Three New Training Techniques: Using Shaping and Luring to Teach a Bow

Riley relaxing on the floorIn class on Saturday we learned about three different training methods — Free Shaping, Free Shaping with Prompts and Luring — and practiced applying them.

Each of these techniques is fairly different.

Free shaping involves offering a dog NO prompts — no indication what you want what-so-ever — and when they make even the smallest move in the right direction you mark it (with a clicker or marker word) and reward, gradually getting them closer and closer to the final skill.

Free shaping with prompt means marking movement in the right direction, but you’re allowed to give hints, verbally or with your body, to help them understand what action you’d like them to take.

Luring involves using a treat or other object to get them into the position you’d like them to take, then marking and rewarding.

Suzie then gave us some homework: use these training methods to teach our pups one new skill this week. It could be any trick we’d like, but she wanted us to use these methods so that when we came in the following week we could explain our process.

Choosing A Replacement Behavior to Teach Using Free Shaping, Prompts and Luring

During that same class Suzie and I had been discussing ways to teach Riley not to bark when she’s excited. One of the ways that can be done is by teaching her a replacement behavior — something to do instead.

After some thought, I suggested I try to teach her to bow, lowering the front of her body and keeping her hind end in the air. The idea is that normally she barks because she wants to play and that movement is something that should, instinctually, make sense for her in the circumstance (hopefully making it an easy replacement). It should also be something other dogs understand AND is something most people know and understand.

It’s also very different than having a 70 pound german shepherd barking and jumping at you, which even the bravest soul might find a tad intimidating.

What We’re Working On This Week: Bows, Downs and Recalls

dog play bows

A dog from flickr demonstrating a very pretty play bow.

I began training the bow yesterday, using mostly luring to get her into the position. She already knows the down command and has always done a “sphinx down” so I’m using a similar hand command to what I use when asking for a down and then click and reward before her bottom hits the ground.

After a few repetitions of this she is sometimes still going into a full down and sometimes she’ll stop at a bow. I plan to keep working at it every day this week so that by Saturday she’ll have it down pat. We’ll have to intermingle some down commands so she learns it’s not a replacement for that, which I expect to be a challenge.

We’ll also continue working on her recall command this week. I want that to be her strongest command by far since I want to be able to work her in a dog sport (which one is yet to be determined). I read somewhere online (the source escapes me) that you should do 50 recalls a day with your dog if you want to build a truly solid recall command. I don’t know that we’re hitting 50 right now, but 2 rounds of fetch probably gets us up to at least 30.

What are you working on with your dog this week? Are you teaching a new trick or trying to improve an old one? Tell me in the comments! 

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  1. A Dog, A Box and Learning to Think | Teaching Riley - [...] class went great — although we didn’t wind up demonstrating our bow technique. It was a really full class …
  2. The Next Step In Training: TBD | Teaching Riley - [...] (Sunday) we did some free shaping with a target. I think she’s right on the verge of understanding what …

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