“Shaping” can take a blind dog on an exciting journey of discovery

I recommend that you choose and use “shaping” as much as possible than “luring” when you teach something to your blind dog. It’s because “shaping” can not only produce desirable behavior but also give a blind dog the opportunity to make the most of her creativity and imagination, and the thrill in finding new thing.

The two most useful ways to produce desirable behavior: “Luring” and “Shaping”

A hands-off method of guiding the dog through a behavior. For example, a food lure can be used to guide a dog from a sit into a down. This is a common method of getting more complex behaviors. Lures are usually food, but they may also be target sticks or anything else the dog will follow. Trainers must take care to fade the lure early.

– from Clicker Training Terms by Karen Pryor Clicker Training

Building new behavior by selectively reinforcing variations in existing behavior, during the action rather than after completion, to increase or strengthen the behavior in a specific manner or direction.

– from Clicker Training Terms by Karen Pryor Clicker Training

We can use both “luring” and “shaping” in training blind dogs. If we use “luring”, we should take a little ingenuity because they can’t know the position and move of food and target stick by sight.

If you use a treat held in your hand as a lure, you should keep the hand very close by your blind dog’s nose and move it very slowly in order that she can detect and follow it by smell. And we can make a “special” target stick for blind dogs to help her detect it by sound and follow it in safety. Please see this video, if you’d like to make and use it.

The principal differences between “Luring” and “Shaping”

What dogs focus on

When we train a dog with “luring”, the dog focuses on the lure being inch away from her. When we train a dog with “shaping”, the dog focuses on thinking of what to do to get a treat. In training with “shaping”, a dog needs to think and choose or create what to do for herself.

What is used to produce desirable behavior

“Luring” uses food (treats) or target to produce desirable behavior, and “shaping” uses dogs’ intelligence to produce desirable behavior.

Benefits of “Shaping”

“Luring” might be easier and quicker way to produce a behavior than “shaping”. But I recommend that you use “shaping” as much as possible when training your blind dog. It’s because “shaping” can provide important benefits for blind dogs (other kind of disabled dog and vision dogs, too!)

Developing self-control and self-confidence

In training with “shaping”, dogs are honored and rewarded for their ideas, discoveries and patience. It results in developing her self-confidence and self-control.

Giving the thrill in finding new thing

We use food as an extrinsic motivator when training with “shaping”, But to think, challenge and discover new things (intrinsic motivators) rather than food itself motivate blind dogs.

Blind dogs lost of both vision and joy of discovering something new. We can provide the opportunities to discover through not only nose games (nose work games) but also teaching tricks with “shaping”, “shaping” game and so on.

The moment of coming up with new idea is very exciting, and if a dog is given a reward for her idea and choice, it would be further exciting experience! The experiences will make your blind dog be eager to try something new.

Blind dogs can’t discovery new thing by sight, but their vivid imagination enables them to come up with new idea and discover new thing in their head. “Shaping” can not only teach behaviors to your blind dog but also give great and fun opportunities to enhance her life!

Learn about clicker training

“Shaping” requires more handler’s (your) knowledge and skills than “luring”. You should learn about clicker training and “shaping”. The best way that you get the knowledge and skills correctly is to take lessons and get advices by trainers/instructors using positive reinforcement training method.

The moment when you feel that your dog is visualizing same image as you in her mind’s eye will be incredible and exciting. Training with “shaping” is fun for both your dog and you.


You can learn more about clicker training and shaping with following articles:

An example video of training blind dogs with shaping:


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4 Responses to “Shaping” can take a blind dog on an exciting journey of discovery

  1. Robi May 4, 2013 at 22:28 #

    Wow! Very Interesting, great job.. gave me lots of ideas!

  2. Kate MacNicol December 28, 2013 at 03:39 #

    I’m thrilled to find your website and videos. I really like the idea of shaping but need to start from the beginning and look up the resources you list here. My little terrier is very smart and in good physical condition other than his eyes so he’ll benefit greatly from this training and I will too:) Earl ( my dog ) and I thank you!!! It’s fun to know I can continue to make the quality of his life even better.

    • Miki Saito December 29, 2013 at 00:07 #

      Hi Kate,
      Thank you for finding our website and videos! I’m so glad to hear that you’re interested in enjoying shaping with Earl. Shaping is really fun! Today, I enjoyed shaping with my blind Doxie Nono just as we have always done. We’re working on “pivoting together” now. I’m going to take and upload its video. If you would have trouble grasping the techniques of shaping only by the resources, talk with positive reinforcement trainers in your local. They can help you learn proper knowledge and skills of shaping.

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