Good clicker trainers understand and use the principle of shaping. Shaping means teaching a behavior in small approximations or steps. Good shaping can greatly speed up learning and reduce confusion and frustration by helping the animal be successful every step of the way. (To see shaping in action, check out this video of Georgie learning how to go through a tunnel.)
However, many animal trainers consider shaping a difficult skill to both learn and to teach to others. Shaping is largely considered an art, something that takes much time and practice to learn how to do well.
Many of you know that I’m working on a master’s at UNT, studying behavior analysis and animal training. Last year, myself and several other students from our animal training research group, ORCA, along with our advisor, Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, designed and led a 6 hour workshop to help people learn how to be great shapers.
The workshop was held during the annual convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and was a huge success. The hands-on workshop included a bit of lecture, lots of example videos, many great discussions, and plenty of time spent playing interactive table-top shaping games.
For a full report about last year’s workshop, including photos, check out this recent article on the ORCA blog. ORCA will hold their next shaping workshop in May 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at ABAI’s 39th annual convention.
In the photo at the top of the post, I’m talking to two of the participants during the workshop.