Modern Training Methods - Luring, Capturing and Shaping
There are three Modern Training methods you can use. They are Luring, Capturing and Shaping. Each has their own advantages depending on the behavior you want to teach your dog. For many behaviors you will use Luring, but we want to make sure you know about all three, because they are fun, and Capturing and Shaping will be very handy when Luring is not an option.
Ahh, we are such verbal creatures, humans. But our dogs are not. It is key to a dog’s learning process that we do not speak when first teaching a new skill. Dogs learn primarily visually and through scent. So, it’s imperative that we do not speak until our dogs have mastered a skill via silent Luring, Capturing or Shaping. Then we can transition to a Hand Signal then a Verbal Cue. Adhering to this will ensure your dog’s progress.
As the term says, this form of training uses treats, a toy or a hand to Lure your dog physically into a position, Marking that behavior, then delivering the treat to their mouth once in the position you Lured.
It’s a quick way to get behavior. For instance, Instead of “molding” a dog’s body into a Sit by pushing their rear end down or collapsing their hind quarters via pressure behind their back legs, Luring teaches your dog to move their own body with no contact. Because of this, it also creates a new brain neuron connection for deeper learning. Remember, cooperative behaviors that are Reinforced (Rewarded) are more likely to occur in the future. Getting an animal to happily move into position keeps the connection positive and your dog wanting more fun training.
How to Lure
Lure your dog with a treat into the correct position by placing a treat close to their nose and slowly moving your hand to guide their body. Using the Sit example do the following:
- Place the treat in front of you at your dog’s nose height, and allow your dog to come to you to sniff the treat.
- Slowly move your hand over their head toward their tail in a slight diagonal motion.
- Be sure to go slowly and keep the treat close to their nose as you move letting them follow the motion.
- Most dogs will tilt their head up to sniff at the treat causing their bottom to go to the floor.
- When their bottom hits the floor, Mark and release the treat into their mouth.
- Good job! You just lured a Sit, Marked and Rewarded!
ADVANTAGE - You can teach many behaviors quickly using Luring and animals are eager to participate due to the high rate of repetition.
DIFFICULTY - The Lure needs to be removed early in the training process and changed to a Hand Signal, so this takes planning and timing to smoothly transition from Lure to Hand Signal. More on how to do this later.
Capturing is noticing when your dog does a natural behavior on their own and making the most of that moment by turning it into a skill you can ask them to do.
This can be very useful in many scenarios. Using the Sit behavior again, if your dog is “hand shy,” meaning they do not like a hand being raised over their head in Luring, use Capturing.
We’re big fans of Capturing too! It is fun to turn behaviors your dog offers on their own into skills you can later add a cue to and ask them to do.
How to Teach Sit with Capturing
- Ahead of time, have your clicker on you (if using one), a loaded treat bag on you or treats in a bowl set up nearby.
- Casually watch your dog without drawing attention.
- When your dog Sits, Mark and Reward.
- Go back to casually observing without drawing attention.
- When your dog Sits, Mark and Reward again.
- Continue this process.
You will see your dog start to offer the Sit to get you to Mark and Reward. Be sure to Mark and Reward every time. We will soon turn this into a behavior you can ask for, by saying “Sit.”
Now, let’s take the skill of “Settle,” the act of laying down and settling into a relaxed position on one hip. Our dogs do this every day. Capturing is simply waiting for your dog to do this, then Marking and Reinforcing this behavior with a Reward. Remember, don’t prompt your dog to it. Let it happen as it would at any other time. The only difference is the Mark and Reinforcement/Reward.
- Set up as before with treats nearby and watch your dog.
- The moment you see their hip touch the floor, Settled onto one side in that relaxed position, Mark and place one treat between their paws on the floor.
- Be sure to place it on the floor as that’s the position you want to Reinforce.
- Your dog might hop up from the thrill of getting a treat, but that’s alright. This is perfectly normal.
- Simply repeat this the next few times your dog “Settles.”
- Each time, Mark and place a treat on the floor between your dog’s paws.
You’ll notice something neat start to happen. Your dog will begin settling and look at you expectantly waiting for a Mark and Reward. The reinforcement for the Settle behavior has worked. Next you can add a Verbal Cue as described later.
ADVANTAGE - You can get behaviors that might be harder to teach your dog using Luring.
DIFFICULTY - It requires the trainer to keenly observe their dog. Something we generally encourage our human clients to do more of anyway.
- Allow your dog to offer behaviors. No Prompting - pointing or speaking.
- You can capture any behavior your dog offers on their own.
- Keep it simple.
- When first trying this method, choose behaviors most dogs offer regularly, like the Settle or a Stretch, Sit, Head Tilt, etc.
- This helps you practice your timing and see some fun results.
- Have fun with it!
In the video here, Stephanie taught Petra her "Down" skill using Capturing. Once Petra was offering the skill regularly, Stephanie added a Hand Signal, so she could ask Petra to Down with that Visual Cue. Pretty cool!
This method of training is magical for teaching your dog complicated behaviors. Imagine your dog trimming their own nails by scratching them on a board covered with emory-type material (available at hardware stores). Yep! This is possible using Shaping.
Shaping is an advanced training method requiring excellent observational and timing skills on the part of the trainer. To teach any complicated behavior, it’s best to break the desired end result into small easily achievable pieces that build up to the end result. Think, learning to drive a car. You need to learn the individual pieces of the process before driving fluidly. Wasn’t it satisfying when you could figure out each step? Before you knew it, you were driving! In this same way, with the nail filing board, you’d break the process down into easily achievable steps to get to the end result.
Here’s what this would look like:
- Put the emory board on the floor.
- Mark and Reward your dog just for looking at it or going near it.
- As your dog understands that interacting with the board is Rewarding, they're motivated to interact further with the board.
- When they get comfortable with this idea and are repeating this behavior 5 out of 5 times,...
- Wait slightly longer (seconds only) before Marking to see what they do when you do not Mark.
- Don’t wait too long or your dog will become frustrated.
- Your dog will likely interact with the board more intensely.
- Most dogs, when you don’t Mark and Reward as quickly as before, will start to try different actions with the board to get you to Mark and Reward; standing on the board, putting a paw on the board, etc.
- This is what you’re looking for.
- Maybe wait for a step onto the board to Mark or Mark both the stepping onto and off of the board to Mark and Reward that paw movement.
- Next you might wait to Mark and Reward paw movement while staying on the board.
With Shaping you are teaching your dog that interacting with an object is Rewarding. Quietly in your mind, you gradually raise the Criteria for what you will Mark and Reward.
You are not using any Lures or Prompting, like pointing or talking to your dog. Other than the sound of the Marker, this is quiet, concentrated training.
ADVANTAGE - You can teach behaviors it might otherwise be very difficult to train using Luring or Capturing.
DIFFICULTY - This is a slow and methodical process. The trainer’s timing needs to be precise, the Criteria needs to be clear and the rate of Reinforcement frequent for any behavior within the Criteria level you are working at.
- A high rate of Reinforcement - lots of Marking and Rewarding for any interactions.
- Short training sessions work best - 5-10 minutes at a time.
- Set the Criteria for getting Marked and Rewarded super low at first.
- Increase Criteria based on your individual dog’s confidence level with the object.
- Take your time and allow your dog to move at their own pace.
- Take a break after a couple good reps leaving your dog feeling excited about the activity.
- No Luring - your dog must progress at their own pace interacting with the novel object.
- Whichever item you want your dog to interact with, if possible, put it away when not training. This keeps the item novel and interesting when presented again.
Remember you are asking your dog to either interact confidently with an item they may not normally interact with or to move their body in a way that may be new to them.
Luring could very easily move your dog too fast into the activity and create stress if they are not yet comfortable enough to do so. This sort of stress and pressure is counterproductive. Your dog could even become afraid of the object or activity. Take your time. Let your dog move at their own pace happily.
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