This article not prepared by City Weekly Staff
As positive trainers, we use “shaping” to train our dogs to do many things. From basic behavior, to tricks, sports, and even desensitization. When we shape, we reward the dog for close approximations of the final behavior we are teaching. Taking baby-steps and reinforcing the dog along the way to the end goal can build confidence and keep the dog interested in working.
For instance, trying to lure a puppy to lie down on command could take a while for the puppy to understand. When shaping, you might reward the pup for just bending his head down, and then reward the play bow, then an extended foot, etc. until the pup is down. Shaping can help keep the exercise fun instead of frustrating.
A client recently asked me how we could use shaping to teach loose leash walking. I hadn’t actually thought about it before. But although shaping can be used for some of the finer points of leash walking and heeling, when teaching your dog not to pull on the leash, the instruction must be very clear and consistent. Any tension on the leash will stop all forward motion, period! Allowing the dog pull just a little but not too much, is not really clear to the dog what you are asking. Keep it simple. Any tension on the leash means “stop,” slack leash means “go.” And be sure to enjoy walks with your dog every day.