Instructor: Sara Brueske
This course outlines the foundation training program developed by the instructor, Sara Brueske. This program was developed with experience training many different breeds and ages of dog to successful careers in the sports of canine disc, agility, obedience, and dock diving as well as professional trick dogs.
This course is appropriate for any age dog or skill level of the handler. We will cover all of the core concepts needed to train the successful performance canine, regardless of their future sport or activities. This course has a heavy emphasis on creating a functional relationship as well as helping your dog develop an operant learning style.
Next session starts: August 1, 2018Registration starts: July 22, 2018Registration ends: August 15, 2018
Registration will begin at 10:00 AM Pacific Time.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited.
If you are interested in a bronze level subscription, you can sign up at any time during the registration period.
This course will provide a plan for building an overall foundation for the future performance dog.
- Three Types of Operant Training
- Training in Emotion
- Marker Systems
- Core Behavior Breakdown
- Environmental Expectations
- Impulse Control Concepts
- Wrapping objects for Speed
- Choose to heel
- Gotcha Game
- Toy Play for Teamwork
- Training With Reverse Luring
- Pivots for Rear End Awareness
- Recall Games
- Pivots – Step 2
- Chin Rests are Amazing
- Stays With Clear Criteria
- What You’re Forgetting About the Environment
- Rear Foot Targeting
- Toy Play Review
- Conceptual Training
Free shaping behaviors isn’t as simple as one might initially think. Many times, a dog is operant when presented with an object. They offer a variety of behaviors where they interact with that object but when left without that incentive to experiment, they sit motionless and confused. Object operance is typically the most common concept taught in regards to free shaping but there are two other versions that need to be taught to our young dogs as well. Operance in regards to the handler and self-operance are necessary tools to teach our dogs that are often overlooked.
Object operance is any type of shaping in regards to interacting with an object. Some common behaviors that can be taught using object operance include: go to your mat, sit on a perch, nose tough indication on a scent source. The dog performs a behavior in relation to an object that may or may not be phased out in the future.
Operance in relation to the handler is another tool to teach our dogs. Behaviors such as heeling, hand touches and leg weaves are great examples. The dog is performing a behavior that includes the handler and or is dependent on the handler’s position.
The final form of operant training is self-operance, the dog learns a behavior without the use of a prop or in relation to the handler. Behaviors such as sit pretty, spin, down and back up can be taught using self-operance.
Your first homework for this course is to shape the following behaviors to help your dog learn the concepts of object operance, handler operance and self operance.
Nose Touch to Object
Place a novel object (something unique that your dog doesn’t normally see) in front of your dog, click and reward (C/R) any glance or interaction your dog has with the object. Reward as close to the object as you can without luring your dog to it, meaning if my dog is two steps away, I can reward them where they are. Gradually build up your criteria, rewarding little increments of success as your dog moves closer and closer to the object, and eventually C/R nose touches. As your dog steps up in progression, stop rewarding the lower steps of criteria.
Toss the treat to “reset” your dog every few reps or if they get stuck. This serves for two purposes, the first is to let them take a breather away from the behavior itself if only for a brief pause. The second is to have your dog generalize their approach to the behavior from a variety of locations early in the learning process. If they can go to the object from where you are standing, can they go to the same object while moving towards you? Toss the treat in different directions to help generalize so your dog doesn’t become dependent on location. Don’t forget to move the object itself every couple of reps!
Our first handler-operant behavior is one you have probably already started with your dog, eye contact. With your dog hanging out somewhere in front of you, wait for them to glance up towards your face. C/R any eye movement towards your own eyes. Build duration by delaying the click. Don’t forget to occasionally toss a treat to reset your dog so that they can come back to you from a new location and on a fresh repetition.
This video features Spree shaping eye contact. She is not a dog that offers it naturally, however we have made great progress even in just this one session here.
Creature naturally offers eye contact, I was able to just capture and reinforce his with very little effort.
Self-Operant Behavior - Your Choice
You get to choose your self-operant behavior, it must be a behavior that does not rely on interaction with you or an object. Some examples are shaping a down, spin or paw-lift. An example of a criteria plan for a paw lift is outlined below. I will post several videos as examples.
- Sit in front of handler (stand works too, but allows for more movement of the dog which can cause difficulties)
- Weight shift to the left or right (pick one direction and stick with it)
- Slight paw lift
- More significant paw lift
- Obvious paw lift
- Add duration by delaying click
This video shows two sessions of shaping a spin with Brilliant.
Here is a really long video (8+ minutes), but I thought it might be benefical to those who want to watch it. I shaped a roll over with Spree and saved the unedited video. This was the first complex behavior that I taught her and her progress through the criteria plan is pretty great. You'll notice that I utilized reward placement to help reinforce the current criteria step, it can be a great tool to use throughout shaping.
Some things to note:
-Keep shaping sessions short! If things are going downhill, pet your dog and tell them they are brilliant. Re-evaluate your training plan (Ask me for help!!) for a future session.
-Keep distractions limited! It’s tough to concentrate to learn a new behavior in a busy environment (for both the dog and the handler!)
-Reward placement is important. Dogs will want to go to where they are rewarded, keep that in mind.
-It is very common to hit a plateau of learning during a shaping session, our dog is progressing nicely and then suddenly they seem to forget even which object they were supposed to be interacting with. Don’t panic, it’s completely normal. End your session, tell your dog they are brilliant and let latent learning take effect.
-If you’re stuck and can’t seem to communicate to your dog the next step of progression, watch for micro-movements. Shifts in weight can lead to a step in the right direction, literally.