Lesson 9 – Animal Training plans.


In this lesson, we are going to learn how to write animal training plans and talk about shaping behavior. I have mentioned this concept of shaping throughout the whole course and it’s now time to learn what it means. Shaping is how we train new behaviors. How it works is rather simple. The best way to start the process of shaping off is by having a plan written down on paper before you start physically working with your animal. These are going to be our animal training plans. These plans are going to contain a number of behavioral steps that we can teach our animals to help lead them from what they are currently doing to the final behaviors that we want. The best way to start writing a training plan is to first figure out exactly what your final behaviour is going to be. There is a specific way to think about this. I want you to think of behaviour only in terms of what you can physically see and hear your animal doing. This means not using any labels to describe behaviour. For example happy, sad, angry dominant etc. Additionally, I want you to only describe what you want your animals to do, rather then describe what you don’t want. For example “I don’t want my animal to climb on the furniture” or “I want my animal to stop chewing on my cushions.” Instead you might say “I want my animal to lie on her bed” or “I want my animal to play with this chew toy.”


Our training plan is going to exist of a series of steps that we are going to devise to get from what our animal is already doing to that final defined behaviour. The correct terminology for these steps is successive approximations. Think about them as baby steps to get from behaviour A (what the animal is already doing) to behaviour B (Our final defined behaviour).

The process is rather simple.
1) At the bottom of a blank piece of paper write down your final behaviour. This is the behaviour you want your animal to do after your training is finished. (point B)
2)At the top of that same piece of paper write down the closest behaviour the animal already does. That is the closest behaviour it already does  to the final behaviour from step 1. (Point A)
3) Fill in the gaps. Write down small behavioral increments required to get you from Point A to Point B.
4)Implement your training plan. Reinforce each step along the way. Modify the plan as needed. Stop when you reach you final behaviour.

NOTE: You don’t have to stick to your plan. If your animal is learning fast, miss a few steps. If your animal is learning slowly, Maybe add a few steps. Always listen to what your animals behaviour is telling you. Adjust your training accordingly.

Watch this lessons video and then click through to the next lesson where we will start to use our training plans to shape/traing new behaviors with our animals.