More on Shaping
with Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw, Training Advocate

Shaping can be tricky, so I wanted to share another video, so you can see a different behavior in the beginning stages of being shaped, as well as adding some more info to help you try it with your dog.


If you've begun shaping a behavior during one session, and then you're coming back to it later, you may be wondering how to approach it the second (or third or fourth session). Generally, if the behavior is not on cue yet (ie you can't say a word or do a gesture and have them perform the behavior), which is likely will not be after one session, approach the subsequent sessions much in the same way. You are essentially reshaping and then adding from wherever you left off. However, your dog will likely move through the steps much more quickly or skip steps.


It's really important to be flexible as you shape. You may have a plan of what your different stages of criteria look like, but your dog may skip steps or get stuck, and you'll have to go with the flow and figure out how to keep them progressing in the right direction by either moving ahead with your plan or finding smaller things to mark. For example, if your dog is not moving a paw as you'd hoped, you can begin looking at the shoulder muscles for any slight movement that may be precursors to actual paw movement.


Remember, if your dog is getting stuck and you're not able to get them unstuck quickly, instead of letting frustration build, end the session with something fun and do some planning before trying again. It can be really helpful to record yourself training - you may notice subtle things you're doing that you don't even realize! I do this often - I have a ton of videos up on my YouTube channel and when I look back I almost always find something I could have improved upon!


If you have questions, feel free to comment or even upload a video of your session to Instagram and tag me at @pathandpaw, and I'd be happy to help!