My female boss teaches puppy classes at the veterinary hospital.  Occasionally we have discussions about "challenging" puppies and the like.  Lately she's had a little mix puppy who seems to be the bane of her existence in regards to teaching down.  She asked for ideas about three weeks ago, after all of her usual methods didn't yield results.  I relayed the different ways I would go about it, minus shaping... until the very end.  She'd tried all of my other suggestions for luring the behavior and for a couple weeks no more comments, so I assumed things had been going well and they'd found a trick.

Today while I was finishing up some surgical charts she came in and showed me this little bundle of fluff that could not be lured into a down and very rarely offered a down.  Since most puppies learn how to be lured quite well, I first tried to lure the puppy into simple positions.  Environment was too stimulating so I had to keep reengaging the puppy (not something I would normally do... but I had limited time).  After about a minute I had the puppy licking/following the food reward in simple circles, in a straight line, and into a sit.  From there I "shaped" (yes, using the term very loosely, but there's really not another way to describe it) the puppy to down.  Each time the head followed the food I let her have a nibble.  Even if it was a tiny movement, nibble on food.  My end goal was to have her blindly following the food.  I never did work on the down portion, but something happened in that session and my boss was able to get five lured downs from the puppy later!

I can't call it shaping, because I wasn't waiting for offered behaviors really.  I was just luring, but the puppy wouldn't lure well, so I had to shape a lure, I think?

Anyway, I'm happy the puppy is "learning down" and the family/boss are happy about it.  But what do I/can I call that?


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I call it shaping. Shaping is successive approximation. You can shape and lure at the same time and I do it alot.

I call it Free Shaping when I don't use any prompts or lures.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

oh and nice job!

Kristine said...

"Shaping a lure", I like it! Congratulations on your success!

I agree with Laura's comment above. Even when shaping, I still use prompts sometimes if my dog is struggling. It's all about creativity, right?

Dawn said...

I think you should just call it success!

Kristen said...


Definitely shaping.

And many dogs DO need to be taught how to follow a lure. (And people need to be taught specifically how to lure... we use a magnet analogy..nose has gotta be touching the treat or your dog will 'fall off', like a magnet falls of the fridge if you hold it too far away).

YAYYY for you!!!

Robin Sallie said...

Shaping is the way to go -if you can teach this boss person and down owner person to shape.

Did they try sitting on on the floor and luring the pup under a leg?