 in a trial setting.
He was crazy amped up for the first run, even screamed and stood before I got one foot away from him on the startline. I resat him and released him to the aframe as 2nd obstacle and dogwalk as 4th. Both were drop dead sexy! Acceleration with each stride on the dogwalk with foot placement all the way to the very bottom of the plank. The judge even made a Wow comment as we ran. Rest of the run was Vito's fastest running in a trial so far. He did knock 2 bars which I'm not thrilled about. Also hesitated on the teeter with only 1 foot on the ground so I waited until he got to his 2o2o position. Weave poles were good.
2nd run Vito wasn't as psycho and the dogwalk and aframe were right at the end. It was another gorgeous running contact which lead to an off course. I was totally expecting it though as there was the aframe/tunnel discrimination 1 jump after the dogwalk and the extension of running the dog walk put him right on the tunnel path and I didn't pull him off it. Teeter and weaves were good.
The little guy pulled it off!
After his stressed performance in the last trial I wasn't sure how Vito would do in this new place but he did awesome!
Heel on Leash/ Figure 8- 4pts off, mainly for sits
Great attention and he really worked had on holding heel position. I felt like I was being run into the walls for the about turns, but I think Vito was fine with it. No sit on the last halt.
I was happy with the figure 8, we have been working hard on having him drive through the outside turn and Vito did today! The last halt would have been a no sit but the judge waited awhile and he finally did.
Stand for Exam- 0pts off
I thought Vito moved a foot as the judge went over but she didn't take any points off and the video was blocked at that point. Oh well!
Heel Free- 2.5pts off
Vito seemed a bit laggy at the start, the turn and slow time got him in a better position but he was distracted by the warm up ring on the slow. The about turn seemed to recharge him though and I felt like we were really connected after that. But again the 2nd sit would have been non existent if the judge hadn't waited.
Recall- 0 pts off!
He was distracted by the other ring at the start so I had to tell the judge we weren't ready. The way he came bouncing in I thought for sure Vito was going to step on my foot, but instead he bounced to a halt and had a beautiful straight front!
We got our title with a 193.5!!! I don't know where all the no sits came from and noticed that they were on the 2nd halt in each exercise. I actually find it extra odd since I taught Vito to heel by working on the SIT with lots of pivoting, side stepping, 1 steps at a young age. I think my next dog I won't have the sit be introduced right from the get go, but it is what I did with Vito.
I'm not sure what I want to do with Vito now in terms of trialing. I know that I don't want to put him in open yet as while he can do all the exercises, just work on introducing the drop on recall the way the exercise actually goes, I want to make sure that he has an insanely solid out of sight stay. I am being extra cautious after the mess I had with Lance stressing in the ring. My dilemma is more if I want to keep trialing him in novice, try graduate novice (I don't think it's that great of a stepping stone), or take a break from trials.
We made it through!
I believe this was the least amount of forging the corgi has done in a trial! We lost points for forging and then our front and finish. I was planning to use both verbals and hand signals on the signal exercise but in the moment just used his signals and he did great! He didn't move forward at all when I left him, just adjusted his front feet. He also didn't move any feet on the sit! I would prefer that Lance move his front feet back instead of his back feet forward, but since Lance much prefers this way my rule is his front feet have to be still and they were today!
Handler gets to choose which one and I chose leather as Lance is the most confident on it. He picked up the right one immediately, excitedly turned to bring it and then dropped it. Adam thinks he dropped it when a dog barked, I have no idea. He then looked at me, wandered over to the judge, found the right one again, looked at me, sniffed the rest, and finally brought back the right one. Technically I should have been NQed on this exercise as the last time Lance looked at me I waited a tiny bit and then moved my head up. I don't know if the judge noticed it or if he was just being generous on my green dog. We just lost 1pt for the drop and 1/2pt for the front.
Lost a 1/2pt on the pivot sit as Lance over roatated. He veered off at the wrong angle but then saw the glove and happily bounced to it. I saw him eye the jump on his way back with the glove but then made a good choice not to take it! I know Lance still has lots of questions on how this exercise goes!
Big forging! But instant stay and I will overlook the sniff to the ground. I forgot that I bring my hand up to my waist as I turned to face him (I've been told it is legal but to be prepared to lose some points by some uneducated judges) but it didn't phase Lance.
Before the judging started Lance needed a 2nd signal to lock onto the go out spot, but then almost held it until I sent him. Still need to work on duration with this. On the actual send he sprinted off to the corner where he retrieved the glove, very certain he was right. Lance even tried to do his touch to the gate, and I wanted him to touch the first few shows, but we didn't lose any points as his paw actually went through the hole :) We usually practice on solid walls and solid ring barriers so I am very happy that he drove out (although in the wrong direction) and still performed his touch! I am also proud that he didn't think about arching back to take the jumps like he has tried in his 2 run throughs.
Good boy! Lost 1/2pt on the front.
Q, 191.5. I am so happy with where we are at in our training. I know we are not yet ready for utility but this was a great class to get him used to the exercises.
Work to do before we are ready for utility:
- Practice everything with the jumps set out so he knows that he does not need to take them on gloves and go outs
- Work on doing the go out right after we did gloves and teach him the difference!
- Go outs in many more places with confidence in being sent from a full ring distance
- Holding his mark on the go out until released
- Confidence on scent articles. Also work on spreading them far apart as when he does get nervous and drop one, it is often carried a few steps out of the pile and he has a hard time refinding it.
1. Tricks- I taught both dogs to jump through my arms. Lance actually seems to really like this one, after he got over the initial avoidance issue he always has with tricks involving me. Of course it's not all that impressive at corgi height but still :) Vito finally got over trying to pray on my arms and now happily jumps through.
But that trick didn't take very long at all so I then moved on to tying to fix their paw over nose trick. I feel like I made zero progress as all 3 still suck at it. I did communicate I wanted duration to Lance, but it lost the paw on nose part and is more of holding paw in air in a prolonged wave. Vito's action turned into more of an ostrich movement of sticking his head in his armpit. And the little I did with Chuck turned into stomp feet on the ground! Clearly this trick is not my strength!
With Chuck I worked a very tiny bit on baking up away from me without any forward movement on my part. I also worked a tiny bit on crossing his paws with the use of a target still.
2. Go Outs- I didn't do as much as I wanted with him in new places. Only work done was Lance doing very miniature go outs at the horse barn during an agility trial. We did do our 1st run through though!
3. Heeling- I've done quite a bit of heeling with Vito this past month but no more than usual with Lance. I have no grasp on if either are doing any better or not. I guess we'll find out next weekend at the trial!
4. Fronts and finishes- crap. Did practically zero work on it.
5. Disc- Another failure. Nothing done that I can remember.
1. Run throughs!- Get off my butt and take Lance and Vito to more run throughs. At the very least get them out to a petstore or somewhere to practice with distractions.
2. Lance's agility contacts- Work on insane proofing in class with him holding his 4 on the floor position. See if I can get him to other locations to practice.
3. Drop on Recall- Start to work this concept with Vito. He already has a great moving down while heeling, good downs at a distance, and a good wait while running towards me. Now to combine!
4. Out of Sight stays- Maybe go back to the random stays I was doing for Lance last January and work more with Vito. Or maybe just work on simple time out of sight. Oddly while Vito does have separation anxiety, I am not worried about his long out of sight stays in open. I know he needs more work on time, but I'm just not worried about him. Of course now I probably jinxed myself!
5. Tricks- I will try one more month to get a good paw over the nose.
|Must pet the kitty!|
The work has begun! I hope to be able to get Lance to new places to work him nailing his 4 on the floor criteria but I am not sure how likely that will be. So while waiting for run throughs here are the proofs I have done, mainly on the aframe and some on the dogwalk.
- Running past
- Stopping early before the end
- front cross, rear cross, blind cross
- Recall over while I stand far beyond
- Hovering over
- Target just beyond reach of position
- Treats just beyond reach
- Food bowl with treats just beyond reach
- Thrown treat: Gotcha! Only once though, 2nd attempt was great
- Thrown bully stick
- Someone else holding out food: Gotcha! I had Adam hold out food and he went for it the first time. All repeated attempts were great.
- Someone else rolling food.
So far he is doing awesome and nailing his down at the end. He is very tempted but being a good little boy.
I only got him with two of the tests, a rolled treat and Daddy holding out food. On our reattempts he passed the tests with flying colors. On the positive side this means Lance is really understanding his job. On the negative side, I really wish Lance would fail more so I can work on the issue and punish the wrong response (in terms of decreasing the behavior of extra strides before downing, not by using force) instead of just reinforcing the right response. I don't want it to become like our stay issue, zero breaking in class but failing almost all the time when competing. If we hadn't have this issues already crop up in competition then I would take a different perspective. Generally when I am proofing something my goal is to really make them work hard, but not have them fail. I want the dog to make that tough decision to perform that behavior and mark the instant they seem to have made the choice.
Does anyone have any other distractions we can work on? Lance doesn't care for toys or I would have done everything with toys and food.