Cat training – shaping a handling behavior – First Session
Asia the bengal kitten is helping to demonstrate how you would go about shaping a handling behavior through positive rewards. In this case, she is skittish about having the top of her head touched. So I start the beginning stages of teaching her how this can be positive experience.
Shaping behaviors with positive motivation can be used for any number of issues, from nail trimming, to being held, or to just being petted in general for more skittish or feral animals. Using a positive reward, in this case a treat, helps the animal associate the experience as a good thing.
Short sessions with high repetition is best. In this case, a 3-5 minute session works best, with lots of yummy food treats, and before breakfast so motivation is high. I slowly start touching higher and higher up her back, making sure I reward her when she is reacting positively. I do NOT reward her for shying away, I only reward her for sitting still and accepting the touch.
I do not use the treats as lures or distractions, in this case, they are only used as a reward to mark that she did what I wanted.