Now that you have the clicker loaded, and you have learned to cue and mark behaviors, we can talk about luring and shaping. In the old style of dog training when you wanted to teach your little Brutus to sit, you would look Brutus in the eye, and sternly command “SIT!” while simultaneously pressing down on Brutus’ rear end. The inevitable result of this is that Brutus would rise to the pressure you have placed downward and the battle of the wills ensued until at last Brutus would give in and plop to the ground in resignation, certainly having forgotten the cue that instigated the whole affair. Whoever thought that physically manipulating the dog into the position you desired never read Newton’s Law of Motion.
“So if I can’t push my dogs butt down when I want his butt down, what CAN I do?!” Glad you asked. We are going to use a much more humane method of training….more humane on you that is. OK, so you say you want your dog to sit? Take the cheese square, not that dried up ol’ dog biscuit you call a ‘treat’, a cheese square, and hold it between your dogs eyeballs, about 12″ away, carefully caged in your fingers so your dog can’t actually can’t get it. You dogs nose will rise in eager anticipation and attempting to sniff the treat. As the nose rises, so rises the cheese in an arc right over the top of your pooches head directly between his ears. He may back up, and dance around a bit, but if you keep trying to place that cheese about five inches directly above you pups head, and between his ears, eventually something magic will happen. He will get tired of trying to crane his neck around and he will sit. Instantly pop that cheese into pooches mouth and praise profusely.
Yes, we did not give the command of sit. We will discuss that later. But look! We produced a sit without pushing, prodding and pain in the rear. You have learned to lure your dog. Where your dogs nose goes, his body must follow. Using a piece of cheese, or chicken or something equally tasty, you can lure your dog in all kinds of directions and positions. Move forward, back-up, sit, stand, stand on two legs, and on and on. Yes, luring is not perfect. Sometimes your dog will be quick and sneaky and get the treat. Sometimes your dog will get frustrated and lose interest before the desired behavior is performed, and we will work on all of that. But more often-than-not with practice and good timing, he will, without realizing it, be coaxed into the act you want performed, and each time you achieve it, it will become easier and easier, until it is time to name or cue the behavior.