|7/23/2011: Look who spotted the hidden camera!|
I truly love shaping games and sometimes dogs offer me something I wasn't expecting which I might use for a different game in the future. In this clip Kipling demonstrates a shaping exercise I call 'blanket' - some folks call this game 'place' or 'bed'.
Blanket is one of my favorites to teach puppies and new dogs - it is also an easy 'trick' for trainers new to shaping to conceptualize the steps towards the final behavior. The steps are essentially: 1) look at or walk towards the blanket, 2) touch the blanket with a foot (or nose), 3) stand on the blanket, 4) sit on the blanket, 5) down on the blanket and finally 6) duration of the down on the blanket. The key is to not get stuck on any one step or behavior. It's important to wait the dogs out a little so that they have the opportunity to offer the next behavior.
This is Kipling's first introduction to the blanket game, so you're seeing all the steps of progression here. This is not Kipling's first shaped behavior though, he already understands and readily offers new behaviors when presented with a training opportunity and a clicker.
On the video you will see two separate sessions- filmed about an hour (and a nap) apart. I'm a big fan of letting dogs sleep between sessions, as I think the latent learning happens during sleep or rest. If I have a training break-through of any kind with any one of my dogs I typically crate them afterwards (and cover the crate) to let them process. Does it help? I think so, but that might by my superstition. I do notice that after a novel training session my dogs generally are tired and will nap on their own - crating just makes it easier for them to rest uninterrupted.
The final behavior I'm looking for (ultimately after many sessions) in this game is go to the blanket, lay down, put your head down and stay there until you are released...There are practical applications to this game if you choose to apply them - namely a portable stay anywhere. I don't use it for this as I want (need) a stay that comes without a prop - but for some this is how they manage stays. If that works for them I don't have any problem with it!
In the first session (clip) I'm starting from scratch - I click for any interaction with the blanket and make a BIG deal about any progress towards the final behavior. In the second session (after a couple warm-up click for downs) I up the ante a bit waiting for 'put yer head down'...Note that in the first clip Kipling sort of checks out briefly, getting his treat (which crumbled) and then sniffing around near the baseboard. I don't say anything, I don't make a kissy sound, I let him be. This is Kipling 'Choosing his own Adventure' - you'll notice he checks right back in and makes the choice to go back to work (Good Puppy). Note also that I'm not saying anything (other than praise when I get a break-through and jackpot) - I don't put a word on the behavior until I'm reliably getting the desired behavior for every single repetition.