A weekend of shaping fun with some of my best training friends in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, topped off by dinners at wonderful locally-owned restaurants with numerous delicious veggie options – what more could a training junkie ask for?
Huge thanks go to Lisa Waggoner of Cold Nose College (Murphy, NC) for hosting this event, and to Gail Hubbard and Susan Wilson for making their facility, A Good Dog’s Life available for the weekend. We had 18 working teams and another dozen observers. In addition to Lisa, the group included longtime training friends Beth Brock, Jenny Schneider, Tracey Schowalter, Viviane Arzoumanian, and AnneMarie Easton.
We started with some foundation discussion and then set right off with “Body Parts” shaping, where participants selected a specific body part and shaped movement of that part – a turn of the head, a lift of the paw, a flick of the ear or tongue… the possibilities are endless.
From there we moved to building behavior repertoire with free shaping, using the time-honored “101 Things to Do With a Box” and then “101 Things to Do With a Prop.” Props included a skateboard, doorbell, crate, cradle, book, a toy truck, and more. Following 101 Things, working teams selected a behavior goal to work toward using directed shaping. This often makes more sense to goal-oriented humans than the open-ended “101 Things” activity. We also started shaping “Go to Your Place.” A simple directed shaping exercise.
Homework assignment for the evening was to write up a shaping plan for a specific behavior the attendee wanted to teach her dog, with the emphasis on splitting (breaking the selected behavior into very tiny steps) rather than lumping (making the mistake of trying to shape for too large pieces of behavior). Review of the plans on Sunday morning helped attendees identify their lumping tendencies. Beth Brock won the grand prize of a Peaceable Paws baseball cap for splitting into the most steps – her plan numbered 54 total steps.
We returned to working sessions, starting with work on the plans the participants had written, with some teams making admirable progress toward their final behavior goals. We ended the day with a “Shaping Show-Off” – where dogs and humans demonstrated their success with their shaping plan behavior, and one other behavior they had worked on for the weekend.
We applauded each others’ achievements, and dogs and humans were happily exhausted by the end of the day.
This is by far my most favorite workshop to give. Because shaping is “errorless learning,” it’s almost impossible for participants to make rapid progress as they grasp the delightful fun of shaping.
There is still room in the 2011 Peaceable Paws calendar if you’d like to host a Shaping Workshop in your town, or attend one here at PPaws in Fairplay, Maryland!
Warm Woofs and Happy Training,