If you haven’t heard of free shaping then you are missing out. Free shaping is where you wait for your dog to do a desired behavior, mark the behavior with a reward marker and then reward it. When you do this you will find that the behavior you marked and rewarded will get repeated.
Why is free shaping important? Free shaping helps dogs to develop confidence. When you are free shaping your dog you are taking the pressure off of your dog. Your dog will be happier and more confident. This is especially important for dogs whom have been abused in the past.
Dogs who learn through free shaping are usually avid problem solvers. It is not long before they figure out that they are making the click happen. Usually by this time your dog already knows that the click means food. Free shaping is not only fun for your dog, but it can be fun for you too. You get to watch as your dog thinks through a problem. By watching your dog you learn his body language. When you learn about your dogs body language you will find yourself catching little messages your dog could be telling you. So free shaping is not only beneficial for your dog but it will deepen the connection between handler and dog.
One free shaping game that is popular is the box game. Grab a box, any box. With a hand full of small, soft treats and your clicker offer the box to your dog. Click your dog for interacting with the box. It doesn’t matter what he is doing. When your hand is empty, pick up the box and end the session.
Your next session you can narrow the criteria a bit by only clicking for your dog touching the box with his nose, or pawing the box, or putting his paw in the box. Over a series of short sessions you and your pup may create your own behavior. Put it on cue and you have a new party trick!
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