The Four DogSmith Learning Games

Our four learning games:

  1. Shaping
  2. Prompting
  3. Capturing
  4. Observational Learning

So how do each of these learning games work using a ‘clicker’?

Shaping – Shaping is the process of training your dog by rewarding a very small part of the end behavior. Gradually, over time, you will require more of the behavior from your dog until you have ‘shaped’ the goal behavior. For example, if you want your dog to wave, start by ‘clicking’ and rewarding your dog for shifting her weight off her left paw. Next, you ‘click’ and reward the dog for lifting the left paw. Next, you require that your dog lift her paw two inches. Finally you only ‘click’ and reward if the dog has lifted her paw to eye level. At this point, you add the cue ‘wave.’

Prompting– Prompting is the process of training your dog by using some sort of physical prop to get the goal behavior. You will be using your hand target, a stick, and other objects to help create the goal behaviors. For example, to teach your dog to spin in a circle you can first teach her to touch her nose to the end of a stick. You can then simply use this stick to teach her to spin by slowly moving the stick in a circular motion. Your dog will want to follow the stick in order to touch her nose to it and receive her reward and you will have gotten the ‘spin’ that you wanted. Once you have the entire spin, add your cue. Gradually fade the stick by shortening it and then only using your hand. Eventually you can fade your hand movement and only use the verbal cue.

learninggamesCapturing– Capturing is the easiest of these three methods. It only requires good observational skills and sharp timing. Capturing is simply clicking and rewarding your dog for a behavior that she frequently engages in. In order to capture a behavior you must be able ‘click’ and reward it several times a day or ideally within the same training session. Avoid attempting to capture behaviors that only occur on an infrequent basis.  That is likely to be a very lengthy process.

Observational Learning– Observational Learning is the process of one being observing another and then imitating the behavior to gain access to a reward. Dogs can learn from humans via observational learning if a human touches a target, a dog that has a history of training, will likely also touch that target. Likewise dogs will mimic the same body part so if you touch the target with your hand they likely use their paw. If you touch the target with your nose they will likely touch the target with their nose too.

Have fun with your dog, training is both mentally and physically stimulating for dogs and their owners. Just a few minutes each day will keep you both on track to having a wonderful and loving relationship.