For example: Shaping a dog to hold their muzzle to a post it note on the wall. Of course, you can hold the post it note in your hand and get the nose touch first and then move it to the wall, you can lure the dog to touch the target on the wall and then delay click to get duration, etc. etc. But what fun it was for me to try pure shaping as just an exercise to improve my training skills and my dog's. It really puts your timing and observation skills to the test! So, I put the post it note on the closet door in the office when the dogs were not in the room to see me do it. Then got my dog, treats, clicker, sat in a chair nearby...and just let the fun begin! Clicking initially for any movement or look in the direction of the post it note on the door, it really didn't take long to build that behavior. Watching them work to figure it out was just too much fun and each one was so different.
I've tried this exercise with all three of my dogs and was quite surprised at how things went. I expected Izzie, the Aussie pup, to figure it out the fastest and she actually took the longest. She couldn't just touch it with her nose, she had to paw swipe at the same time. Over-achiever! So I had inadvertently clicked the paw swipe. But once we got past that, she figured it out quickly. She was also the first doggie guinea pig to try this exercise and I got better at what I was doing with the next dogs.
Xera, the 2 yr. old German Shepherd surprised me, as well. I haven't done all of the foundation work and trick training with Xera that I've done with Izzie. There were more important fish to fry for Xera (namely: very serious reactivity to both dogs and people). I honestly thought she might try sit and stare, lie down and stare, but to my amazement, she threw so much behavior at me that I really wanted to abandon the whole "target the post it note" idea and go with some of the other stuff she offered. Plop onto her side (going to name that "Chill"), prancing paw lifts ("March"), very dramatic head turns back and forth ("Do you like spinach?"), spins, leaps, etc. She was cracking me up! She figured it out much faster than I thought.
But the highlight of this little shaping adventure was my senior citizen Border Collie mix, Skippy. He blew them all away with how few clicks it took him to figure it out! Granted, he has had more training experience than the youngsters. However we really haven't done much free shaping. Most of his shaping experience has involved interacting with an object that I put down in front of him. So I clicked his first step in the direction of the door which got a spin in that direction. Then his head turned in that direction and then he went straight for it. Three clicks to touch it and a few more to get him to hold his muzzle there. And what joy he had while doing it! So besides Rally and Nosework, I have another activity to keep the old retired agility dog working in his golden years!
I think I'm now a shaping junkie! Thanks, Sue Ailsby! Tomorrow maybe I'll see how many clicks it takes to get all three dogs to go sit in the corner and call it "Who's a naughty dog??" LOL!!