Shaping behavior for dog training
Hazel The Wonder Dog is stepping in to "blog" this week:
Many people have asked how I was trained, how I was trained so quickly, and how am I trained moving forward. I'll give you a little insight. Woof!
When I came to be with the big guy, I was already trained with basic obedience; you know, the basic sit, stay, no, leave it, etc. My Breeder Sherry Guerts (memaw) brings up all her puppies to be "bomb proof" meaning they're not afraid of things, they get exposed to noises, shapes, people, weird things, etc. Nothing frazzles us, because we are Hayshaker Labradors!
When my trainer Julie came around, she started me on "shaping" or breaking down each step of what I was supposed to do and reinforcing it along the way, usually with a clicker and treats. Being the ever adorable lab that I am, I was eager to please and smart to boot!
The first step was establishing a place for me to "recognize, sit, and stay". So with a white cloth in hand, wherever the cloth was placed, and as I showed interest in it, I received a "click" and a treat. As I moved closer and eventually put my nose to it, I received a click and a treat. Now, keep in mind, there's no grey area - if I didn't completely do what was needed, I didn't get a "no", I actually didn't get a reward until I did it.
Over time, the behavior is named (in this case, my white cloth is "spot") and as the behavior continues correctly, less treats are given because the behavior is to become automatic or necessary. The goal is to encourage the dog gently into what you want them to do. Viola! My white cloth is the "spot" where I go "sit and stay", usually in restaurants.
Because I didn't go through the traditional service dog training at a training facility, I am being trained specifically to address the needs of the big guy. I can stand/"brace" and support him when he gets to his knees and finds something to help him stand, I can bring him a rope to help steady him if he falls and needs to get up, I can push open doors with my nose (mom is working on pushing with my feet), and I know the neighborhood well enough that if you tell me "Home, Hazel", I can take the big guy home.
If you're interested in an awesome dog like me, support dog or just a bundle of lovable labrador, just contact Memaw and tell her Hazel sent you.