Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behavior 101: Shaping vs. training, Part II

When we start looking at training as shaping our dog's behavior, it then makes sense to conclude that this shaping can happen at any time, regardless of whether we're actively trying to train a command.
As an example, when my dog was a puppy, I thought that there was nothing cuter in the world than when he laid down with his legs stretched out behind him in what many call the "frog-dog."
Sensi "frog dog" at 3 months old
Whenever he did this, myself and just about any human around noticed it. The action of frog-dog earned my dog attention, and positive attention at that. It drew humans to him, earned him pats and affection and sometimes, even treats.
Now 9-years-old (but with great hips; dogs with bad hips can't do frog-dog), he employs frog-dog whenever he really wants attention. Whether I've just walked in the door from work or he wants outside and we're not paying attention to him, he'll give frog-dog a try to see if it gets our attention. Because usually, it does, right?
We have unintentionally shaped that behavior.
Of course, timing is everything. Let's say that as puppy, instead of giving praise to frog dog right when he went into the position, I didn't notice until he started stretching his front paws forward in an army crawl type move.
The timing didn't teach him that just frog dog was a rewardable behavior, but that frog dog followed by army crawl is the rewardable behavior.
So he does it a second time and we reward him a second time, but what we think we're rewarding (frog-dog) is not what he thinks we're rewarding (frog-dog followed by army-crawl).
And if that was the case, I'd have a 9-year-old frog-dog-army-crawling pit bull rather than a just a frog-dogger.
So, keep these two things in mind — 1) Behavior can be shaped by your response to any behavior at any given time, and 2) Your success in shaping any behavior comes down to the timing of your response in relation to the behavior taking place.

1 comment:

  1. Training dogs are really hard. Thats why I just like spoiling them with these designer dog collars