Clicker training isolated muscle movements can be great for improving your shaping skills. One behavior that ginger and I have been working on using clicker training is teaching her to lower her head. With shaping, we don’t try and teach the whole behavior at once. Instead, we split the behavior into small approximations toward the final goal.
We’ve had several short sessions so far. Here’s where we are now:
Watch me clicker training head lowering on youtube
I started by asking for her to lie down and then waiting for any small movements of her head. When her head went down even a fraction, I clicked! We repeated this until she started to get the idea that head movements were earning her the clicks.
Then I started withholding my clicks and waiting for a bit more movement. Clicker training is great because it teaches our animals to be problem solvers. They learn that when they offer behavior and try different things, they get rewarded.
However, shaping can be difficult because we have to make sure we still set the animal up for success. When clicker training and shaping, it’s good to be generous at the beginning. Click for any small approximations to your final goal and the dog or horse will be willing to offer more. If we are too stingy and withhold our clicks for too long while waiting for a closer approximation to the final behavior, it’s easy to make the animal frustrated.
Clicker training the heads down has been interesting so far. I’m getting very discrete movements of the head. She drops her head an inch, waits a second (probably looking for a click) and then drops her head another inch. It ends up looking a little choppy. I assume that the choppiness will fade out as we go along, but it will be interesting to see!