Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shaping a Spin

I am currently reading Reaching the Animal Mind by Karen Pryor. I am really enjoying it! A few days ago I read the chapter Questions, and this section (see below) really resonated with me.

From Reaching the Animal Mind, Questions, Page 159:

Clicker Using without Clicker Training

I sometime see people who compete with their dogs in agility, or in the dancing-with-dogs sport called freestyle, who use the clicker a lot, and whose dogs are happy and enthusiastic, yet the dogs don’t seem to be clicker-trained. Take one aside and try to shape a new behavior by clicking small moves, and the dog is totally bewildered. Like a conventionally trained dog, it waits to be shown what to do.

These owners seem to develop new behaviors in a more conventional way, by leading or luring the dog through the moves over and over, using lures, praise, and encouragement. They then maintain the behavior, once it’s more or less learned, with clicks and treats. As a consequence the dogs see the click as a secondary reinforcer, all right, meaning “Job’s done, treats coming,” but they don’t see the click as information about their own moves, since it hasn’t actually been used that way. They are better off than dogs that are coerced into the behavior and punished for errors, but they aren’t really using their brains.

I think this is primarily what I do with my clicker. I have trained some behaviors purely with shaping (like go to mat, look at scary people, and touch), but the vast majorities are trained as described above.

I decided I would try to do more shaping and to start I want to train a spin purely with shaping.

Last night I worked with both Bug and Ike. Ike got to go first because he was being an absolute snot-rocket and busted out of the room I put him in (how, I do not know) and also into the room I was working Bug in. So, yeah, I reinforced his doggedness by saying, “Fine, you want to work that badly you can work first.” Bad trainer or lazy trainer, I know.

Regardless I started by just clicking movement so Ike wouldn’t just keep popping into a down. He thinks it is AWESOME to THROW himself into a sphinx down. Ike tried a variety of adorable and hysterical behaviors before I caught him turning to his right. Once I caught the turn to the right it really did not take long to get a spin and get him to offer it additional times. Hooray, Ike!! Now I will continue to reinforce the spin and get it on cue. I guess I forget how clicker savvy he is or perhaps I never realized it. It was really exciting and felt so good to see him catch on to what I wanted with only the well timed click.

Then there was Bug. Poor Bug is not as clicker savvy as Ike and became frustrated pretty quickly, which resulted in a lot of frustration barking AT me. From the start one of my criteria was NO BARKING. I opted to click and treat any movement AS LONG AS THERE WAS NO BARKING. The problem for Bug is that down has been so HEAVILY reinforced due to herding that is his default. He thinks a down is always the answer or a good place to start. I will be doing a lot more clicking for movement and plan on playing many more shaping games with Bug to try to remedy this.

This training session reinforced to me how much I need to re-watch Crate Games and really work it with my boys. They are both absolute snot-rockets when the other is working. Yuck. It is not enjoyable to me and definitely comes down IMPULSE CONTROL!!


Taryn said...

I know all about the "frustration" barking! Jimmy yells at me any time I correct him in the agility ring. Also, he HATES it when I work Wilson, screaming his fool head off. At home and the training center, he has to go in the car while Wilson works, so that we can hear ourselves think. He does not bark when it is other dogs in the ring, unless he sees a BC running. They drive him nuts too. He's been a vocal dog ever since the ride home from his breeder on Day 1.

101mutts said...

That sounds like a good project. I'm very impressed you shaped a spin, good clicking work! I think spins are one of the harder things to teach with CT, or maybe just because the lure is easier. I definitely do more lure reward click, than proper clicker training. And for me it works faster but that could just be because my clicker skills need work.

Kathy said...

wow, you could have been at our house, we are working on the spin with shaping and we are working on sitting quietly and waiting while the other dog gets to train. ;-D. Pretty cool stuff. Sounds like things went really well. I LOVED that book, origionally I just borrowed it because for some reason I just did not think it would be that interesting, then I started reading and boy that was a great book!

Sara said...

That is a great book.

I am trying to do more and more shaping, because I know Oreo prefers to learn that way. Misty just doesn't get shaping. I think it is, because she is so noise sensitive, even my electronic, friendly, quiet, cricket sounding clicker she merely tolerates. My iclick has her running to hide in the bedroom, no matter how many times I have tried to "charge" it, and muffle it, etc.

101mutts said...

Sara, Karen Pryor mentions charging a clicker by using a flashlight instead and then using them together. Have you tried that?