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Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast

For the last 4 years, FDSA has been working to provide high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports online, using only the most current and progressive training methods. And now we’re bringing that same focus to you in a new way. Each episode of the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast will feature an interview with a leading name in the competitive dog sports training world, talking in depth about issues that often get overlooked by traditional training methods. We'll release a new episode every Friday, so stay tuned--and happy training!
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Now displaying: December, 2017

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Dec 29, 2017

SUMMARY:

At FDSA, Andrea Harrison teaches classes for the human half of the competitive team. She’s an educator who is passionate about all species including dogs and humans. Having lived with dogs her whole life, Andrea was an early convert to positive training. She has taken this message to the media many times including appearances on many TV shows and news programs as well as in print and on the radio.

She has explored the science of brain research and worked with people of all ages on being successful and reducing anxiety and stress using her training and counseling, personality typing, and her own experiences.  

When it comes to dog sports her competitive addiction is agility. Andrea and her dogs have many titles between them with placements in regional and national competitions. Andrea has experienced animal wrangling for television and more recently has begun to explore scent work.

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Next Episode: 

To be released 1/05/2018, and I'll be talking to Amy Cook about the science of dog training, so stay tuned!

TRANSCRIPTION:

Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.

Today we’ll be talking to Andrea Harrison.

Andrea is the people trainer on the FDSA team, working with dog sports teams to help handlers train themselves for better performance. She teaches classes on unleashing your personal potential, mental management, planning, goal setting, and more... and with the new year right around the corner, she’s here today to talk goal setting and dog-related new year’s resolutions.

Hi Andrea! Welcome to the podcast.

Andrea Harrison: Hey Melissa. Thank you so much for the invitation. Great to talk to you.

Melissa Breau: I’m excited to chat today. To get us started, do you want to just remind listeners who you are and tell us a little bit about the dogs you share your life with?

Andrea Harrison: Sure. I’m Andrea Harrison. I’ve been doing the mental management stuff in some capacity in my life professionally for nearly 30 years. I can’t believe it. The dogs we’re currently living with has changed a bit since the last time I was on the podcast, Melissa. We lost two of our older dogs.

Melissa Breau: I’m sorry.

Andrea Harrison: Yeah, it’s hard. It happens to everybody, but it’s never easy. Now we’re living with Sally and Thea, our senior dogs, and they’re the two dogs that have done the most competitively. Sally was in a feature film. They’re the dogs who really push my dog training along. Then we have my husband’s Golden Retriever, Samson, who is his dog very much. I try to keep hands off, although it’s hard sometimes because he’s lovely and really athletic, so I sneak out and do some stuff with him sometimes, but he’s Tom’s dog, I leave him alone as best as I can. He’s the farm dog. We also have two younger dogs, Yen, who is a toy American Eskimo, and Dora, who is a feral little Cairn terrier mix. They’re both great and lots of fun, and they basically bum around the farm, keeping me company, and I get my eye on them, which we’ll chat about in a bit, I think.

Melissa Breau: To jump right in, are there benefits to having set goals for our dog sports?

Andrea Harrison: There are so many benefits to goal setting, and I think when we’re talking about dog sports, one of the really important things to remember is goals can actually give you power. And I don’t mean power in a dictator sense in an all-controlling way. I mean power of ourselves. Power of understanding that we are good enough and strong enough and competent enough. So many of us in dog training land look to someone else and admire them, and wish we were them, and perhaps have a little envy or jealousy. The goal setting that we do can give us the strength to do our own thing, to manage our own expectations, to create training plans, to create competitive goals, all of those kinds of things.

So when I talk to people about goal setting, I try to remember to focus on goals, and FOCUS is one of my silly acronyms I like to use. The F stands for facing the present. You never want to dwell on the past, and you never want to just dream of the future. Goals give you the opportunity to focus on and face the present moment, because you look at where you are right now and determine what your goals will be. They let you offer a vision, so you decide, are your goals going to be around structure and plans, or are your goals going to be around skills and those sorts of things. So they give you that vision through offering it to you. C I think of as being for clarity. Goals will bring you clarity around what you want to do. If you want to train your dog to do draft titles and you get yourself sucked into doing obedience fronts, that’s not going to be that helpful to you. So if you have good goals, you’ll find it’s easier to find clarity around what to do and those steps to build. I use the U for understanding the choices and priorities that you make. Say you’re looking at what class to take next term at Fenzi, as an example. We all know it’s hard to pick. There are so many great choices and we get ourselves spun. If you’d taken the time and done some goal setting, you can actually see which of the classes will help you move forward with your goals and which of the classes that you need. So to be able to understand the choices and set your own priorities can be really important too and really beneficial. And then of course when you achieve your goals, you get both success and satisfaction from them.

People laugh at me when I say one of the reasons to goal set is to reach success and satisfaction, but it’s so important. So many people don’t internalize their own worth, and if goals give you a way to internalize your worth and feel better about yourself, that’s a really good thing. So I think goal setting is a really important skill to develop, and I think it can add a lot to us as multi-dimensional positive dog trainers.

Melissa Breau: To reiterate that acronym one more time: F is facing the present, O is offering vision, C is clarity, U is understanding, S is success and satisfaction.

Andrea Harrison: Exactly.

Melissa Breau: Excellent. That’s great. I think that’s really helpful for people to have that to keep in mind as they go through that process.

Andrea Harrison: Exactly, and that’s the thing. It gives you a way to break it down to remember it, because you’re like, “Oh, goal-setting, it’s too much work and you have to think too hard.” You know, you wake up in the morning and drive to work, and you start thinking about a goal, and the phone rings or whatever, and you get distracted. Why would you go back to it? Well, focus. Remember FOCUS and focus on those goals.

Melissa Breau: Right, right. I think people probably set goals that require their dogs to learn new skills when it comes to dog training, or to achieve specific things, like in their first OTCH or what have you… but since we’re relying on another being, our dogs, what special considerations should we be keeping in mind as we set those goals?

Andrea Harrison: Such an important question, and I think the thing I want all of my students, and I hope all of the FDSA students and everybody listening, to remember is that the dogs don’t get a say in the goals we set for them.

My little Chihuahua, Thea, I wanted her to do agility. She’s a Chihuahua, she weighs 6 pounds, agility was not really her thing. She’s quick, she’s a character, she bombs around the field, but every different teeter I put her on dropped at a different rate of speed, even though they’re not supposed to, and she had a couple of quite scary fly-offs. What I did was I started running her in classes that didn’t have a teeter. My goal maybe was to do some more advanced agility titles with her, but my goal was to enjoy agility with her, and she did very, very well as long as she wasn’t getting on strange teeters. Strange teeters were scary for her, and they were dangerous, and because I didn’t let my own personal goals supersede her need to be safe, it allowed us to both enjoy a sport I really love.

So you’ve got to remember the dog didn’t get a say in your goal. If you would run if you were sore and achy, but your dog is sore and achy, it might not be a good day to run, because your dog doesn’t have the same goals as you.

When you look at that, you alluded to it earlier, too, this concept I talk about all the time, the difference between a process goal and an outcome goal. The outcome goal is getting the OTCH, it’s getting the ribbon, it’s going to Nationals, it’s coming first at Nationals for on the podium or whatever, it’s those big sort of ribbon goals. That’s what I think of when I talk about outcome goals. And process goals are all the little steps that get you there. So a process goal might be training at least three times a week, or teaching my dog to find three different scents, or all of this sort of step-building goals. So when you’re thinking about dog training, make sure that you’re remembering to build more process goals than outcome goals. I’m not opposed to outcome goals, but the process goals will help you and your dog reach the outcome goal anyhow, and they’re a little bit fairer for your dog, given that your dog doesn’t have a say in the goal setting.

The weekend warriors who say, “I’m going to a trial on Sunday, and I’m going to start training Friday night, and training like mad Friday and Saturday,” they’re not doing themselves nor their dogs any favors by that kind of goal setting. A systematic method of goal setting that includes process goals as an actually defined piece of the process are going to get you much, much further than just ping-ponging around from outcome goal to outcome goal and getting frustrated when you and your dog aren’t achieving them the way you want.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned outcome and process goals, and you got a little bit into my next question, which is how can people be smart about the goals they set for themselves and their dogs? Is there more you want to get into there?

Andrea Harrison: Well, yeah, because I think you want to remember that process goals allow you to learn. Through the mistakes that you make, through the opportunities that you get through process, through watching what happens, that lets you learn the most from the goal-setting process. Outcome goals are around performance and they’re important too, but outcome goals really are an opportunity to perform and show what you know. So when you’re thinking about smart training, it’s about picking the model goal setting that’s going to work best for you.

I’m always happy to share, there are hundreds of different kinds of goal setting models, but a really easy one is the smart goal setting. You hear about it all the time, and that’s another acronym that’s been around forever. There are some issues with it, but for people who have never goal set before, it can be a good place to start. It looks at having specific goals that are measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely, and those are each of the smart: S-M-A-R-T. And so a specific goal would be: I want Dora to do a dog walk. Measurable: Can she do a dog walk when I’m standing behind, at the side, or recalling her over it to me? Is that achievable for her? Yeah, she’s confident on all kinds of shaky surfaces, she’s absolutely fine with that. Is it relevant? Well, I like agility, so yeah, for me it is. Is it timely? Yeah, she’s a mature little dog, she’s still young enough to be fit, all of those kinds of things. So smart goals can give you a nice framework. It can be an intelligent way to look at goal setting.

You want to make sure that you’re making your goals positive, that you can choose to be positive about your goals and make them changing and affirming, as opposed to negative in things that you’re likely to fail at. Some people will set a goal of “I don’t want my dog to bark at strangers.” That’s a good goal: I don’t want my dog to bark at strangers. A better goal for many of the goal setting experts would be to frame it as “I want my dog to walk quietly beside me down the street.” So you can take that negative goal and turn it into a positive goal. That’s one thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to be intelligent about how you goal set.

Also think about making intrinsic goals. When we get into goal setting, we often set our goals for someone else. So we might think, Oh the breeder would love it if I had a versatility title on this dog, or My husband says I’m spending so much money on dog training; I really should bring home some ribbons to show for it, or whatever. We intrinsically tend to set our goals, and that’s why I like process goals, too — because they remind us to remember to be internal, set our goals in an intrinsic sense. You need to goal set for yourself. Not wholly — balance is OK — but make sure that you’ve got that balance, that you’re remembering that you matter in this goal-setting regime that you’re setting up, too.

Melissa Breau: So for those out there, it’s SMART: specific measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Was that it?

Andrea Harrison: Correct, yeah.

Melissa Breau: All right. I’m taking notes as we go through so I can remember some of the acronyms.

Andrea Harrison: You’re good! The acronyms — not everybody does them. They may or may not work for you, and that’s fine. But I’m finding more and more people the acronyms help them hang on to stuff. That one I did not come up with, but I’m trying to create other ones around some of the work that I do to help people who are figuring that stuff out.

Melissa Breau: It helps it stick in your head when you can remember a single word and you go, “Oh wait, I’m missing something, what was the M again, OK.” So, I know that they say something like 80% of New Year’s resolutions tend to fail by February – I wanted to address that a little bit. How can people who set a goal for themselves — a good goal for themselves, following the guidelines you laid out — how can they stay motivated past February, hopefully all the way through the year?

Andrea Harrison: A few things, and we’re lucky with our FDSA community because we’ve got a natural accountability system, partnership. If you’re working on your TEAM titles, you’ve got the TEAM group. If you’re working in a class and working through your bronze, you can post in your local group. There are lots of opportunities for that, and that’s a really important thing. People need to remember to do that.

But one of the things is to take your time and plan your goal. So here we are sitting on December 26 or whatever, and this will come out at the end of the week with hardly any time before New Year’s to do our goal. People will be like, “Oh my god, I didn’t goal set yet! I want to goal set!” And they’ll jump into it and … don’t. Stop, take your time, reflect around what matters to you, talk to an instructor you like or a training buddy already, and figure out what realistic goals are. If we set unrealistic goals, we will fail. We’re setting ourselves up to fail when we do that. You’re much better to invest the front-end time into making your goals realistic and appropriate for you, and attainable for you in the moment — and we can talk more about that — but make sure that you’ve got a way to plan those goals that are sensible for you.

Then make sure you’ve got a system to record-keep, so you know if you’re meeting those goals or not, or where you’ve got some holes, the accountability piece. I suggest people take the occasional goals class just to build in a little bit higher degree of accountability. If they haven’t tried it yet, it can be a really good thing. An in-person a class, if you’re in an area where that’s possible. Something to look forward to. For me, I like going to clinics and seminars sometimes just to remind myself. It reminds me to try and make sure I’m ready for it, and I think that can be a helpful thing.

Identify and accept your flaws when you’re thinking about motivation. Not all of us are equally good at things. If your February’s going to be crazy and you get derailed a little bit, that’s OK. You don’t need to be perfect every day, all the time. If your flaw is that you train in short, intense bursts, make sure your goal reflects that you’re better off training intensely six days and then taking four days off, or whatever it is. So know who you are. Spend a little bit of time identifying who you are as well.

And then, of course, with motivation you always want to know which of direction, intensity, and persistence are your downfall. Direction is your developing the plan, intensity is how often you’ll do it, and persistence is how long you’ll stick with it. If you know which of those three things is your biggest issue in motivation, it can help you figure out how to overcome that. Even sometimes knowing just that that’s your hole, you can be like, “Ah, I just can’t get off the couch tonight. Oh, wait, my direction’s failing me and I set those goals on purpose. Let me get up and go to it.” Or “I trained three times last week. I’m not going to train this week at all. Wait a minute. That’s persistence. I need to get up and get back to it.” So often, just by understanding ourselves, we set ourselves up to be more successful, in this particular regard, anyways.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned setting goals that are attainable for you in the moment. Do you want to go into that just a little bit more, since it came up?

Andrea Harrison: Sure. Attainable for you. So what I’m saying is, if you want … you said your OTCH, and that’s a huge deal in obedience. I hadn’t realized until I started working with somebody who’s well on her way to it. She wanted her OTCH, and she and I spent quite a long time figuring out what her realistic timeline was for it, because so much of that is out of your direct control. You can’t say you will get that in six shows, because it depends on who else is at your show, or twenty shows or whatever it is from where you start. So you have to make sure you build in a little bit of what I would call a buffer. So you think it would take you twenty trials to get it from where you are right now, I would say to you, “Give yourself thirty shots at it.” If you get there faster than you thought, that’s OK. It’s good. No problem. You can always adjust a goal. Goals are highly adjustable. They’re designed to be adjustable. So if you’re reaching it already, that’s great. But if you had said to yourself you’re going to get your OTCH in fifteen, and you needed every one of those fifteen trials to be completely successful and win the class and all that stuff, then you’re going to be really disappointed when you get to trial 14 and you realize you actually still need 13 trials. You’re going to feel like a huge failure.

So you want to make sure that when you’re setting attainable goals, and that’s one of the reasons I said talk to your instructors and your friends, because sometimes we get rosy-colored glasses. We’re like, “Oh, oh, oh, I can do this! I can do this! This is great!” And then somebody will say, “Mmm, you know, three months isn’t a lot of time when you live in a place where …” — well, for me, there’s major snow — “ … you might get snowed in and not be able to get to a trial.” “Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought of that.” You have to make the whole picture, and the more people you can draw into helping you with that, the easier it’s going to be for you in the long run.

Melissa Breau: The other thing you mentioned was record keeping, and I know that’s a topic that comes up over and over again in the alumni group, that whole tracking your training process, or your training progress, and how to do it, and what are the advantages of it. People share their whiteboards, or their bullet journals, or all sorts of stuff. So I wanted to ask what recommendations do you have for people interested in tracking their progress or coming up with a system?

Andrea Harrison: I love this question because it goes right to the heart of me, because my answer is, it depends, and it depends on what works for you. You can set up a really, really simple system that is literally putting a plus, a minus, a plus — it went really well — a minus — it wasn’t such a great day — or a big fat zero with a line through it that you didn’t train at all that day. You can do that on a calendar on the wall in your kitchen, and that is record keeping. That’s legitimate record keeping. You can say to yourself, “I’m going to video every session I do on Friday nights.” And whenever you remember to train on Friday night, you video it. That’s record keeping. Those are legitimate forms of record keeping, and they might be what you want to do. That’s simple, simple, simple, and it’s fine.

You might want to do something a little more medium, where you’ve got a blog going, or you’ve started a tiny little Facebook group with you and two of your friends and you share your successes, or you write on the backs of agility maps how the run went when you show. I had a book full of maps. I still use them. I still set up training based on my book of maps, and I love them. I remember most of my courses that way. There are so many sorts of medium. You might videotape twice a week, or every time you teach something new, or lots of those sorts of things.

And then there are really complex systems, like you mentioned bullet journaling. Bullet journaling’s hot, hot, hot. People love it. It’s great. It’s pretty. Lots of people disappoint themselves because they set up these beautiful bullet journals and then they don’t keep them. They’re colorful. They’re great. If it works for you and you love it, great. If you set it up your own way, set it up your own way. You don’t have to do it the way anybody else tells you to. It’s for you. It’s tracking what you want to track. People get confused, like, “Should I have my grocery lists and my dog training in the same journal?” It’s up to you. If you want to have your grocery lists and your dog training in the same journal, go for it. If you want to have every dog having their own separate folder, go for it. If it doesn’t work for you, you won’t use it. With record keeping, almost more than anything else I teach, it has to work for you. So start simply successfully and build from there.

The last chat I saw they weren’t sharing them, but people share the most beautiful Excel programs that they’ve set up with the exercises and the dogs and the colors. We’ve got some really, really talented people in our group who are happy to share stuff, so I love seeing that conversation come up. I sit back now because people know I’ve got folders and folders of bookmarks and stuff, but people are all doing all kinds of different things, and if it works for you, great. If it isn’t working for you, don’t beat yourself up. Stop, think, try something else. There’s no failure in not setting up a record-keeping system that works for you the first time you try, or the second time, or the fiftieth time. My record keeping has changed so much over the last 15 years of dog training. I can’t even tell you all the different systems I’ve used, because they’re different times in my life. It’s busier and less busy, so I work and I do it and it’s great, but it has to work for you in that moment.

Melissa Breau: You touched on this a little bit in there, but I know for a lot of people, the hardest part of all of that — achieving a goal, tracking it, anything — is when something happens and they miss a day, or life intervenes and maybe they miss a few days… so I wanted to address that too. How can people recover if they do fall off the bandwagon, or if they wake up one morning and realize they have gotten off track and haven’t been working on their goal the way they originally envisioned?

Andrea Harrison: It’s such an important thing. I mean, life happens to us all. No matter how good your goals are, no matter how clear your vision is, life happens. I had a relative diagnosed with cancer, got a call at a trial, left the trial, didn’t do competitive agility for four months, that was just my reality. I beat myself up about it — this was a long time ago — I beat myself up about it and was really upset and mad at the money and the training and all of that. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. I went back to agility, loved it, hit my podium finishes, and did just fine. You have to accept that those sort of throwaway days will happen. Sometimes it’s a throwaway week or a throwaway month.

We do this for fun. The dog sports are about fun, and if we’re in a place where it isn’t fun, we need to stop and regroup and rethink and plan it out. Imperfect action, though, is better than no action, so if you find that you’re stalling out just because you’ve had a few bad days and you don’t know how to get going again, grab a toy and go play, grab a clicker and go teach something, watch a shaping video and try it yourself. Do something. I would rather see someone take imperfect action than just be stalled. If there is a place for that. If there is no place for you mentally, that’s OK too, but it’s a separate issue right there.

There are two reasons life happens to us: one is we can’t overcome it, and one is we get so down on ourselves we can’t. And when you’re that down on yourself, remind yourself of why you’re doing it. Put a picture of a ribbon … hang a ribbon on your bathroom door so you’ll see the ribbon and be like, “Oh yeah, I want to do that.” Put Denise’s book right front and center and think about telling her that what you’re actually achieving that day. Jump on the FDSA thing and say, “Hey, I’m feeling down,” and I guarantee you fifty people are going to say, “Hey, it’s OK. I’ve been there too.” We’ve all been there. Get out there and get training. Have fun with your dog. Use those days to reclaim.

I talked a little bit earlier about power, goals giving us power. Those days actually give you a funny sort of backwards opportunity to reclaim that power, because you’re busy feeling down about yourself, and if you can get yourself to train for just five minutes … I’m not talking about a great training plan that catches up on all the process goals that you missed last week. I’m saying spend five minutes doing something with your dog. That gives you that little bit of power back, and then you can go on and do a little bit of power again so you can build. Take one tiny, tiny, small, imperfect step forward when it’s not working very well, and then you will find that you will be able to make sense of it.

If your training is getting derailed, though, and that’s why you have stopped, that’s OK, and that’s important to stop and redress. You want to look at your goals and make sure they are in fact realistic and measurable and achievable for you in that time, and relevant to what you want to do, and you might need to regroup and change your goals a bit. Sometimes when we get stalled out it’s because the goals we’re working on aren’t really the goals we should be working on. So remember that nothing could be a good choice in that situation. So you’ve gotten really mad at your dog the night before and you’ve done something you aren’t proud of, then you might need to stop and regroup and reassess what your goals are, and that’s OK too. Again, you’re a human being. We’re all human beings. We’re not perfect.

Melissa Breau: You said something in there that I love, and it’s just that idea that we do this to have fun with our dogs, and ultimately if that’s not happening, something’s wrong, and it’s worth taking some time off for rethinking those goals or looking at things again. I just think that’s important for people to hear and to recognize. I just like that line.

Andrea Harrison: Yeah. It’s so important. To me, it’s the heart of why I do what I do. My dogs are the good thing in my life, and I know that’s true for many of us. So I’m glad it resonated with you.

Melissa Breau: Despite our best efforts, sometimes we just don’t achieve our goals. It just doesn’t happen. Do you have any tips for when that happens, handling it, handling the disappointment and those feelings of having failed, or of failure?

Andrea Harrison: Of course I do! This is my bread and butter! This is what I do. And I can hear half my students laughing, going, “Oh, I know what she’s going to say.” I’ve got some new stuff for some of you coming up, I promise. But when that happens to you, I want you to really stop and think, is this goal too much for you right now? And if it is too much for you, that’s OK.

I often teach people to frame their goals around “at leasts.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to train five times a week,” we’d much rather someone say, “I’m going to train at least four times a week.” You set your goal for what you think it is, and then you backup a step. And then, if you find you’re only training three times a week, you say, “I’m going to actually train at least twice a week.” So as soon as you start to feel that sense of disappointment and failure, reword your goal, rework your goal a little bit, and give yourself a bit of a break.

I already talked that we are humans. You need to balance that fun in the work piece. You want to make sure that fun and work are in good balance. In my blog you’ll see I strike out training and work. Years and years ago I started striking them out and put play, because really that’s what I do. I play with my dogs, and we get some training done, and we have lots of fun doing it. That’s been a very basic philosophy of mine for a long, long time. So that balance is super-important.

Here’s a growth mindset. We can have these fixed minds. That’s where we think this thing is going to be the way it is forever, and our brains are really very changing, they’ve got great plasticity, they’re very accommodating, so remember that, and remember not yet doesn’t mean never. I love that we use “not yet” in the Team stuff, because it’s so true in all of life. If you didn’t get that cue that you wanted, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to get that cue. It means you didn’t get that cue right then — not yet. So not yet is not never.

And mistakes are learning. I say it all the time, and I feel like it’s so trite to say it, but it’s so true. Look for the learning in the mistake that you make and embrace it. You aren’t going to get the opportunity to learn that any other way other than through the mistake you made. If it’s an error of enthusiasm, as I like to call them, that’s great. Celebrate it. If it’s another kind of error, if you over-trained your dog and they’re tired at the trial, or you set up beside the wrong dog and your dog snarked at them and you were asked to leave the show — which is terrible, but it happens — then you know, OK, I need to be more careful about where I set up the next time. No matter how big and bad and awful it feels in that moment, Andrea’s Rule of Five, kick it in: Is it going to matter in five minutes, five hours, five days, five years? At what point is this thing not going to have such a devastating impact on you?

We take things so very, very personally sometimes, and ultimately it really isn’t personal. Most of what happens around us is not personal to us. Even our own failures in some way are just circumstances happening to us. Bad things happen to good people, and if it’s a bad thing, I’m sorry, and I’ll be commiserating, but I’m not going to say to you, “This is the end of the world,” because in all likelihood it probably isn’t.

Melissa Breau: I think the other piece of goal setting that we haven’t touched on is the pressure that sometimes comes with trying to achieve big goals. If someone is feeling stressed out about what they want to achieve, how can they manage that in a way that’s healthy and not destructive or beating up on themselves?

Andrea Harrison: That’s a really good question, and it’s so important to access your toolbox Most of my classes talk about a toolbox, and these few things I’m thinking of as we chat are things that try them out, test them, see if they work for you. If they work, put them in the top drawer of your toolbox so you can use them when you feel stressed and pressured.

Of course I’ve talked about breathing before, I think, and there are two easy breathing techniques. I am, where you breath in and you think I am, and as you breathe out, you think the good thought, so I am a good dog trainer, I am confident, I am successful. Whatever any of those things are, that I am breathing is very useful. Count breathing can also calm your nerves because it makes you focus. It’s a mindfulness practice. You breathe in for a count of four and breathe out for a count of five, so it goes in, two, three, four, out, six, seven, eight, nine. If you can’t breathe for that long, you can do it shorter. Breathe in one count less than you breathe out, so you could breathe in, two, three, out five, six, seven. That can really calm you down quite quickly and give you a thing...

Write down what you’re worried about. Write it out and then tear it up into tiny little strips of paper, or burn it, gives you great satisfaction sometimes, if it’s safe. If you’re frustrated or you’re angry about something, that can be a very helpful tool. Write it down.

Throw a dance party for yourself. You’re mad, you’re grumpy, you’re unhappy, you’re sad, whatever. Crank up a tune you love and bop around the house. Your dog will think you’re nuts, your spouse might think you’re nuts, but get your frustration out. Shake it off.

A grounding thing people can try when you’re absolutely shaking you’re so upset, think about how your feet are touching the ground. Really feel your feet. And in fact you can teach yourself to use that as an anchoring thing when you’re standing still and you can’t get away. For most of us, movement is a release, just like with our dogs. So if you can move, it’s going to help more. You can shake your hands, or push your arms together, or any one of those things. But if you can’t do any of that and you have to just stand there, really concentrate on how your toes are touching in your shoes, and your shoes are pressing into the floor, and feel that root to the ground. That can be a really nice tool.

I talked briefly about my Rule of Five already. You can strike a pose, very Ann Cuddy, power person. I had lots of fun talking about striking Wonder Woman poses and various poses in mirrors. Go sneak into a bathroom, strike a power pose, and then away you go. That can just root you and reground you a little bit.

Another one I like is something I call “traffic light.” When you’re getting tense and fried and upset, think about a traffic light. Red: stop. Amber: think about it and make a plan. Green: try your plan. It’s a very quick way to just go “traffic light,” and you can actually run through it in, like, 10 seconds sometimes, from red to green, and then reset yourself. It’s just a way to reset, and then of course reframe, and whatever’s going on can be really helpful, too, when you’re feeling really stressed out. I’m stressed, but I’m remembering to do my breathing exercise. I’m stressed, but Andrea would tell me I’m learning from this. Somebody messaged me once, I laughed and said, “Did it work?” And they said, “Yes, it did.” So however you can reframe it. I didn’t have a really good show, but I got out of housecleaning today. Whatever it is that will work for you, go ahead and steal it and use it. Reframing can be a very useful tool.

But the thing about all of these tools, Melissa, I wouldn’t want anyone to forget is they all take practice. You can’t just grab one on the fly and go, “Yeah, yeah, I like that ‘feel your feet’ thing,” and try to do it only when you’re stressed. If it’s something that you think might work for you, start trying it now, like any of my tools. I’ve got hundreds, and I just picked out a few, and I picked out some ones that I hadn’t shared in classes very often, if at all, but just to do something a little bit different. But if you don’t practice them, they will not work for you in a stressful situation.

Melissa Breau: So more to Amy’s concept for her management class for managing dogs: you have to practice with the dog so that it becomes second nature before you actually need it in the moment. Same idea. Works on us, too.

Andrea Harrison: Exactly, exactly. We’re all mammals.

Melissa Breau: So I know you touch on a lot of these topics in your “Handle This” class, which is on the calendar for February – and I wanted to ask you to share a little bit about the class and tell students what’s in it, tell students what might make them want to take it, that kind of thing.

Andrea Harrison: Good question. You know, it’s a funny class. When I first developed it, I thought it would be one of the very most popular classes, and it’s one of the most intense classes that I teach — and I teach lots of intense classes. People think hard in my classes and I always apologize, “I’m sorry, you’re thinking,” and they’re always, “No, it’s good, it’s good.” “But I didn’t mean to make you think that hard!”

One of the things we get into is creating a master plan, so whatever it is that you’ve gotten that you want to figure out how to handle. Lots of people come because they’re still really nervous in the ring. It was set up to be a follow-up course to All In Your Head, but you don’t have to have done All In Your Head anymore to do it. I’ve figured out how to work through without having to have it. So lots of people who are nervous come into it, or lots of people who are struggling with trial situations, but there are also now lots of people who are just trying to figure out how to get to a show, so they don’t even know if they’re going to be nervous or not yet because they haven’t gone to a show yet.

It’s become, as well as the nerves piece, it’s become setting up a master plan, like, how are you going to get from where you are to where you want to be, applying all of the different things that have come up in Denise’s class, and Hannah’s class, and all the different classes that you’ve taken. How are we going to marry them all together into a vision of success for you? There’s a lot about change, and being realistic, and adapting to change, and dealing with stressors that come up in your life, but if I was going to give you the one thing, I think it’s that ability to create a master plan to bring in lots of different elements.

And it’s kind of cool because my classes, people come to them from lots of different sports. I have a barn hunt person, a scent work person, an obedience person, an agility person, a drafting person. I usually get lots and lots of variety in the classes, dock diving people have shown up in my classes... so you get to see how all these different sports create these master plans, and sometimes you’re able to use ideas from different threads that you can carry over to your sport. So I really like that about my classes. I think it’s a quite cool way to do it.

The other class I’m running this semester is Unleash Personal Potential, which is the Gold-only class, which is basically whatever people want to do works. The lectures are just around mindfulness, but people do exactly what they want, so we might have somebody trying to peak for performance in March, or somebody who wants to know how to help their boyfriend like their dogs better, or somebody who wants to get a job in a dog-related field. Lots and lots of different things have come up in the class, and it’s a lot of fun too. It’s Gold only, and you have to have taken some class from me at some level to get into it.

Melissa Breau: Alright, I have one final question for you, Andrea… I wanted to ask you if you have any dog-related resolutions or goals that you’re planning on trying to achieve in the next year — at least any that you care to share?

Andrea Harrison: Great question. I always have goals, and I didn’t … I don’t think I blogged about it yet this year. If you look at December in my blog, you can see my goals most years. My goal for Sally and Thea is to keep them as healthy and happy as possible. Sally’s almost 12 and Thea’s 15, and they both have some chronic disease issues that mean they probably shouldn’t still be with us. So that’s my goal for the old guys. But the cobbler’s children, the two young dogs I’ve got, Dora and Yen, I’m quite determined to get Yen going, and I haven’t quite decided whether that means in public doing scent work or agility, or maybe both. She’s quite good at both. She’s a little flying squirrel, so I’ve got to figure out how to manage the flying squirrel, but apart from that, that’s my goal with her. Dora, I would like very much, because she’s feral and quite reactive and quite a character, I’m going to continue working on some of my online stuff. She’s working on her trick titles and has been doing quite well at them. I was thinking of adding parkour to it as well. And then personally, because I like agility and she likes agility, we’ll do some agility at home, because one of my real goals is to get out and keep doing some personal growth stuff for me, so attending some seminars, attending some workshops. I hope I’m going to be, if I’m invited, driving down to camp for one night, and hanging out for the afternoon and overnight and the morning after. That’s my intention, so to get to camp to see everybody. That’s actually high on the list of my personal dog goals. And yeah, I think it will be a fun year. I’m looking forward to doing lots of stuff. We’re also planning on holding an Iron Dog competition here at the farm. So that will be something new for me.

Melissa Breau: Oh, fun!

Andrea Harrison: We’re going to run one, I think, and a couple of FDSA students have offered to help, and I think it’ll be great, so I’m looking forward to setting that up. We have over 200 acres, including a lovely hill that’s quite steep, so we’re going to have options where you can do the Iron Dog thing or do a training thing. You choose your option, so that people will get different points for doing it, and it’ll be a little less of a physical challenge if you choose to do the training options all the way along. A nice walk with some training walks. So there’s lots going on in my life I’m looking forward to in a doggy sense for 2018.

Melissa Breau: I certainly hope you make it to camp, and do you want to mention where you’re located, in case there’s anybody listening who’s close enough to come out for the dog event?

Andrea Harrison: Oh yeah, yeah. I’m in Prince Edward County in Ontario, so in between Ottawa and Toronto, pretty well halfway in between Toronto and Ottawa, so a pretty, pretty part of the world. Lots of wineries and craft breweries and art galleries, and lots of things for spouses to do while you play with your dog in the morning. We’re a hotbed of tourism here. Oh, and you know something else I forgot to mention when we were talking about when you’re down and out and you can’t think of how to get going again, people would be more than welcome to pull one of my task cards out of the deck, so I will make sure I send you a link for how they can get a task card to re-motivate themselves.

Melissa Breau: Perfect. And just because I know you mentioned your blog earlier, and I’m assuming that would be the best place to get more info on the Iron Dog stuff, but correct me if I’m wrong, do you want to mention what your website is?

Andrea Harrison: It’s a blogspot. It’s Andrea Agility Addict at blogspot, and you’ll find it quickly. It’s got really good SEO, despite the fact that I’ve done no work on it, Melissa, you’d be proud of me.

Melissa Breau: Excellent. I will include a link to it in the show notes for anybody who wants to go check that out.

Andrea Harrison: Perfect.
Melissa Breau: Thank you so much, Andrea. I’m really glad you could come back on, and I honestly couldn’t think of a better time to talk goals, so thank you.

Andrea Harrison: It’s always a pleasure talking to you, Melissa, either on- or offline. I love our conversations, and I always feel like I’ve learned lots too, so thank you so much.

Melissa Breau: And thank you, to all of our listeners for tuning in, both this week and every week this year. We’ll be back next week, this time with Amy Cook to talk about the science of dog training.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to our podcast in itunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. And Happy New Years!

CREDITS:

Today’s show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called “Buddy.” Audio editing provided by Chris Lang and transcription written by CLK Transcription Services.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

Dec 22, 2017

SUMMARY:

For our one year anniversary we're releasing a special edition of the podcast... a compilation of some of the most popular clips from the year in an extra long bonus episode. I hope you enjoy!

TRANSCRIPTION:

Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.

Today I’m here with Teri Martin -- for those of you who don’t know her, Teri is Denise’s right hand woman; she handles setting up the classes for all of you each session, plays tech support, and is the main organizer for camp each year.

Teri and I will be doing something a little different this episode… roughly a year ago today, December 23rd, I launched our very first episode, which was an interview with Denise Fenzi.

To celebrate our anniversary, today we’re going to reshare some of the more memorable moments from the last year. But before we dive into that, Teri is here with me to talk a little about the plans for FDSA Training Camp 2018.

Welcome to the podcast Teri! Excited to have you co-hosting this special episode with me.  

Teri Martin: Thanks, Melissa. Happy to be here.

Melissa Breau: Alright, to start us out, do you want to just remind everyone when and where camp is going to be next year?

Teri Martin: Camp is going to be June 1st to 3rd, that’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and it’s going to be at the Roberts Centre/Eukanuba Hall in Wilmington, Ohio. I’m super excited about the venue. It’s going to have six different rings running and it’s going to be amazing.

Melissa Breau: I’m super excited because it’s the first year that it’s been close enough that I can drive, so I can bring a working dog, and I have a puppy, so can’t beat that.

Teri Martin: Cool.

Melissa Breau: How does registration work? I know it’s a little complicated and people tend to ask questions.

Teri Martin: Working spot registration is complicated. The regular stuff isn’t. Working spot are given priority registration, so there are two phases for those. The first one is Phase 1, and it’s going to open on January 8th at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. If you have eight or more courses at any level in FDSA, you will get an invitation to register for that phase. After that, we have Phase 2, which is for people who have four or more courses at any level. That will start January 10th. And then after that we open it to everybody. I should add that auditing is also available and you don’t need to register super early for that, but we do suggest you do at least fairly soon, but it’s not going to be the same as the demand for the working spots.

Melissa Breau: Can they start registering for that on the 8th, did you say?

Teri Martin: If you’re eight or more, then it will start on the 8th, and if you’re four or more it starts on the 2nd. And then general registration opens on the 15th.

Melissa Breau: Gotcha. Where do people go for the official schedule and all the additional information that you’ve got out?

Teri Martin: Go to the FDSA website and it’s up on there under “More FDSA Education.” You will see a link for the training camp and all the information is there.

Melissa Breau: All right, last one -- what is your favorite thing about camp?

Teri Martin: Oh, so many things. For so many of us it’s getting to see all these people that we feel that we’ve formed these friendships with, and it’s just like you’re greeting an old friend that you haven’t seen for so long. And those instructors are exactly the same way as they appear when they’re giving you advice. They’re friendly and warm and funny and fabulous. So it’s just the sense of bringing that whole community together in real life and getting all inspired to go home and train your dog.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. I’m so looking forward to it. It’s been an amazing experience the last few years being able to attend as a volunteer, and so I’m totally looking forward to seeing things from the other side!

Teri Martin: We’re going to miss having you as a volunteer, though.

Melissa Breau: I’ll be back next year. Do you want to introduce our first clip, or should I?

Teri Martin: (something about the question I asked that led to this -- how Denise’s training philosophy has influenced other aspects of her life -- maybe “First up is that first episode, an interview with Denise, from when you asked her…” ).

I think it’s pretty appropriate that we start with our fearless leader Denise. I think you had a question in the very first episode where you asked her how her training philosophy has influenced other aspects in her life, and for me that just totally sets the ground for how this whole wonderful school and the sense of community that surrounds it has come to be.

Melissa Breau: Excellent. Let’s play that clip.

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Denise Fenzi: It’s been probably the most significant thing that’s happened in my entire life. When I changed how I trained dogs, you have to be pretty obtuse not to recognize that we all learn the same way. And if you’re a positive trainer with dogs and you really emphasize catching what they do right and ignoring what they do wrong, I mean, you really have to choose not to think about it, to realize that exactly the same thing is true with people. So for example both of my kids have very good manners, and I know how that came about in part. One thing is, I’m simply a respectful person and I encourage that.

But I remember our first outings to restaurants when they were smaller, and if they said they would order for themselves, and they would say please and show nice manners, the second that person would walk away from the table I would say to my husband who’d be there, “I am so proud that we have kids who are so respectful and have such good manners. It makes me happy to go places with them.” And you could almost see the difference the next time that opportunity came up again, you could almost see them go just a little bit further with their good manners.

And it’s not something I comment on any more, because they’re older, they’re 12 and 16, but they do it by habit. And I know that some part of their brain is always aware of it. So I’ve never said to them “Say please, say thank you,” I don’t tell them what to do, but when it happens I really work to catch those moments and acknowledge them. And I think dog training is a lot easier than child training, that’s just my perspective. But I try to work with that, and I try not to think in terms of getting my kids to go to school and do well because I’ve restricted the rest of their lives, and I try to think in terms of balance and cooperation.

Of course with people you can talk things out more. But at the end of the day if you’re having any kind of conflict with another person, whether it’s a family member or some random person you see on the street, the question I ask myself now is, do I want to feel better or do I want to change behavior? So if I want to feel better I may well behave badly, I may yell. I do yell, by the way. I do yell at my children, I do yell at my dogs. I know some people say, “That’s amazing you do, you’re not supposed to do that.” Well that’s great, I’m glad you’re all there. I’m not, so I will yell, “Get off the couch,” or whatever.

I’m not really training, I’m expressing my upsetness. So that’s, do I want to feel better? Yes, so I’m going to yell. Or somebody irritates me on the street because their dog runs up to mine and is off-leash, and so maybe I’m having a particularly bad day, and I might respond inappropriately. But then the second question is, do I want to change behavior? And I think recognizing that those are different things is really important because never, ever, ever am I yelling if I want to change behavior, and never am I talking to somebody like they’re dumb, or ignorant, or anything, because it’s all perspective, because they just have a different perspective.

So maybe they don’t understand that their off-leash dog running up to my old dog is a problem. And the reason it’s a problem is, my dog is old and she doesn’t like other dogs jumping on her. And I’ve had much better luck saying, “I know your dog is friendly, but my dog is very old and she has a lot of arthritis. And when your dog comes up like that it really scares her, and it hurts her.” And when I say that, without fail they apologize and they put their dogs on a leash. And I smile, I’m not angry. I might be inside, but I don’t show it. The next time I see them we continue with a pleasant set of interactions.

And that kind of thinking, do I want to feel better or do I want to change behavior, has been really quite impactful, whether in my family or with people. We often talk about with our dogs, sometimes dog trainers are a lot nicer to their dogs than people. I find that very incongruent, and I don’t like to live my life that way. I like my life to make sense. And I think we need to be very aware of not only how we treat our pets but show that same courtesy to each other, and I find that from there I am a happier person.

Because when you are kind with people instead of getting your emotions from stewing in your, "oh my God, I can’t believe how stupid that person is," that I understand that we take pleasure in those periods of time when we feel superior to other people, because I guess that’s where that comes from, I understand that.

But it is a short-lived and negative form of emotion, and in the long run it leaves you feeling worse about the world. Whereas when you take the time to think about things from somebody else’s point of view, I find that that leads to an understanding, and honestly it makes my life a lot better. It makes me a more pleasant and happy person, so that has a lot of value.

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Melissa Breau: I think that one has really stuck with me. I think it’s really influenced what FDSA is and how it works, too.

Teri Martin: A little-known fun fact about all of that: As you know, we have a really active Facebook group that’s been so much of this community, and that started way back in November 2013, which was maybe two sessions in. There was a group of us that had taken both of these courses and were totally all excited about the FDSA thing and wanted to start a Facebook group. So I pushed Denise about it, and she was like, “Oh, you know, I’ve had so many bad experiences with groups. People get really nasty and mean, and I just don’t want to have that. Well, you guys can go ahead, if that’s what you want to do, but I don’t want to be part of it.” and then she comes back about a week later and she says, “You know what, I thought it over and I think this is actually a pretty good thing, so let’s go for it.” And from there on, the rest is history.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, think about how big a part that plays in the community today. It’s huge.

Teri Martin: Yes. And another fun fact is she has to be really nice to me, because I can actually kick her out of the group because I’m the original founder.

Melissa Breau: That’s funny. Since you brought up the early days, for our next clip let’s use the clip I have from Amy Cook, where she shares how she became one of the first instructors here at FDSA.

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Melissa Breau: So I wanted to ask you too about the early days of FDSA because I believe, I think you actually told me that you were one of the first teachers that Denise brought on at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. So I was really curious to get some of your impressions on how you think it’s changed and kind of what happened when she initially approached you.

Amy Cook: Oh, boy. You know, it was standing in the right place at the right time, I swear. You know, she had taught online elsewhere and decided to do this endeavor, and I was just…I’m pretty sure I was just finishing grad school and saying, well, I guess I’m going back to dog training. I wasn’t sure what I had in store, I’ll just revamp or ramp up my business again, fine. And I can remember, I was standing near a freezer in her garage and I can’t exactly remember how it came up but she said, “We have a behavior arm, could you teach what you teach, teach a class in what you do?”

Boy, I felt…the answer was both yes and no. The answer is no because I’ve never done that, but the answer is yes because well, it has to be possible, right? Sure. I’ll certainly try it. I really wanted to do something like that. But for a second there I was like, really? Behavior? Behavior, though. I mean, behavior. It’s complicated. People are all over the place. Dogs are behaving all over the place. It’s a lot to…how will I do this online?

But I had faith. She really had vision early on for how this was going to go and we brainstormed, I was really excited about it. She actually came up with the title of the class, Dealing with the Bogeyman, that’s hers. She’s like, let’s call it that. I was like, sure. It was exciting. It was exciting times and I was really just like, well, I’m happy to run a class and see what I can do for people. If it’s something I don’t feel is resulting in improvements that are reasonable for the dogs I’m helping then it’s not right, then online is more suited for skill-based stuff and not so much the concepts or the complicated behaviors.

I shouldn’t have been afraid because it’s been amazing.

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Teri Martin: It’s just so cool how all this online stuff works. There was a conversation elsewhere about this with Amy where she said she couldn’t believe how much her online students progressed. They get to digest all their information on their own time frame, they get their feedback quickly, they can take the time to set up the scenarios properly so they don’t get dogs overwhelmed, and can ask daily questions of the instructor. That’s just so more efficient than meeting once every two weeks. So it’s really a great way to work behaviour stuff.  

Melissa Breau: I think that was on her blog, where she wrote about the impact of online training.

Teri Martin: I know it’s come up a few times, so it very well could be in her blog.

Melissa Breau: Not only is it an awesome way for people to train where they can set up scenarios and whatnot, but because it’s online, it lets our students learn from some of the best trainers in the world, no matter where they live, it gives them access to these training concepts that maybe haven’t quite become widespread enough for there to be classes on those topics locally. I think a good example of that is Julie Flanery’s Imitation and Mimicry class. It’s this really interesting concept that I couldn’t imagine a local trainer trying to run a class on that. They’d be scrounging up students left and right. So I want to make sure we include a clip of her explaining that concept from her interview back in May.

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Melissa Breau: You kind of mentioned shaping and luring in there, but you wrapped up a class on Imitation and Mimicry and I have to say that’s like such a fascinating concept. If you could start by just kind of explaining what that is for the listeners in case they’re not aware of it, and just kind of sharing how you got into that, that would be great.

Julie Flanery: Yeah. No, I’d love to. Imitation and Mimicry is a form of social learning or learning through observation, and we’ve long known it to be effective in human learning, but it wasn’t until probably the last 10 years or so that we’ve really seen any studies on its use in dog training. I first heard about it at a ClickerExpo, a talk that Ken Ramirez gave on concept training in dogs, and then further researched Dr. Claudia Fugazza’s study that she did, and in 2006 she created a protocol that showed that dogs can learn these new skills and behaviors by mimicking their owners and it’s her protocol that we use in class.

Also what’s fascinating is that Ken Ramirez has developed a protocol for a dog-dog imitation and mimicry, and some of the videos I’ve seen on that are just truly, truly amazing. So, things that we didn’t think were possible now we know are and we’re actually able to bring to more people now. The class was really quite inspirational for me because my experience of course had been limited with it in working with it with my own dog and then some of my live classes, my students there in my live classes, we worked through it, and when Denise asked me to do a class on it I was really excited, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I have to say my students in that class are just amazing. They have really shown me what this protocol can do and how truly capable our dogs are of learning some of these concepts, so it’s been a really exciting class for me. And matter of fact, I’m going to go ahead and put it back on...I think it is already...Teri’s added it to the schedule for August, and so I’m really excited about doing it all over again.

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Melissa Breau: I love that our instructors are really well versed in such a wide variety of animal-related training and research.

Teri Martin: No kidding! I think there’s been tons of podcasts where you’ve had discussions about all sorts of cool research with dogs including I think even Kamal talked about teaching dogs how to fly a plane. I listened to one with our newest agility instructor just recently, Barbara Currier, who said that she was doing some wonderful things in the field of service dogs.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Let’s give that a listen.

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Melissa Breau: So, I have to say, kind of working on your bio, it seems like you’ve had the opportunity to do lots of different really interesting things, in the world of dogs, from animal wrangling to working on wearable computing, so I wanted to ask a little more about what you do now. Can you tell us just a little bit about the FIDO Program there, at Georgia Tech, and what you’re working on with the dogs there?

Barbara Currier: Sure. So, FIDO stands for Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations. My best friend, Dr. Melody Jackson, she’s a professor there, at Georgia Tech, and she runs the brain lab and the animal computer interaction lab. She came up with the idea of creating wearable computing for service dogs, military dogs, police, search and rescue, any type of working dog, and she asked me to come on to oversee the dog training aspects of the work. Within the last year, I’ve been really busy with travel, and so I, actually, haven’t been working a lot with them, on the project, and she’s actually taking over most of the dog training aspect, the pilot testing, with her dog, but up to this point, a lot of the stuff that they’ve created, it’s kind of funny, when I tell people what I do there, the team that creates all the stuff, it’s Melody Jackson and her lab partner Thad Starner, they’re brilliant people, and the students that all work there are super brilliant. I am not a techy person. I’m lucky if I can turn my computer on, I just train dogs, so I kind of compare it to like the Big Bang theory, and I’m Penny amongst all of these brilliant people, and they just say stuff and I’m like, that’s great, just tell me what you want the dogs to do. That’s, kind of, where my expertise is, and I don’t have any idea what the technical aspect of it is, but we’ve, actually, created some really cool things.

They’ve created a vest that a service dog is trained to activate that has a tug sensor on it, and so we had a woman come to us that had a speech problem where she doesn’t have, she can’t project her voice out very loudly, and she’s also wheelchair bound, and she was at the dog park, one day, with her dog, and her wheelchair got stuck in some mud, and she couldn’t holler to anybody because her voice just didn’t project like that, and she really needed, like, a way that she could send her service dog to get help to come back, and you know, but a dog running up to somebody, at a dog park, barking, nobody is going to think that’s anything unusual. So, they created a vest that has a computer on it, and the dog has a tug sensor, on the vest, so she can direct the dog to go to somebody, and the dog can go up and it will pull a tug sensor and the vest will actually say, excuse me, my handler needs assistance, please follow me, and the dog can bring that person back to the handler.  

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Teri Martin: And how cool is that!  FDSA instructors have also been on the forefront of some of the new force free happenings with veterinary medicine. It makes so much sense to extend the positive philosophies when dealing with things that are so often necessary but not necessarily pleasant for the dog.  I think Debbie Gross has some great views on that?   

Melissa Breau: Yup, let’s roll that clip.

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Melissa Breau: Now, I think that veterinarians and the medical field in general isn't always known as the most positive part of dog sports, so I'd love to get your take on that. How do positive training and rehabilitation overlap, and are there places where they just can't?

Debbie Gross: Yeah. And that's a very good question. I belong to an organization, I sit on the board called Fear Free, and their whole goal and mission is to establish fear-free veterinarians’ offices, rehab offices, looking at training facilities, boarding facilities, things like that, so it's all aimed at making sure the experience is positive and fear free. And certainly…you know, we laugh in our clinic because we're not the vet, so dogs come in and they know they're getting copious amounts of cookies, and it's going to be a great place, and they love it, and so I think it's very important to, you know, right off the bat we want to make sure the owner and the dog are very comfortable.

Certainly, dogs often will become fearful or potentially aggressive if they're in pain, so I always tell the trainers that I work with, assume that it's physical before behavioral. Now, I'll hear so many times from owners, "Oh, my dog didn’t want to do the A-frame this morning. It's probably because …" You know, they make something up and then get steak for dinner. They swear they don’t think like that. You know, they probably didn’t want to do something because they're in pain. Something like the A-frame puts a lot of stress on the dogs back, and the hips, and stuff like that, so understanding if a dog is fearful, or doesn’t want to do something, looking at the reason why, you know, so is it pain that is prohibiting them from doing something.

And certainly, some dogs are not candidates, like, we've turned dogs away because they're either too fearful, or they just can't do … they don’t want to do anything, and rather than forcing them, we won't do that, you know, and that's a little bit different than traditional vet medicine where dogs need to go in. They may need to get an exam, or their vaccinations, or things like that, but this fear free movement is fantastic, and you know, looks at everything from the lighting, their potential pheromones in the air to relax the dogs, and cats also, and other animals, so most the time in rehab dogs love it. They love coming into our office, and it's fun, and it's all positive, and you know, that's the way I want it to be. I mean, I love when the dogs pull their owners into the office, so you know that they're having a great time, so it's great.

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Teri Martin: And of course, using positive training in places where it hasn’t historically been used,  carries over into training sports that have been resistant to positive methods too -- like IPO and Gun Dog sports.

Melissa Breau: Cassia offers positive gun dog training classes here at FDSA, so I wanted to include this clip from her on the importance of work and play.

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Melissa Breau: I know I mentioned in your bio that you believe dog training should be a form of structured play. It sounds like that’s a little bit what you’re talking about, but can you explain a little more what that phrase means, or at least what it means to you, and what it looks like in practice, like within a training session?

Cassia Turcotte: Sure. I think that…I’m trying to think where I actually first heard that term, and it may have been even Lindsey that said it, but really, it’s…you know, I don’t want the dog to feel like what we’re doing is work. If you feel like you’re being dragged to work every day, it’s mentally hard, but if they go out and they go, oh my gosh, this is the coolest thing ever, I can’t wait to do more of it, then the attitude’s up, the motivation’s up, and you don’t have any trouble with compliance.

You know, they’re really willing to play the game, and it’s fun. It’s fun for me and it’s fun for them, so you know, it’s one of the things…you know, how would it look in a training session? One of the things that we do in field work is called the walk up, and all that is, is a bumper is thrown in the air as you’re heeling with the dog, and it’s thrown in front of the dog, and the point of it is to challenge the dog to stay heeling and stay steady with you, and the traditional way would be to correct them for not doing that.

So in our way, we jackpot with Chuckit! ball or tug or food as a reinforcement for being steady, you know, so they see the bumper go up, and they sit, and we say, “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome,” and we throw a Chuckit! ball in the opposite direction, and so it’s all a game, and it’s about keeping them guessing and mentally challenging them and getting it so that they really understand what they’re being asked to do, and they’re not just corrected for not understanding. So I think that’s pretty much what it would look like in an average day.

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Melissa Breau: We also mentioned IPO, before sharing that clip from Cassia, and the trainer best known for that at FDSA, hands down, is Shade Whitesel.

With driven dogs, frustration problems can be a real issue; Shade has spent the last few years looking at how to prevent frustration through clear communication. During her interview back in February, she talked about location specific markers, which are one of the things she’s known for here at the school.

Teri Martin: I’m taking Shade’s class right now with my young, 6-month-old puppy, and I’m absolutely loving this concept. It’s really cool to see the clarification in how my dog knows that chase means [26:33] and you get the ball and [26:34] grab it out of my hands and [26:37] you can see the clarity, so I’m happy to see this clip.

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Shade Whitesel: No matter how you train, communicating as clearly as possible is so important, because 99.9 percent of our problems are due to the unclarity of our teaching.

And all of our problems with dogs — I mean it’s really our problem it’s not theirs — go away when you look at the clarity, or more accurately the ‘not clarity’ of your teaching.

When your communication is clear arousal levels go down, frustration from your learner dog goes down, and you get more confident and fluent behaviors from them. And this holds true over trialing, over living with them, over everything, just to be as clear as possible and predictable, that goes into predictability too. So, no matter what method you do that is just so important I think — obviously, since I talk about it.

Melissa Breau: So, I think one really good example of that is the work you’ve done with location specific markers. Do you mind just briefly kind of explaining what that means and kind of how you use them?

Shade Whitesel: You know, markers are such a good thing and people are exploring them, and figuring out that it’s really nice to bridge what behavior your dogs doing to get their reward. Tell the dog where to collect their reinforcement, like, technically I want a different marker that means collect it from my hands, whether that’s food or a toy and I want a different marker that means collect it away from there, whether it’s go pick-up the toy on the ground or whether I’m going to throw the toy, and again it’s just that clarity. And I notice with my own dogs if I had a different marker word for, “Strike the tug out of my hand,” versus, “I’m going to throw it,” the dog stopped mugging me, they stopped looking for where the toy was all the time when I was asking for behaviors. Because they knew that I would tell them exactly how to get their reinforcement. And again, it just goes back to the clarity.

So, location specific markers is just the dog knows exactly where to go and they don’t have to be checking where the toy is or the food — is the food in your pocket? Is it over there in the dish? Because you’re going to tell them so they can put 100 percent of their attention to figuring out what behavior you want them to do, because they can trust that you’re going to tell them where the reinforcement is.

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Melissa Breau: The other person who really focuses on helping frustrated dogs at FDSA is Sarah Stremming. Sarah has her own podcast, but I’ve been lucky enough to chat with her twice so far, and wanted to share her take on frustrated dogs vs. dogs who just lack impulse control.

Teri Martin: Let’s roll that clip.

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Sarah Stremming: I think that for the worked-up types of dogs the most common misconception that I hear about is that these dogs lack impulse control, that a lack of impulse control is the problem. Or that a lack of … if we’re going to be very accurate, we would be saying a lack of impulse control training is a problem. Just the phrase “impulse control” makes my eye twitch just a little bit because I think that it implies that there’s this intrinsic flaw in these dogs that if they can’t control themselves that there’s something wrong with them, or that teaching them to control their impulses is something that we can do. I don’t think that we can control their impulses one way or another. We can certainly control their behaviors with reinforcement. Whether or not we’re controlling their impulses is probably one of those things that we would have to ask them about, kind of like asking them if they were lonely and if that was why they were jumping all over the person coming home. So I like to stay away from stating that lack of impulse control is a problem. I also think that in agility specifically we accept that our dogs will be in extremely high states of arousal and be kind of losing their mind, and we almost want them that way, and any kind of calmness is frowned upon. The dogs that are selected to breed for the sport tend to be the frantic, loud, fast ones, and looking at behaviors, there’s just kind of a distaste in agility, I feel — and I’m going to get a million e-mails about this — I love agility, people! I love agility! I’m just going to put that out there! But there is a distaste for calm and methodical behaviors in agility. We push for speed, speed, speed from the beginning, and we forget that sometimes maybe we should shut up and let the dog think through the problem. So I think, to get back to your original question, “What’s the misconception?” The misconception is that we need to put them in a highly aroused state to create a good sport dog, and that impulse control is the be-all, end-all of these things. And then, for the hidden-potential dogs, I think the misconception is just that they lack work ethic. They say, “These dogs they lack work ethic, they give you nothing, they don’t want to try, they’re low drive,” yada yada. I think that’s all misconceptions. Everything comes back to reinforcement. When you realize that reinforcement is the solution to everything, you can start to solve your problems and quit slapping labels on the dogs you’re working with.

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Teri Martin: I love that. She says, “Shut up and let the dog think,” and also that she says to quit slapping labels on the dogs, because we see so much of that. I love how she’s challenging people to think outside the box on all those arousal questions.

Melissa Breau: I couldn’t agree more. Those are definitely topics that have come up again and again on the podcast, just the idea of not labeling your dog and giving your dog time to process through things. But they definitely aren’t the only running themes. I think probably one of the most popular things I’ve heard, talking to FDSA instructors at least, is how important foundation skills are, and how much of a difference a strong foundation can really make. In fact, Kamal said it was his absolute favorite thing to teach.

Teri Martin: Cool. Let’s hear.

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Kamal Fernandez: My actual favorite topic is foundations for any dog sport -- that is by far my favorite topic, because that’s where all the good stuff happens. That’s where you really lay your… well, your foundations, for a successful career in any dog discipline. And I think the irony is that people always want to move on to what I would qualify as the sexy stuff, but the irony is the sexy stuff is actually easy if your foundations are laid solidly and firmly. And I think I’ve had more  “ah-ha” moments when I teach foundations to people than I have with anything else. I also, i have to say, i like behavioral issues. You can make GREAT impact, and literally change somebody’s life and their dog’s life, or save somebody’s life with behavioral work and giving them a new take on how they deal with their dog at present, but i would say really, really extreme behavioral cases are really, really juicy to get involved in, and dogs that people say they’re on the cusp of writing the dog off, and the dog is so phobic or aggressive or dog reactive or whatever the case may be, and you can literally turn that person and that dog’s relationship around. That’s really rewarding and enjoyable to work with. But I would say as a standard seminar, I would say foundations by far. It’s just you’ve got young, green dogs, you can see the light bulbs going off for the dogs, you can see the pieces being strung together, that are going to ultimately lead to the dog being this amazing competitive dog, and you can see it literally unfold before your eyes.

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Teri Martin: Foundations are one of those things that keep coming up. We see it at camp all the time. People think it’s part of an exercise that’s wrong, and it’s something that’s in that exercise, but nine times out of the ten it comes back to how that foundation was taught.

Melissa Breau: I definitely want to share one more clip on that because, like you said, it’s constantly coming up. This next one’s from Deb Jones, who’s known for covering all of the awesome foundation skills in her Performance Fundamentals class and her Get Focused class. So I asked her that exact question: Why are foundations so important.

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Melissa Breau: Right, so both the Focused class and your current class, the Performance Fundamentals class, seem to fall into that foundations category, right? So I wanted to ask you what you thought it was so…what is it about building a good foundation that is so critical when it comes to dog sports?

Deb Jones: Foundation really is everything. I truly believe that. If you do your foundations well you won’t run into problems later on or…I won’t say you won’t. You won’t run into as many problems later on or if you do run into problems you will have a way to fix them because the problem is in the foundation. Ninety-nine percent of the time something wasn’t taught to fluency or you left something out somewhere. You’ve got a gap or a hole, so going back to foundation and making it strong is always the answer. It’s never a wrong thing to do.

So I really like being able to try to get in that really strong basis for everything else you want. I don’t care what sport people are going into or even if they’re not going into sport at all. If they just like training and they want to train their dog this…a good foundation prepares you for any direction in the future because oftentimes we change direction. You have a dog you think you’re going to be doing obedience with, but if you focus in the beginning too much on obedience behaviors, it may end up that dog just isn’t right for that, and so you have kind of these gaps for.. "Oh well, let’s see if I want to switch to agility. Now I need to train a new set of behaviors." We don’t want that to happen, so we’ve got the foundation for pretty much everything.

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Teri Martin: So true what Deb says. Having those foundations just sets up the basis for everything we do in a dog’s life, including how they have to function in our society today ... which I believe takes us nicely into our next clip, which is Heather Lawson talking about life skills in her Hound About Town classes.

Melissa Breau: Excellent. Let’s let it roll.

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Melissa Breau: Now, you didn’t touch on two of the things that stood out to me when I was looking at the syllabus, which were the Do Nothing training, and Coffee Anyone, so what are those and obviously how do you address them in class?

Heather Lawson: Yeah. I always get kind of weird sideways looks when I talk about Do Nothing training, because it’s kind of like…people say, ‘What do you mean do nothing training,’ and I say, “Well, how often do you just work on having your dog do nothing,” and everybody looks at me, “Well, you don’t work on having the dog do nothing,” and I say, “Oh yeah, you do.” That’s what we call settle on the mat, chill, learn how to not bug me every time I sit down at the computer to do some work, not bark at me every time I stop to chat with the neighbor, stop pulling me in all different ways, so it’s kind of like just do nothing, because if you think about it the first maybe six months of your dog’s life it’s all about the dog and the puppy.

Then when they get to look a little bit more adult all of a sudden they’re no longer the center of attention, but because they’ve been the center of attention for that first eight weeks to six months, and there’s been all this excitement whenever they’re out and people stop, and you chat or you do anything, it’s very hard for the dog all of a sudden now to have this cut off and just not be acknowledged, and this is where you then get the demand barking, or the jumping on the owner, or the jumping on other people to get that attention, whereas if you teach that right in the very beginning, okay, and teach your puppies how to settle, whether it be in an x pen, or in a crate, or even on a mat beside you while you’re watching your favorite TV show. If you teach them to settle, and how to turn it off then you’re going to not have that much of a problem going forward as they get older.

The other thing, too, is that by teaching the dogs all of these different things that we want to teach them, that’s great, and that’s fabulous, and we should be doing that, but most dogs aren’t active 100 percent of the time, they’re active maybe 10 percent of the time. The other 90 percent they’re chilling out, they’re sleeping, they’re…while their owners are away working if they’re not lucky enough to be taken out for a daily hike, then they’ve got to learn how to turn it off, and if we can teach them that in the early stages you don’t end up with severe behavior problems going forward, and I’ve done that with all of my puppies, and my favorite place to train the “do nothing” training is actually in the bathroom.

What I do with that is my puppies, they get out first thing in the morning, they go their potty, they come back in, we get a chewy or a bully stick, or a Kong filled with food, and puppy goes into the bathroom with me and there’s a mat, they get to lay down on the mat and that’s when I get to take my shower, and all of my dogs, even to this day, even my 11-year-old, if I’m showering and the door’s open they come in and they go right to their mat and they go to sleep, and they wait for me, and that’s that “do nothing” training, right, and that actually even follows into loose leash walking. If you take that “do nothing” training how often are you out in your loose leash walking and you stop and chat to the neighbor, or you stop and you are window shopping, or anything else that you when you’re out and about. If your dog won’t even connect with you at the end of the line, then just…they won’t even pay attention to you while you’re standing there, or they create a fuss, then the chances of you getting successful loose leash walking going forward is going to be fairly slim, okay.  

The other thing that you mentioned was the coffee shop training, and that is nowadays people go and they meet at the coffee shop, or they go for lunch, and more and more people are able to take their dogs to lunch, providing they sit out on a patio, and on the occasion where the dog is allowed to stay close to you we teach the dogs to either go under the table and chill or go and lay beside the chair and chill, and teach them how to lay there, switch off, watch the world go by. Even if the waiter comes up, you just chill out and just relax and that allows the dog, again because they’ve got good manners, to be welcomed even more places.

Melissa Breau: Right. It makes it so that you feel comfortable taking them with you to lunch or out.

Heather Lawson: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. There’s lots of places that dogs can go, providing, and they’re welcome, providing they do have those good manners, and if we can keep those good manners going then regardless of whether or not your dog sports or not, it just opens up the avenues for so much more of us to do…more things to do with our dogs.

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Melissa Breau: Of course training and competition aren’t entirely about our dogs… we play a big role in their success or failure in the ring. And that can lead to some serious ring nerves on both ends of the leash.

Teri Martin: It always comes back to us, doesn’t it? But the good news is FDSA has our resident “people trainer,” Andrea Harrison, to help us with this.  

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Melissa Breau: So let’s dig into a couple of those specifically just a little bit more, because I know there are a couple that we talked about a little bit before the podcast and whatnot as being particularly important. So I wanted to dig into this idea of kind of ring nerves and people experiencing nerves before a competition, things that really impact their handling. I was hoping you could talk a little more about that, maybe include a tip or two listeners can use when it comes to ring nerves and tackling it themselves.

Andrea Harrison: Yes. For sure. One of the things I really encourage people to do is test those tools. So people go off to a trial and they’re really, really, really nervous, but they don’t know whether those nerves are physical, right, or in their head, or if they’re affecting the dog at all, right? Because they’ve never really thought about it. All they know is that they’re really, really, really nervous. They feel sick but they don’t know is it in their tummy, is it in their head, is it their respiration, is it sweat glands, is it all of them, right? They haven’t thought about it, they know it makes them feel sick so they push it aside, they don’t work on it between trials, they go back to a trial and they’re like, oh my God, I was nervous again. Well, of course you were nervous again. You didn’t try working on anything, right?

So like everything else it’s almost like a training exercise. You have to think about what is making you nervous, how are you manifesting those nerves, and how can you break them down? It’s just the same, right, just the same as positive dog training. Break it down into these tiny little pieces that you can then find a tool to address.

So for example, if your mouth gets really, really dry and that distracts you and you start sort of chewing cud, as it were, as a cow, you’re like, trying to get the water back in your mouth and it makes you nervous. Well, once you figure that out you take peppermints with you in the car, you suck on a peppermint before you go in the ring, and that’s gone away. Right? And that’s gone away so you feel more comfortable so you can concentrate on the thing you need to concentrate on, right?

You want to always build to those results slowly. When you look at the nerves, I can’t say to you, “Here’s my magic wand, I’m going to wave it over you and all your nerves will be gone.” But you get that sick, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, why is that? Are you remembering to eat the day before a trial? Are you eating too much the day before a trial? Are you remembering to go to the bathroom? Because when you’re nervous you have to go to the bathroom, so make sure you make time to go to the bathroom because then there’s less to cramp in your tummy, right?

So step by step by step, you know, you make a plan, you look at the plan. What kind of music should you listen to on the way to the show? Should you listen to a podcast that’s inspirational to you? Should you put together an inspirational play tack? Do you know exactly where the show is? If you’re anxious and worried and always run late, for Lord’s sake, please drive to the trial ahead of time or Google Map it really carefully and build yourself in 15 minutes extra, because being late to that trial is not going to help your nerves. You’re going to arrive, you’re going to be panicked, you’re going to be stressed.

So where is that stress coming from? How are those nerves manifesting themselves, right? So the music that you listen to on the way, having the mint if your breath is dry, remembering to go to the bathroom, thinking about what I call Andrea’s Rule of Five. So Rule of Five is really simple. Is it going to matter in five minutes? Five hours? Five days? Five years? Right? So if something is stressing you out you can actually stop, ground yourself, which I’ll get into in a sec, but ground yourself and think, Rule of Five. And the vast majority of the time, yeah, it might matter in five minutes because your run will just be over and it was not successful and you’re embarrassed, maybe, or maybe it was great, and like, super.

But very, very few of us are going to remember a run in even five months, let alone five years. I mean, you might remember in general, but your anxiety is not going to still be there, right? I mean, a great run you can remember. I can probably still tell you the details of some of Brody’s amazing agility runs or Sally’s amazing work, right? Like, I can describe going from the A-frame around to the tunnel and picking him up and staying connected and it was beautiful. I can remember the errors of enthusiasm, right, like when he took an off-course tunnel, and he’s never done that in his life, and I was like, oh my God, he took an off-course tunnel. That’s amazing. That’s so cool, and we celebrated. So I just loved that he was that happy about it. But do I remember those very first, early trials where…do I remember the courses where I stood thinking, I’m never going to get my agility dog to Canada? No. I don’t really remember. I remember being sad that he was three seconds over the time and _____ (18:35) [47:44], and that was kind of sucky, but it was okay, right? Like, now with all this perspective it’s fine.

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Teri Martin: There’s a lot, really, that affects both ends of the leash. After all, we’re all learners… it can be easy to forget that sometimes.

Melissa Breau: Nancy, for example, shared during her interview how her father influenced her training. He was a football coach, and she’s a dog trainer, but that doesn’t matter -- because it’s all training. Let’s listen to that clip.

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Nancy Gagliardi Little: He was a master at analysis, details and creative solutions and i think that's something that I've either inherited or I've learned from him.

Melissa Breau: I was going to say, even just listening to you I can hear the parallels to dog sports; just the idea that breaking things down into pieces and foundation skills.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Exactly. This is the other piece that I think is so cool is he expected them to be excellent players, as well as excellent human beings, and he believes in people, and he respects people, loves to learn about people. There's so much about his coaching that parallels the way I train my dogs because I expect and focus on their excellence too. I believe in my dogs -- I always believe in them. I believe they're right and they're telling me things. I listen to them and try to make changes to my training based on what they need. Those are all things that my dad taught me from the way he coached his players. There are so many parallels between coaching and dog training; just his way of coaching, it helped me as a dog trainer.

Melissa Breau: I'd really love to hear how you describe your training philosophy now -- what's really important to you? Or what do you see as the big things that you believe in how you believe in training when you work with dogs today?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Well, I guess to sum it up, it's not a really long philosophy. What sums it up for me is I just always look at my dogs as my coaches. So the dogs are my coaches, whether they're my students' dogs, whether they’re my dogs, they're the ones who they're helping me develop a plan, and I like to think of it that way because it keeps me always evaluating and looking at things.

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Teri Martin: Dogs as coaches is one of those gifts that sometimes takes us in new directions we never expected. Take Stacy Barnett, nosework instructor, for example. She sort of fell into that sport because of her dog, Judd, just needed to have something, and now it’s  turned into this incredible passion for scent sports. I think she talks about that on her podcast and how the sport is so good for dogs that might struggle in some of the more traditional sport venues.

Melissa Breau: She did! Let’s give that a listen.

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Stacy Barnett: Nose work is not only a confidence builder. It can also help reactive dogs. Nose work itself is very reactive-dog friendly in those venues because the dog doesn't have to work within eyeshot or earshot of another dog. They get to work on their own. However, it really does help from a confidence perspective. The sense of smell is actually pretty amazing. It goes through the limbic system, which means that it goes through the hippocampus and the amygdala. So the amygdala is kind of the fight or flight area, and the hippocampus is responsible for developing those early memories.

So what happens is, is that the dog is scenting, and the dog is using about one-eighth of his brain with scenting, and this is all going through this system that’s responsible for emotion and responsible for memory. If we can develop this positive feeling toward sensing and toward scent, we can actually help to put the dog into a really good space so that they can work, and also, you know, as long as you’re working the dog under threshold, the dog is able to continue to work and will actually become more confident over time and actually less reactive over time.

I saw this particularly with my little dog, Why. When he came to me, he could not work at all away from the house. He was also fairly reactive to other dogs. Had about 100-foot visual threshold to seeing other dogs. Now, through nose work, he has developed a lot of confidence. He’s now able to search in novel environments with very little acclimation, and he’s also quite a bit less reactive. He’s got about an eight-foot visual threshold now to other dogs, which I think is absolutely amazing. So the behavioral benefits, especially for a dog like Why, they’re off the charts. Absolutely off the charts.

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Melissa Breau: It has been a lot of fun to see the sport of Nosework grow so quickly in the last few years. The AKC has even added it to their list of sports. I caught up with Julie Symons on the new handler scent portion that is part of the new Scent Work competition program with the AKC in Episode 39.

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Melissa Breau: I want to switch a little bit from outcomes to training… what challenges are there when training a dog to search for handler scent, you kind of mentioned that, that may not be present when you’re teaching traditional odors?

Julie Symons: That’s a good question. First, it is just another odor. We can attack it that way and it’s true, this is another odor that we teach your dog. But it is different in that it does have its challenges, especially for savvy nosework dogs that have been in oil for a lot of years. We’ve seen a little bit of it being a little bit more difficult for them in certain situations. For example, there’s no aging handler scent, like with the oil odor. So oil hides, the nosework venues we’ve been at, they’re usually placed and they’re out there 30 minutes to hours, so the odor is going to disperse more and diffuse into the area. For handler scent you pretty much give it its last scent, you hand it over to the helper, they place it, and then you go in and run. So the scent’s going to have less diffuse in the area, handler scents is heavier, that’s going to fall down more than, like, a vapor odor oil will disperse in a room, and of course it depends on airflow. Any kind of airflow is going to travel in each scent. It’s going to be helpful to your dog that the scent’s going to travel into the space.

With my dogs and many teams that I’ve worked in, I find that the dogs have to get a lot closer to where the hide is for handler scents to really hone on that. So in this case I’m not talking about the novice level and boxes; I’ll get back to that. But if they hide Q-Tips or cotton balls in a search area, your dog really has to get close to it to find it. So what I’m finding is that I’m actually introducing a little bit more of direction with my handler scent and it’s actually helped a lot, and it gets my dog focused and more... not a  patterned search, but just getting them to search. For example, in Advanced Handler Discrimination, it’s an interior search, and no hide is higher than 12 inches. So I’m going to plant low. I’m going to be, like, have my dog search low, and they find it really easily. And I found when I have blind hides somebody has set up for me, I feel more liberated to point and direct. Whereas if I know where the hide is, we tend to not want to intervene at all and my dog finds it quicker, because I don’t know where it is and I’m just going to have my dog cover the area and then they usually find it. So that’s been very helpful in the difference with the handler scent.

Also another thing that’s interesting if you watch dogs search the traditional oil hides in a box, they just find it really easy. You put your scented glove in a box and the dogs just search differently. They have to go cover the boxes a few times, they just don’t hit on it as easily as oil. That oil odor, especially for AKC, is so strong, and your handler scented item is just not going to be as strong in a box, especially it’s not aged. So those are some of the differences and why I think the handler scent is a little bit harder to source for a dog, just because of the amount of odor that you have and the fact that it’s not aged.

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Melissa Breau: And while we’re talking nosework, we have to include a clip from my call with Melissa Chandler. Like Stacy, nosework became her passion after she saw the positive effect it could have on a more sensitive dog, like her dog Edge.

Teri Martin: I think there’s some really great takeaways for handlers who have softer dogs in that interview.

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Melissa Breau: Now, having worked with a soft dog, do you have tips for others who have soft dogs, kind of to help them let their dog shine or that they should know about setting up training sessions? I mean, what kind of advice would you share?

Melissa Chandler: Sure, this is another subject that I did a lot of research and I attended a lot of different seminars to try and get information, mostly to help Edge, and I think, first and foremost, it’s so important to keep your dog safe and build their trust because once they trust you, that you will keep them safe, that gives them more confidence, and as I always tell my dogs, I have a cue, it’s called “I have your back.” So, if they see something and they get concerned, I’m like, “I got your back.” So, that’s our communication of whatever it is, I see it, you’re fine, I got you, and it just takes time and by keeping them safe you build that trust that they know that you do have them.

I would say never lure or trick your dog into doing something that they don’t feel comfortable doing. Sometimes we find that in parkour because someone really thinks their dog should be able to do that behavior and the dog doesn’t feel comfortable in that environment, so they tried to take cookies and lure them there. Just back off, work on it somewhere else, and eventually it’ll happen. If you lure them, and then they get up there and they’re really afraid, they’re never going to want to do it again. If you let them do it on their own then they’ll be able to do that anywhere in the future.

Teach new behaviors in a familiar, comfortable environment, and then when you’re ready to take it to another room or on the road, lower your criteria and reward any effort that the dog gives you in trying to do that for you. And one thing, when you’re setting up your training sessions, make sure you’re not always asking for difficult behaviors or, in nose work, difficult searches. You want your dog to always look forward to and succeed in your training sessions. If your sessions are always difficult and challenging your dog will no longer look forward to them. Have fun sessions that you reward everything, or just play, or do whatever your dog enjoys most. I had mentioned how much Edge loved his dumbbell, there’s times we just go in the other room and we play with the dumbbell and he loves that, and just think of the value you’re building in your relationship in your training because we just went and did what he loves doing.

And then, for nose work, play foundation games. Just have one or two boxes out, do the shell game, play with your game boxes so it’s fun, fast, quick, highly rewarding searches. And, I have a thing that I put in most of my classes, it’s kind of like your recalls but it’s for odor. How much value do you have in your odor bank. And, when you set up these fun, fast, foundation games, you’re putting lots of value in your odor bank so, then when you have a more challenging side, you have deposits in that odor bank that they can pull out in order to work harder to find that odor.

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Melissa Breau: Gotta love those tips from Melissa C. So our next two clips, I think, really speak to Denise’s sixth sense for bringing on new trainers… she seems to excel at tracking down people who really are incredibly good at what they do, but who also truly imbue the FDSA additude.

Teri Martin: I agree. I think our next clip, from Chrissi Schranz, really shows what that attitude is all about.

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Melissa Breau: So I wanted to get into your training philosophy, and lucky me, I got a sneak peek before we started. You sent me over the link for this, but I’d love to have you kind of share your training philosophy and how you describe your approach, and for those of you who are going to want to see this after she talks about it, there will be a link to the comic in the show notes.

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, so I’d say my training philosophy is based on my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. So Calvin has a shovel and he’s digging a hole, and then Hobbes comes up and asks him why he’s digging a hole, and Calvin says he’s looking for buried treasure. Hobbes asks him what he has found, and Calvin starts naming all kinds of things, like dirty rocks and roots and some disgusting grubs, and then Hobbes gets really excited, and he’s like, “Wow, on your first try?” And Calvin says, “Yes. There’s treasure everywhere,” and that is the kind of experience I want people and their dogs to have with each other.

I want them to feel like life is an adventure, and there’s so many exciting things to be discovered that they can do together. I want people to learn to look at the world through their dog’s eyes a little bit and find this pleasure and just be together, and doing things and discovering things, whether that’s digging a hole or playing in dog sports. Yeah, I want them to feel like they’re friends and partners in crime and have that Calvin and Hobbes kind of relationship, because I believe if you have that kind of relationship as a foundation, you can do pretty much anything you want, no matter whether you want to have a dog you can take anywhere or whether you want to compete and do well in dog sports. I think if you have that kind of relationship as a basis, everything is possible.

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Melissa Breau: I like that… “Everything is possible.” You certainly can’t predict how far a handler and dog can go, if they build a fantastic relationship. Sue Yanoff talked to that a bit too -- she had some great things to say about how our relationship with our dog makes us a great advocate when they need medical care.

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Melissa Breau: Is there anything in particular about veterinary medicine that sports handlers often just don’t understand?

Sue Yanoff: Yeah. I don’t think it’s just sports handlers. I think it’s a lot of people. Veterinary medicine is a science, and the decisions that we make have to be based on science, and not just what people think, or what they heard, and so when you’re making a decision about what the best diagnostics are for a condition, or how best to treat the condition, it has to be based on a series of cases, not just on what somebody thinks, and I go a lot based on what I learn at continuing education conferences, and what I read in the veterinary literature. Because papers that are published in peer reviewed journals are scrutinized to make sure that the science behind the conclusions are valid.

So while, you know, it’s fine for somebody to say , “Well, I did this with my dog and he did great,” what I want to make my decisions on is what worked well for many dogs, dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of dogs, and not just something that might have worked for your dog where we don’t even know if the diagnosis was the same. So I think I want people to know that veterinary medicine is a science, and we have to make our decisions based on science.

Melissa Breau: I think that, you know, especially with the internet these days it’s very common for people to turn to their favorite local forum, and be like well what should I do, but…

Sue Yanoff: I know, like, let me get advice from everybody, and I know it’s hard to make decisions when it involves your dog and you’re emotionally involved, and that’s one of the reasons I want to teach this class, to give people information that they can use to make those hard decisions.

Melissa Breau: What about the reverse? Are there things about sports that you think most vets just they don’t understand?

Sue Yanoff: Oh yes. Yes there’s a lot. Unless you’re a vet who’s involved in this thing, most vets don’t understand the time and the effort, and the emotion, and the money that goes into the training, and the trialing that we do. They don’t understand the special relationship that we have with our dogs when we put the time and effort into training them. I have had dogs that were wonderful pets, and I loved them, but I never showed them for one reason or another, and there is a different relationship when you accomplish something special with that dog. So I think that’s important thing.

The other thing that most vets don’t understand, and might not agree with, but I have had some clients where we have diagnosed an injury, and said, “Okay, we need to restrict activity, and do the conservative treatment route,” and they say, “I will, but my national specialty is next week, and she’s entered in whatever class.” Or they say, “I have a herding finals coming up in two weeks, and I really want to run her in those trials,” and I’m okay with that if the dog has an injury that I don’t think is likely to get much worse by doing a little more training, or trialing, then I’ll say, “Okay. Well, let’s do this in the meantime, and when you’re done with your national or with your specialty or whatever, come on back and we’ll start treatment.”

So I think a lot of vets would not understand that point of view, but I’m okay with it as long as I don’t think that it’s going to do serious harm to the dog, and as long as the owner understands that there’s, you know, a slight chance that things could get worse.

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Teri Martin: One of the great things about all these podcasts is hearing all the instructors’ personal stories. For example, you’ve just gotta love a Sue Ailsby story. Her talk stories are well worth the price of admission in any of her classes.

Melissa Breau: She shared a great story about her cross-over dog when we talked.

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Sue Ailsby: The first dog I trained, it wasn’t clicker training but it was without corrections, was a Giant Schnauzer and I got her to about eight months and it was glorious. And we were getting ready for an obedience trial and I’m heeling along, and part of my brain is saying, isn’t this glorious? She’s never had a correction and she’s heeling. And the other half of my brain is saying, but she doesn’t know she has to. And then the first part, why should she know she has to? She knows she wants to, but she doesn’t know she has to.

I’m going to put a choke chain on her and I’m just going to tell her that she has to. This is not negotiable. You don’t want to put a choke chain on her, you’ve spent eight months telling her how to enjoy this and you’re going to put a choke chain on her? I can handle it. So I put the choker on and we’re heeling along, and she just glanced away for a second. She didn’t quit or anything, she just, her eyes flicked away and I gave her a little pop on the chain, and my good angel is screaming, “Don’t. Don’t do that.” And the bad angel is, “She can’t refuse.”

And she kind of... “What was that?” And I say okay, so we go on and a few minutes later her eyes flick away again and I give her another shot with the collar. And she stopped and the angel is saying, “Now you’ve done it. You’ve ruined it completely. Why don’t you just go shoot yourself right now.” And the devil is saying, “I could just give her another shot. She can’t just stop.” So she stood there for a minute with a confused look on her face and then her ears came up and her tail came up and she started wagging her tail and she got all excited, and she ran around and started heeling on my right side.

Melissa Breau: Okay.

Sue Ailsby: Okay? Heeling is good, I like to heel. Heeling on the left just became dangerous, let’s do it on the right side instead. And I just sank to the floor and I’m sobbing and apologizing. That was the last time I ever had a choke chain on a dog.

Melissa Breau: She showed you.

Sue Ailsby: She sure did. Oh my goodness. And what an amazing solution.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. She was brilliant.

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Teri Martin: Sue was such a great pioneer with her Training Levels and early days of clicker training and she is so willing to share her experiences both good and bad with such amazing style and humour. You’ve got to love her.  

So now we’re getting close to the end of the episode, and Melissa, seeing as how you’ve asked this question in every single podcast, it’s your turn. I wanted to ask you… what’s your favorite piece of training advice?

Melissa Breau: Hmmm. I think if i had to share just one piece of advice, it would be to take a class at FDSA. I don’t even think it matters which one… pretty much any class you take, you’re guaranteed to learn something and have fun with your dog.

Teri Martin: And, since that question is consistently one of the most popular parts of all episodes, to end things tonight we’ve rounded up a bunch of responses to that question, starting with Hannah Branigan’s response from Episode 3.

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Melissa Breau: So, what is the best piece of training advice that you've ever heard?

Hannah Branigan: Oh, that one's easy. So, Leslie Nelson: "When in doubt, throw food."

And I fall back on that all the time. Whenever there's a question, something weird comes up in a training session or even at home, I don't know what to do right now, that was a very weird behavior and I have no idea how I should handle it, throw a handful of food on the ground, and while they're gobbling the food, I can think about my solution, and it turns out that there's a whole lot of behavior problems out there in the world that we can solve in very practical ways by throwing a handful of food at them.

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Melissa Breau: And a response from Donna Hill.

Donna Hill: Not specifically training related although it totally is relevant. Many years ago, I think I was about twelve or thirteen, my older brother who's quite a bit older than I am. I'm the youngest of five kids and there's a bit of a gap between me and the previous four and I'm also the youngest of three girls and back then it was the old hope chest. I don’t if you’d remember what those, were but they were kind of the hope for the future when you get married. There’s things you started collecting in preparation for that. Kind of an old-fashioned concept I know, but whatever, that’s my family.

Anyway, so many years ago when I was about twelve or thirteen, he gave me this little trivet, which is like basically a hot plate that you can put a pot on the stove and stuff on the counter. It’s just this little metal thing and it had a picture of a little yellow tacky caterpillar on it. But it had a little quote on it, and the quote said, “Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch!” For some reason it really struck me and I have really taken that to heart and I've applied that to almost everything I do in life.

When I’m faced with something hard, I know it's not this big thing. I can break it down into smaller pieces and we can get through it step by step by step, and ultimately get the final goal that I wanted. And of course dog training is EXACTLY that. It's all about these teeny tiny little pieces that get you to that final goal, that final behavior, the competition, whatever it is that’s at the end. So I take that and apply it in many different ways in my life, and training certainly.

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Teri Martin: Episode 26 with Nancy Tucker…

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Nancy Tucker: The advice that’s always stuck with me and that I incorporate into every single training scenario is that the learner is always right. So if I’m trying to teach a dog something and he keeps offering me the wrong behavior, the problem lies with me as the teacher. The dog is doing the right thing. If I want him to do something different, I’m the one who needs to adjust my approach, so I think that that has been the handiest piece of advice, the most, uh, what's the word I'm looking for? Not handy…not convenient.

Melissa Breau: Applicable?

Nancy Tucker: Yes. Yeah. For any scenario.

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Melissa Breau: Love that. This next one is from Amy Johnson, on photography and dog training.

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Melissa Breau: What is the best piece of advice, and this can be either production or photography, that you've ever heard, and bonus points if it applies to both, but it doesn’t have to.

Amy Johnson: The best thing that I've learned to do over the years, and I don’t know that it's ever been told to me exclusively, but it's the thing that I have learned to do is to slow down, and to think, and to just breath, and so that is the thing that I try and tell my students all the time because there's this urge to…the action in front of me is happening really fast and so that means I have to grab my camera fast, and throw it up to my face, and press the shutter, and get the picture really fast, and it doesn’t work that way, or it doesn’t work well that way. So taking a moment to make sure your camera is set correctly for the situation you're trying to photograph, making sure that you understand what's going on in front of you, and can maybe anticipate what's going to happen next, and then just breathing, because if you get out of breath or find yourself holding your breath because you're just so excited you end up messing it up more often than not. And that advice I think applies to dog training as well. Slow down, think, just breathe, and that kind of brings you back to center, and lets you focus on what's important, and focus on what the task at hand is. Block out everything else that is going on around you and just take it one thing at a time, and the results will be much better.

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Teri Martin: And from Mariah Hinds…

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Mariah Hinds: Well, I think there is a ton of really great pieces of training advice that I’ve heard. My favorite piece of training advice is that training really should look like play. So my goal in my unedited training videos is that it really looks like play with just a tiny bit of training mixed in. But for me, the most impactful piece of training advice is that you don’t have to end training on a success, and when I embraced that, it was really pivotal for me with Jada and my journey to positive training methods.

Originally when a training session was going horribly, I would just keep going and build more and more frustration and anger with our repetitions instead of just calling it a day. And so once I was able to end a training session that wasn’t going well and go back to the training board, then our relationship really improved a lot. So I guess ultimately, it’s play a lot and don’t be afraid to give your dog a cookie and end the training session when it’s not going the right direction.

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Melissa Breau: Then from Sara Brueske in episode 17.

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Sara Brueske: That everything’s a trick. From my history -- when I couldn’t do agility anymore, I just did tricks with my dog. So when I actually started looking into IPO and Mondioring, and looking at these very complicated obedience maneuvers, and precision things, it was really kind of eye opening to remember that everything is a trick. And that kind of came from Sylvia Turkman’s DVD, “Heeling is Just Another Trick.” And that was kind of a light bulb moment for me -- this is just another trick, this is just like teaching all those other things I teach.

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Teri Martin: This next one from Julie Daniels really stuck with me -- it was one of those total Ah Ha! Moment.

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Melissa Breau: So my second and perhaps my favorite question that I ask the guests who come on is what’s the best piece of training advice that you’ve ever heard?

Julie Daniels: Yeah. I remember hearing that on the other podcasts and I remember thinking at the time, oh my God, how did they choose? It’s such a difficult question. So I actually gave this some thought and obviously it is hard to choose, but I decided to go with some words that struck me at the time like a ton of bricks and still come back to me strongly almost every day when I work with other people’s dogs particularly. And it’s from an abnormal psych class that I took in college, but you said training, you didn’t say dog training. So it pertains to everybody, it pertains to everybody, including dogs. But this professor said in abnormal psych class, I don’t remember the question he was asked that he was responding to, but it was about irrational fears, it was about irrational fears, phobias and the like, and this professor just, I remember the stroking the goatee type thing, and he says, “You can’t help anyone unless you begin by accepting their premise as valid.”

So I think I try to bring that acceptance to all my dog training. So therefore I’m less apt to judge the dog, I’m less apt to waste time trying to talk him into things that he’s obviously loathe to do or certainly afraid to do. I go deeper, I get inside its head, I fall in love, and I help. And I help by starting where the dog is right now and I accept his premise as valid.

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Melissa Breau: I love that one too. Next up is Loretta Mueller, with an equally important lesson on recognizing effort.

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Loretta Mueller: I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing people in obedience and herding and agility, and I guess, I don’t know what everybody else has said, but to me, one of my most cherished and amazing statements that I’ve heard was from Ray Hunt, who was a horse trainer and he said, “You must realize the slightest change and the smallest try,” and so meaning, reward the effort. Acknowledge that the animal is trying, and if you choose to recognize that smallest try or slightest change, that’s what makes or breaks your training. And if you don’t notice that small change in the dogs, then they do one of two things. They either give up, or they get harder, and they say, you know what? I tried. You didn’t acknowledge it, therefore, meh, I’m good. And for me, if you ever owned a dog like that, they do that. They just go, “Eh, whatever. I’m going to keep doing my thing.”

And so for me it was huge, because we get so stuck in a world of criteria, right? Criteria, criteria. Did they meet criteria? When in reality, when you think about it, it doesn’t matter how much training your dog has. It doesn’t matter if their weave poles are spotless, right? It doesn’t matter any of that stuff. If your dog is in the wrong emotional state, that training will never show. So, what they’re doing, is a lot of the dogs, they are trying so hard, but then they don’t get rewarded and then that causes a lot of issues. So, that’s why I always have kind of a graduated reward system that I do with my dogs. So, I’ll use either lower value, higher value treats. To differentiate, I’ll choose the way I play with the dog, and that way these dogs always get rewarded for that effort and I acknowledge those small changes in their behavior and I don’t ask for too much too soon and I think that that keeps the dogs confident, it keeps them feeling like they’re a champion, because that’s very important if you want a dog to be confident and feel like they can conquer the world, you have to tell them that they can conquer the world.

So, if they give you the smallest change, then you reward it and you have a dog that’s going to try even harder the next time, and so for me that totally changed a lot of my training. Because before, an example would be if my dog didn’t do six weave poles, and let’s say they were in a novice trial and they were baby dogs, I would be frustrated. And if they continuously did it, before I got this little nugget of information, I would go home and say, “Okay my dog has a weave pole issue and I’m going to go train the weave.” But in reality, is it a weave pole issue, or is it the fact that the dog’s not emotionally right? Most likely it’s because the dog’s not emotionally right. So you actually have to deal with that. So what does that involve? It might involve the dog doing three weave poles and you clapping and having a party and leaving. But that’s not to criteria. And so for me, it was just a huge eye opener that the dogs know how to do these skills. It’s just we have to have them in the right emotional state so they can actually perform the behaviors that they’ve been taught. And that’s just to me a cornerstone of what I think of when I’m training. So, it’s just been huge for me to have that statement and understand that and apply it to all of my training.

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Teri Martin: Loretta always makes me wish I did agility just so I could take her classes. This next clip is also from one of our amazing agility instructors -- Amanda Nelson!

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Amanda Nelson: So this is again from Sunny, she told me just to let it go. I feel like I should start singing “Frozen” or something. You know, things are going to happen, mistakes are going to happen, you know, what kind of mistake you had as a handler is a mistake you had as a trainer, you know, stuff is going to happen and just let it go, because if you keep dwelling on it, you keep thinking about it, you keep beating yourself up over, oh, my gosh, if I would’ve handled that differently, or if my dog hadn’t missed that contact, you know? Learn from it. Learn from it, move on, and just let it go and think about your next run.  That’s the best training advice I’ve ever had.

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Melissa Breau: Next up is Laura Waudby, with something I think we all encounter and probably could serve to be reminded of even more often…

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Melissa Breau: I think this is probably the question I get told is the hardest question a lot of time, what is the best piece of training advice that you’ve ever heard?

Laura Waudby: There’s been a lot of good ones out there already, so I thought I would pick the you don’t need to end a session on a good note. Generally if things are going pretty well you should enjoy it, quit before that just one more piece. But when things start going down hill, and they will, just end the session. Quit before you’re digging yourself a hole that’s even harder to get out of. I also would make sure that neither you or the dog are getting frustrated about it. So I have no problem just going, “Well, I guess we’re done for today, or at least done with that exercise,” move onto something else before things get worse.

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Teri Martin: Another important reminder came from Lori Stevens… while she was talking about TTouch, it’s definitely true no matter what you’re doing with your dog.

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Melissa Breau: Right. So what about training advice, what is the best piece of training advice that you've ever heard?

Lori Stevens: You know, it's funny. I don’t really think these are what you have in mind, but…

Melissa Breau: That’s okay!

Lori Stevens: Yeah. Meet the dog where she is or he is. That was the best piece of advice I heard and that was in TTouch, but just kind of change to meet both learners, the dog and the person, where they are. You can't really tell people to change, right, you have to guide them gently, and kind of move with them when they're really to move. People have to decide for themselves to make changes, and communication is so incredibly important. I've seen dogs and people go from, you know, a pretty dark place to an incredible place, and I'm so thrilled with what, you know, with the influence that I had on that. I would have to say just meeting everybody where they are, and recognizing how important communication is, and that it's not just about what we think, or how we think it should be done, but bringing the person and dog along at their own pace.

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Melissa Breau: Of course we couldn’t leave out Patricia MCconnell…

Patricia McConnell: Oh man, oh wow. Let’s see. Do I have to pick one? OK, I’ll be really fast.

Melissa Breau: You can share more than one if you want. I’ll let you get away with that.

Patricia McConnell: Good. The thing that pops up in my mind the first time I hear that is actually … it’s not a piece of advice. It’s just a saying and it makes me want to cry. I sound like such a crier.

It makes me want to cry. The saying is, “We train by regret.” It just hits home so hard to me because I think every one of us who cares deeply about dogs and is really honest, and insightful, and learned, and grows, you know, admits that there’s things we’ve done that we wish we’d never done and, you know, some of them are just tiny little stupid things. It’s like, “Oh, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” or, you know, so I think that’s a really important saying. But I think that the most important part about it is to remind all of us to be kinder to ourselves. I think a lot of the people I work with who are progressive dog trainers who just adore their dogs and move heaven and earth for them, we’re so hard on ourselves. Don’t you think? I mean, we’re just, you know, I work with clients who are just … they’re just, oh, they’re being so hard on themselves because they haven’t been perfect. They made this one mistake and it’s like, oh man, you know, we are all human here. So I think that strikes home with me a lot.

And I guess the other just sort of solid, quick, concise piece of advice is basically “Say less, mean more.” I just made that up, but I’ve heard people say versions of that, you know, so basically another version is “Just shut up.” I think, I mean, you can hear I like to talk, right, so I can get badly with my dogs, and I think it’s confusing and tiring to our dogs. And I think, you know, some of the people who, you know, those people who dogs just don’t ever want to leave, you know, they meet them, and the second they meet them they sit down beside them and don’t want to leave. There aren’t many of them, and I was never one of those people. I sometimes am now, which makes me really happy, but those are often people who are really quiet. So I think being very mindful of the way we use words and sound around our dogs is really, really important because, I think, frankly, our dogs are often just simply exhausted trying to figure out what the heck we’re trying to convey to them, you know? So I guess I’d just stick with those two things.

---

Teri Martin: And finally, because it seems like the perfect note to end things on, Sue Ailsby’s response when Melissa asked her what dog-related accomplishment she was most proud of.

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Sue Ailsby: I’m proudest of my relationship with my dogs. I’m proudest that I can go to a competition and people watch me in a water trial or whatever we’re doing and people will come up after and say, “That was so beautiful. She was working with you so beautifully that you were like a team. And it didn’t look like you were trying to get her to do anything, it just looked like you thought, I think I’d like her to do that, and she went and did it for you.” And that to me is the essence of why I have a dog.

---

Melissa Breau: And now I just want to say a couple of thank you’s here at the end. A big thank you to Teri for co-hosting this episode with me. An equally big thank you to everyone who has come on the show … we absolutely could not be more thrilled with how the podcast has gone in this first year, and I’m so excited to be celebrating our first anniversary…. Hopefully our first of many. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in! We truly would not be here without you, and without all of your kind comments over the last year.

We’ll be back next week with more of our usual programming…

CREDITS:

Today’s show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called “Buddy.” Audio editing provided by Chris Lang and transcription written by CLK Transcription Services.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

Dec 15, 2017

SUMMARY:

Mariah Hinds’ love affair with dogs and fascination with their behavior began young. She’s wanted to be a dog trainer since she was eight years old. She’s now been training dogs and teaching people for more than 14 years and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Mariah has broad practical experience in the dog world, volunteering and working in kennels, shelters and veterinary hospitals, dog sitting and walking, fostering rescue dogs, and two years of veterinary technician college.

She has a passion for finding the best way to communicate with the human half of the dog handler team, because she knows small changes in the handler and practice can yield big results in the long run. Her specialty at FDSA is teaching skills that require self-control from the dog including proofing, impulse control, stays and greetings while using positive training methodologies.

Links

Next Episode: 

To be released 12/22/2017, and it will be a special anniversary edition of the podcast, so stay tuned!

TRANSCRIPTION:

Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.

Today we’ll be talking to Mariah Hinds.

Mariah has been training dogs and teaching people for more than 14 years and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). She also just recently put a UD on her awesome border collie, Clever. And she’s here to today to talk about proofing and what it takes to get ready for competition.

Hi Mariah! Welcome to the podcast.

Mariah Hinds: Hi.

Melissa Breau: Can you just remind listeners a little bit about who you are and who the dogs that you share your life with are?

Mariah Hinds: Sure. I have Jada, my Doberman, who is 11-and-a-half years old. I got into competition obedience with her and she’s my novice A dog. We started training for the ring at age 4, and she earned her novice, open, and utility titles, and some optional titles as well, between the ages of 4 and 8, and she’s the one who taught me that positive training methods are much better for her and they’re a lot more fun.

Clever is my 5-year-old border collie. She got her novice title with 198 from 199. She won first place in Open against 100 other dogs last year with the 199, and she just got all three of her utility legs for her title a few weekends ago. She also knows a ton of tricks, and we train in agility as well. My goal with her for 2018 is to compete in open utility at all the local trials, and hopefully we’ll earn some OTCH points along the way, and hopefully we will compete at the Classic next year and place in the top twenty as well. Those are my goals for her for the next year.

And I have Talent, who’s the baby dog. Her name is Squishy because she likes to lay on top of me. She’s 14 months and we’re just building the foundations for precision for obedience, and I hope to earn her MACH as well her OTCH and UDX, so we’re doing a lot of agility training right now as well. So that’s all about my dogs and a little bit about me. Is there anything else you want to know about me?

Melissa Breau: Gee, I don’t know. Is there anything else good that I should want to know?

Mariah Hinds: Not really. I moved from Orlando to Fort Mill, South Carolina, a year ago, and so I’m just having fun getting to know people around here.

Melissa Breau: I know that the core of our conversation today, I’m hoping we’ll get really deep on proofing and getting “ring ready,” but before we dive into that stuff, I figure it makes sense to get some terminology stuff straight. So I wanted to ask what proofing means to you, and then maybe a little bit about why it’s critical for success in competition.

Mariah Hinds: Sure. So for me, proofing means that we’re adding achievable challenges to a skill. So once a dog can do a behavior reliably on cue — and it can be a verbal cue or a hand signal as a cue — then we ask the dog to do the behavior in different locations, and perhaps we can ask the dog to do the behavior with other dogs around, and perhaps we can ask the dog to do the behavior in different locations in proximity to us, so “Can you sit in front of me? Can you sit at heel? Can you sit on the right side of my body? Can you sit between my feet?”

I really think that proofing is critical to success in competition, because there are tons of distractions at a trial, and although you can’t actually train for every single distraction, you can practice adding distractions in training. And if we add distractions in a strategic way so the dog is really successful, then we’re really building the dog’s confidence, and the dog learns to say, “Yes, I know exactly which behavior you want me to do, and no matter what’s going on, no matter how far away I am, or where my handler is, or how quickly I’m moving, I know that this is the behavior that gets me closer to earning my reward.”

Melissa Breau: You mentioned your dogs’ different ages and different stages. At what age or point in your training journey do you really begin to add proofing, and what does that look like?

Mariah Hinds: I think everyone proofs their dog, whether they realize it and they work through the behavior strategically or whether they don’t. We work on adding distractions to our heeling, we work on adding distance to our position changes for utility, we work on adding out of motions to our downs for open, we work on adding distractions to our stays, we work on practicing in new locations, and once the dog has a basic understanding of these cues with different locations and durations and distance, we can oftentimes add another layer of understanding with even more distractions and more proofing.

Typically, I find that those fall into a few different categories. It hasn’t been introduced yet, the skill is just being learned, the dog is more than 50 percent reliable with behavior, we’re adding new locations, or we’re proofing for duration and stimulus control, we’re adding distance or distractions, and so on. Those are all the categories that behavior can really fall into. And when the dog’s just learning the skills, we setup the environment so that the dog can be really successful, and if we set it up well, then the dog goes up to being successful with behavior 50 percent of the time or better really quickly. Then we can start practicing in new locations, such as in the bedroom instead of the training room, or on the patio, or at the training building after the dog is acclimated, and we can also work on building duration and putting behavior on stimulus control. Then we can add distance and distractions.

So I start adding distractions strategically to my dog’s behaviors the moment that the behavior is robust and strong enough that the dog will really likely be successful. And if we practice the skill the same way without building more challenges with the behavior, then our training might just go stagnant and we might not make any real progress toward our goal.

Melissa Breau: Is there ever a point when you stop proofing?

Mariah Hinds: Not really. When I’m first working on sequencing behaviors together, such as for the retrieve over a jump, that’s a behavior sequence, and it starts with the dog sitting in heel position. Then they go over the jump on cue, then they automatically retrieve the item, then they return over the jump, automatically do a front. So when I’m teaching that sequence, then I’m definitely going to start sequencing those things together with much fewer distractions than if I’m just working on one piece of that behavior.

But before that, I want my dog to be able to do those behaviors separately with distractions. I want the dog to be able to pick up the dumbbell off the ground with distractions around. I want the dog to be able to go over the jump with my jump cue and take the cookie as the reward for that behavior. I want the dog to be able to set up in heel position and stay while I throw a distraction such as a cookie or a dumbbell or a toy. I want the dog to be able to come over the jump from a sit/stay at any angles with the cue to jump. I find that that’s a really overlooked part of that behavior sequence and that falls apart really easily.

If the pieces are solved separately before we sequence them together, then sequencing the behaviors together happens really quickly, and if a piece of the sequence falls apart, then we can easily fix that piece of the sequence just by revisiting that piece. And once the behavior sequence or the chain is solid, then we want to go back through and add more layers of understanding, and more layers of confidence, by adding distractions and proofing the entire behavior sequence.

For example, with Clever, we’re working on adding some distractions to our slow heeling. So at the trial, at our third leg, she really was a little forge-y with the slow heel, and so I really wanted to get that a little more reliable. She’s consistent with it until we add distractions, so that’s what we’re working on. The goal, ultimately, for her will be that my training partner can fling a toy and that she’ll remain in heel position while we’re walking. Right now we’re working on food distractions while she heels, because she finds that a lot easier. She’s way more toy motivated than she is food motivated, so I’m building confidence with her with that so that she understands, so then I can add more layers of confidence.

The other thing that we’re working on proofing is doing a finish with the pressure of a judge, without her squeaking from the stress of the pressure. So at home I’m practicing finishing, having her finish on cue with a dog bone as a distraction, or some other distraction, food or toy distraction. And then, when I have my training friends to help me, then I’ll do a few repetitions of what she’s been successful with at home, and then I’ll replace the distraction with a person and see if she can do that successfully.

Melissa Breau: I know that precision and maintaining criteria are super-important to you, so I wanted to delve into that a little bit and ask you what the relationship between proofing and getting really precise, consistent behaviors is, and if you could just talk about that for a minute.

Mariah Hinds: Sure. First, we need to add the behavior. We need the behavior to be precise with our desired criteria. So that means that has to happen first, and that needs to happen before we add layers of proofing. And we can certainly use different reinforcement strategies to help maintain the desired criteria without losing attitude, and that’s really important to do. I do that a lot with my puppy when I’m building reliability, so she’ll get one reward for trying, and she’ll get multiple rewards for doing it accurately.

We can also think about where we place the reward so that we’re getting the most effect for our desired behavior. This is talked about a lot in the Precision Heeling class that Denise does. If a dog is lagging, we want to build more reliability for being in heel position, and then we really want the reward to happen ahead of heel position, and if the dog is heeling too wide, then we want the reward to happen with the dog really close to us, with the rear in as well, because otherwise we’ll create crabbing, and if the dog is heeling and they tend to crab out and forge ahead, then we can have the dog spin away from us, which encourages their butt to get in, and then we can reward them from behind heel position, or even from our right hand. The dogs tend to anticipate when a reward will happen, and they will gravitate more to that area.

And we do talk a lot about reinforcement strategies in my class, and it really can help a lot with building reliability.

Melissa Breau: Do you work precision and consistency separately? It sounds a little bit like they’re very closely related. Can you talk about that for a minute?

Mariah Hinds: I do think they’re closely related. I mean, I think that precision has to happen first, and consistency is really just generalizing the behavior. So first I work on precision. Let’s say that I’m working on fronts. The first thing I do is I’m going to help the dog be correct, so I can use a platform to help the dog find front precisely. I can also do step back fronts where I lure the dog into position while I take a step back, and once the dog is precise at finding front from two or three feet away, with the platform or with luring, then I can start fading my lure, so I can ask the dog to find front with my hands pointing at my face instead of luring the dog with my hand. Another reason why I like to do that stuff is because when I’m teaching a dog where I want them to focus when they’re finding front, I don’t want them to accidentally find front on a stranger or the judge. I do want them to look up at my face, and then I can go to teaching them to find the precise position with my hands at my side. Once the dog can find the position precisely from two to three feet away, then I can start adding different angles to come to front, I can toss a treat from the left or to the right and have the dog find front that way. Again, this is from a very short distance away, and that’s quite a challenging thing to do precisely.

So once they’re precise with that, then I can start adding more speed by tossing the reset cookie further away, I can start weaning off of the platform and going back to an earlier step to help guide them, to help guide the dog to where they should go. I like to do a little bit of pointing to my face as I’m weaning off of the platform, and then I can add in my distractions such as the judge and the pressures of the ring gating and so on. So the dog needs to understand exactly where the position is precisely first before we get consistency with that precision with a lot of variables.

Melissa Breau: I think all novice competitors have been at that place where they thought their dog knew something, they show up to compete, and then their dog’s carefully trained behaviors fall apart totally in the ring. Where do people go wrong when that happens? And what kind of things can they do to prevent it?

Mariah Hinds: I think that’s a really common thing that happens, and I think that we all fall into the habit of training at one or two places because it’s convenient, and then we expect that is enough to get reliability in a new place, with new dogs, and new people, and a stranger in the room with you. I think that’s a lot to ask of our dogs.

I find that training at different places is really important, and going to show and gos is a great way to see where your dog is in terms of readiness. If you can’t find a show and go, then I think another great option is to go to places where there are other dogs behind a fence or on leash. One option would be going to a big, grassy area outside of a dog park and practicing there, or you can go to a parking lot near the dog beach entrance, or you can go to a parking lot at a really busy veterinary clinic. For me and my dogs, that always tends to give me a really accurate gauge as to where they are with reliability with distractions.

For me, I like to combine that with distraction work at home. It just isn’t practical for me to go train at a new place more than once a week, but at home I can add challenging distractions that help my dog understand that the way to earn the reward for the cued behavior is really to ignore the distraction.

Melissa Breau: I think the other place that a lot of people really struggle is when it comes to cleaning up their own body language as part of proofing. We get all this reinforcement built in from our dog doing the right thing when we include those extra movements! When we lean forward slightly on the down cue, or when we use our hands a little more than we should. I wanted to see if you could talk a little bit about why it’s important to get rid of that movement, and then share any tips you have, because I think it’s something that you do really well.

Mariah Hinds: Well, thanks. I do find that it’s really important. I find that especially when we’re preparing to go into the novice ring, that we’ve done a lot of helping the dog set up in heel position by doing certain things with our body, or we help the dog halt when we’re heeling by turning our shoulders toward the dog and looking at their rear, or we help the dog find front by always practicing with our hands near the center of our body during practice. And then we go in the ring and we can’t help the dog, so we’ve removed the cues that the dog was familiar with and the dog doesn’t know what you want anymore because we removed the cue and there are distractions everywhere. So it really can be challenging for the dog to go in the ring when they really just aren’t ready yet. Whereas if we actually prepare the dog, and we show them that the cue for the behavior is in all of this extra body movement, then they’re going to be a lot better prepared.

As for tips, I think the first thing that’s really important is discovering what your body is doing while you say the verbal cue. So the more that you actually video yourself, and then watch those videos back, the more you’re going to realize what you’re doing with your body while you’re saying your cues. So once we realize what the body language cue is that we’re doing, then we can start working on fading them.

I also think that one of the longstanding myths of dog training, especially in obedience, is that you should be saying the verbal cue while you help the dog do the behavior with your body language. And what we really want to be doing is we want the behavior to be reliable without body language, and start saying the verbal cue without moving, and then following that verbal cue with your old cue, which will be the body language help or the hand signal gesture that you’ve been using.

Melissa Breau: I know, for example, some instructors use the prompt “always return your hands to neutral,” or “always return your hands to the same spot.” Is that helpful? Is that kind of a strategy useful?

Mariah Hinds: Yes. We want to practice looking formal, if that’s what we’re going to do in the ring. So yes. If, for example, you’re using pocket hand, or putting your left hand to your side to help the dog actually sit when you stop, then that’s fine. But we want to return to formalness when we can to help the dog see that picture as well.

Melissa Breau: Beyond simply proofing, what other skills are there that somebody needs to know to get “ring ready?” And I know that you’re teaching some classes on this, so I thought it might be a good topic to talk about a little bit.

Mariah Hinds: I’m teaching a class on putting the novice exercises together, called Putting It Together, and I’m teaching Proof Positive: Building Reliability. The first thing we cover in Proof Positive: Building Reliability is discussing our reinforcement strategies for the behavior that the student has chosen to work on in the class. We have some people working on fronts, or position changes, or go outs, some heeling, some drop on recalls, some setting up in heel position, some weaves, some running contacts, some freestyle behaviors, and lots and lots of obedience. I really love that variety. It really keeps the class fun and it’s fun to follow along with.

So the next thing in that class is that we talk about fading our extra body language cues, and we work on actually putting it on a verbal cue, and we work on getting the behavior solid under one set of circumstances, and we work on waiting, and we work on teaching stimulus controls, so helping the dog learn to wait for the cue before doing the behavior, and then we start playing games. This week we’re going to work on teaching the dog to ignore our body language and listen to the verbal cue, and we’re going to work on doing the behavior in various locations, and in the upcoming weeks we work on adding sound distractions and spatial pressure, which is the amount of things around the dog, like ring gates and judges, although we’re not actually going to be working on people, so a trash can can provide spatial pressure, a wall can provide spatial pressure. We’re also going to be adding various angles, adding some duration and distance, different locations, adding some out of motion to the behaviors, and we’re going to work on building reliability with food, and scent distractions in a few different scenarios. So overall we’re playing fun games to build the dog’s understandings and reliability with behaviors.

In the Putting It Together class we’re working on making sure that our behaviors for the novice ring are really solid separately. So we’re working on stays, and fronts, and moving in heel position, and setting up in heel position, and stand stays, and our circles for our figure eights, and our complete figure eight exercise, and our turns and change of pace in heeling, taking off the leash, entering the ring, exiting the ring. So first we’re doing some problem solving, helping the dogs understand the desired behaviors, then when those pieces are solid, then we’re working on sequencing those behaviors together, building confidence by adding realistic ring distractions, weaning off of rewards, and practicing our entire ring performance. So we’re looking at all of these pieces in this class, and putting those pieces together when the pieces are ready to come together.

So in both classes we’re talking about reinforcement strategies, and there are lectures on building reliable, precise fronts. The Putting It Together class covers a lot of topics regarding the novice ring, and polishing those behaviors before sequencing them together and putting them into a ring performance practice. The Building Reliability class covers adding distractions, different locations, spatial pressures, sound distractions, handler body language distractions, and adding those things to our simple behaviors like sit and down. Then we can take those games and practice with our complex behaviors, and we can add duration and out of motion and food distraction to those behaviors as well.

Both classes are a lot of fun, and if you do obedience, then both classes can fit your needs. It just depends on where your dog’s behaviors are and their understanding of the behaviors. So if you’re just starting out, and you’re just working on pivots, then Building Reliability would probably be a better fit, versus if your dog is solid with that, and you’re really ready to move on and start sequencing a little bit of find heel positions stationary with actually moving in heel position, then the Putting It Together class is a good fit.

Melissa Breau: They sound very complementary.

Mariah Hinds: They do.

Melissa Breau: They sound like they work well together.

Mariah Hinds: Yes, definitely.

Melissa Breau: Well, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast, Mariah. I appreciate it. I know things are crazy, but I’m glad you could make some time for me.

Mariah Hinds: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in!

We’ll be back next week, this time with a special anniversary edition of the podcast… also, just a last-minute reminder that if you want to take a class for the December term, today -- Dec. 15th, the day this episode comes out -- is the absolute last day for registration. So, if you’re a procrastinator, it’s time….

And, if you haven’t already, subscribe to our podcast in itunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available.

CREDITS:

Today’s show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called “Buddy.” Audio editing provided by Chris Lang and transcription written by CLK Transcription Services.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

Dec 8, 2017

SUMMARY:

Nancy Gagliardi Little comes back on the podcast — Nancy has been training dogs since the early 1980's when she put an OTCH on her Novice A dog, a Labrador Retriever. Since then she has put many advanced obedience titles on her dogs, including 4 AKC OTCH titles, 6 UD titles, 3 UDX titles, and multiple championships in herding and agility. Today, she joins me to talk startline stays in agility.

Links

Next Episode: 

To be released 12/15/2017, featuring Mariah Hinds. We'll be chatting about proofing and building reliably, ring-ready behaviors!

TRANSCRIPTION:

Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.

Today we have Nancy Gagliardi Little back on the podcast — Nancy has been training dogs since the early 1980's when she put an OTCH on her Novice A dog, a Labrador Retriever. Since then she has put many advanced obedience titles on her dogs, including 4 AKC OTCH titles, 6 UD titles, 3 UDX titles, and multiple championships in herding and agility.

Welcome back to the podcast, Nancy!

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Thanks, Melissa. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Breau: The last time we talked a little bit about obedience. Today we’re talking a little bit about agility. To start us out, do you want to just remind listeners who you are and share a little about the dogs you share your life with?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Sure. Who I am … I guess I’m still discovering that, but I live in Minnesota, about 45 minutes north of the Twin Cities, and I compete mostly in agility, AKC mostly, but also USDAA and UKI. I still train my dogs in obedience, I just don’t compete in obedience anymore. I have aspirations of doing that again, but we’ll see. I teach agility and obedience online classes with FDSA, and I teach agility and obedience lessons and classes at a local center here in Minnesota. I did judge obedience, AKC obedience, for about twenty years, and I judged around the country in all classes and also in some national events. So that’s about me.

And then my dogs. I’ve had border collies since the mid-’80s, and I love everything about the breed, including their quirkiness and their sensitivity. My dogs are Score, a border collie, 13. He’s retired, obviously. He did agility and herding. And Schema is 9 years old. She’s currently my competition dog doing agility. She is competing at AKC Nationals this year in 2018, and I think that’s the fifth time she’s qualified. She’s also competed at Cynosport. And then I have Lever. He’s 4, and he is competing in agility. I train him and Schema too, both in obedience. He’s kind of the up-and-coming guy, I guess. And then my husband has a toller and his name is Rugby. He’s 2, and he trains in agility and obedience.

Melissa Breau: That’s your crew, and we were talking a little bit before I hit “record” that hopefully there’ll be one more joining the family early next year, right?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Correct. I think they’re supposed to be born in early December. It’s one of Lever’s puppies.

Melissa Breau: I look forward to lots of puppy pictures.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Yeah. That will be exciting.

Melissa Breau: I mentioned in the intro that last time you were on we really talked obedience, but today we’re going to talk agility, so specifically we’re diving into start line stays. So, I wanted to start with how they’re different from a stay in any other sport, something like obedience, for example.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: They are quite a bit different in the agility environment. Agility is very high-energy, and the environment itself is fairly unpredictable, and that makes for difficult conditions for dogs that are trying to perform these skills that they learned at home and in class, especially the start lines. That’s kind of the transitional exercise into the course. And then of course most dogs love agility, and it’s pretty reinforcing for them to go. In obedience the stays are very predictable, well, in actually all the exercises are fairly predictable. They’re patterns. Dogs learn those patterns, and that gives them pretty clear information when exercises start and end. Even in obedience, dogs can make mistakes. They might read a pattern and anticipate the finish of an exercise, especially the stay, and it’s probably just when the judge says, “Exercise finished,” so they’re pretty much done anyway. So it’s just much more predictable.

Melissa Breau: Why is it so important that people actually have a good start line stay in agility? What benefits does it offer if they put in the work and they get there?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Well, agility is pretty much all about speed, and most people have dogs that are much faster than they can run. I know I do, and most of the people do, and if they don’t, they want that. Being able to lead out gives you an advantage, especially with a fast dog, and actually on many courses it can be difficult to start without a lead out with a super-fast dog. Going into the sequence, you just can’t get where you need to be to cue something. So yes, it’s quite an advantage having that. It gets you ahead. It might even keep you ahead throughout the course. And without that, you’re going to be behind, which isn’t all that bad if you want to do rear crosses throughout the course. Some people are very good at that. I have some students without start lines just because they came to me after their dog was a little bit older and we just decided we weren’t going to teach the dogs the stay. And there are definitely some sequences that they just can’t … or courses with starts that they just can’t do, or they just have issues with it, so it does put them at a disadvantage.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned that you decided just not to bother with it. Why do people struggle with it? Why is it something that’s hard to teach? I think a lot of people think a stay is a stay is a stay, right?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Right, right. Well, there’s just so many variations, but it could be that there’s holes in training or holes in generalization. There’s a lot of that that happens. And lots of times handlers try to control the dog’s behavior instead of training, so that would be like a hole in training. It could also be the training sessions are handled differently than the handling at the trials, and there’s a lot of that that’s due to handling. Another thing I see contributing to the start line is — this is interesting — but the handler’s own increased arousal level. And this happens in obedience, you see that too, but in agility it’s pretty much, it’s a big contributing factor where the handlers are too hurried, they’re un-confident and disconnected when they enter the ring, and then, at the beginning of the run, they’re thinking more about the course and they just don’t stay connected and focused on the dog. The dogs sense that, and that can cause — in the dogs we’re talking about, probably the dogs that have increased arousal level — that causes stress and also increased arousal, and that’s never good at the start line. Especially the dogs start reading a disconnected handler, and they start losing the ability to think, and then you have a break. A lot of times there are small issues that crop up along the way and they aren’t noticed by the trainer until it becomes a big problem. And that happens a lot. There’s little things, you know, little things that they just aren’t seeing, or they aren’t aware of, and then they don’t know how they got there.

Melissa Breau: Do you mean on the day of the trial or do you mean …

Nancy Gagliardi Little: I just mean in general kind of building up to that, but it will happen at the trials usually because that’s where the ultimate differences are between the training and the trials.

Melissa Breau: Little stuff like creeping, or what do you mean?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Well, it would be mostly handling. Some of it would be handling. The dogs start getting a little more and more aroused because they maybe can’t predict when the handler’s going to release them. That causes … and it depends on the dog. It could be that this dog, this particular dog, responds to arousal and stress by creeping forward, or they stand up, or even just a glazed look in their eyes. It just keeps changing until there’s actually just an outright break. And that’s when the handler notices that there’s an issue, but it’s actually happened long before that.

Melissa Breau: I know we talked about this a little bit just now, but I think a lot of people attribute start line problems to poor impulse control. The person just didn’t work it enough, or didn’t do it right, or something.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Right.

Melissa Breau: Can you talk a little bit about the role that impulse control actually does play in a good start line stay?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: I hear that a lot. People think their dogs are pushy or have impulse control issues. But I’ve seen more over-arousal issues or frustration issues than impulse control issues. And frustration and over-arousal, they can be caused by lack of clarity, unpredictable cues, and then, like I said before, handlers that aren’t connected with their dogs. The dogs really want that. And impulse control skills, they’re just a part of the foundation of training a start line, and it should be fun for the dog. Some of the issues with start lines might be due to poor impulse control training, but there’s a lot more at play here than that. And actually I’ve seen plenty of dogs that really have great impulse control, but they can’t hold a stay at the start line, and a lot of that is due to just their arousal state. They can’t think. People just call that “impulse control issue,” and really it’s something quite different.

Melissa Breau: That’s really interesting. You commented that you’ve seen a lot of dogs with great impulse control who really struggle with this particular skill. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t think about.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Yeah, exactly.

Melissa Breau: I’d imagine … I don’t do agility, but I’d imagine that part of what often goes wrong with a start line is simply that the dog breaks their stay in a trial situation and people just start the run. And they do that over and over again, and the dog figures out, “Well, we’re just going to go.”

Nancy Gagliardi Little: They’re so smart!

Melissa Breau: Is there a better way to handle that?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: That’s a really good question and it’s a complicated one, too. I think it’s one of those things that’s hard to answer, but it’s part of what goes wrong. Usually there’s an issue, like I said before, that’s starting to manifest long before the dog even breaks the start line, and the handler isn’t recognizing it until the dog finally leaves before that release cue, and it’s actually usually in a really important run for them, so they’re like, “Oh my god.” And a lot of times this has been happening for a while. The dog’s been breaking it, but the handler doesn’t really notice it because they might be just turning back and releasing, and this time they turn back and they don’t release and the dog goes. Something like that. And like you say, the more a dog breaks the start line in a trial, the more it becomes a pattern or a habit, and actually it’s very, very reinforcing to the dog because they love — most of them love — agility and they want to go.

So in terms of a way to handle it once they go, I’m not a big fan of removing the dog for breaking the start line. If you watch some handlers, a lot of times they remove the dog, and the dog’s already taken a few obstacles by the time he realizes that he’s being taken off course, so he’s probably not even going to associate breaking the start line with that removal. And that not understanding why he’s being removed is going to cause more stress and frustration for the dog, and that makes the start line area even more frustrating, and then that causes more mistakes, so how do you handle it? Again, it’s very complicated, and it also depends on the dog and the handler. Lots of times when we decide this with students, I come up with a plan, depending on the dog, the sensitivity of the dog, the experience of the dog, making sure the handler’s being clear, all those things come into play for that. It’s mainly just making sure that the handling is clear. I’ll give you some examples.

Melissa Breau: That would be great.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: And I’ll just use my own dogs because their start lines are very good, but Schema, both of them, have broken their start lines. Schema, so she’s been running about seven-and-a-half years. When she was maybe 4 or 5 years old, it was in a two-ring soccer arena with lots of activity behind and around, and as I’m leading out, I was watching her and she left before I gave her the release cue. But I was watching her, I saw her expression, and she looked the same as she always does. There was no twitching or any odd behavior. I just let her run. I just went on because that’s just the way I feel. It’s like, I’ll look at this later, we’ll deal with this later, and one mistake is not going to affect anything. I looked at the video and I obsessed on it, and then I went to the practice jump between runs, and I tested her with some games, and she was solid, like I figured she would be, and she never broke the rest of the weekend or any time after that run. So I suspect she just heard someone else at the practice jump behind her give the same release cue and truly thought I had released her. So if I would have removed her for that, or done anything but just run her, that would have been very confusing to her, so she never really knew.

An example I have with Lever is he’s got some arousal issues, increased arousal issues, I’ve been working on a lot over the years. He has some great skills but has issues where he’s really gotten, he’s really improved, but his start lines were a little … I guess there’s lots of arousal there, and they’ve gotten better. What I do at the start line is I ask him how aroused he is. I know that sounds funny, but I basically just pause briefly before I leave him, and if he can look at me before I lead out — I step lateral and then wait for him to look at me. It just takes a brief moment. If he looks at me, his arousal level is under control. There was a time when he couldn’t even look at me, and that told me that his arousal level is high. That didn’t mean I was going to do anything different. I just needed to know that. I just would stay super-connected with him as I led out and just be a little bit more focused on him. So about six months ago I waited a little bit too long to see if he could look at me, and that was me trying to control him, a little bit of control. It was too long, and once I decided to leave, he broke. I realized what I was doing at that time and I just went on. I just kept going. And he actually knew right away he made a mistake, and that was not my intention to make him think he made a mistake, because I knew in his case it was arousal. But he did have a really nice run after that. So if I would have pulled him off for that, or handled it in any different way, it would have affected him, and I want him to be very confident in himself at the start line. His start lines have improved dramatically just by me being super-connected to him and just knowing that they’re a work in progress.

So those are a couple of examples. There’s so many different ones, and it really just depends on the team, and the experience of the dog, and what kind of things they’re training for start lines, but they are all very different how you would handle it. The main thing is just ensuring that it’s handled the same in practice as it would be in trials.

Melissa Breau: I was going to say that it sounds like you don’t necessarily have to worry about it a ton until it happens that first time, and then after that first time you want a plan in place in case it happens again.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Right, you really do, because the first time it happens, you want to go back and make sure that it’s not handling. People don’t realize how much in agility people work hard on handling, but there’s a lot of handling that goes into start lines and the whole routine with start lines. There’s a lot of handling, and if you don’t, if your handling’s not clear to the dog, there’s going to be issues.

Melissa Breau: Now that we’ve talked a little about problem solving, I want to take a little of a step back and talk about how you actually teach a start line stay. Is there anything special you do during the foundation stages?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: I probably teach it the same way most people do, but I do a lot of Zen games, I think some people call it “It’s your choice.” I do lots of that, and on the flat, and my young dogs wanted to stay by, they make a choice not to go, and then that decision brings reinforcement. I do lots and lots of games away from equipment, starting without handler motion and then adding more and more motion. It’s the motion that can really, or even the anticipation of handler motion, that can actually cause issues with the dogs, so adding that is important in agility.

And then lots of behaviors to train in the start line routine: entering the ring, moving to the start line area or the area you’re going to set them up, the position of the dog, what position are they going to be in, a sit, a down, a stand, whatever, between your legs, setups, or how they’re going to line up, and I guess that has more to do with going between your legs, or if they’re going to go to the left side, or the right side, or some handlers stand in front of the dog and position them kind of like a front, and the stay, there’s an actual stay, which isn’t really a big deal, the release is the big deal, there’s a lead out, and then there’s handling and training involved in all those areas. So all of them are worked on separately, and then we gradually put them together as each area is mastered. So it’s like a lot of flat work and fun stuff so dogs don’t even know that we’re working towards a start line.

Melissa Breau: I think that a lot of people probably just think about the stay itself, and they leave out all those other pieces you just mentioned about entering the ring and setting up.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Right. And what happens is then they try to control the behavior instead of asking the dog to do the behavior, and then that creates more stress and more issues there, and the dogs don’t want to stay at the start line because they’re never right, they’re always being controlled. So that contributes to it too.

Melissa Breau: So once you’ve gotten the stay that you want, and the entrance that you want, and you’re trialing, what do you do to maintain that stay? How often do you train it, how do you approach it, what do you do to make sure that it doesn’t erode or doesn’t disappear over time?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: I don’t think about it that much, but I guess when I think about it, I do it all the time without even thinking. I’m always looking at videos of my runs, or of training, and I’m always checking to see if the dog … how’s the start line. It’s just maintaining it. It happens by keeping the handling clear and the cues clean. When I talk about the cues clean, I’m talking about making sure that it’s not being any of the cues being paired with any extra motion or movement, because that’s a big deal in agility. Well, it’s a big deal in any sport.

And it’s also ensuring that my dogs are going to be able to predict when the release is coming. That’s what people don’t pay attention to, and then the dogs are sitting back there watching the handlers lead out and just arousal level’s going up, like, “When are they going to release me?” They don’t know, they can’t predict, and so I try to create a predictor that is easy for the dog to read. So I’m watching videos of my runs, and I evaluate my dog’s start lines just as much as the rest of the run. I’m always looking to see did the dog release on my cue, or was there any twitching, or whatever.

It’s just really important to know what to look for, and that’s I think what people are missing. They don’t know what to look for. They’re just looking to see if the dog stayed and not looking at a lot of other things, which is a lot of handling. So my start lines are really important to me because my dogs are very fast. But I find them very easy to maintain if my dogs understand the routine. And whenever I lead out, I’m just always checking to see that my dog has made the choice to stay, and if I’m always doing that, then my dog has always made that choice to stay because the release cue is very reinforcing to my dogs. They get to go, and so they learn to choose to stay because that’s what leads them to go. They love that.

Melissa Breau: For people out there who are listening to this and going, “All right, that’s awesome,” but they are in that position where they taught their dog a stay initially and it disappeared after they started running more regularly. How would you handle that? Would you just look at it as a poisoned cue and start over with a new cue? Would you retrain it with their existing cue? How would you approach it?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: That’s a really good question too. I think the first thing that I’d recommend to people in that situation is to make sure that they’re videotaping their training, the dog in training. And also making sure that they’re in that videotape as well, and also in the trial, and then really look at those two sessions and see if the handling is identical. It really needs to be. It’s important for the dogs. Dogs need to see the same thing. It needs to be clear to the dog. Cues need to be clear and clean. And then also the connection to the dog is super-important to the dog in agility, very, very important, and that’s at the start line, not just during the run.

So the questions to ask are, does the dog understand all of the little parts of his job at the start line, or is the handler trying to control the dog, like leading out and telling them to stay constantly. That’s going to be the beginning of a break because it’s going to stress the dog up, and there’s many reasons why that’s going to cause a break. So any type of controlling rather than training is going to make that experience stressful for the dog, so it’s better to take the time to teach those behaviors for the start line routine. So if that’s the case, we look at that. You really take a look at that picture of the start line. Are all those behaviors trained, and is the dog confident in all those little areas? That’s going to make that whole experience very, very easy for the dog.

And then, in terms of whether a new cue or a new setup routine needs to be trained, that just really depends on the dog and the situation. If it’s been going on for a long time, it might be wise to change the position. If the dog was doing a sit and he’s breaking, maybe you just start him in a down. I don’t really think the cue is usually the issue, because probably most likely the dogs are not even reading that cue. They’re probably reading some type of incidental cue or signal or motion from the handler that’s being paired with that. So it’s not even probably an issue, but yet it can make the handler feel better changing the cue, and it might still be the case that we’d want to change it. But it’s just one of those, again, creative processes you have to go through with each individual team. It just depends.

Melissa Breau: I know that, to mention FDSA, again here at the end, but I know you have a class on this subject running – and it’s supposed to start literally the day this airs, but registration is still open! — can you share a little bit about what the class does or doesn’t cover, and the kind of dog-handler team that might benefit most from taking it?

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Sure. Like I said before, I’m pretty excited about this class. At one time I had another class that was pretty popular that covered agility, start lines, stopped contacts on the table, and that was just filled with a lot of information, probably too much. So I felt it was important to make the subject of start lines into its own class. So this class is perfect for young dogs starting to train or even getting ready to trial. I think that’s a perfect area for these type of dogs. But it’s also a good class for dogs that are already trialing. I just ask, if they’re going to take the class, to make sure that they stop trialing during this retraining period because that’s really important for the dogs, because we do really want to make the trial and the training the same, otherwise they just become different. What it’s not going to cover is how to address over-arousal issues, or environmental issues at the start line, and that subject’s covered in other FDSA classes. So in this class we’re going to work extensively on creating handling and training skills that will help predict the release. That’s the main thing I want people to be aware of is how much your dogs depend on predictability for start lines. It’s amazing, once you clear that up, it just creates a whole different world for the dogs. So with these consistent predictors the dogs are going to get more confident and adapt much easier in different environments, and that’s hugely important in agility.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Well, thank you so much Nancy -- it sounds like a great class.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: Yeah, I’m really excited.

Melissa Breau: I can see why. And thank you again for coming back on the podcast! I’m glad that you did and I’m glad we got a chance to talk about some of this stuff.

Nancy Gagliardi Little: It was great. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. And thanks to our listeners for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with Mariah Hinds to talk about proofing and building reliable, ring-ready behaviors.

Don’t miss it! It if you haven’t already, subscribe to our podcast in itunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available.

CREDITS:

Today’s show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called “Buddy.” Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Dec 1, 2017

SUMMARY:

Julie Symons has been involved in dog sports for over 20 years. She’s competed in flyball, conformation, agility, obedience, herding, tracking and nosework.

One of Julie’s favorite things is a versatile team! Her first Belgian Tervuren, Rival, was the first of his breed to finish his championship in conformation, obedience, and agility. Julie truly believes that participating in multiple sports is enriching to both person and dog and builds on that mutual partnership and trust.

Today we have Julie Symons, of the newly-named Savvy Dog Sports, to talk about handler discrimination and AKC scentwork.

Links

Next Episode: 

To be released 12/8/2017, featuring Nancy Gigliardi Little. We'll be chatting about start line stays!

TRANSCRIPTION:

Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.

Today we have Julie Symons, of the newly-named Savvy Dog Sports, to talk about handler discrimination and AKC scentwork.

Welcome back to the podcast, Julie!

Julie Symons: Hi Melissa. Thanks for having me back.

Melissa Breau: I’m excited to chat today. To start us out, do you mind just reminding listeners who you are a little bit and share the dogs you share your life with?

Julie Symons: I have Savvy, she’s my 9-year-old Belgian Tervuren. Gosh, she’s going to be 10 in February. She’s doing great. She’s a champion Mach2, UD, TDX, and recently a Nosework 3 Elite dog. She’s retired from all sports except for nosework, and I keep meaning to work on my variable surface tracking with her. She’s just a phenomenal tracking dog, so if I can just find that time. And I have Drac, who’s my 2-year-old Malinois. He just turned 2 last month, and I’m waiting for him to mature a little bit and his hormones to settle, but he has his Nosework 1 and his Level 1 Interior, Container, and Vehicle titles from the Nosework Association of Canine Scentwork, and he also has his AKC Scentwork Novice title, which means he’s earned all of his novice element other titles. He also has two legs toward his Handler Discrimination Scentwork title and his first Advanced legs in Containers, Interiors, and Exteriors, and he’s actually really turning out to be a nice nosework dog. So it’s been fun training him there. And since you mentioned Savvy Dog Sports, I’ll share that I’m in process of building a training facility — on my property, actually. We have enough acreage out in the country. I’ve always wanted to do this. Back in probably the year 2000, I had thought about doing something like this. So we’re going to start building in February and I’ll be able to teach more dog stuff. There’s, I think, opportunity and need in this area to offer some more obedience or pet classes, so I’m really looking forward to that. And then my nosework students, I’d like to be able to have more opportunities to train with them. So very, very excited.

Melissa Breau: And you said you’re in Rochester, right? Rochester, New York.

Julie Symons: Right. I’m in a suburb of Rochester. I’m south of Rochester near the New York Thruway between Syracuse and Buffalo.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So if anybody listening is in that area, Julie’s your new go-to person.

Julie Symons: Yes. So we’ll be busy getting some more information out on that soon.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Last time you were on the podcast I know we talked a little about the AKC Scentwork. Since today I want to dive a little deeper there, do you mind just starting us out by sharing a little about how the program works?

Julie Symons: Yeah. The AKC Scentwork program has three divisions. They have their Odor Search Division, which is what we’re typically familiar with, with the oils, the birch, the anise, and clove, and they have a new odor, cypress. And they have four search elements: Containers, Interiors, Exteriors, and Buried. Buried is a new element across any of the venues that I’m aware of. There is no vehicle search in this venue. I think that’s actually nice, because vehicles are always hard for trials to find to use, so people don’t want to get their cars scratched up or just to get enough volunteers to volunteer vehicles. So that’s a nice difference for some variety there. They have four levels: Novice, Advanced, Excellent, and Masters. And then they have the Handler Discrimination Division with also the same levels: Novice, Advanced, Excellent, and Masters, where the target scent is your handler scent. It could be your dirty sock that’s been in the laundry, or a cotton item that you scented with your hands. The first level there in Novice is your scented sock or glove that’s in a closed box. And then after that the higher levels are a scented Q-Tip or cotton ball that’s hidden in an interior, exterior, or a multi-element search area. So we’re starting to get some trials out there at the Advanced and Excellent levels, so it’s fun to see how that division is going to progress as time goes on. Then they have a Detective Division, which hasn’t been offered yet because there’s nobody yet that’s qualified to enter one of those. You have to actually have a Master title in one of the other divisions before you can enter a Detective Division. It’s an integrated search environment with unknown number of hides in a variety of elements, so you could be indoors with containers, or outside and buried with containers, and it’s multiple search areas up to ten hides, all four oil odors, and they want it to emulate as closely as possible to the work of a true detection dog. So that’s going to be a really exciting class, once people have trialed enough to get to that level.

Melissa Breau: That sounds awesome.

Julie Symons: Yeah, yeah. And like with most AKC sports, you’re required to get three qualifying scores in each element to earn a title. That’s different from what we’re typically familiar with with the Nosework Association, where you have to pass all four of the elements. You have to pass Vehicles, Containers, Interiors, and Exteriors in the same day, which adds an element of challenge, and you can’t have any errors to title. Whereas in AKC you might not do as well one day, but then you can get your next score the next day and title. So it’s just different. Some people think one’s easier or harder, and I’m just telling people they’re different. They’re just different programs that, to me, result in the same outcome, the same challenges and skills and work involved.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned a little bit in there kind of how it compares to the other venues. Is there more you want to say there? Are there more differences and similarities that are worth making sure people know about?

Julie Symons: Yeah, yeah. I think the skill level’s pretty comparable, and some of the other venues have game classes or specialty classes, like speed, a speed class, or a distance class, you can’t pass or cross a line, or some endurances where they’re going to have, like, ten hides in a small area. So a lot of venues out there can offer something for everybody. AKC is going to allow spectators, and that’s one item that’s different from other venues, where they keep things closely monitored where there’s less people. And in all venues you never have another dog out when you’re working your dog. So those are the differences that you really want to read up on the rules before you decide.

And a lot of the other not-as-known venues are starting to get more popular, some of the California-based, the sniffing dog sports, they’re starting to make their way out here. So there’s a lot of fun options so that you can trial more, because sometimes I’ve only trialed sometimes twice a year. And now it’s so exciting because there’s so many more venues out there that you can get out there and get more experience, and that’s just better for you and your dog.

If you’re already trialing, if you’ve already been trialing in nosework, you’re pretty much ready to go into the early levels of AKC. You pretty much have the skills, but you do want to practice the stronger odor, because AKC does two drops of oil on each Q-Tip, which is quite a lot of odor. It’s not too big of a problem, it’s just sometimes a little bit more pooling odor going on in these search areas, dogs picking it up off hide and alerting on the fringe, and so they might get a “no” because they’re not close enough. So you want to practice with a stronger odor, and you also want to practice buried hides.

Buried hides is unique of any venue that I’m familiar with, and in some ways it’s straightforward, the dogs generally have no issue. The first level it’s just buried two inches from the surface of a stand and a container. So you have six containers. But once you start getting to the advanced and higher levels, it’s deeper, then it’s in the ground, and I think it’s just a little different for the dogs, some different skills that you’re going to want to focus on specifically for buried hides.

And the other main difference with AKC is that they have intentional distractions that get pretty challenging at the higher levels. So you have your typical food and non-food distractors at the early levels, but once you get to Excellent and Masters, they’ll have auditory, visual, mimic, and human distractions, which has concerned a lot of people. A lot of sensitive dogs do this sport, and so if you want to trial in AKC, you definitely want to acclimate your dogs to that, introduce them to these types of things before you’re doing a nosework search.

So those are some of the things that are different and unique in AKC. And I haven’t heard, and we have an AKC judge form, people really are going to be fair. They’re not trying to scare dogs. The intentional distractors aren’t supposed to be meant to scare them. You’re not supposed to drop loud pans or slam doors or anything like that. But they’re going to have, like, a flashing light, or some toy that turns on when your dog gets close to it, or somebody clapping, things like that. Mimic is a statue or stuffed animal that looks like the real thing and might make dogs want to go check it out. So you can train for that stuff pretty easily.

And then I think one of the hardest things for some dogs would be having more people in the search area. So already your dog has to learn to work with the judge, and a couple of the other helpers are in the search area, but they usually stay off to the side. The human distractor can be actually right in the middle of your search area, sitting or standing. So, to me, that’s actually something that’s very doable to train early on with somebody that you know, and let the dogs get used to it. And by the time you’re at that level, if you’re trialing at the Master level, you’re not going to have an issue with that. And dogs, from what we find, once they get working, they get so focused on odor that they really all their worries go away. So those are some of the things you want to look out for, and I would make sure to read the rules very closely because it describes them in more detail.

Melissa Breau: That’s a good tip for any sport.

Julie Symons: I find actually that people don’t read the rules. And sometimes I feel bad that I didn’t tell somebody something in one of my classes, and I’m sure I do at times. Maybe they didn’t go to that class. But you have to take responsibility to read the rules, because you’ll find something. I mean, I’ll find something that I haven’t read the first time I read it. So that’s germane.

Melissa Breau: I want to switch a little bit from outcomes to training… what challenges are there when training a dog to search for handler scent, you kind of mentioned that, that may not be present when you’re teaching traditional odors?

Julie Symons: That’s a good question. First, it is just another odor. We can attack it that way and it’s true, this is another odor that we teach your dog. But it is different in that it does have its challenges, especially for savvy nosework dogs that have been in oil for a lot of years. We’ve seen a little bit of it being a little bit more difficult for them in certain situations. For example, there’s no aging handler scent, like with the oil odor. So oil hides, the nosework venues we’ve been at, they’re usually placed and they’re out there 30 minutes to hours, so the odor is going to disperse more and diffuse into the area. For handler scent you pretty much give it its last scent, you hand it over to the helper, they place it, and then you go in and run. So the scent’s going to have less diffuse in the area, handler scents is heavier, that’s going to fall down more than, like, a vapor odor oil will disperse in a room, and of course it depends on airflow. Any kind of airflow is going to travel in each scent. It’s going to be helpful to your dog that the scent’s going to travel into the space.

With my dogs and many teams that I’ve worked in, I find that the dogs have to get a lot closer to where the hide is for handler scents to really hone on that. So in this case I’m not talking about the novice level and boxes; I’ll get back to that. But if they hide Q-Tips or cotton balls in a search area, your dog really has to get close to it to find it. So what I’m finding is that I’m actually introducing a little bit more of direction with my handler scent and it’s actually helped a lot, and it gets my dog focused and more... not a  patterned search, but just getting them to search. For example, in Advanced Handler Discrimination, it’s an interior search, and no hide is higher than 12 inches. So I’m going to plant low. I’m going to be, like, have my dog search low, and they find it really easily. And I found when I have blind hides somebody has set up for me, I feel more liberated to point and direct. Whereas if I know where the hide is, we tend to not want to intervene at all and my dog finds it quicker, because I don’t know where it is and I’m just going to have my dog cover the area and then they usually find it. So that’s been very helpful in the difference with the handler scent.

Also another thing that’s interesting if you watch dogs search the traditional oil hides in a box, they just find it really easy. You put your scented glove in a box and the dogs just search differently. They have to go cover the boxes a few times, they just don’t hit on it as easily as oil. That oil odor, especially for AKC, is so strong, and your handler scented item is just not going to be as strong in a box, especially it’s not aged. So those are some of the differences and why I think the handler scent is a little bit harder to source for a dog, just because of the amount of odor that you have and the fact that it’s not aged.

Melissa Breau: What additional skills or things do people who have previously taught their dogs on oils need to consider when adding handler scent to their lineup? What do they really need to think about that might not have occurred to them?

Julie Symons: We actually found this when I taught my first Intro to Handler Scent. It was so fun because we were realizing these things, exactly what you just said, like, we were realizing, “Oh yeah, I didn’t think about this.” A couple of the things are, we were really worried about “How can I train in my house? My scent is everywhere.” We were really worried about that, but it ended up not being a problem at all because we actually teach our dogs to find our hottest scent. Just like we do with obedience and articles, you’re rubbing, you’re scenting, a hot item. All the other items have been lightly touched by somebody else, so it’s your hottest item. So it ends up not being a problem if you’ve touched stuff in your house, or touched a box that you moved around. It has not messed up any dogs because they’re looking for that hot cloud of odor, the highest gradient of odor. So that was kind of neat to realize we can train at home.

Melissa Breau: That’s awesome.

Julie Symons: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Also you can reuse boxes. In nosework it’s about boxes. You can put Q-tips in there, a hide in there, it’s always hot, because if an oil gets on cardboard, it’s there forever. Handler scent, I do keep my hot glove or sock separate, that’s always hot and I throw that in a jar. But for the boxes that I use, if I throw my glove in one of those boxes, once I’m done with that session I’ll just open up my boxes, air them out, some people put them outside on a nice day, let them air out, and you can reuse those. So I don’t have to make a box hot, and always hot, because we all have so many boxes, nobody wants to get any more boxes.

The other thing that’s really important is if you think about the trial situation, so if you’re searching for oil, containers with oil in it, the same container is out there for every dog. So by the time, if you’re at the last of the running order, these dogs, these boxes have saliva on it, they have probably food drops near the hot one, they’re pretty traveled, they’ve been traveled very heavily by the other dogs. In Handler Discrimination you have your unique box that’s pristine, so when the next dog comes in, they take another box that has your glove in it, and you leave with your box. So when you run and hopefully you find your hide, or not, you leave with your box. Your box is never used for another dog in the trials. So they’re pretty pristine when you’re trialing.

In training we were all using the same box just over and over and over, and it had saliva on it, and some food crumbs, and we realized when we went to a clean box, when we switched out to a new box, our dogs really had trouble. And we figured out that the dogs were alerting us the saliva they had left on the hot box, so what we’ve learned is you really, maybe even more so in the oil searches, is to rotate out a new box in your training sessions because you’re going to have a pristine box that doesn’t have any dog’s saliva on it when you go on there. So that was another neat thing that we found out.

Melissa Breau: Interesting. You mentioned your Intro to Handler Discrimination class. When is that up next?

Julie Symons: That is up in December. It opens Wednesday is the registration day and it starts December 1st.

Melissa Breau: Wednesday for us, and we’re talking now, for when this airs it will have happened already, but yeah, so registration will be open when they hear this.

Julie Symons: That’s right, that’s right. What else is different? You can make things different from your regular nosework training. You can have a different start on your routine. That’s really important, so we discuss that a lot in our classes. I decided I’m going to make my handler scent searches to be similar than my obedience article, where you’re rubbing your hands, because you’re scenting an article in obedience utility, and so I’m going to rub my hands because my advanced dog knows what that means, so that means I’m going to do a pivot and turn and send her. So my start routine for my advanced dog, I actually face away from the search area, I rub my hands like I’m scenting an article, I pivot, and I send her, and that just gets her into that frame of mind that it’s, because she turns around and she sees these twelve or ten ORT boxes that look like nosework that she’s done for five years. My young dog, I’m just facing it and rubbing my hands, and I might put my hand up to his nose and send him on his way. So that’s been important. I find having a different search routine when you’re starting to training your dog….

Melissa Breau: Interesting. That’s neat that you use your AKC obedience work to carry over. I wanted to ask if there’s anywhere that people really tend to struggle as they work through this stuff.

Julie Symons: I found that people have a hard time reading their dog at at source initially when we are starting to introduce it. Oil odor is so strong, you know the dog can’t help but notice it. I think they can build that association quicker with a strong odor. But it really is no different with our scent. You just have to have good timing. Your dog has to actually be sniffing and using her nose. Sometimes when you’re starting to get socks or gloves out there, a dog is like, “Oh I’m going to pick it up,” or they’re going to retrieve it, and they’re not sniffing. That’s one problem that they have. So we can work on some of that through the class. You’re not even waiting for an indication. The minute they take it out, you’re rewarding it, and then they’re going to start understanding that, “Hmm, the smell keeps giving me food.”

The other thing is dogs perch, and when you start putting things in containers, and especially we have had more obedience people coming into this area because it relates to them, “This sounds like something I’d be interested in, you know, it’s handler scent, I do this in obedience,” and those dogs have done a lot of platform and pivot work, so they see these containers and boxes and they perch on them. So that’s one of the problems that we deal with.

And tracking dogs. We had one of my students, it was a great, great experience to have her in the class, her dog saw these socks and started downing on them like scent articles. Not scent articles, tracking articles. So what we did was we immediately got them in a bowl, we took her bowls in her kitchen or whatever, and once we changed that picture to the dog, he started doing much better, because again, context is so important that for that dog it just said, “Oh, I always down on socks.” And that’s how we actually teach them article indication. We just lay out some item, and the dog’s supposed to go up to them and down on them. So we got creative with dealing with dogs that thought it was an article.

Melissa Breau: That’s really interesting.

Julie Symons: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was such a great, and it was so good to have her in class, because I think some of the bronze students really, really resonated with that because they were having the same issues. And then we have dogs that want to retrieve, and it’s not really a problem if they’re retrieving the right one. I mean, I’ve always heard even in nosework, dogs will retrieve a tip or the hide, and there’s nothing more clear when a dog retrieves the source but eventually, they’ll never be able to retrieve at a trial, especially handler scent because it’s either in a box or it’s pretty tucked away, it’ll be a Q-Tip or cotton ball that they’ll hide very well. So unless a dog’s not sniffing, and they’re just retrieving randomly, then we have to pick back up and build the value for that odor before we move on.

Melissa Breau: Since you mentioned that, I’m going to jump around with my questions a little bit here. What can students do to help their dog understand the different contexts? You mentioned the retrieve thing. What should students be doing to make sure their dogs understand, “OK, in this situation, in this type of trial, you’re doing this, in this type of trial you’re doing that”? I feel like that’s such a complex thing.

Julie Symons: I think when you get to the final picture, I think early on, when you’re training, they look very similar. How you teach scent articles is very similar to how you start teaching oil or you start teaching the cotton items with your scent on them. Once you start getting to a picture that looks more like the final picture, like a pile of scent articles, they’re going to know they’re going to retrieve it. And I do think the odor versus handler scent can look similar with the boxes, and that’s why the routine, your start routine, is really important, as well as a different search cue. I had to think long and hard if I wanted to really have a different search cue, and I decided to go ahead and do that. In obedience I do a “find it,” so I did a “find mine” in handler scent, and I’ve always done “search” in nosework, so that’s how I do it. Whether the dogs are really going to pick up on that verbal cue, I don’t know, but I’m going to be consistent with that because I do think in the long run that is going to make a difference.

And then gear is really important. I’ve had people think tracking dogs shouldn’t be doing nosework at the same time. And I get a little bit where one of them is more air scenting, one of them is more ground sniffing, but dogs recognize that flag out in the field versus “I’m in a classroom searching for,” or “I have twelve boxes out.” I think they know the difference between “I’m going to go check these objects” versus “I’m going to go run a track in the field.” So when you have handler scent now in the mix, I think it’s in our minds, we realize it’s just another odor, whether it’s birch, cypress, or handler scent, and we’ve taught our dogs that those odors will pay, then I think with time and some experience they’re just going to be searching for any of those odors, and when they find them, they’re going to all work. That’s how I’m approaching it.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned the start routine in there, and I did just want to quickly ask at what point in the training process do you start routinely using the same start system or process?

Julie Symons: I don’t start that right away. I will start using it when a dog’s doing some mini-searches. But of course the first couple of weeks you’re just building value for odor -- we’re just building value for odor -- so I would say maybe halfway, or by the end of a six-week class, you’re going to start putting a search cue, but as with anything, I’m not going to put a search cue to something until they’re actively searching. I think the rubbing of my hands, I did start that pretty early because I often would rub the item and then go put it, hide it, or something, and that was always a warm-up. So we would go place to hide, and then, when we were warming up, I would have another item on me, and I would warm up with my dog with another. You can do that, you could actually, at a trial you give your scented something to the steward, and at the start line you could actually warm up with another glove, and show it to your dog, and then have them search. So I think those things just are all going to be context that’s going to help your dog.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned earlier a little bit about the idea of pulling from your start routine for obedience into your scentwork stuff, and I want to talk a little bit more about how those two things compare. How does the new scentwork program compare to the classic handler scent discrimination task in obedience?

Julie Symons: Again, we mentioned that contextually they’re just very, very different. So when you are going to be in an obedience ring, your dog’s going to have done probably an exercise prior to the scent articles, they’re going to see a pile of articles. When you do obedience scent articles, you start off by facing the steward who’s jingling the bag and putting the articles down. So right there your dog is thinking scent article retrieve. You’ve also taught them that those articles are what you retrieve, so you’ve already gone further in that training process to complete that picture of the behavior that your dog is going to do. So in that case it’s a chain of behaviors. You’re going to be pivoting with your dog, sending your dog, they’re going to search for scent, they’re going to retrieve it, they’re going to do a front and finish, so it’s all these chains that you’ve already taught up to that point. And a good thing is a handler scent search looks so different from that. Like I said earlier, I’m more worried about a search area looking similar for oil odor or handler scent odor. That’s going to be probably more confusing, but between those two exercises, the obedience scent articles and handler scent, the dog’s going to know what they’re there for right off the bat.

Melissa Breau: Does it matter which one somebody trains first?

Julie Symons: No, I don’t think there is any order to that, and if I haven’t mentioned it already, a lot of teams that have come through my class that did obedience are thrilled with their, that have come through are saying their obedience scent articles are just better and better. And I think what we’re able to do is, we’re able to play a lot more games, and the handlers that work arena before were even worrying about retrieves or anything, and were able to build a little bit more value there. And I’m going to already, I already have with Drac, teaching him his scent articles differently than I did my previous dogs, rewarding at source, I’m doing these games, worrying about the retrieve later, but just getting them sniffing. A dog cannot search a pile unless they’re using their nose. So we’re going to teach them to use their nose, we’re going to teach them what odor is valuable. So I don’t see any problem with teaching those two at the same time.

Melissa Breau: Are there any concerns at all when training one or the other if you hope to compete in both sports? Is there carryover? Is there anything else that students should know if they’re going to do both?

Julie Symons: A lot of the ways we train carry over to each other. I think in that way a lot of the same games and exercises that I do are going to carry over. So I found that when I started doing nosework, it helped my tracking dog. It upped her article indication. She started downing an article and holding her nose to the article because of nosework, because I taught her that reward comes from staying at source, whether the source is an article on a track, or it’s oil, or now if it’s handler scent. And they all really just complement each other. One thing that I just love is I love this new sport, I love this new division, Handler Discrimination, because it gives us another thing to learn about our scenting dogs, and learn about scent and our scenting dogs, and I just think, I think they all complement each other. Now I wouldn’t start maybe them on the exact same day, but they can overlap in whatever timeframe, I think, that you have. I have not seen any problems with that.

Melissa Breau: That’s certainly reassuring to hear.

Julie Symons: That question comes up all the time. You’ll see it. It’s one of those questions that just resurface. People are really worried about it. And now maybe some dogs it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I mean, you have to know your dog, and you have to know your skills, and you just have to make that decision for yourself, for the most part. But I’m here to say context is playing a large hand here, and as a handler I learn more about scent and scenting dogs by participating in these multiple scent areas because of that. So once you do one, you’re just going to be more skilled and be more ready for the other one.

Melissa Breau: To round things out, if someone hasn’t taught any handler scent yet, where should they start? What does that process look like?

Julie Symons: As we mentioned earlier, if people can sign up for this Intro to Handler Scent course, that would be great, and it’s on December 1st. But what you would do, if you’ve done nosework already, then you start the same way. We use a game called It’s Your Choice. I’m not going to hold these scent articles in my hands because my hand actually has the scent, but I get the item on the ground, I just put one item that’s heavily scented, the dog checks it out, I mark quickly and reward, I get quickly to two and three gloves, two cold one hot, and move them around in the shell game, and then I get again quickly, I get some more items. Sometimes people get stuck at a few items, and I think dogs do better with more choices. They’re going to start using their nose more. So I get up to four to five items, socks or gloves, and what I do is I heavily scent it between reps, I do a cookie toss to reset, and then I just move the hot glove and repeat. So you want to get a high rate of reinforcement in a short period of time. So they find a scent in a short period of time, they’re going to hopefully find it, like, twenty times, and you’re going to give them a lot of reward for that. So that’s very similar to how we teach a nosework scent oil, and the same way that we start out scent articles for obedience. We get these metal canning lids, or I actually use some leather strips that I have, and it’s the same way I start that. So if you’ve had some experience at either of those sports, all you’ve got to do is just go get some cotton gloves, some cotton socks, and play around with the same way you’ve taught your other scentwork.

Melissa Breau: Well, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast, Julie!

Julie Symons: It was great. I love talking about this. I enjoy teaching it, and I enjoy competing and training in it.

Melissa Breau: I think that comes through. And thanks to our listeners for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with Nancy Gagliardi Little to talk about start line stays.

Don’t miss it! If you haven’t already, subscribe to our podcast in itunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available.

CREDITS:

Today’s show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called “Buddy.” Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

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