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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We did our first agility class last weekend. Lots of fun but also a bit overwhelming with how much there is to learn.
As I’m trying to do some of the homework, I’m realizing that Genki and I are a truggling a bit with shaping.
She wants so badly to get it right And earn her treat and is frustrated that she can’t figure out exactly what I want. I really want to make this fun for her and have her enjoy offering behaviours.
I watched several YouTube videos including a great one by kikopup and backed right off to trying to get interactions with a box but I’m stuck with rewarding a few looks at the box and touches of the box before Genki gives up and just lies down.
Any thoughts on how I can do better with this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My main goal is for her to get comfortable trying stuff and getting rewarded for it rather than feeling bad that she doesn’t know exactly what I want.
 

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If she is new to ' shaping' - learning to think for herself - I would suggest rather than having a 'target' behavior you are looking for start, with simply marking any behavior that she offers you and tossing the treat on the floor so that she needs to move to get it, and is 'reset' to offer another.
If she offers you the same behavior, reward it a few times, toss a treat (a freebie) to reset, and ask her to 'Try again'.
The first thing they need to learn is that it is 'Okay' to try. many dogs get 'stuck' because they have become dependent on being given instruction.
It is 'fair game' to toss a treat in the box, to 'show' her that it is the box you want her to focus on.

If she lays down, 'gives up', ask her for a behavior she knows how to do and reward it, then take a break and try again later - sometimes they just need some time to 'think' about it.
Always end a game with success.(even if you have to request it).

Note as well, that if you are feeling frustrated/stressed at all- she can sense it.
 

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My main goal is for her to get comfortable trying stuff and getting rewarded for it rather than feeling bad that she doesn’t know exactly what I want.
Dog's don't feel bad about things, but they do pick up on your demeanor and body language. Remember that training should be fun, so you should be happy and animated! Make her happy to play with you!

I always like to say that training should just be structured play. When you approach it that way it's more fun and productive for the dog. It also really helps to set reasonable objectives and be willing to laugh at your failures!

As an example, recently I accepted a challenge to train my dog to accept an item, then take it and put it into a designated box.

I'd never taught anything like that before, so had to think it through and take little incremental steps to get there.

It took multiple short sessions for several days for the dog to understand that I wanted her to drop the item inside the box (she kept kicking the box inadvertently, or dropping it just short of her target. lol!). I did that with the box directly in front of me.

Once she seemed to get that down pretty well, I moved the box a foot away from me. Once that was solid, a few feet farther.

The goal was 20 feet away. And we got there, but it certainly didn't happen overnight! I spent about 3-4 weeks on it! Try to lighten up and have fun with your dog, and shape by rewarding whatever she offers as you go!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks, Cache! That makes me feel better. I’ll keep trying. It IS amazing how she sometimes learns things in between sessions that you think she hasn’t gotten at all.
 

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Can I add - as already said, end on a good note but also let the dog sleep on it. A lot of learning is processed during sleep so you might find that is why she is better the following day.
 

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I have also read that play directly after training is very beneficial to retention of the training!. Train for a few minutes then play, then a few minutes more structured followed by ten of play! I can attest that it worked for me quite well!!!

In the end, it's all about enjoying the journey and connecting with the dog....
 

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When I adopted my fearful dog with a history of abuse, I spent a lot of time simply rewarding behaviors that he offered that I liked by tossing the treat near him. Once he learned to trust me, we began playing the 'Show me' game- the 'Show me' cue was his ticket to 'freedom' - freedom to choose whatever behavior he wanted, have some 'say' and control over his life. It took him a bit of time to understand that it was 'Okay', and freely offer behaviors but when he did the light came on in his eyes and he was truly happy for once in his life and loved to play the 'Show me' game throughout his life.
The first real 'game' that we played was '101 Things to do with a box.'

This article may be helpful to you.
101 Things to Do with a Box | Karen Pryor Clicker Training

It is not the destination, but the journey that matters!
 

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Just putting in my word to second the above advice. I always approach shaping a new behavior in a way that makes it a game I play with the dog, and the dog always wins. So even the very slightest tiny move in the right direction gets praise and treat (and click because I use clicker). It doesn't take long before the dog is doing more, and each strep is celebrated as if the dog had saved someone's life. If the dog is trying, but makes a mistake, they still get the praise and treat. The only time they don't get it is if they don't try.

Also.........and this is important....you don't mention how long your training sessions are. I always keep training sessions very short --five minutes tops even with my dogs who are accustomed to training and know all about it. Better to leave them wanting more.
It could be that your dog doesn't want to do it more than two or three times, and if that's the case, just stop when they want to stop. I never ask for more if the dog isn't into it right now. The goal is to make it so that the dog is always having fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Our homework is to practice wrapping around an object (cone of similar) and running radiuses with the dog next to me.
In class last week, we did lots of different stations getting the dog accustomed to different things
  • Walking on a beam = super easy. Genki LOVES playing on logs in the forest!
  • Restrained recall = really confusing for the dog. I need to practice this with my partner
  • wobble board = terrifying
  • tunnel = terrifying but we have been trying that at home with a chair tunnel and that is fun now
  • running through a jump grid (realy low!) to a reward at the end = great fun
  • single jump (really low) = great fun
We're also doing the "Glue for Future Agility Stars" online with Fenzi and we are working on stationing, offered stays and transports in that course. I had thought we were going to be waiting forever to get into an in-person class so I registered for that on and then the opportunity to start in person came up. Lots to do but I'm really feeling like the key thing for us right now is really to just get to where Genki is more comfortable thinking for herself and offering behaviours. She's super smart but we just haven't worked together that way yet.
 
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