Have you ever played the game hotter and colder? If so, that is exactly what the next Dog Training Ecourse method is like. Free Shaping with a clicker is when a dog learns via the handler controlling the environment and position in which the reward is offered. Once you grasp the concept, free shaping is a blast to use and a great challenge for both you and your pet. In my opinion, this is the ideal way to train, but not all my clients can master the timing that is required to click and treat.
To explain this method, myself Ryan Matthews well know as the Best Dog Trainer gives you an example of teaching the dog to step onto the scale at your local veterinarian office. Most vet clinics will be more than happy to allow you to use this technique and will respect your commitment to your dog and your training. Just give them a heads up so you don’t interfere with any scheduled appointments. To teach your canine to go on the scale without hassle in the future, start with a clicker in hand and treats in a pouch, along with the dog on a leash. Don’t pull the dog towards where you want it to go, but use the free shaping method by waiting until it gets closer to the desired location.
To achieve the desired outcome, use the least amount of effort possible. With that being said, pay close attention to any movement your dog makes. Look in the direction of the scale and as soon as the canine shows progression toward the scale, click and reward. Do not use a cue (command) yet. Pay close attention to not provide too much (if any) verbal encouragement as it will only confuse the dog. Keep in mind that the position of where the reward is given is 50% of the success of this method. Dogs will usually be interested in sniffing the scale because other dogs have been on it. Use this to your advantage and as soon as the dog begins to sniff or wants to walk towards the scale, click and reward by holding the treat over the scale, continuing to click and treat. Since a vet clinic can be an extremely distracting environment, use a high-value reward. Essentially, if your pet isn’t overly food motivated, you’ll need to use something other than their kibble food.
Here are a couple more examples on how to position the reward: when teaching the trick of “spinning in circles,” wait until the pet’s muzzle is facing in the direction in which you want them to spin, then put the reward in the position where you want them to be at next. Or, in the instance of teaching the dog to “stand,” you wouldn’t want to give the reward too low or too high. It should be given about three inches from the dog’s muzzle and at eye level.
Anticipate any distracting environments by thinking ahead and bringing high value treats in overly stimulating places. Speaking of distractions, at times you will inevitably get frustrated with your canine. In those moments, I recommend to stop training and take a little break. However, if this is your only chance to train for that day, try changing up the environment. This can be as simple as going to another room or just taking a few steps, getting the dog back into a rhythm of movement. Another option is to use a different positive reinforcement method called Luring.
Positive reinforcement free shaping is hands down the best way to train a dog. It is, however, the most time-consuming. Unfortunately, due to the time commitment, most of my clients prefer not to use the form of training. Myself Ryan Matthews, what I find most intriguing about free shaping is the dog’s ability to offer behaviors and try and figure out what it is you are wanting him to do. It is really pretty amazing at how intently a dog will try and please. Now if we could only get our significant others thinking the same way, then we will really be winning in life!