Rover Achiever | The Great Shaping vs Luring Debate
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The Great Shaping vs Luring Debate

The Great Shaping vs Luring Debate

The primary goals of training are to teach the dog the behaviour as efficiently as possible and to make it as reliable as possible. In positive-reinforcement based training classes the following methods are commonly used to teach a behaviour: capturing, shaping, targetting and luring. While luring is certainly the method of choice at IADL in the beginner training classes, I can’t help but notice that at some other schools it’s getting a bad rap. Consider the course at Susan’t Garrett’s Say Yes program – Lurer’s Anonymous. At IADL we are conscious about removing the lure early on but the questions are:
1. Does the lure get in the way of the dog’s learning?
2. Will dogs learn better if they are problem solving
3. Which will make the behaviour be more reliable?

As Jean Donaldson points out in one of her articles in Oh Behave, little research has been done on the subject. The following analogy, written by a pro-shaping author does demonstrate how shaping can affect learning. Imagine you are on your way to Jenny’s cottage. It is your first time driving to her cottage so you ask if you can follow her there behind her minivan. You other friend Angela, is going to the cottage as well for her first time, but will be arriving later. She has directions from Jenny, mainly landmarks. So,the question is… if both of you were to go to the cottage again, who would be more familiar with the route? Speaking from experience I know that if I follow someone I don’t pay attention as well as if I had to get there on my own. Now if we apply that to training, landmarks being clicks for certain movements, it’s easy to see why shaping would help the dog learn better. But does that mean that there is no value in luring? In beginner classes people want to see results quickly and don’t have a lot of patience. Luring does work and provided the lure is faded quickly, no harm done. But moving to the more advanced classes where heeling and long duration behaviours come into play, I think shaping should definitely play a more active role in the curriculum. Give some people shaping exercises and you will see them sneak in the corner and start luring. How to we get students to believe in shaping? For me it’s about giving them some shaping tasks where I’ve engineered the dog for success. Here’s a video of my shaping Tyson (coming soon). By the way I am planning on taking the Lurer’s Anonymous course. After that, who knows what ‘shape’ my training program will be in.

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