Saturday, December 17, 2005

Luring Versus Shaping

I recently attended a dog focused seminar at a educational technology conference, of all places!

It was by Diane Lewis, who compared methods of dog training with methods of training students. She compared traditional (forced) techniques, luring, and shaping. Until she mentioned it, I had not been looking at luring as not as good as shaping. In children, she compared luring to just looking for the students to regurgitate the right answer and shaping as constructivist techniques where students learn by doing, exploring, and making mistakes. As a teacher and a fledgling dog trainer, it made alot sense to me.

Many teachers view constructivism as good BUT too time consuming. She did some experiments with both her students and dogs (which she showed using video) that showed that, in fact, a constructivist (or shaping) approach was actually much faster when the students (dogs) are used to the technique. They jump right in and start trying things as they converge on the solution.

I realized that I used luring an awful lot so I have trying to use more shaping in places where I might be currently luring.

Click on Comments to add your thoughts.


MaryHope said...

Nice posts, John. Most of us work through these training issues in the privacy of our own heads, or at most in discussions with our fellow trainers. Good to see someone brave enough to put his musings in print!

Shaping vs luring is something i've been addressing in training Shela (my almost-6-month-old whippet puppy). They really do seem to "learn to learn" better when luring is kept to a minimum -- their creativity seems to be awakened. Shela does offer behaviors much more readily than her mother has ever done, even when Lessa was a puppy, but i'm sure i could have encouraged a more proactive ethos in Lessa had i been aware of the different approach at that time. At any rate, i'm having lots of fun capturing & shaping behaviors with Shela! Dog training is such an ongoing journey of discovery, maybe that's why it becomes so addictive to us humans!

MaryHope said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Heffernan said...

Here's a great comment on one the blog postings from another board...

Great Blog. It sounds like you are having lots of fun training your dogs.

I too am working with my guy, Pete, on agility and Obedience and hope to show at least in Rally in early spring. When we first started he too was a bit of a lagger and did not understand heel position. A few things I learned from others and started doing really have helped and he is becoming a great heeler.

One tip I got was whenever you practice heeling keep all your treats in your left front pocket - when you go into the ring the dog will not know this time there are no treats there.

I have taught heel position mostly by working in the manner explained in the book Choose to Heel. I started with just walking around, dog off leash and clicking when he was in heel position. From there I progressed to longer periods of dog in position and I added the criteria that he has to look at me. One of the keys here for me was after I clicked where I treated - since Pete was a lagger I always treated a bit in front of perfect heel position - so he was actually slightly forging when he got his treat. Once he stopped lagging I treated in exactly heel position.

You have also noted a very key componant - attention. I spend a lot of time clicking and treating for my dog looking at me. I play games like holding treats at mouth level and ony clicking and treating when he looks. I don't have perfect attention in heel position all the time - but getting closer.

With my other dog (Woody) I actually took a class called attention - all we worked on was having the dog look at us. We started from a stationary position and then progressed to looking for the whole walk around the ring. Woody has pretty perfect heel position and loves the percision. He is a mixed breed so we don't have lots of chances to show in obedience - we do mostly agility.

I also thought you might enjoy the Levels web site - Sue Ailsby has lots of good training ideas and a whole exercise called doggie Zen (It is about self control)

I look forward to reading more.

Wody and Pete

John Heffernan said...

That's so great, Mary... Dawn and I have talked about the second dog and how we will know so much more the second time around. I am sure each dog has its own challenges though.

Thanks for commenting. I deleted one of your duplicate posts, FYI...

John Heffernan said...

Julie's post really gave me some good ideas for shaping heel position. I was thinking that I needed to teach the power steeting commands first but maybe not. maybe let Wyatt figure out how to get back into heel position.

John Heffernan said...

Another thoughtful comment from Julie...

John -

I like your new blog entries and don't mind if you use what I post at all.

I love training and shaping is the best. It is one of the many reasons I love whippets. I find they are fast learners and love to shape. They like to believe they made the decision and discovered how to do whatever it is you want them to do. They just don't like being told.

I have gone to Say Yes several times with both my dogs and Susan is absolutely a shaper not a lurer. Susan Garret's book Shaping Success is a great book. It is about Susan's experience training her over the top BC - it is a great story with lots of good training tips and ideas. You really see how each dog is an individual.

I love the comparison of how you teach children and how they learn the best. I am going to share your blog with a few of my trainer friends - we are always trying to get people to understand the difference between luring and shaping and why shaping is the best. I will keep reading.


John Heffernan said...

A comment from LH

Another trick for heeling which I like to use for off-leash heeling (I start with off-leash heeling before teaching on-leash heeling). I start walking around with clicker and treats. As soon as my dog hits heel position, I click and throw the cookie. The dog runs over to get his cookie and I keep walking. As soon as the dog hits heel position again, click and throw cookie, while I keep walking. Pretty soon I have a dog who is searching me out, and running to catch up and get into heel position. Once I have a dog who is running to get into heel, then I begin to wait one second before clicking, then 2 seconds, then 3, etc. to build up duration. Works like a charm and might come in handy one day if my dog starts wandering around the ring. He'll know how to catch back up and get into heel position.

John Heffernan said...

Comment from Lisa...

Great Blog John!

I have used a clicker method for heeling which really worked well. Not only did the dogs seem to "get it" it also gave me something to focus on. We started with the one step- click and treat, two steps- click and treat, etc. Very quickly we got up to 20+ steps and eventually we would do an entire routine and then click and treat. Of course I would have to mix it up and vary things from time to time so that we all didn't get bored and I wasn't always so stingy but it was great for increasing duration on the heel.

I recently heard from a friend about a method used for straight sits and fronts. She uses a wooden box that is just a few inches off of the ground and just large enough for the dog to get onto. She taught her dogs to sit on the box. Once they did so reliably she used it while in heel position for straight sits and also used it to teach straight fronts. If the dog was crooked a foot would fall off of the box and they learned to correct the sit themselves. It sounds like an interesting method which might be worth playing around with.

Great topic!

John Heffernan said...

Again, from Julie...

Lisa -

The method you describe sounds very much like Sue Ailsby ( )

Levels work. She calls it 200 pecks - whenever you work on any behavior which calls for duration you start at 1 and work up in\creasing by one each time. When the dog fails then you go back down to 1 and move forward.

I worked this way some with my older dog as well. In addition once we had about 20 paces built- up I set up a more random pattern - so my dog never knew when he would be rewarded. I did this in a class - we had cards with numbers on them from 1 to 20 mixed them up like a deck of cards and then the teacher called out the number of paces we needed to take before we clicked and rewarded (of course we only clicked if our dog was in heel position at the last step).

When using the choose to heel you also do something similar once your dog is immediately coming to Hell position - yo delay when you click so your dog has to gradually walk more paces with you. What I like about choose to heel is it is all off leash - so putting the leash on has no significance at all.

I like the box idea. I will have to work at shaping it with my dogs. With my younger dog who is just learning I taught him to target my stomach with his nose. I worked great for getting him to come closer in and to sit straight, but now I have to fade the nose touch.

I love hearing how others are approaching obedience exercises. I show more in agility and Flyball so I like hearing more approaches to shaping the obedience exercises.