A Shaping Game: A Teaching Exercise for Dog Instructors

Discussion in 'Dog Training: Principle and Practice' started by Michael A Brooks, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I recently discovered an interesting website in which a shaping exercise is performed by two humans: one acts a teacher, the other a student.

    https://behaviorexplorer.com/articl...EjwNJDfdSbChJIV-chPiTXrpoIW01-IrXlyx2jF-m-pcw

    My thoughts after watching the video therein, is that the shaping game would constitute an interesting and valuable exercise for fledgling dog handlers to undertake. In doing so, the dog handlers would obtain experiential knowledge of some of the principles of shaping--the need to have a training plan; the flexibility to change the plan; timing of the conditioned reinforcer, and successive approximation. And thereby become better dog trainers.

    One of the observations spelt out in the video caught my eye. If you watch the video the teacher begins the shaping with an upturned toy car--we humans apparently like to put the car the right side up. Accordingly, a key question for dog trainers in devising a training plan is how to structure the exercise so that the dog is naturally inclined to achieve success in any given approximations of the desired bahaviour.

    I can see how that important insight is at work when first teaching targeting--one's hand is brought from behind one's back and the dog looks at the movement. Bingo. Conditioned reinforcer for looking at the object. And many other training plans such as the initial steps of clicker retrieve, and recall.
     
  2. pippa@labforumHQ

    pippa@labforumHQ Administrator

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    What an interesting link, thanks for sharing that Michael. Kay Laurence, mentioned on that page, has some nice books on positive reinforcement training too.
     
  3. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Yes @pippa@labforumHQ I did some further digging after posting and there is an interview of Kay Laurence in the magazine Operant mentioned and distributed elsewhere on that site.

    From a thread on this site, I learnt that Jo Laurens gets her students to play what I call the Yes and No game. One student direct another student to do something using any combination of Yeses and Nos the leader prefers. i have been using the game in my Basic obedience classes this year as a way of initiating my mini lecture on the need for a conditioned reinforcer. It always raises lots of good discussion. The students see the importance of timing, postive reinforcement, and the problem of potentially using positive punishment ie., No.

    Whether I have enough time to get at least another two students to play the shaping game is something I'm trying to resolve.
     
  4. BacktoBlack

    BacktoBlack Registered Users

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    So interesting @Michael A Brooks ...I kept waiting for the game to happen with a dog ;)
     
  5. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    @BacktoBlack I'm not sure how one would teach a dog to flip a car as the first step in the chain. I can understand why you wanted to see a video of a dog. For a dog to do something like the task demonstrated in the video I would change the objects. Objects the dog could flip with her paw. A two-tone small ball comes to mind. Pick colours that the dog can readily differentiate. Challenge set. Over to you. ;)
     
  6. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    We did an exercise similar to this on one of the IMDT courses I attended.
     
  7. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Interesting @Joy Perhaps you can share your experience. Did you find it worthwhile? Did everyone play the game or were you mostly spectators? Do yo think it's suitable for beginners?
     
  8. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    I think the activity we did was a little easier. We were put in pairs, then one person from each pair left the room and while they were gone their partners were each told a different thing they had to get their partner to do when they returned, without speaking or demonstrating. Each pair had a different action to complete so people wouldn't copy each other. The actions involved moving to a specific place in the room (e.g. next to a certain chair, facing a poster on the wall etc) and then doing a bodily action (e.g raising one hand above your head, crossing your legs etc.)
    When the partners returned they were just told that when they did the right thing we would say 'yes'. So then we shaped their movements.
    It was a useful activity to think about shaping and to encourage the discussion that happened afterwards.
    Those of us on the course were obviously motivated to learn (we had paid a fair amount and most of us had travelled a good distance to be there). I think people who are expecting to attend dog training rather than a dog trainers' course might not be so keen.

    I saw an excellent video recently on shaping by Karolina Westlund (one of my favourite online trainers) but I can't find it just at the moment.
     
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  9. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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  10. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    @Michael A Brooks It wasn't that presentation (though I like that one too). Just realised it was a free webinair earlier this year that is no longer available. She was talking about rewarding behaviours that are in the best 50% of the possible behaviours (I think it was 50%, but I might have that wrong - I wish I'd made notes!). At the time I was working on shaping my dog to walk backwards and it helped me to set criteria in a range - so I rewarded any time Molly got a back leg past within a certain range, even though sometimes she went further and sometimes not so far. Then moving that range a few inches further away.
     
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  11. BacktoBlack

    BacktoBlack Registered Users

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    I just had no idea what shaping was, I was assuming a training technique like LAT LAM which has been the best thing ever lol
     
  12. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    @BacktoBlack that's okay. It's a great technique to know. It takes practice but there are just things that are impossible to teach without it. I get my basic students to teach their dogs go to mat using shaping. But I noticed their timing is poor. That's why I was thinking about getting them to play the game in the video. Shaping can be just as useful as LAT. ;)
     
  13. BacktoBlack

    BacktoBlack Registered Users

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    Well Im definitely intrigued. Do you have a video of them using this tech to go to mat? or you? Would love to see it.
     
  14. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Here is a video @BacktoBlack using a mixture of luring and shaping. She doesn't use the technical jargon, but that's fine.

    Note it does not have to be the dog's bed one uses for the exercise. It could be a towel. Towels are easy to pack so you could use the towel at a friend's place, if you given the okay to take your dog there.

    If you are a shaping purist, then you would bring out a new towel and do your best Tom Sawyer impersonation. The towel is sooooooo interesting. Talk to it. Put it down. If your dog moves towards it, Mark and treat. The rest of the technique is covered in the video.
     
  15. BacktoBlack

    BacktoBlack Registered Users

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    @Michael A Brooks thanks I use this technique and now it has a name for me. My mistake was saying bed before all the luring and shaping. As far as Tom Sawyer my hub got a laugh when I said is he on that Huckabee show. I was so close :p Maggie loves mental stimulation so Im going to explore more of that type of work.
     
  16. Michael A Brooks

    Michael A Brooks Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    @backtotlack the fence painting account in the Tom Sawyer book is a nice illustration of the power of suggestion. As an illustrative aid it manifestly failed. I need to find a modern example. Your suggestion?
     

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