What is the definition of shaping as it relates to clicker training?

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All effective animal training is predicated on patience and consistency. This is especially important with cats. They lose interest quickly and are adept at ignoring human nonsense utterly and completely.

Additionally, however, if a cat thinks he is being “made” to do something, his resistance level will ramp up exponentially. Cats are highly independent, solitary predators. Unlike dogs, who are pack animals with a genetic predisposition to please, cats are all about “return on investment.”

This is why “shaping” is so important when using clicker training on a feline. Each time a cat makes an attempt to do what you are asking of him, reward him. Over time, this approach will take effect. Cats are very quick learners when they want to learn.

As a behavior begins to evolve in the desired direction, you can add a verbal cue that can be associated with or replace the clicker in the future, but do not scold the cat. The instant a cat develops a negative association with a behavior, it’s “game over” for the training.

Think of “shaping” as refining the desired result one layer at a time. You are not working with a dog, and you cannot expect to use similar methods or get similar results. Cat training is much more a negotiation, one in which you may well have to give ground in the early stages to reach your end goal.

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