E297: Julie Flanery - "Shape Up Your Shaping"

Julie Flanery and I talk about what shaping is, and how to use it effectively and efficiently... including putting behaviors under stimulus control!


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Julie Flanery here with me to talk about shaping. Hi Julie. Welcome back to the podcast.

Julie Flanery: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. To start us out, you wanna just remind everybody a little about you, your current crew and what you're working on with them?

Julie Flanery: Yeah. My primary sports are Rally-FrEe and freestyle. Rally-FrEe is a sport that takes foundation freestyle behaviors, and not just foundation freestyle behaviors, but a lot of the behaviors that we use in freestyle and puts it on a Rally style course.

So it's a way for people to learn those freestyle foundation skills without the music, without the choreography, without the pressure of staying in time and all of those things that freestyle brings to the sport. It's also a sport that has kind of spread to people outside of the freestyle world, people that do Rally, people that do agility, people that do obedience as another fun way to compete and work with their dogs on a variety of skills.

And it might interest people to know that it's a great cross-training sport as well, because all of the skills that we use in Rally-FrEe, we use in other sports as well. But I'm working on–Phee is my mixed breed, and she is working on her last four legs to complete her Rally-FrEe championship. So I'm kind of excited about that.

I'm also working on a new freestyle routine that will be showing for the first time in April. We have a live event coming up in April. I might show the video before then, but I hope to be ready in April. We are continuing to work on her mimicry skills. Matter of fact, Melissa, you might be interested to know that she has learned yesterday we did pushing a ball for Treiball, so, and she was taught that, Yeah, she was taught that all through mimicry. I didn't do any shaping with it or targeting or anything. I just wanted to play with it and see if she could mimic it and she could. So that was great. So now we have to shape the other aspects of it though.

And then as, always, and forever, we continue to work on her arousal when the opportunity to greet people presents itself because she loves greeting people and loves people and loves being petted and loved on, and that's always gonna be a work in progress. But, she's doing really awesome in that part. So, you know, training, training her not to greet people and to stay with me is the easy part.

Working with her in terms of her arousal and making sure she's happy doing that and doesn't, and isn't just like vibrating to hold herself back, that's a whole other aspect of it. So, we're working into that aspect. But yeah, it's a lot of fun. And now that she's an only dog, I get to really like, play with a lot of different things.

I don't feel like I have to just always go out and work my routine or always go out and work my particular sports skills because, you know, she's a very versatile dog and I'm enjoying kind of exploring a lot of different things with her right now.

Melissa Breau: Very exciting. Yeah. So I wanted to have you on to talk a little bit about shaping today. So, well, I think most of our listeners are probably familiar with the idea of shaping. I've certainly heard different definitions of it kind of over the years. So just kind of to make sure everybody's on the same page, can you share, describe what you mean when you talk about shaping?

Julie Flanery: Yes. At its most base level, base definition, it's the process of teaching a behavior by marking and rewarding increments of smaller pieces leading up to that end goal behavior. So it's about building a strong reward history, not just for the end result, but for those smaller achievements that make up that final end result. So you're, you're not reinforcing just the destination, you're not reinforcing just the end behavior, but the goal in shaping is to reinforce the path that gets them there so that it's a stronger, more robust behavior.

And I think that for a long, long time that a lot of people thought that shaping was synonymous with clicker training and vice versa. I think a lot of people that were introduced to clicker training were introduced to it as a tool used in shaping. And somewhere along the way I think that morphed into, if you're using a clicker, you're shaping, and that's not actually true. Just because you're using a clicker does not mean you're shaping because you're using a prop or a target does not mean you're shaping, but shaping is about building those behaviors incrementally, whether or not you're using a clicker. So, a clicker can be used in targeting or capturing or luring and, and shaping, you know, for example, if you're teaching a dog to target something, a lot of people, rather than shaping to the target will wait till the dog gets to the target and then click. And that's not shaping, right? That's targeting or capturing, but it's not shaping. So just because you've used a clicker to train a behavior or a dog to go to the target or to do this, or that doesn't mean that you have shaped that behavior. So, if you think about someone that's maybe working with clay, they don't take that lump of clay and throw it on the wheel and wait for the pot to appear. Right? They shape it, they put their hands at each time the the wheel turns, the potter's hands starts to create something that, while at the beginning it doesn't look like anything but a lump clay. But it starts to take a little bit of form and as they, the potter continues to work with that clay, it takes on another slightly different form and another slightly different form until it builds into whatever the potter had in their mind as their end product. But it takes that massaging and the shaping and the building into to create that end result. Does that make sense?

Melissa Breau: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And having, taking pottery in college, sometimes you have to collapse it all down and start over, but…

Julie Flanery: That's right. Sometimes we have to collapse it all down and start over or at least go back to an earlier result.

Melissa Breau: Right. So how do you kind of introduce that concept with a new dog or a new puppy?

Julie Flanery: So I like to start with something super easy, something super obvious targets or a cone or a bed or a cot or a hand target, something that can draw the dog's focus. Objects are great because they give the dog a focal point, meaning something to look at right away or to interact with or to become curious about. And that initial looking at being aware of not even moving to, because I think sometimes people wait for a dog to move, but that first awareness looking at is the first click, the first time you would mark it tells a dog right away. There's value in being aware of this thing. There's value in interacting with this object. So I like to use an object as a focal point for dogs. How I reinforce them for that might vary from dog to dog.

So my goal in shaping is that the dog not just learned to do the thing, to touch the target, to get on the bed, to go to my hand, whatever it is, but that they learn the path and how to get there. So if you, oftentimes, I think you've probably heard, I know people have heard me compare this and you've probably heard other trainers compare a shaping with luring and a GPS.

So luring as if you're following the GPS. So if you're used to following a GPS and it's telling you exactly where to go, then finding that path on your own or driving that route on your own is much more difficult because you're not really paying attention to the landmarks or the scenery or the environment. You're just doing what you're told. And I think of luring as being like a GPS.

Okay. Rather than if you're driving the route and you're picking up on the landmarks and you know what the next turn is, then next time it's easier to take that route without the GPS. Or even something like some, this is gonna sound silly–potty training a puppy. If you are always picking up the puppy and carrying it to the door to let it go outside, that puppy is going to have a very difficult time learning how to find the door to go outside. And so if we're always doing the thing for the dog, if we're always showing them exactly what to do, that can actually hinder the process of learning the end result for the dog because they were not allowing them to connect the dots to go from point A to Z by following the alphabet.

You know, if you wanna get to A to G and the alphabet, you have to go through B, C, D, E, and F, right? It's not a G M Y Z. So shaping is about allowing them to move through the alphabet, to build strength in the whole alphabet and not just random letters. Oh my gosh,

I'm full of analogies today.

Melissa Breau: That's okay. It's fun. I like analogies.

Julie Flanery: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Melissa Breau: So I think a lot of people, you know, when they think about shaping, they maybe find it a little bit daunting when they think about starting from scratch, right? Nothing but them and the dog. Can you talk a little more about the environment and props and things like that and how you kind of encourage the behavior you're looking for when you're shaping?

Julie Flanery: Yes. So when you're referring to props, do you mean like managing the environment to create criteria or are, do you mean like what we just talked about having a prop there as a focal point? Or maybe both? Or…

Melissa Breau: You can talk a little bit more about both. I mean, you already talked a little bit about having it as a focal point, so maybe a little bit more kind of beyond that.

Julie Flanery: Yeah. So a couple things I think and, and I have to discriminate here between some terms, just so that your listeners kind of know where I'm headed with this and, and what it kind of plays into. What is my definition of shaping, I guess? Yes, the definition I gave at the top of the program is that is the definition of shaping, but within the practice of shaping, there are different paradigms. I guess Deb Jones coined the term free-shaping many, many, many years ago. And since she coined that term to mean one thing, it has morphed into meaning having different meanings depending on who you're talking to. So for Deb, I believe the term free-shaping was a lot like, you know, there's no set criteria to start, show me what you have. I will mark and reward what you're giving to me. For me that free-shaping term is going to mean we're not using a focal point, a prop, a mat, whatever it is. We're not using environmental management such as platforms or gates to create criteria. But what we're going to do, as you said, here's we're gonna create something out of thin air. There's you and there's the dog, and there's your reinforcement and your clicker. So what do you do? How do you–what is the first thing that we do there? I geneRally will toss a treat. I give a freebie to get my dog moving. You cannot shape behavior with a dog that stands still.

It is harder to shape behavior with a dog that stands still. It's not that you can't, but you have to be really, really good at observing minute things if a dog is standing still. So I think it's easier just get the dog moving because from movement, you can then shape that into something more finite. Okay? So even though there's no prop, there's no focal point. If you have the vision in your head of what you want that behavior to be and you can get the dog moving, then you have something to observe. Okay, so let's say, let's say you want to shape a bow. We'll just use a bow for example. And that's no prop. I'm not, there's, I'm not gonna use it.

I could use a target stick, right? But if I'm just shaping it from thin air, I wanna have in my mind a picture of first off the whole behavior start to finish. But really what I wanna have in my mind is that very first thing the dog needs to do on the path to the end behavior. So if you picture a standing dog or a dog moving towards you and your end goal is a bow, well the dog is going to need to start to lower some portion of the front end of his body. I mean, that's what a bow is. The bum is up, the front end of the dog is down, elbow's probably on the ground, but that's the end behavior. So we have to be able to visualize what are all the little increments that the dog's body has to go through to get to that end behavior.

And it's that very first slice of behavior. And I know you've heard the term slice and shaping before, but this is really what that means. It means you are liteRally slicing that down into little itty bitty pieces. I like, this is gonna go weird, but I like thin sliced deli meats. Don't give me a thick slice of ham. Okay?

So you want the thinner, the slices of behavior and the A of the action that the dog is taking, the better for shaping. We're not all that good. You do the best you can. So as the dog is moving towards me, if I see a slight drop of the head or a lowering of any part of the dog, I will mark that.

I will then use reward placement to help encourage that further action. So in this case, for about I'm going to, if I toss the treat or if I hand over the treat, it's going to be low and towards the dog's chest. I'm not luring the dog to perform any other action. Once I click, once I mark that rep is over, there's nothing in the reward placement that is going to change that rep at all. And I think again, that's another misunderstanding about strategic reward placement. As people try to change the behavior of the dog while giving them a treat, luring the dog into the rest of the bow before they release the treat. Okay, that's not what this is. It's simply giving the dog a reason to continue along that path in future reps.

So that first click, I notice the dog's shoulder dropping slightly or they're head lowering as they come back. You've marked that I toss low and maybe below the dog's chest and then I watch again for further action. Now the bow to me is a fairly complicated behavior to shape, to free shape. I probably, personally, it's not one that I would shape.

I would use a target stick, I would use a lure. There are very easy ways to get certain behaviors. Now once my dog does have that behavior, I might go back and reshape it to build strength in it. Dogs that understand behaviors are much more quick to offer those pieces of behavior. So I can build strength in it even if I train it in a different way.

But I think that free shaping from thin air is probably one of the most difficult for people to apply. And so while the dog and handler are building their skills, you also might opt to do something what I call structured shaping. So structured shaping would be where we might use props to guide the dog, such as the training gauge such as a platform, such as a target stick. These are all tools that we're going to implement the method of shaping. But we're gonna do it in a way that aids the dog's understanding and allows the handler to have an easier time at observing those little increments of behavior. So if I'm teaching a dog to back up, let's take heel, let's take teaching a dog to go to heel shaping a dog to move into a heel position. We can use a platform as a target, but we need to shape the dog to that target, right? The target, the platform is set in the position next to the handler where heel position would be. But I'm not gonna wait for the dog to get onto the platform before I mark, before I click, I'm going to mark maybe six feet away. I've tossed a treat behind me. The dog is natuRally going to want to move back to me. I'm going to mark when they take three steps towards me and I'm going to toss again behind. So I'm still shaping, but I have a target for the dog and I have a visual for me as well.

The closer the dog gets to the platform, the more likely he is to complete and reach that end behavior. But I'm not gonna wait until he gets there to do most of my clicking, most of my clicking most of the time when I'm shaping to heal position into a platform, whether I'm using a platform or any of the other props we could use to teach heel, gates, cones, whatever it is to, to define the position of heel, my focus isn't going to be on the position of heel that I'm gonna build through reinforcement. My focus is gonna be on the path my dog takes to get to that position. Because if they don't know the path to get there, if they don't know the path to get there, it doesn't really matter how much value I put in standing there. Because once they're no longer there, they won't know how to get there. They won't know how to collect that reinforcement. It's like the dog that's learning to potty train. It doesn't matter how many times I take him out the door, if he, if I'm carrying him and he can't learn the path to the door,

it's gonna be harder for him to learn to go potty outside. Okay? So in shaping all the focus is on the, the how to, how to get there, how to get to the end result, not the end result itself. Props and guides make the shaping process a little bit easier often for both the dog and handler because it's easier to observe those small increments.

It's easier to set up your sessions so that the dog is offering those increments. If you think about backing up, if you're using a mat as a rear foot target, or if you're using gates that apply a little bit of pressure to the dog to cause them to take steps back, those steps back are easier to see because they're being created by the gates or the mat.

And the backing is the byproduct of the prop that we're using. It just allows us to create the criteria and to observe it a little bit more readily. I think personally, and, and before I say that, I use props a lot because I do think it speeds the training process. But I will tell you that if you use props in shaping as opposed to free shaping the behavior or not using props, pulling it out of thin air, you will likely have to continually go back in terms of maintenance and use the props. You're gonna lose some of that skill. And unless you have a strong understanding of how to mark and reinforce those smaller muscle movements in training those kinds of behaviors, you are always going to have to go back to the prop to help maintain it.

Whereas if I were to shape my dog to come in to heel without the aid of a platform, without the aid of gates, or coming between a cone and myself or any of those other props, if I were to look in a mirror, use my reward placement and mark simply the actions of my dog in seeking out that position based on when I mark and where I reward that behavior is going to be much more robust than if I used gates or platforms or targets or anything else.

Gates and platforms and targets are amazing tools. I use them in my training a lot. I mostly use them to build value in the end result rather than shaping up the skill to being able to execute on the dog's part. Did that make sense?

Melissa Breau: I'm, yes. I've got a question for you though. Okay. It's going back a little ways.

Julie Flanery: That's okay. Cause I don't even know if I answered your first question.

Melissa Breau: You did, you absolutely answered my first question. But you mentioned something about reward placement in there that I just had a follow up question for. So you were talking about when you were shaping a bow, right? So if we were to be shaping a bow, if we were free shaping it using your definition of free shaping, you mentioned that you would use your reward placement to be low. Would there be a case where you would instead reward high so that the dog was more likely to offer you a lowering head because that's the next natural thing that they would do?

Julie Flanery: What an awesome question. Yes, absolutely. And I might actually even alternate those two. So by rewarding high, you're setting them up for that next rep and you're, we know the dog after eating high is going to go ahead and drop their head and we can then mark that action. But I also wanna make sure I'm building value in the lowered head because if I'm always feeding high, at some point, the dog is not going to drop their head because my timing may not be good.

The reinforcement is more salient than the marker may be because I'm overshadowing something's going to occur. Where we're the, the reason why that strategic reward placement, and there's a lot of ways to define strategic or what is the strategy behind your reward placement, right? One strategy is as a reset so that we can get another rep. Tossing a treat is a great example of a reset strategy so that you can get another rep of the dog moving in a certain way.

If I'm using a prop, I will toss to the side a triangle between me and the prop and the treat so that the dog has to choose to go to the prop rather than to me. So that's a strategic way of placing a reward to get certain results on the next rep, raising high for the bow to reset the dog so that he's likely to lower.

Yes, perfect way to think about how you're gonna reward to encourage future behavior, but at the same time, wherever you reward, you are building value in that location and place. And so what we could start to see, maybe not in the bow, but certainly in a lot of other behaviors, there's going to be value in keeping the head up.

Okay? I'll give you, I'll give you a great example. There's an opposite behavior to the bow, which is of a dog putting his head all the way up nose to the sky like a howling wolf pose. Okay? If you can picture that, that's the opposite of a bow. So I can shape that, I have shaped that. And basically you're marking and rewarding your dog's nose going up a little bit, a little bit more mark click treat that your dog's nose goes up a little bit more. Any dog that understands the shaping process and has experience with shaping will figure out very quickly where and when and why you're timing your marker the way you are. Okay? So for my dogs, it happens very quickly. They start to raise their nose. Now, if I feed high, I am building value in getting my dog to go high, and they are more likely to bring their nose up on the next rep because they know the reinforcement is going to be above them. Does that make sense? So they are becoming efficient in getting to the location of reinforcement.

Okay? If I'm teaching a bow, I can, and same with this, this nose up pose, can I reward low so the dog wants to bring his head up again or we're resetting him again. Yes. But I will tell you this, with that head up pose, as soon as I mark the dog is gonna drop their head.

So they're already resetting themselves for the next behavior, right? So it's just, it's just a matter of watching the dog, making sure that you're not building too much value in one location and you're reward placement that is the opposite of the location that you really want the dog to be. I'm not gonna reward a pie for very long because in a bow, because I want my dog to find value in lowering the chest. It's, I'll give you another really great example that a lot of people can, can really, they've been in this situation, I see it all the time. You cue your dog to down and you mark and you go to get the reward. And as you feed the dog, you're taking the food to the dog's mouth, they lift up slightly out of the down. And now we have reinforced coming up out of the depth. So the down–the bow, any of those behaviors where I want my dog's body lowered to the ground, I will always reward on the ground because it builds value in that location. Can I use the reset and f feed high for a few reps?

Absolutely. Absolutely. But don't overuse that because it builds value in a totally different location. So it's an interesting concept, right? Just kind of think, I mean, we could talk about reward placement all day, but just the idea of like how you use what and when you use what and right? And all of that And that, I mean…

Melissa Breau: Go ahead.

Julie Flanery: I was gonna say, it's gonna look different for every dog, right? Like you have to work with the learner in front of you, but it's gonna look different for every dog and it's gonna look different for every behavior. And so I think that's part of why shaping is so valuable is because in shaping, you really have to visualize the whole, not just the end result, but things that happen before and after as well. You have to look at that whole picture in order to properly shape the dog to that end result. And within that, you have to now be thinking about each one of those steps might have a different reward placement, and you may need to, each time your criteria changes, you may need to change your reward placement as well to continue the progression.

Melissa Breau: Okay, so to shift gears on you again, I think like, so we talked a whole bunch about like how to get the behavior in the first place. Dogs who do a lot of this, right? They shape all the time. They've learned a lot of different behaviors from shaping.

I think it's pretty common to end up with a dog who just like throws things at you before you can cue them to do a behavior. They're just offering you 16 things or you're getting ready to set up a shaping session. And before you can start to, you know, even toss that reset cookie, they're offering you 16 things that you've shaped in the past, right? Over and over again. How do you differentiate for a dog when you want them to do that versus when you definitely do not want them to do that?

Julie Flanery: Okay, so first off, it's important to know that that's a handler issue, not a dog issue. Okay? We've create, we create that, and the way we create that is, boy, there's so many ways we create that. Where to start, where to start. It's a big question. I am, I'm trying to break down that question because I'm, I'm gonna kind of try and break the question down a little bit so that I can be more directed at what I'm answering. So if a dog is coming into a session, like my dog knows that if I click nothing, I have a clicker and I click and I toss the treat, then we are likely starting a shaping session because I have not provided any other cues. Okay? So the absence of cues tells my dog they are allowed to offer, okay? Once your dog starts offering though, now the responsibility falls to the handler to time their marker so that they are accurately communicating to the dog what the next offering should be.

So if the handler is not clear and has not planned out what it is that they are going to be, what is that path that they are going to be marking the points on? But they're gonna be clicking and rewarding those points along the path. If they have not visualized that and wrap their head around that, t their shaping just becomes random.

And shaping is not random. Shaping is along a continuum. And I think people, as we said earlier, they don't think of shaping along a continuum. They're just waiting for something to happen that looks something like what they wanna train. And that is going to get you into trouble, that is going to get a dog that starts offering anything and everything because they're not clear on what it is you, what direction do you want them to go. So, couple of things that can help, you know, let's say you're, you find yourself in that situation that suddenly the dog is just offering anything and everything, okay? There, there's two kinds of dogs. I actually talk about this in my first lecture in my class. There's dogs that move too much, that offer too much, and there's dogs that don't move enough and don't offer anything. Those are the two kinds of dogs, okay? Or those, that's the, you know, opposite ends of the spectrum. Ideally we have something in between there and we can observe to a degree. But if you have either of those two dogs, which is a lot of people that start to learn about shaping, they have one of those two dogs.

Then for me, the beginning of the solution for that is the same: click anything. So you have a dog that's moving a lot. What the click does is it stops their action. Your click ends the behavior, right? So as your dog is moving, dog is moving, you're like, oh my God, what happened? I have no idea what I'm doing here. And my dog is just offering all of this stuff. Why is he offering all of this stuff? He's offering all this stuff because you haven't been very clear in what he should offer. So we need to, we need to stop that movement, break that movement down. If you mark that stops the dog, you can slowly get your reward out slowly. Do not rush your rewards. For dogs that move a lot because the time period between your click and the time that your reinforcement gets to the dog, that's time that you have to think and that's time the dog has to lower their arousal a little bit. Okay? And I'm not saying it should take 20 seconds, but it's okay to take three or four seconds for you to get your reward to the dog. If they understand the click means reinforcement is coming. And believe me, if your dog is going through their Rolodex and offering all of these things, they probably know that Yeah, they know that what that click means. So there's no need to rush that. So mark anything and slow down your reinforcement.

Be ready to mark almost immediately again, when the dog is finished. Because when the dog is finishing reinforcement before they offer something, what are they likely to do? Look at you–click. Now we've created a few seconds of stillness because if you can't handle, if you don't want the dog to keep throwing things at you, we need to mark and reinforce stillness, okay? And that of course goes against everything we think we know about shaping, right? Shaping is about moving, shaping is about marking, shaping is about a continuing process of of action and movement. You know, you've, you've heard the, the phrase click, click for action mark, well, I'm sorry, click for action reward for position, right?

You click movement and reward position. But that can bite us in the butt in the end. If all we're doing is marking movement, marking movement, then what do we, what have we got a dog that all they do is move? And that's not, that's not a good thing. That's not what we want. Okay? So you have, so if you have a dog that is just throwing things at you,

click early, click often, slow the dog down, give yourself a moment to be able to visualize and watch for, and then mark that next small piece towards your end result. And don't go into a shaping session, not knowing what you're gonna do, not knowing what your first click is. Know what your first five clicks are going to be. That's first off, because it's that moment of us looking at our dog and thinking, huh, what are we gonna do now? And then your dog says, I know what we're doing, we're shaping, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And you're like, oh my God, what just happened? Okay. I also really like stationing.

If you find that the dog is pushing you, pushing you, pushing you through their continued action and movement station them, put them on a bed or a mat, stillness is your friend in shaping, even though it doesn't seem that way sometimes, because for the dog that doesn't move, this is the other end of the spectrum. It's like, stillness is not my friend, right? So how do you get a dog moving? Well, I start with a freebie. I toss a treat because they're gonna run to get that treat and they're gonna move back to me. And as they move back to me, I click again and I toss it again. So I can encourage movement by clicking any movement, and then I can start to refine exactly which movements and which actions I'm going to choose to mark that shape the dog into the path towards that end resulting behavior.

So for me, the answer to both of those problem scenarios in shaping the dog that moves too much and the dog that doesn't move enough is click more frequently, click for the dog that moves too much, click for nothing, click for stillness, don't wait for them to continue. And then use stationing as a means of lowering arousal if you need to. And then for the dog, that doesn't move enough, click any movement, doesn't matter. And then start to refine what it is that you actually want to build towards.

Melissa Breau: So now we chatted a little bit about this before I hit record, but kind of what I was originally thinking you were gonna tell me was you need to put some of those behaviors on stimulus control, right? So obviously it's a little more complicated than that. There's a lot more to it than that.

Julie Flanery: Yes, there is.

Melissa Breau: Can you, Can you, you talk a little bit just about how kind of stimulus control does fit into that picture?

Julie Flanery: Yeah. So I'm not quite sure how deep to delve into this, but shaping is about no stimulus control, right? Offering is a dog providing behavior not under any kind of stimulus control in terms of cues that we might provide to them. In general, stimulus control means that we have trained a behavior, we've attached a cue to it, and now the dog only performs that behavior when we cue it. They're those four tenants of stimulus control. And I'm not gonna go into all of them, but for simplicity's sake stimulus control, we want the dog to do the behavior that we cue when we cue it. That's the simple part of stimulus control. Okay? Now, when we do, when a dog offers behavior, he is not under stimulus control and we are encouraging that dog to offer behavior, right? So when we say, well, the problem is that nothing's under stimulus control.

Well, if everything were under stimulus control, our dog would not be able to offer, okay? So a dog, I like my dogs to have the ability and all dogs have this ability to understand when to offer and when they should only respond to cues. Okay? And there are times when we want to actually take a behavior that's on stimulus control. The dog has an understanding of a behavior and we've attached the cue to it. And our dog has shown through their history of training that they understand to perform that behavior when you give the cue. But I also want my dogs to know that if in the, that in the absence of cues, they are allowed to and encourage to offer. And in that vein, I also want my dogs to understand that I might remove stimulus control, a learned cue from the process. Meaning yes, I know you understand that cue and yes, I know that you will give me that behavior when I cue it, but you know something, I want you to offer that behavior. Now I am going to remove the cue from that behavior and I want you to offer that.

And that can be a complex concept for some handlers and dogs to understand. Basically I'm saying, and this is, I think this was a term, oh, I think I heard it first from Kathy Sdao or maybe maybe from Morton Effort, or that stimulus control is on stimulus control. There are times when I want you to respond to cues and there are times when I don't care that I haven't given you the cue and I want you to offer me that behavior.

And the reason that's important, I think the reason that's important is because there are times when we need to clean up or polish or change a criterion in a behavior. And we've taught the dog a cue that means this set of criteria. And now I wanna change that criteria. So if I wanna change that, I need to remove the cue and encourage the dog to offer the behavior.

If I wanna faster down, okay, my dog knows down means to go flat to the ground on your belly, right? But he is a little slow. So I say down and my dog, yeah, okay, I'm laying down now, but I need him to, I need him to drop fast so that that speed is a criterion that I need to change.

If I continue to say down, sure I could just start to click the faster ones. But am I, what is the likelihood that I'm gonna get a fast down if every time I say down, he's responded with a slower down. And that's what I've been rewarding, right? If a dog doesn't have to change a criterion to get reinforcement, they probably won't.

So I want my dog to know it's okay to offer that behavior previously on stimulus control in this context. Okay? And the way I remove a cue from a behavior is to provide the cue, mark the response, provide the cue mark the response. I'm gonna set up a session where I have several repetitions of cue response. Mark reward, cue response mark, reward cue response mark, reward. What I've done there is I've set up a pattern for the dog, a pattern that the dog can anticipate, right? Cue response mark, reward down the dog lays down, I mark that down, they get a reward. Dogs are very pattern oriented. And if I've done that four times in a row, the likelihood that the dog is going to be ready and offer a down is great.

Whether or not I give the cue. So maybe on that fourth or fifth rep, I am not going to give the cue. The dog is gonna lay down built from the pattern I just created. And I'm going to mark that and I'm gonna tell him, yes, that's exactly right. You can respond, you can lay down, you can provide that behavior off cue.

Now no longer on stimulus control. Offer me those downs because I wanna change an aspect of that down and then I will put my cue back on with the new and improved behavior. So now I'm gonna create scenarios where it's not, and it never is really the, necessarily the cue that causes a response. It's the reinforcement that causes the dog to provide the behavior, right? So now I can reward the dog, offers it down, I can click, I can reward, dog offers it down, I can click. Now I can say to the dog, we are going to raise the criteria because I don't have a cue attached to it that's already connected to this set of criteria. I now have an offered behavior that I can mold into anything I want.

And if I want that new criterion to be speed, now I only mark the faster ones. Now the dog is starting to understand, oh, the criterion is speed that I will get reinforced on these faster ones. And that is what they will start to offer and include as part of that, part of those criteria. Then when I have the faster ones, now I can reattach the cue. And when I give that cue in the future, I am more likely to get the faster down rather than that slow, sloppy down. So I don't, just because I have behaviors, certain behaviors on stimulus control, it doesn't mean I, I want them always on stimulus control. I want my dog to understand that it's okay to offer under these.So yes, it's an issue of stimulus control, but I don't think that's the reason dogs go through their Rolodex. That's an entirely different handler skill that they need to work through.

Melissa Breau: Gotcha. Makes sense.

Julie Flanery: I don't know, that's different things that come up. It's, it, no, it did. It's a very, it's, you know, it's not an easy, there's a lot of complexity obviously to training just in general. But then when we add all of these, the methodology and the techniques and the reward placement and, you know, stimulus control and they're all intertwined and it's amazing. The dogs learn anything, huh? It, it really is. I mean it really is. I mean the handler, the handler is the, the piece of that equation that needs improvement. Not the dog. It, it is complex. But once you have an understanding of each of the pieces, it's much easier to start to integrate all of those components of training. If you understand the broader sense of stimulus control and when and why you might not want that behavior on stimulus control anymore.

If you understand the broader application of shaping and marking those little increments along the path towards the end result and not just the end result, then you can much better integrate that into all of your training. It's a, a, a friend of mine, she's a student also, and, and she said to me the other day, she said, I just never really realized how complex training was. I thought I was a good trainer, cuz it was easy to do. And then you get into the complexity of it, right? But at the same time, like training, we want to break these different handler skills and methodologies into smaller bits so that we as handlers can fully understand them and know how to apply them.

And sometimes we don't do that. We just dive right in. And I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm saying that your success is going to increase if you have a greater understanding of all of the concepts within training that we want to apply. The purpose of understanding all of these concepts is to make it easier for our dogs to learn. Right? And, and that's, that's a journey for the, for the handler too. I mean, aren't we in essence being shaped to be better trainers by getting reinforcement along the way for each new concept that we build our skill in? So we can hope, yeah, we can hope, but I don't know, I, for me, I enjoy this aspect of training. I enjoy the – how do I put this, the nuances of training. There is no one size fits all. There is no cookie cutter approach. It just, it, that's just not the way training is. But we can use these techniques, we can use these methodologies and the more we understand about the method itself, the better able we are to apply it and the better able our dog will be to take advantage of that correct application.

That's the thing. It's, you know, we, we talk about different methodologies and you hear people say, oh, well shaping doesn't work for me and my dog or shaping doesn't or targeting doesn't work or that whatever X, Y, Z doesn't work. It all works. We know it works, it all works. The question is, are you applying it in a way that is going to make it work for you and your dog? Are you applying it in a way that you get the end result you want? Because if you're not getting the end result that you want, it's much more likely that the application is flawed, not the method. I think we got totally off topic there.

Melissa Breau: No, no, no, we're not totally off topic. It's all this interesting stuff. But you talked in there kind of about the fact that the path to the behavior is the important part, right? And that the handler needs to be able to kind of visualize all the little slices of the behavior to get to that path. So I think that's often a thing that people struggle with, right? They're not good natuRally at kind of breaking that down into really narrow slices or really thin slices of your deli meat there to bring back up your analogy.

So can you, can you talk through, kind of breaking down an example behavior? I know we, we've done that a little bit kind of as we've went, but you know, kind of just specifically looking at that piece of things like just how you'd break down a particular behavior, example of your choice, whatever behavior you'd like to use.

Julie Flanery: We've just talked about that path. You know, we've talked about how visualizing that path and marking, reinforcing those points along the path and that, that makes it appear. And it is true that shaping tends to be a very linear process, right? But in spite of sometimes looking at the behavior, visualizing it, being able to tell, okay, these are the steps I'm going to take.

And knowing that I want a linear path here, that doesn't always work out, right? Sometimes we take a slight detour and then we get back on path. Sometimes we have to go back on the piece of the path we've already been on before moving forward again. So while we want it to be a linear process, sometimes there are these slight detours and that's okay.

The more complex the behavior and the more pieces or parts to the behavior, the less linear that might look and the more complex the behavior, the more we have to break out and maybe train in separate sessions, separate pieces before bringing it all back together. Okay. Some complex behaviors y'all I'm sure can think of 'em from your own sports retrieve as a complex behavior heel work is a complex behavior.

Even jumping is a complex behavior. Contacts are complex behaviors. These all have, are have multiple pieces to them that we often need to break out and then put back together. So if I'm working with a, with a behavior that isn't, you know, a straight shot, like a sit or a down or a bow, they're, they, they are fluid actions, it's single action and we're just shaping along the piece of there or going to a target or something like that. Those are fairly linear processes. If I have something more with more pieces, let's say, let's take something totally out of any sport. Let's take getting a beer out of the refrigerator. Lots of moving parts to getting a beer out of the refrigerator, right? I mean what are all of the different components of that? The dog has to know how to pick up an object, right? How to pick up a can. The dog has to know how to grab. Let's say you want the dog to open the fridge, you're gonna grab, maybe you have a towel on there. So they have to grab it with their mouth.

Then they have to learn how to pull that. Then they have to learn how to get the fridge open and find the thing the can. Then they have to know how to pick up the can and then turn around and find you and then move back to you and then hold onto it until you no longer…So it has all the pieces of a retrieve, right? And it has all the other complex things. So how would you shape that? Well you have to break out all of those little bits first and shape each of those separately. Once you have all of those shaped separately, then I personally, I would back chain them. Okay. And back chaining is a form of shaping if you think about it, right? It's kind of backward shaping. Backward shaping, okay? So if let's say the can I teach, when I teach my dogs to pick up something, I teach them to target it first. I might have it on the floor some sessions I might have it in my hand. Some sessions I might reinforce away from the object where the dog has to move to the object. I might create a very, very tight loop where I'm holding the object and I'm marking and then feeding very close to the object where they have to come back in. So there is no, there is no single way to teach any behavior, any complex behavior. There's no single way to shape any particular behavior, any complex behavior. The constant is that you are breaking out the pieces and marking smaller pieces of the end behavior.

For some people, those chunks are gonna be bigger. For example, if my dog already understands parts of a retreat, then I'm not gonna have to break it down quite as much as if my dog doesn't re understand a retrieve at all. And I'm just realizing that that example I gave you was a really bad example because it would take, because it would take me about two hours to explain all the little pieces that I would take to train that behavior. You give me an example, I'll tell you that. You give me an example and then I will break down those pieces.

Melissa Breau: Oh man, you're gonna make Me, huh? Yeah, I think we should go back to the example we were talking about at the beginning. So the bow, I think the bow was a good example cuz you mentioned it's complex. It's not something you would usually use shaping for, but like how would you slice that down? I mean, I think everybody thinks okay, we're just marking, lowering the front end of the body and then we have a bow bam, right? Like what, what pieces are there in there? But it is more complex than that. Cause you're gonna end up with a down. So how do you, yeah, you take it from there. Julie, there's your example.

Julie Flanery: Okay, so I watch for the shoulders because a dog can still bow and have a really nice bow with their head up, right? So I watch for the shoulders and I watch also for the chest. When I get to a certain point, I watch the chest and the narrowing of the space between the chest and the floor.

For most dogs, you're right, they're gonna wanna down. And so at some point you have to switch your focus to the rear remaining up. So, and again on the bow, reward placement plays a huge role. I think both – maybe at the start reinforcing up high, just a few. And then reinforcing down low at the chest. So here's the dog standing and I might start the session by feeding, by putting a piece of food on the floor between the paws. Okay? That's how I might start the session. And when I mark that, I'll be a little high when the dog drops his head, I'm gonna mark that and put the piece on the floor so I can alternate between those two reward placements to create that head up, head down. At some point I'm just gonna get head up, head down, right? What I'm gonna need is not only a drop of the shoulder, but a lean back, right? Because the dogs, when a dog goes into a bow, their elbows drop and go back behind their paw. So I'm gonna have to watch for that lean back. And again, I'm gonna mark and I'm gonna feed low. If the dog understands that click treat relationship within about a half a dozen reps of feeding low and marking slight movement back, they should start to provide a larger movement. The thing that will stop them from providing that larger movement is the handler clicking.

So oftentimes with something like a bow where we're looking for a fluidity of the dog's action, we're clicking the same thing. And we're not adding any criteria to that behavior by withholding the click to add, I'll say criteria, something greater, bigger, more of a behavior. You can't keep clicking the same thing because that stops the action. And if you do that too many times the dog will not work harder. They'll just continue to do that. They think that's the end result. So in something like the bow and any behavior, really one of the, one of the most common reasons people get stuck there is because they don't have an understanding of how to move to that next criterion.

Because they keep clicking shoulder back or chest down, shoulder back or chest down. But they aren't waiting and withholding to see if the dog would give them just a little bit more. And so they get frustrated because the dog isn't giving them more. But the reason the dog isn't giving them more is because they're stopping the dog by clicking always at the same point.

Okay? Once you get to where the dog's starting to lower their chest, they're likely to lower their bum. One because they have a strong history of down and most dogs will lay down in the same way that they execute a bow. So that's the next step. And that's one reason why I don't shape a bow because that part of it is extremely difficult to continue shaping because you, it's difficult to mark the absence of behavior. So the bum up is an absence of behavior, right? We're looking at the front end. The front end. That's behavior. That's behavior, that's behavior. Chest going down, chest going down, chest going down. But the chest is attached to the rest of the dog's body.

And so when you shape bow, you, you can fall into getting a down much more frequently. So you're gonna wanna load up the front part of that behavior. The chest to the ground a lot means a lot of early clicking, a lot of early clicking, a lot of just little bits of shoulder movement, not waiting for the elbows to drop.

The more clicks you can get in, in the front end of that behavior for just little bits of movement of the front end, the less likely they are to lay all the way down when you get to that point. Okay? So, now you have two challenges for the handler. The first challenge is making sure that you get lots of clicks in for little itty bitty finite movements of the front end. So that is heavily reinforced. And then you also, the second challenge is how do I move ahead so that the chest continues to go down but the butt stays up? Yep. That's why that particular behavior is so difficult to shake.

Melissa Breau: Which is exactly what I was gonna ask you next is how do we handle that type of a challenge when, you know, you do want criteria to progress, but you also don't want to progress too fast regardless, you know, "bow" or other behavior. Like how do you decide when it's time to increase your criteria in some way? Are you looking for two reps? Are you looking for three reps? Are you, you know, is it much more fluid than that for you? Like how do you…? I dunno. And it's a big question.

Julie Flanery: Yeah, no, I totally understand the question. It's a good question for me. And it's the same question I asked myself of when am I ready to put a behavior on cue? Right? It's the criteria for me and the question I ask myself is the same for both. When do I raise criteria and when do I put a behavior on cue? When to me the behavior is predictable or the criterion is predictable, like she just did it four times in a row, the likelihood of her doing it the fifth time is really quite high. So that to me says it's predictable and that the dog is showing confidence in their execution of it.

I, if the dog is tentative or it takes them a little bit to offer it, there's a lot of latency between the reward and then the next offering. Then I'll wait until I see a little more confidence and predictability in that, and then I'll raise the criteria. And again, I might be wrong in my assessment and I might get something I really don't want in the raising of that. And then I might have to go back to the previous criteria again. It's not, like I said, it's not always as linear as we like to think it is because we're, we're human and we make mistakes in our judgments and in our assessments. I mean, I know I'm human.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. I dunno, Julie. No, I'm just teasing.

Julie Flanery: Okay. Yeah.

Melissa Breau: All right. So we've, man, we've really covered a lot of ground. Is there anything you would never shape? Any behaviors that like, Nope, definitely not gonna shape that. Definitely gonna lure that or definitely gonna use some other method to get that behavior.

Julie Flanery: Well, I think that whether you're using luring or whether you're using targeting or whatever method you're using, you can always add shaping to the method you're using. Because shaping again, is just the process of marking and rewarding smaller increments of that behavior. So I can lure a behavior and still shape that. I can have a dog in a stand, I can lure the bow and still shape that. I can have the treat on my dog's nose and draw their nose lower and into their chest a little bit and click just that and then release the food to the dog.

So I can totally combine my shaping with some other methods. So to say that I would never shape that behavior. I might never free shape that behavior or try to draw that behavior out of thin air just through marking and rewarding little increments jumping. I think I would combine targeting. I think that would be very difficult to shape. I don't do sports where jumping is a thing, where jumping over a jump or a bar or a standard or whatever is a thing. And so I may be totally off on that, but for me, in my comfort level, I would not shape jumping because if you look at it, think, think of a jump stand. If you're looking at a jump standard from this side and the dog is jumping from left going forward, jump the jump and moving to the right of your visual, right? Where, what are the increments along there? We want the dog to maintain speed on a jump, right? We want them to have a good approach. We want them to clear the jump and we want them to have a good landing pad and place to follow through. So where are we going to stop those increments in order to reinforce, there isn't a clear place.

Melissa Breau: I think a lot of, and I am just dipping my toes into agility. So somebody listening maybe like that is totally wrong. I think a lot of people these days start teaching wrapping – like wrapping a jump wing or crossing the plane, right? So like the approach and with the bar almost on the floor and some of those pieces, which I would think resemble shaping pretty closely.

Julie Flanery: I think that, yes, that's how, so in terms of breaking down behaviors, yes, that's totally breaking down behaviors in terms of the actual jump itself. And even let's say, and again, I'm like you, I am not an agility person and they may have a totally different, you know, thought process. Those types of thought processes don't come into my trainer brain because that's not, those aren't the skills that I have. I just don't have those skills. I just don't, I don't practice training those skills. But it is an interesting thing to explore in terms of looking at behaviors that you don't know how to train and how would you go about training these and using a particular methodology.

So in terms of teaching the wrap around the standard first or to going through the standards or going over a bar on the ground, yeah, that's all totally breaking down the behavior. But where are you clicking on even those, where are you marking to break out those pieces to slice those pieces of behavior thinner? GeneRally those are done at the end of the behavior.

So the dog might move to the, the bar on the ground between the standards, but you don't, you wouldn't, I don't think anyway. Would you really click right before he gets to the standard or would you wait until they cross the standard?

Melissa Breau: I don't know. I haven't done it that way. So I'd be curious to ask somebody who does.

Julie Flanery: There you go. There's your next, if they're gonna wrap the standard, where do you mark that? Are you marking the end behavior or are you marking as they approach the standard? And it's not that you can't do it, you could certainly mark each little point towards the standard and then progress to just a little bit of a wrap and a little bit more of a wrap.

I mean, two by twos is a perfect example of shaping weave poles, you know?

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Yep.

Julie Flanery: But at some point, the handler has to make a determination of what are my click points on the continuum of that behavior, and is my marking on the continuum a benefit to the end result or a detriment to that end result? If I want a fluid motion and I can get that fluid motion with a target, that might be my preferred method to have my dog move through the standards to a target because I'm able to build in some other criteria at the same time. My speed, for example. So I don't know, I don't know the answers to those questions because they're not, they're not sports or skills that I train in. And so they're gonna have a completely different, much more appropriate answer than I am going to have to any of and to any of them.

Melissa Breau: I'll tell you, I'll tell you Julie, I was half expecting you to give me an example of something like a sneeze or like something that you'd almost certainly have to capture. Yeah. You know what I Mean? It can shape so much of what you do is you, you shape.

Julie Flanery: Yeah. So Yeah. And those types of behaviors that you capture, you know, like the sneeze, like, like rear foot marking, you know, when the dog digs up with his rear feet or body shake, you know, when they shake off. Shake offs, those are incredibly difficult to shape or capture or lure. I mean, they're natuRally occurring within the physiology of the dog that we can't see that it's about to happen. We can set up circumstances, you can get your dog wet and then click every time it shakes, right? You, you can have your dog, many dogs will sneeze when their head is up for long periods of time. You can lure your dog to keep his head up.

You can put some type of head, I mean you can create this, but you're capturing them in the end. They're very difficult to shape. But I think also, depending on what your criteria is for the end result, you might choose other methods rather than shaping. Could you shape a jump? Sure. Could you shape the approach? Yeah. You know, as a matter of fact, in my shaping class, that's one of the things that you'll be able to play with. But is it, would I, would I do it that way? I don't know if I would do it that way.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, there are better options in, in that particular case.

Julie Flanery: Yeah. Right. I think there are a lot of really good options, but don't discount the overall definition of shaping again is marking and rewarding small increments along a progression. And that be, just because there are different components in a behavior doesn't mean that we can't shape the different components or shape some components, lure other components, use targeting for a different component, and then bring all of those components back in together.

I think because neither dogs nor handlers can be the best at all things, I can't be great at all methods of training. I just can't, none of us can, we do the best we can with what we understand about the method and how we apply it, that method. And our dogs do the best they can with what we're trying to teach them.

And all we can do is, you know, continue to learn about that method and apply it in a way that's both effective and efficient for both us and the dogs. It's not to say if you feel like you're failing at a method, I'm not saying give up and just go do something else, but you do have to decide, is trying to work through this particular method worth the frustration that I and my dog feel for this particular behavior?

Or can we move to a different method that I'm more comfortable with and my dog is more comfortable with. At the same time, expand yourself, grow, learn about these other methods that might in the long run be highly effective for you. You know, you don't know what you don't know. Just like, I don't know anything about agility, so I'm not gonna go out there and be the expert on training agility. It's just not something I'm gonna do. But can I think about how I might train a behavior and what I might do, again, each sport, not only are those behaviors within each sport, but there is very specific criteria for how the dog is to do that behavior in that sport. And so all of that plays into how you're going to train behavior, how much you're gonna break it down and what, what components of that behavior are most important for that dog to learn and in what way. And that's that in the end is going to determine what methods you choose to use to train it. Yeah, I will say that that's one of the reasons that getting into a sport can be so difficult, right? Is when you don't know the criteria you're heading into.

Melissa Breau: But alright, so you mentioned your class in there. I wanna, I wanna kinda go there next. So you've got your class, your excuse me, your shaping class on the schedule this term. Tell us a little bit about who it's for and what that particular class kind of goes into or covers.

Julie Flanery: Okay. So it's for people that have an understanding of what shaping is. And if you've listened to this podcast, now you have an understanding of what shaping is. Yep. And ideally, you have used some shaping or semblance of shaping your dog, understands the relationship between a marker and a reward and has some understanding of offering. Though your dog may not do it well, you may not do it well. Your dog may not, may be one of those ones that just throws stuff at you all the time. Or maybe one of those dogs that just stands still, it's for you. Then we have a tendency to train behaviors that are part of our sport or activity. And once we train those behaviors and we put them on cue, then all our behaviors are under stimulus control. And we, and our dogs can lose the skill of learning and teaching. We can lose the skill of teaching because everything we need is now on cue. We can, their dogs can lose the skill of learning something new or changing criteria of problem solving, so to speak, because now everything's on cue and all they have to do is do what we say.

And so we tend not to do these types of exercises or games anymore. And I think that's a detriment to both the dog and the handler because it doesn't matter how well trained our dogs are, they are going to lose some skill at some point. We are going to need to maintain the skill at some point. We are going to need to know how to shift criteria.

We're going to need to teach our dog how to shift criteria. And if we don't maintain some of these shaping skills just in fun, fun games, little things that maybe you don't need 'em, maybe you do need 'em. But we need an avenue to practice those skills that aren't going to be a detriment to the skills that we already have and want to maintain in our on stimulus control.

And so this is an avenue to do that. I think it's also just really fun for the dog to have control of a session, so to speak, to be able to control when and how reinforcement happens. And I think most important, it's going to improve your handling skills no matter what method you choose to train your dog. Whether it's luring or shaping or targeting or some combination.

I think that shaping, improving your shaping skills, improving your dogs shaping skills is only gonna improve their overall behaviors and the training relationship that you have with your dog. So who's it for? Just about anybody that's trained in their dog. I, I don't think you could go wrong with this class. Really, truly. I think that people worry about shaping, they don't know how to do it, they don't have good results with it, then yes, this cost is for you too. Because shaping is, for me, shaping is a foundation of all my training. If my dog doesn't understand how to offer behavior, it's going to be much, much, much more difficult for me to train just about anything. All the things I wanna train.

Melissa Breau: Now you also have your Freestyle Handler's Choice on the calendar. This, this term, Which is not just for Freestylers. I'm sensing a theme, Julie, by the way. Do you wanna just kind of give it a shout out? Tell us a little bit about how the handler's choice class works, cuz I know it's a little different than a typical class. And then kind of what type of topics may end up being covered or what's been covered maybe in the past. I know probably your goals haven't all checked in yet.

Julie Flanery: Yeah, no, my goals haven't all checked in yet. But there does, I think in any handler's choice class, there tends to be kind of a theme of what people are needing help with. And whether that's a handler's choice for freestyle or handler's choice for obedience or whatever it is, there are always certain things that handlers seem to struggle with. Shaping is one of them. Impulse control, cue discrimination, stimulus control. What, how do I get started on this particular behavior? And whether that behavior is heel work or whether that behavior is some complex freestyle trick.

I have one person in there this time that is working brace with her dogs. And so we're gonna allow a two dog thread in there because this is kind of a unique situation. I should have, I should look at that. Look at my golds, but gosh, what did I have last time? If you are a freestyler, this is an excellent class, even if you don't get a gold spot, because these gold students are at various levels of freestyle or obedience or Rally or Rally free and they're going to be working through several different behaviors or skills throughout. So in my mind, this class has the biggest bang for its buck for not just gold students, but for bronze level students as well. Because you're gonna run the gamut of both concepts and application of methods and specific skills and how to get them started or how to get them finished.

The lectures–there are several lectures in there, and each time I run this I add more lectures that cover some of those very common general things that all handlers struggle with. So you'll have all of that material. The gold students threads as I think with most any class are just gonna be a wealth of information for just about any of these skills or methods. I don't know. I really love this class. I love taking handler's choice classes, especially if it's something that I'm not actually working on, because at some point I will need to work on that and it, and it's better for me to have that information ahead of time and know where I'm going and what I'm getting into and what kind of struggles I might have along the way than to start training that behavior.

And there's suddenly no handler's choice class on the schedule and I don't have access to any of those materials that they went over at that time. So, and I really enjoy this class. It, there is such a variety of things and especially, you know, when you, when you gear it towards freestylers, freestylers train, all the same things that all the other sports train and more, you know, getting rid of hand cues, getting behaviors on verbal cue, all of that is covered in this class. So I just think it's a really great class bang for the buck because there's so much, so much packed into it. And, and last time the bronze students I know said, wow, that was probably one of the best classes they've taken in terms of variety of things and things that are applicable to what they are either working on now or will need to work on in the future.

Melissa Breau: So I know a few people who took it at bronze last time who are planning on taking it at bronze this time again, just because of that.

Julie Flanery: Yeah, half my gold already took this class once and I'm sure a lot of the bronzes are gonna take it again because it's gonna be a different set of skills than the last time. Yeah. So yeah, I'm, I'm really looking forward to it. Also, a lot of people are continuing, like they're taking it because of classes of mine that they've taken before. My Joy of Heeling class people, they aren't freestylers, but they wanna continue their joy of heeling work in here. So we're gonna work on that. My Mimicry class, they started doing mimicry and they wanna continue on with that. They did the positions and laterals and backing class and they wanna continue on with that. So pretty much any of my classes that have been on the schedule, there are students from those classes and those classes don't just apply to Freestylers. And that's why I say it's not just for freestylers. Freestyle is my primary sport, and so I do want to encourage Freestylers to take it, but it really is not just for freestylers.

Mellisa Breau: No. All right. Last question. So to kind of round out everything we've been talking about, if you were to drill our conversation from today down into, you know, kind of a key piece of information that you wanna either leave people with or to kind of summarize everything you've been talking about or just like the most important thing that you wish people understood, what do you wanna leave folks with? Where, where do we wanna leave them In terms of shaping?

Julie Flanery: I think it is to understand that shaping is not random. It's not random clicking things that are close to your behavior shaping. While it's not always a linear process, there should be a planned progression with a clear path toward that goal behavior and to, and to trust and follow that process. It's not about the end behavior, it's about the path the dog takes to get there. And people forget that they're in such a rush to get to the behavior. They forget that in order to learn that skill, the dog needs to learn all the pieces that lead up to that skill as well.

And, and one of the things in the shaping class that I get a lot of when they're, they're trying to look at a training and behavior, and this is why I give them behaviors that don't really matter. Behaviors that are, I mean, they're, they're just, you know, they're not skills they need for their sport.

And the thing that continues to come up, even though they're not for their sport, they're not important behaviors. They are behaviors that allow them to practice the process. Okay. And I still though, because this is our handler mindset, this is our training mindset of, but can't I just do this to get them to do it? Okay. It's not about going under the chair.

Yes, you could toss a treat under there and they would go under the chair, but that's not what it's about. It's about learning the process and applying the process in a way that builds strength in that end behavior no matter what the end behavior it is. And allowing the dog to practice that process so that they are confident in its application when you do ask them to shape behaviors that are important to you.

So I think that's the main thing is trust the process, follow the process. Don't be so glommed onto that end behavior. Okay. Because it's the process that's gonna get you there.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Julie. This has been so full of rich information.

Julie Flanery: Oh my gosh. I totally went off on tangents and then you threw me questions for a loop and I'm like, oh my gosh, I don't know the answer to that. What am I a trainer or something? I don't know.

Melissa Breau: I think you did excellent.

Julie Flanery: It was fun, it was fun and it always, you always ask questions that make me think really hard. So thank you for that.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, Thank you. And thanks to all our listeners for tuning in.

We'll be back next week with Petra Ford and Nicole Wiebusch to talk about proofing dog skills. So if you haven't already subscribed to the podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice and have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Buddy. Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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