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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Adventures in Shaping (was: Beginnings of a Retrieve?)

Because Wally was wide awake after an ill-timed nap, I decided to mess with him a little bit. Give him a bit of a mental challenge before turning in for the night.

So I got the rope toy out. Had him touch it with his nose, put it on his neck (he didn't know - or care) and then just decided to toss it a couple feet from him, just to see what he'd do. Usually, he couldn't care less about it.

This time, though, he looked at it! So he got a "good boy!" and I went and got it. I had him touch it some more (actually, like 10 times quickly in a row), and threw it again. He looked at it. I praised him again, and went and got it.

Threw it again. He looked at it, so another "good boy!" - And then nothing. I just sat there looking at him - seeing what he'd do. He kinda looked..somewhere like he was thinking about what his next move would be (was he doing that?)

He then went over to the rope and pawed it. I gave him a "good boy!" And he came back to me, when I stood up to get the toy, he jumped up on me - and just gave him some rubs and then went and got the rope.

Threw it again. He looked - got praised, then nothing again. He looked at the toy again - staring at it. He went over and play bowed at it. It was weird but I "good boy-ed" him again. He came back - I got the toy again.

Repeat - throw, look, good boy - then nothing. He did that "look at...something" thing again, and went over to the toy. He stared at it - still nothing from me. Sniffed it hard - nothing. This time...he actually picked it up and brought it close to me - maybe a foot away.

Big time praising (all the while he was bringing it to me as well as the drop) lots of rubs and jumping (and him sniffing my mouth LOL), and we ran straight outside and had some fun (yes, at like 1:30 am).

So, is this the beginnings of some sort of retrieve behavior?

Amazing how he went from not caring about the toy, to picking it up because it was there while I butt-rubbed him, to now maybe starting to retrieve it (and otherwise interacting with it to maybe get what he wants from me).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Looks like I should only praise and reward full little retrieves. Ignore all the look-at, pawing, etc.

Seems early - but maybe Wally's a quick learner :)
 

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Very cool if it is. I'd love to teach my cocker spaniel to fetch. Would make it a lot easier for him to get exercise when I'm feeling lazy. I'll stand on the back porch step and toss a ball all day long.
 

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Looks like I should only praise and reward full little retrieves. Ignore all the look-at, pawing, etc.

Seems early - but maybe Wally's a quick learner :)
try starting at the beginning each time you want to work on the retrieve behavior.

throw...he looks...good boy!
repeat
throw...he looks....nothing
throw...he heads even a little bit towards it...good boy!
repeat....up the reward the closer he gets.

etc etc...
 

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Discussion Starter #6
try starting at the beginning each time you want to work on the retrieve behavior.

throw...he looks...good boy!
repeat
throw...he looks....nothing
throw...he heads even a little bit towards it...good boy!
repeat....up the reward the closer he gets.

etc etc...
Got it - will definitely do this.

Not only am I hoping to get a retrieve going, but it's like the first time I've seen shaping success with a more complex behavior :)

About the only other semblance of shaping I've gotten out of him is like we're walking and I stop, and I want him to sit and look at me before we start again. He eventually does it (without a cue) and I click and we keep walking (is that even shaping? :) )
 

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The traditional way to teach the retrieve is to start by teaching the Hold first...the dog holds the object in his mouth. I choose to teach the retrieve as you're doing with Shaping...also called Dolphin training. It seems to be slower but, I may be biased as it was my first attempt at shaping a complex behavior.
 

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Shaping definitely requires patience..I like it better personally because

a. Im a puzzle kind of person and seeing my dog actively engaged in this sort of learning process is rewarding for me.

b. it seems foster more enthusiasm and enjoyment on the part of the dog.

c. it tires them out because they have to think about what t might be the next thing that will get them a reward....mental exercise

d. the behaviors seem to be more solid when taught via shaping.

Shaping is breaking it down. You sound like you are on the right track..How is Wally during these sessions? Does he seem to enjoy them?

one thing...if he ever starts to appear frustrated...take a break and come back...you always want to end on a good note.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Shaping is breaking it down. You sound like you are on the right track..How is Wally during these sessions? Does he seem to enjoy them?

one thing...if he ever starts to appear frustrated...take a break and come back...you always want to end on a good note.
This morning he did seem to get frustrated (well more nervous, he was back to his shaking he used to do when first attempted shaping because he didn't know what to do and I guess his previous owners would do stuff to him if he demonstrated he didn't know), though I think he had bathroom on the brain, so I'll write that off as my bad timing, although he didn't pick it up again (I guess that was a fluke!) he did go sniff it so that's where I'll keep him for now. I did get him all excited (like I do every morning, and he gets into it because he thinks it gets him out LOL) and he grabbed it by one of the knots and flipped it in the air. Not quite what I had in mind, but I praised him and we went out.

I gave him a nice walk (where I practiced some jumping and this time had the clicker so I can have him click, and then gave him a mental/physical challenge where he had to figure out how to get over a fallen tree to get to me, with no cues/help from me - and he did it - so I know he's got the problem solving mindset in him)

Then it was time for the another session. This one went MUCH better. I got some deli sliced turkey and broke it into 30 pieces and took 10 of them over at a time. The criteria would be he'd go over and sniff the rope toy after I toss it. No cues from me (other than the toss).

So the first seven times, no problem. He went and sniffed and got the click/treat. Then the next time, he just looked at me and sat down. Hmm...so I said "try again" and tossed it again. Same thing. Repeat. Same thing. So I just picked up the rope toy quietly and calmly and left him for a few minutes. Either he was trying something else to see if it worked - or was just trying to be lazy :) But I wanted to "tell" him that wasn't the action I wanted.

So I came back, tossed the rope toy and he went and sniffed. Good. C/T. The next 10 trials - all successful. Threw a curve a bit in sometimes I would wait a little longer before the next toss - didn't phase him. Sometimes he'd throw ME some curves to see if he could sneak one in (go over to the rope, but not touch/sniff it, just "phantom tag" it. Nice try, Wally ;)

He succeeded on the final (30th) trial, so he got a jackpot.

So in all, he earned 23 of 30 treats. Not too bad I don't guess. A sign we're at the right level, I think. It's challenging - but not too easy for him yet.

I decided to try to maybe get a foundation of a hold. I held the rope to his lips lightly. After about 10 seconds, he accepted it into his mouth! Click and another jackpot and he got to jump on me. I had him sit, and said "that's it" (an idea from Control Unleashed) and left him to go do something else. Then I hear him coming up the stairs LOL. I guess he wasn't ready to quit yet, but the door to the room was closed and he sniffed at the door and I hear him slowly go down the stairs like "aw, man - it really is over" LOL

I'm liking this though, and it seems he is too. I've been wanting to step up the mental demands I make of him now that he's about to be a grown dog (almost 2!) so this is great.
 

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Big Words has yet to be interested in his rope toy unless it suits him to be. And when it is, he just chews it (though I have gotten him to play tug a big in the last few days).

I bought a standard rubber ball and he payed no attention to it whether it was sitting, moving, or being "played" with by me.

I finally got one that squeaks. I'll squeak it a few times and give it a roll across the room. He'll watch it go. I'll pick it up and repeat and he'll watch it go. A second repeat, and Big Words proceeds to take off running from one end of the house to the other numerous times paying no attention to the ball, but having a good old time dodging in and out of the furniture. He might stop and sniff at the ball if it is in his line of sight, but mostly... just running.

I have no idea what this behavior means, or how to shape it into fetch. :confused:

He's not entirely bats, though. My house is long and narrow. The kitchen, dining room and living room are all positioned in a line. The first couple times we did this, he would run from the dining to far end of the living, loop back through the dining room to the kitchen and so on. Thing is, the tile in my kitchen is less than six months old and I had just mopped it, so it was quite slick to his little doggie paws. He hit that tile full bore and went skidding across the floor trying to regain his balance. After a couple times of that, he learned to halt just shy of the kitchen and turn around for the next loop. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Gah

Now he's not doing anything. He just sat there looking like "I don't know what to do"

Why he does it right once and not again is baffling to me. Seems like it's always back to the "I don't know what to do so I'm not going to do anything" stuff.

I've left him alone for about 10 minutes, maybe it'll clear his head and get it through to him that his days of me leading him around the nose in his learning is over.

It's - get into shaping or no more treats for you.

And I know he can do it, that's what really gets on my nerves. He wants to play hardball - well I can be twice as stubborn. It'll be shape or starve if it needs to be ;)
 

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Be careful about how many times you ask Wally to do the same thing....over and over and over. Dogs are often smarter than we give them credit for....they get bored easily. They are also smart enough to think, "Maybe I'm doing this wrong....we keep doing the same thing" so they get 'inventive'.
Watch the boredom....it's not easy to spot but, the first sign is usually doing the exercise more slowly. That's not what you want to happen. My dog can only do an exercise 5 times in a row....that's his maximum (except the fetch exercises gloves/dumbell). After that, his enthusiasm and speed go downhill. Our training sessions are only 15 minutes a day and cover several different exercises.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for the tips. Next time, I'll try 5, maybe 10 times and see how he responds.

Or set the timer for 10 minutes and whatever we do, we do.

I'm going to start getting my mom into shaping with him too. Well, maybe not shaping per se (since she wants to work with already known behaviors) but get Wally into the mindset of "what do I need to do to earn X" instead of "let me wait and see what they tell me to do, then I'll do it"
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Adventures in Shaping

Well, maybe it's all sinking in - sorta. (WARNING: ON THE LONG SIDE)

First, yesterday afternoon we had another session. I used a round mouse pad this time for a couple reasons:

-it was a new object and I do want to generalize retrieving/shaping to all kinds of things

-it made a softer sound when it hit the floor. I figure he might like that part. The kinda loud noise right next to him might have worried him (yeah, he's a pansy like that still)

-it has two contrasting colors on it (red and black) so maybe I could shape for him to touch the red or the black - or use it for paw targeting where he has to step on the black.

At first he seemed a little nervous about the new object, but he investigated it and he got a click/treat, so I think the shivering might have been because he was cold (it was cold and the ground was wet), but that didn't stop him from trying today. He touched the pad with his nose most of the times I threw it down (a few refusals/seeing what happens if he doesn't) so it went far better than before.

Also mixed it up with some touches of the pad with nose targeting and then on the edge (completely new) and he did it even on the edge. All of this with no prompting from me - aside from presenting/tossing the object.

Though the rope bone continues to be an adventure. Last night I just left it on the floor in my room with the door closed. I knew he wanted to get out, but I wanted to make him interact with the bone using his mouth before he did. At first he just stood around. So I just got up and left and left him in the room with the bone and a closed door. I waited just outside the door.

After about 20 seconds, I heard *thump*. I immediately opened the door and praised him. I knew he had thrown the bone on something. So I came in and closed the door and sat down. He was like...what the...?!

More standing around - so I got up and left again. This time the bone hit the door (and kinda hard too). Opened up and praised him. Now he's starting to get a little wound up (happy panting, tail standing up).

But I'm still sitting in the chair and he's still not going out. So now he's barking and play bowing. Not what I want, but he's trying something else. I give him some praise and rubs. But he's still not out of the room. I stand up and this time I took the bone with me.

With no bone - he all but pounds the door with his nose like 3 times. Open up, praise, he jumps - I pat, then the door closes - I put the bone on the floor and go sit down.

Now, he's glaring at the bone - like he's mad at it :D He looking at me and then at the bone. I decide to try something. I get the bone (he sees it moving and me holding it) and wait a few seconds. Then I tossed it. He walked all up to it (praised), pawed it (praised), started to mouth it (big praise and I stood up and jumped around and he got all giddy like YAY!). And then sat down.

He was all like...gruff...snort...looking around like what the *%#&@*. He went over to the bone and sort of "sidearmed" it. Big praise again and this time, finally, he got out of the room!

You'd think he just won 1000 pieces of porkchop!

I think he's started to get the hang of it - seems he just needs a little encouragement first?

This morning - well he was all wound up as usual. So he got right into it. I gave him his morning butt scratch - sending him into a spinning around nipping frenzy :D. Then I got the rope bone - well he did take it in his mouth on his own (progress!) and kinda chewed it, but then went back to nipping on my sweatshirt. When I rubbed him...with the bone - he nipped it and throw it on the ground (poor bone LOL)

In fact, he went and grabbed his nylabone. Needless to say I praised him, and then he started walking around with it :eek: I was rubbing and praising, and he was just steady holding it! After about a minute of the rubs and praise, we went straight outside!

I think he's telling me he would rather work with his nylabone - or maybe other small hard objects. I guess the rope is too big for him, even though it was as small as they had. He does have this little yellow rubber bone - I'll try it with that next time.
 

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Re: Adventures in Shaping

I am also in the process of teaching my Golden how to retrieve however I am teaching it a little different. She seems to have picked it up fairly easily so far with no distractions.
This is how I started.
With her in a sit position - looking at the object rec'd C/T
in a sit position - touching the object rec'd C/T
in a sit position - putting her mouth on the object rec'd C/T
in a sit position - holding the object in her mouth rec C/T
in a sit position - touching the object (which is on the floor) rec'd a C/T
in a sit position - picking the object up for a second rec'd C/T
in a sit position - picking the object up and holding it rec'd C/T
Then I started to toss the object 1 foot away from her so she had to move from a sit to get the object and return to a sit to get a C/T. Once she had this down it was just a matter of slowly throwing the object further and further away. As soon as she started bringing it back to me consistently I started naming it "fetch".
I can now throw it about ten feet away and she will retrieve it - as long as we are in the house. Outdoors it seems she has lost her brain and we will have to start all over.

I am sure there are all different ways of teaching it but I thought this would be the easiest way of teaching her to go get something, return, go into a sit and wait until I gave her the ok to drop it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for sharing your method.

Wally will look at the object and now will go over to touch it/sniff it.

That's pretty much where we are with the "formal" retrieve shaping (not just the silliness described in my last post :) )

I need to get him better with the pick up, which probably means I need to start working more on the mouth around it part, then move into the hold.

Do you think I should use his nylabone since he went and got it himself in all that silliness above? Maybe using such a familiar object would help the process along, although I don't want him to get it then flop down and chew it :eek:
 

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Yeah I used a bone that Macie liked to carry around the house, figuring that it would be easier for her to "want to" pick it up off the ground herself. I found that keeping some good treats on hand kept her attention so that she would not "flop down and chew it". Once he has the basics down I suspect you could move to an object where he may not be as inclined to lose interest in the retrieve part of the training.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
OK great :) I have the treat taken care of. If nothing else, I slice up a slice of deli ham again.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Well well, I think he's getting it.

The "Can You Make Me Let You Out" 'Game' even changed. Usually, it's a lot of barking and play bowing (which is fine), but now, if the rope toy is on the floor, he's thinking. He'll stand there for a moment, probably trying to see what I'm going to do, and then he's doing stuff to the rope :)

It was to the point where if I get up and leave, and he wants out, and the rope is on the floor. He'll pick it up and drop it, or pick it up and move it a little then drop it (interesting where he decides to move it also). In fact, one time I was standing by the door, but didn't hear the "thud" of the rope hitting the floor. He kept doing it, and I heard it - but just let him go. He started making a "huh? why did nothing happen?!" sound and doing the pick up and drop faster and faster until I opened the door.

But the trick was getting him to do it with me inside. But, eventually, he went over to it and pulled it up by one of the strands a little - he got a jackpot for that :)

The final thing was one more time with me out of the room. He grabbed it and slung it. I let him out then :D

I also changed how I interact with him. The only direct commands in the last four days, mainly recalls/let's go's, and practices with his stays (don't know how to shape those, really). Otherwise, it's all "figure it out, Wally" type interactions for just about everything else, even sitting and looking at me at the intersection or whenever I stop walking (still working on that off-leash). One odd thing is that he seems more into it WITHOUT the clicker. I guess my voice has become a better secondary reinforcer? Odd.

Dang it - I think I'm hooked on shaping now! :D And I think he's getting better with it too.

If only we can get that darn retrieve - still working on that hold. Getting the grab a little more often, but still not reliable. Would getting him to touch with his nose, then holding out for grabs work? Figure since it's in the same ballpark (that is, nose is close to the mouth) it might make it easier.

P.S. I read somewhere about "sit tests" to see just how fluent sitting is - and one was giving him the sit command while walking. Is shaping possible with that? He's starting to understand, though, so maybe I'll just let that go the "normal" way.
 

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I prefer to teach the retrieve by teaching take-give first, then take-hold-give, and finally take-hold-carry-give. Mainly because if a dog won't do those correctly it is not likely that they will retrieve reliably. This is more-or-less the 'traditional shaping' technique and works pretty well with dogs that have an inbred tendency to retrieve.

Some trainers don't like motivated play approaches such as you are doing because they don't think the dog gets the point that you are 'serious' about it. But if it works for you, do it.
 
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