Shaping….a Fun and Errorless Way for Your Dog to Learn


Yes, this was Shaped!

Shaping is an amazingly effective training technique which not only teaches your dog specific behaviors, but actually teaches your dog how to learn.  And it’s FUN.  Fun for you.  Fun for your dog!

Whether you want to teach your dog to enjoy a crate, go to mat and stay,  hold a dumb­bell for Com­pet­i­tive Obe­di­ence, teach a ser­vice dog to open or close a door, a Front for Rally, a posi­tion for Canine Freestyle or a fun trick, using Shap­ing can get you there!

As Karen Pryor, a well-known instructor trainer and author says, “The word “shaping” is scientific slang for building a particular behavior by using a series of small steps to achieve it. Shaping allows you to create behavior from scratch without physical control or corrections, but rather by drawing on your animal’s natural ability to learn.”

Dogs seem to learn so very quickly when they get to make their own choices and when we don’t to try to help them by constantly babbling to them throughout the training exercise.

Did you ever play the “Hot/Cold” game when you were a child?  We of course, use clicker training when we’re shaping.  The sound of the “click” is actually a marker signal that tells the animal that what they’ve just done will earn them reinforcement (usually a yummy piece of food).  And it’s reinforcement that drives behavior.  When playing the shaping game with dogs (and even with people), the click means “hot” and the absence of a click means “cold.”  It’s simply unforgettable when you witness the “light bulb moment” in your own dog during a shaping exercise!

Here are some benefits of using shaping:

  • Shaping builds confidence in dogs.
  • Shaping builds observation, timing, and reinforcement skills in the handler (and it’ll will make you a better trainer!)
  • Shaping is great mental stimulation for dogs – a five minute shaping session can tire a dog’s brain as much as a forty-five minute walk tires their body.
  • Shaping encourages creativity from both ends of the leash – the handler and the dog.
  • Shaping-savvy dog/handler teams can train very complex behaviors quickly and efficiently.

We’ve been incorporating shaping into classes and workshops at Cold Nose College ever since I was first introduced to it over 8 years ago.  We have plenty of shaping videos on our YouTube Channel.  Just type the word “shaping” into the search bar and enjoy watching the action.

Our one-day shaping workshop was so successful that as clients were walking out the door they chanted, “We want more shaping! We want more shaping!”  We listened.  We’ve added a two-day workshop, “The Shape of Things to Come” for November 8-9, 2014.  Come join us and see how fun and effective shaping can be for you and your dog!

Register for the Shaping Workshop Here


Lisa Lyle Waggoner is the author of The Original Rocket Recall™: Teach Your Dog to Come. She’s a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. The company’s trainers enjoy providing virtual behavior consulting and training solutions to clients around the globe and offers coaching, mentoring and behavior case support for pet professionals.


2 Responses

    1. Hi Paula, I’ll send you a private email too. Cold Nose College is located in Murphy, NC just about 2 hours from you. The shaping workshop is March 15 and is $165. We have 4 working spots still available, though plenty of observer spots. Here’s the link to the info on our website: /education/weekend-workshops#sh We hope you can join us! If not, you may enjoy our Fabulous Focus training DVD (a 4-disc set and almost 7 hours of training). Info on the DVD is on the home page of our website:

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