Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shaping "Spin"

So I brought Laev out tonight and started shaping, clicking for head turns to her left. I wanted to get a spin counterclockwise. But Laev has been clicked for many targeting behaviors, and she was convinced she was supposed to be interacting with something in the room. The two or three clicks I got in didn't really mean anything to her. Finally she spotted a blanket on the floor behind her (because I'm a lousy housekeeper) and turned toward it.


Laev froze mid-step, her head cocked over her left shoulder and tail up. Hmm. What was this click for? Because I use a click as an event marker rather than as a keep-going signal, it interrupted her concept of the reinforceable behavior and replaced it with mine!

I tossed the treat; Laev ate it. She faced me, looked confused, and turned again toward the blanket behind her.


Oh, huh. The click has something to do with being *here* and not with the blanket at all!

Laev ate the treat I tossed and very carefully turned to her left, looking at me. Yes!

We didn't get a real spin right away; it started with a lot of smallish circles, and of course she didn't really understand what I was clicking for yet. But her body was going through the motions, even if she couldn't yet distinguish all the details I wanted.

Enough of that, I thought. I put down the Simon & Huey's treats and picked up a bag of kibble and similar items. Laev was looking frisky, so I threw a toy and clicked when she bucked her way back, killshaking it. Within a moment or two I had her bringing the toy back with a calm hold. I clicked for the hold; I'll worry about adding the formal give later.

After a number of reps, Laev dropped the toy and fussed for a moment in front of me. I waited, willing to throw the toy again when she was giving me good attention. But she didn't look at me, turned away, turned back, turned away....

Oh! She's offering me circles to the left!

I'm guessing that she decided she wanted some more of the better treats, and those had been coming for the circles rather than the retrieves. :-) So I grabbed the good stuff and began reinforcing.

Very quickly we had smaller, tighter circles and then a real nose to tail spin. It was still a little jerky, but it was recognizable.

At that point Alena arrived with Cesare, the 15-week-old puppy. This of course distracted Laev temporarily, but within a few minutes Alena and I were both seated with clickers, working the dogs individually. Great distraction work! and when Laev and I quit, I had continued tight spins to the left, getting clicked at anywhere from 1/3 to 1 3/4 rotations.

This clicker stuff is kinda fun. :-)


TwoLittleBorderCollies said...

How fun! I had a clicker but threw it out. :P It was too noisy. Not too noisy for the dogs, but too noisy for me! That was about a year ago. I ordered one of those i-click clickers, hoping it will genuinely be quieter than the regular ones. I got some books out of the library and joined some clicker mailing lists for inspiration, too.

Anyway, I hope that my clickering is as fun as you have always described for Laev. :)

Laura said...

The i-clicks are DEFINITELY quieter than traditional box clickers! I use them exclusively, as I also love the fact that I can click with my foot, in my pocket, etc. :-)

Join us at if you like -- well over 5000 clicker trainers all exchanging ideas and stories!

Heidi said...


I got a big grin reading your post on using the clicker as an event marker and shaping with Laev. :)

I'm still sorry I didn't shape Willow's spins and twirls. They were an 'assignment' for homework in my clicker class the second week and we lured them and they're one of the few behaviors that really still need a physical hand signal for Willow and we have never quite gotten them completely on a verbal cue yet.

Aubra said...

Oh, I know how it is with target-oriented dogs! Lewis's first guess is always targeting- I've actually had to start folding the kitchen rug away so that he'll stop targeting on it in training sessions. If he doesn't get rewarded for nose targeting on something in the room, sometimes he tries everything again with his feet. *shakes head*