Shaping a behavior

Shaping a behavior scientifically means

“Systematically reinforcing each successive step to move an individual closer to the desired behaviors.”

Or in other words it is reinforcing small approximations or steps until you have the desired behavior you want. I like shaping behaviors because it is what separates the trainers from each other. In training I believe animals should learn all their behaviors by thinking fir themselves and then doing. It is incredible to see a dog thinking about a behavior and emitting what you want. You both feel accomplished! Now this doesn’t just happen it takes time .

Starting new behaviors with a dog is such a bonding experience. If you wanted to train a “jump” behavior. You need to shape the behavior to your criteria ( goal ie. specific height or style).

So to start don’t expect your dog just to jump over a stick especially if your breed is not a jumping breed of dog. So start shaping! Place the stick on the floor and call your dog, when they walk over the stick reinforce that behavior. Now lift the stick just a little and ask jump again. If your dog goes over the stick reinforce again. You are now shaping the jump behavior adding height and style. Remember that training is addictive ( especially if you are getting results) so be reasonable with your dog and don’t push your trains. It is better to do multiple little trains then long trains that could discourage your dog if you hit a wall. This is where the saying ” ignore undesired behaviors” comes in.

The way you shape a behavior will show in your dog. So work slowly, know what you want the behavior to look like and train it.

Happy Training


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