Rainy day dog training games using free shaping and positive reinforcement

As the San Diego winter rolls in with rain and chilly weather, some dogs will be short-changed on long walks and trips to the dog park on bad weather days.  Free shaping with your dog can be a great way to burn off some of your dog’s mental energy, especially on rainy days you spend inside together.  Free shaping is an exercise that empowers your dog by teaching him to think, make decisions, and focus on a task.  It involves teaching your dog tricks by capturing behaviors he performs as he moves incrementally toward your ultimate goal for the trick.

This game is best played with a clicker (small box that makes a “click” sound to mark correct behaviors).  Visit www.clickertraining.com for more information on clicker training.  If your dog is not clicker trained yet, you can still play this game.  If you have a clicker, spend a day clicking the clicker and following it with a treat so your dog learns to associate the click sound with receiving a piece of food.  The click will then mean, “you have done the correct behavior, and you will soon receive a food reward.”  If you do not have a clicker, you can still play the game by using a word such as “GOOD!” or “YES!” to mark correct behaviors, and follow that word with a treat.  In either case, you will want to be very specific with your timing by clicking your clicker or saying your word right at the moment your dog performs the behavior.  The treat always follows this mark. [Read more…]