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When shaping a behavior, we are reinforcing each piece of the behavior rather than trying to get the entire behavior from the beginning. Shaping helps create a strong foundation for trained behaviors. I frequently shape gaiting like this: first, I ask the dog to walk off with me and reinforce just that piece. Once the dog easily does that, I add criteria by asking for a bit more before reinforcing such as moving in the proper position. I reinforce that until it occurs consistently, usually just a few times and then I add criteria again, such as waiting for proper trotting movement before reinforcing and so on.


Vicki Ronchette is the founder of Show Dog Prep School and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Vicki has been working with dogs professionally for over 30 years as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, groomer and veterinary assistant. She is the author of Positive Training for Show Dogs, From Shy to Showy and Ready? Set. SHOW! Vicki presents workshops and seminars all over the country on how training show dogs.