Beginning Clicker Training with Koda.
I don’t generally do much real shaping with young puppies as there’s so much else to teach them. But Koda had had surgery and was left with stitches in his gums, so we weren’t allowed to play. He wasn’t allowed to chew anything hard; I had to be careful that his stitches didn’t get tangled up with fibres from fleece type toys. He also desperately needed occupation and so we started shaping.
I thought it might be fun to get some photos of Koda doing the beginning stages of perch work. I use perches to teach dogs how to use their rears. Once the dog understands the concept of standing still with his front paws on something, it’s fairly easy to teach them to move around to either side using their back legs only as their front paws remain in place on the perch. You can then introduce items for them to step over with their rear paws, which really makes them aware of and use those back legs and paws, whilst also honing their balance.
The aim of this shaping session was three-fold. 1) To continue Koda’s education in offering behaviour. 2) To get him thinking, what can I do to make her reward me? What is it that will be rewarded today? 3) I also wanted to expand his horizons a little because up until now he’d been rewarded for static positions in front of me, offering interaction with an object away from me was new. The objective of the shaping was to have him standing with his two front paws on a box with no luring or holding in position.
Some of the photos aren't very clear, as he moves SO quickly and digital cameras all have this time lag between pressing the button and taking the picture - much like clickers really! Anyway, my husband Geoff who took the photos, in fact would make a very good clicker trainer, as his timing is very good! I need to buy myself a faster camera........
So, begin by shaping a paw on. This is done in tiny pieces, reward any glance in the right direction, be careful to reward whilst the puppy is facing away. Next reward a step in the right direction, again being careful to reward in the direction that you want the dog to go. Soon the puppy is at the box, now reward any slight movement of paws and soon you have:-
Reward off to one side. This means that Koda will have to leave the box to take his reward and then approach the box again for the next reward. This gives him an opportunity to really explore what's being rewarded:-
Koda started playing with the parameters for reward almost immediately here he's pawing and nose touching:-
Here he pounced but missed……..this one didn’t get rewarded as the criterion is paw ON, not paw by the side!
Here he's touching nicely again:-
Next he decided that PLAY was more fun!
But soon got back to working again:-
We had a little chewing:-
But overall he had the idea.
The next stage was to reward in place to stick Koda to the box:-
It didn’t really matter if Koda moved after he’d been rewarded, but it was very important to reward him whilst he still had a paw on the box. To do this it really is essential to have the mechanics of clicking and rewarding down pat as you have to move fast. I practised without Koda in the picture where I was going to be, which hand the clicker was in and how to present the rewards. The next thing to ensure is that the hand presenting the reward doesn’t move until after the click has sounded, the clicker can in that case become meaningless as the hand movement will predict the reward. If Koda got off after his treat, that was fine, as he had to get back on for his next one. Eventually response cost will tell him there’s not much point moving, when all the rewards arrive whilst your foot is on the box. There were several approaches until finally he stayed put:-
Next on the agenda was to raise my criterion to include the second paw and this is where the dog’s control of his body comes in - which Koda hasn't got. He's growing SO fast! This took several attempts for him to succeed at and is the main reason why I like to fully shape any activities to do with control of the dog’s body. There’s no pressure, no luring or prompting or urging. The dog is simply rewarded for what he’s capable of offering at the time. If he were really unable to maintain his balance, I’d stop and make a note of where to start next time.
It took him a while to work out how to keep both his front paws on the box.
Now remembering that Koda was only 13 weeks old when these pictures were taken, this was MORE than enough. Here is where the session should have finished, but Geoff doesn’t have much spare time and I wanted the photos so I pushed my luck.
This was the first time he sat down:-
Now he's really bushed!
Now we're tired and bored and don't want treats anymore.
This is VERY clear Beardie communication! Poor baby!
So I sweet talked him a little:-
I also dropped criterion immediately:-
And soon we had:-
Very soon after:-
And then he slept like an angel!
And that’s how Koda learnt to stand with two front paws on a box!
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