Passive vs. active shaping

In order for a trainer to reinforce a behavior, the behavior has to first occur. Some trainers just wait for the animal to offer the behavior. Other trainers say, “Why wait?” These trainers actively work to create an environment that generates reinforceable behavior. In this topic, we’ll discuss these two approaches to shaping. Then, we’ll look specifically at different tactics for how to arrange the environment so that it is easier for the animal to do the behavior we want. 

There are many ways to arrange the environment. First of all, choosing the environment for training, but also using objects and decide which ones are the most useful to help the learner or how to deliver the reinforcer. Setting up the best position and balance to facilitate a behaviour can be considered as environmental arrangement, which links beautifully to our explorations of balance and to errorless learning during our Summer Camp.


Kay Laurence is excellent in using the environment to facilitate learning. A classic example is her way of teaching the "go to mat" by purposefully positioning the mat and the food reinforcer.