Shaping up a storm

I kept meaning to write all last weekend but the weather was just so bright and the dog was just so eager that I also kept putting it off. Instead Shiva and I worked on our favourite things: new tricks! One of these days I’m going to have to take video footage of her trick routine because it’s becoming really impressive. The list of commands or signals she’s learned in the past year is pretty freaking long. She picks up things almost immediately. After a few very brief sessions she’s offering the new behaviour before I even ask. It helps balance out her less than savoury behaviour, I guess. It’s easy to forgive her crazy lunging and barking when she’s being the ideal pupil.

One of my birthday presents this year was the Knack Dog Tricks. I had flipped through it but until this last four-day weekend I hadn’t spent too much time looking at it. Agility training has been taking up a lot of the dog portion of my brain space. Anyway, the book is a lot more useful than I expected. Not just for trick training but for training in general. I wish I’d had it on hand a year ago when Shiva first came home. It contains so many simple but effective ideas for creating focus and shaping behaviour. Don’t get me wrong, the obedience classes were awesome, but I think this book would have helped me understand what the instructor was talking about in a different way. It may have saved me a bit of that early frustration.

I still get a high when I notice the surprising effectiveness of shaping. This weekend Shiva and I worked on the simple trick of getting her to look at her tail. Within minutes, minutes, she was turning her head around. All I had to do was sit there with treats in my hand and wait. It’s incredible how easy it all is and how wicked it is to watch Shiva figure stuff out on her own! I don’t know if I’ve ever done anything more rewarding. Now I’m a shaping addict. There are quite a few little tricks using this technique that the author of Knack mentioned; I can’t wait to teach her them all! And, looking up from my computer as I type this to see her solemn brown eyes watching me, I know she can’t wait either. That’s the genius thing.

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