Shaping is my favorite training tool. Shaping is just like playing a hot and cold game with your dog. Except that in this hot and cold game, we only tell the dog that they are getting warmer in the form of a click.
In this video I am working with Gin on putting away her toys. This is not the first session we've had with this skill and this skill is not yet on stimulus control (fancy name for "on cue"). We are still building this behavior, this means that she still needs help and is not getting it exactly right yet.
In shaping, the way that we help the dog to guess the correct behavior is by first creating an environment where 90% of her guesses are going to be correct and second, rewarding her for getting closer and closer to the final behavior. In this video I am first rewarding her for any engagement with the toy. Then I reward her for putting the toy in her mouth. Next I reward her for taking the toy towards the mat, and finally for placing the toy on the mat.
I am also helping her by positioning myself in the direction I want her to go. I position my body towards the toy, once she picks it up, I position my body towards the mat. I never look in her eyes. I have trained my dog to give me eye contact when I look at her and this is not the time to have her stare at me. Now I want her to pay more attention to the environment and less attention on me.
Keep in mind, that some dogs need more steps and others need less. All dogs learn faster if you reward them more often and break your shaping criteria into smaller pieces. This behavior will be complete when I fade out the mat, eventually I want her to put her toys in a box or basket. I also have to fade myself out of the behavior.
I love teaching shaping skills. I think they are really fun, for people and for dogs. Shaping is a great way to teach fun tricks and more complicated behaviors and they tire dogs out with all the thinking involved.