Recently while visiting a veterinary office I picked up a free ‘DogsDogsDogs! newspaper that I have never read before. On the very first page was an article titled ‘Do all the dogs learn the same way?’ that I started reading with interest (http://www.dogsdogsdogs.ca/articles/article_70.html). The author of the article says that shaping can be a very stressful experience to some dogs and in this case you should just show the dog what to do by luring. Definitely luring is better than using aversive methods but it sounds like the concept of how animals learn could be revisited.
What I totally understand and have experienced is that shaping can make my dog (and me!) stressed but this is not because the method as such doesn’t work. Could it possibly be that one of the three principles in training – rate of reinforcement, criterion or timing- has gone off the track?! In 99% of my experienced cases, YES! Solution: I need to adjust my shaping plan.
How can luring exactly ‘tell the dog what to do’? I remembered a discussion that we had on our KPA course at Steve Benjamin’s. A fellow student described how in the agility class that she attended the dogs were lured to do the weaving poles. Sure, the dog does not seem stressed at all as he follows the treat between poles and at the end gets the treat. If someone was dangling a $100 bill in front of my nose (I wish!), I most definitely would follow it anywhere it goes, through the hoops and tunnels, with my eyes gleaming with anticipation. But what happens when the bill is not there anymore, just the hand that was holding it? I think I wouldn’t have a clue what I am supposed to do to get my money, I would get EXTREMELY frustrated, and after that, well, I would just go home!
Luring can lead to results, I’m not denying that, but why bother when with a proper, stress-free shaping plan you get the result so much faster.