Shaping and fading

Quick recap on what we have covered so far.

In question 1, we describe our target behavior. In question 2, we identify our starting point, and in question 3, we develop our training plan to build the behavior specified in step 1.

We talked about shaping and fading on the previous page.

SHAPING is teaching the behavior using a series of steps instead of expecting the learner to do the whole behavior at once.

I didn’t mention ‘FADING‘ per see, but I introduced ‘transferring actions,’ which is the terminology used in PORTL.

What’s the difference between shaping and fading?

At first glance, the difference may not be evident because we often use both simultaneously during training without knowing.

Because of the cribbing project, I began to understand the differentiation between shaping and fading and why it is crucial for training.

The difference between shaping and fading is that shaping involves the gradual change and development of a behavior while the stimulus stays about the same, whereas fading involves the gradual or complete change of a stimulus while the response stays about the same.

Let me give you two examples. You have seen these videos before, but now we look at them from a different angle.

In the halter training video, I build the target behavior “putting nose into halter and slip neck strap over ears” by reinforcing successive approximations in the direction of the target behavior. The behavior changes in small steps while the environment stays the same.

In the bridle training video, I used a previously trained behavior through shaping. This behavior “hold object in your mouth” stays the same while I present first the known toy and then “fade in” various objects towards the goal.

Do you see the difference? In shaping, the behavior changes, and the environment stays constant, whereas in fading, the behavior is constant, and the environment changes.

In practical training, these two concepts are often mixed. However, it is easier for the learner to change only ONE element.

I am now more systematic about building a behavior first and then gradually changing the environment, maintaining that carefully constructed behavior.

What’s next?

If you want to see how this approach develops over time solving a particular training challenge, then you should leave your name and email in the form below.

I wrote a 10-part email series, where I will go through one specific training example to explain these principles again with Blondie’s help.

Over the course of 10 days, we will go through each step looking at a training video and theoretical background. You can follow along with your own horse.

Giving out an email address is a sign of trust.

I value your trust immensely and, in return, I promise that your email address is not used for anything else other than sending you a series of carefully written emails that dive deeper into the topic that you just read on the website.

I can’t wait to develop this with you. It will be so much fun!