Now that we have introduced shaping and talked about how to shape new behaviors in our animals, we are going to spend some time on WHY Beyond the Dog focuses on shaping appropriate behaviors.
Shaping uses positive reinforcement – rewarding the behaviors we want to see. These behaviors are more likely to occur if they are reinforced. More importantly, shaping using positive reinforcement teaches the dog what we WANT it to do, rather than what we don’t.
By rewarding your dog for the things you want to see, you are able to associate yourself with all of the awesome things your dog loves, like food, rather than be associated with punishers. This helps build a stronger bond between you and your dog. Training can then be a fun experience for both parties.
Shaping behaviors in this way prevents coercion through use of restraints and other unethical techniques. These techniques may produce behavior change quickly, but often what happens is a breakdown in the behavior when those techniques are no longer used or the animal begins to engage in fear based responding. By pairing yourself with positive reinforcers you avoid all of these problems, remain a positive stimulus in your dog’s life, and can continue to bond with your dog.
With shaping, you are able to teach skills that your animal currently cannot do. The use of successive approximations, or targets that get closer and closer to the target behavior, allow trainers to teach behaviors that the animal is unlikely to ever do on its own. Even better, you teach the animal to do these things on its own, rather than physically manipulating the animal or punishing it for non-compliance when non-compliance may simply be due to the dog not understanding what is expected of it.
We would love to see what kinds of behaviors you shape with your animals! Let us know on Facebook. We would love to see what creative ideas you come up with!