Thursday, 24 June 2010

free shaping for independent thinking in dogs

I'm posting a clip here that's rather long. And the film technique is terrible, for which I apologise in advance - Penny's not even in the picture some of the time.

It's six minutes of Penny offering different behaviors in an attempt to earn treats. I put a chair in the middle of the room (and set up the camera pointing at it) and waited to see what she would do. She knows that if I'm holding a clicker, treats will appear if she eithe does what I direct her to do or if she can do something original.

It's probably not the way free-shaping is supposed to be done, because I didn't offer her any encouragement along the way, but it was interesting for me to see her working on it, and I think she enjoyed it.


Honey the Great Dane said...

Oh, I love doing free-shaping with dogs - it's so great to see their minds working.

Just a little tip if you don't mind - it's good in the beginning to click them for ANY interaction with the object, even if it's not what you want. The idea with free-shaping is that you're not after a specific action (otherwise it wouldn't be free-shaping - it would just be shaping for a particular behaviour) and that you're using this opportunity to tap into the dog's own creativity. So although you can gradaully hone in on a particular skill after a bit into the session, at the beginning, it's best to reward any kind of interaction.

This also gives the dog more confidence and gets them more enthusiastic about trying different things and actions - otherwise, they can get discouraged and lose confidence and stop trying. Whereas if you get them interested and excited about the *idea* of interacting with that object and click several different things in the beginning -you're much more likely to get them to continue offering behaviours and to be not afraid to try. Same with other new things in future. Otherwise, next time you try to free-shape, Penny might worry that she's getting it wrong or something and just sit back and wait for you to tell her/show her what to do - which is fine but it's not the point of free-shaping.

Oh - another thing in pure clicker training free-shaping is we tend not to say "No" to the dog if you're after a specific action and they do something else. You just say nothing but don't click - don't reward it, so that the dog will try somethign else. Because again, if you keep saying "No" or "Wrong" - this can discourage the dog from trying further. I do use "No" with Honey but not when I'm free-shaping, coz that's when you're really wanting your dog to let loose and think for themselves and they can do that better if they don't have any restrictions.

Hope this helps!

parlance said...

Yes, Hsin-Yi, it's very helpful! I knew I didn't have a clear understanding of the technique, so to a certain extent I posted the clip hoping someone would help me - and you have!!

Have you ever written a post or a magazine article about free-shaping, or do you know of a good site with some video clips?

I'll post this across on your site, because I know you are super busy with those Deceased Lines (Honey told me!).

Honey the Great Dane said...

Thanks for re-posting your reply on Honey's blog! :-)

Yes, I did do an entire post on free-shaping last year, with videos - if you haven't seen it, it's here:

As you can see, some of it is not "pure" free-shaping as I do occasionally 'lure' or indicate to Honey (in pure free-shaping, you're not supposed to try to help the dog at all but I find with some dogs, eg. Honey, if you don't
"help" a bit, they can just stand there blankly and then give up. Dogs with low drive like Honey often won't be very motivated to interact with something - or maybe she's too dumb to realise it's there - ha! ha! - unless I "remind" her. She is just as likely to just shrug and go off for a nap somewhere...!) - so while I don't tell her WHAT to do, I do sometimes indicate the object I want her to interact with.

- in the videos, I do sometimes tell Honey "No, do something else" - but I never do this in the beginning - I only do this after she's been interacting with the object for a bit. Also, bear in mind that Honey has been free-shaping with me for a couple of years now so she is fairly confident with this activity - so she is less likely to be discouraged if I'm more fussy (eg. sometimes I have to stop her using her paws from the beginning otherwise she'll break the object!) - but if Penny has only just started then I would click & reward anything a lot just to get her confident with this type of training.

Oh - another thing - if you look in our sidebar, there is a Search bar - if you type in "free-shaping" - that will bring up all the posts where I have shown videos where I used this technique. Aside from the post I talked about above, there are some other posts which are not dedicated to free-shaping as such but I have shown me teachign Honey a trick using a bit of free-shaping.

Hope this helps!
ps. do leave us a comment on the free-shaping post if you find it useful! :-)

Mary said...

I can't go past seeing the picture of our new Prime Minister - what a day!

parlance said...

Mary, you're a detective, noticing the news headlines in the waste paper box. Maybe you've been watching too many of those forensic shows on tv.

parlance said...

Hsin-Yi, I'll have a look at your previous post. Thanks, as always, for the help.