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Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast

For the last 2 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 other Friday, so stay tuned--and happy training!
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Now displaying: June, 2017

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Jun 30, 2017

Summary:

 

Sara Brueske has been training dogs for over 15 years; she became a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in 2011 and jumped into the world of professional dog training.

Sara and her dogs work at Purina Farms in Missouri where they demonstrate the sports of disc, agility, and dock diving for the public in over 400 shows each year.

She and her dogs also compete nationwide. Currently, she is active in the sports of disc dog, agility, mondioring and dock diving -- plus, she’s a trick dog enthusiast.

Sara has recently re-entered the world of competitive Disc Dog and is the 2016 overall UpDog International Champion as well as the 2017 UpDog Freestyle Champion.

Sara believes in positive reinforcement not only for dogs, but for their handlers as well.  Her biggest joy in training is watching a handler and dog become partners and grow as a team.

Links mentioned:

Next Episode: 

To be released 7/7/2017, featuring Laura Waudby.

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 Sara Brueske.

Sara Brueske has been training dogs for over 15 years; she became a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in 2011 and jumped into the world of professional dog training.

Sara and her dogs work at Purina Farms in Missouri where they demonstrate the sports of disc, agility, and dock diving for the public in over 400 shows each year.

She and her dogs also compete nationwide. Currently, she is active in the sports of disc dog, agility, mondioring and dock diving -- plus, she’s a trick dog enthusiast.

Sara has recently re-entered the world of competitive Disc Dog and is the 2016 overall UpDog International Champion as well as the 2017 UpDog Freestyle Champion.

Sara believes in positive reinforcement not only for dogs, but for their handlers as well.  Her biggest joy in training is watching a handler and dog become partners and grow as a team.

Hi Sara! Welcome to the podcast.

Sara Brueske: Hi Melissa, thank you for having me!

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. I’m excited to chat a little bit.  

Sara Brueske: Definitely.

Melissa Breau: So, to start us out, can you tell us a bit about your dogs and what you’re working on with them?

Sara Brueske: I have a whole bunch of dogs. My job kinda dictates that i have more dogs than the average owner. I have 14 current in my household. So all 14 of them are either in training or participate in my job, which is doing shows at Purina Farms. I compete with a handful of them outside of that job as well. So it depends on the dog, what I’m working on with them. My main sports that i do with all of my dogs is agility, disc, and dock diving. And my malinois i compete and train in mondioring as well.  

Melissa Breau: Do you want to give us a little bit of an idea of who you have in the household? I know you’ve got a mix of breeds and all sorts of stuff.

Sara Brueske: Yeah, Sure! I’ll do the run down. I have a whole bunch - I really like variety. I have 3 australian koolies, which is a little bit of a rare herding breed here in the United States. I imported 2 of them from Australia and I had my very first litter this year, so I have their daughter, too. She’s about 11 weeks old now. And then I have 2 border collies, both of them are rescues. I have a border staffy, who is a rescue as well, and a whippet -- a rescue actually from the same house as the border staffy. I have 4 malinois, one of those is actually a permanent foster through the malinois ranch rescue in Tennessee. And I have a boston terrier mix, a papillion, and a labrador.

Melissa Breau: Wow, some of those I actually hadn’t seen pictures of before; it’s definitely a household, huh?

Sara Brueske: It’s a full household, they’re all very very active dogs other than the elderly foster; she’s a little bit slow these days, but…

Melissa Breau: How did you get started with all of this? Obviously, where you are today -- it probably took a little while to get there, but how did you first get started in dog sports?

Sara Brueske: I was actually 11 years old when I begged my parents to let me buy my very first sport dog. I wanted a border collie and i wanted to compete in agility and that was because I watched the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge on TV. So I saved up all my money, and I found a border collie in a newspaper, which is the worst place to get a dog, and we went out and i bought my border collie. And so then I did my backyard training -- we had stick-in-the-ground weave poles made out of PVC, my tunnel was actually a construction drainage pipe that my dad found and gave me, and that’s how I trained all my agility and I started competing as a junior handler. He actually got injured, and so I had to stop training him in sports and that’s when I figured out about trick training. When he was 7 years old, he knew about 50 different tricks.

Melissa Breau: wow.

Sara Brueske: So like, high five and wave and spin, and other ones were throwing away my empty soda cans, and turning off the light because by then i was a lazy teenager.

Melissa Breau: That’s awesome. So I think that just goes to prove that anybody… people don’t have an excuse if you could do it in your backyard with sticks and PVC pipe…

Sara Brueske: Exactly! And I think my parents always were hoping that I’d outgrow this, go to school and maybe be a veterinarian, but here I am, with 14 dogs and training is my career.

Melissa Breau: So agility is generally thought of as pretty positive -- same with trick dog training. Have you always been a positive trainer?

Sara Brueske: I actually wasn’t -- I was kind of what you’d consider a balanced trainer back then. All my agility training and trick training, that was all done with clickers, so I had read up on clickers and learned how to do that, kind of a self-study, but my parents were very much punishment based and they should be dogs and they should behave as dogs. And so that’s kind of the background I have with that. I didn’t have any formal dog training, so it’s a mish-mash of everything you can imagine… and I actually was that way until I had a great dane and he was not the most balanced - mentally - dog, he was a little bit reactive and he was a big dog, and everyone told me I had to show him who’s boss, and everything else and alpha roll him, and come-to-jesus moments and all that. Well, the dog out weighed me and it wasn’t working. So that was when I switched and I became a positive-only trainer. That helped him tremendously.

Melissa Breau: And I know that now you’ve done the Karen Pryor Academy, and everything else -- it sounds like that was kind of your pivot moment there… but it sounds like then you went that next step with it, right?

Sara Brueske: Absolutely. So when i had that great dane i also actually on the path to becoming a professional dog trainer. I was looking for ways to enhance my education, looking for places to teach group classes, and that’s where the Karen Pryor Academy came into place - it was a formal education that I could put on my resume and show people that I was serious about becoming a dog trainer.

Melissa Breau: So, I think most dog trainers -- at least professional dog trainers -- would say their dogs are both their life and their work, right? Because of the nature of what you do at Purina, it seems like it takes that to a whole other level. Do you want to just talk for a few minutes about what you do a Purina and what that’s like?

Sara Brueske: Sure. So my job at Purina is to promote pet ownership and Purina believes that your life is really enhanced by owning a pet, so my job at Purina, at Purina Farms is to talk to the public, promote pet ownership by putting on shows every single day. So my shows are three times a day, 6 days a week. And I bring my dogs with me to work everyday and we show them what you can do with rescue dogs, what you can do with your dog at home, which is really why i like to have a variety of dogs. So my goal at Purina is to hear the audience go, “We should go home and train Sparky to do that.” That’s my favorite thing ever to hear. It means they’re going to go home and play with their dog -- and that’s huge to me. And so, because we do so many shows a day I actually bring between 11 and 13 dogs with me every single day to work. And that means my dogs are with me from the time I wake up, I feed them, we get ready, we all go to work - I work with them all day long, I come home, I unload them, I feed them, and they’re with me all evening. My dogs are literally with me 24/7.

Melissa Breau: When do you find time to train, if you’re working with them so much?

Sara Brueske: To train? So that’s my job at Purina, is to train them -- between the shows that’s the time that I have to train my dogs and work them and make sure they’re getting what they get.

Melissa Breau: Wow - that’s a very full day.

Sara Brueske: It’s a very, very full day - yes.

Melissa Breau: You’re basically relying on your dogs for your livelihood; I’m sure that’s had a lot of impact -- and like you said, you’re with them 24/7 -- on the actual relationship that you have with them. Do you want to just talk for a minute about how you think that’s impacted things for you?

Sara Brueske: Sure. It’s really… you hear a lot of the time people in my line of profession looking at their dogs like they’re just part of their paycheck. They have their job - they’re tools of the trade. That’s very much NOT how I view them. The reason why i have so many dogs is that i don’t want my dogs to be burnt out; I don’t want my dogs to hate their job. I want my dogs to have fun, just as much fun as I have working with them. You can’t do this job and have that many shows to perform in and only have 6 dogs… you’ll end up ruining your relationship with your dog. You’ll end up hurting your dog. And really their well-being in the long run is the most important part. That’s what I care about the most and that’s why i have so many dogs. But, I mean, it is what it is. My dogs pour their heart out for me every single day. And I appreciate that so much. But they also really love what we’re doing. So I have dogs that love frisbee, i have dogs that love dock diving, I have dogs that love working with me, and that’s a big part of it as well.

Melissa Breau: I know you mentioned you typically bring up to 13 of the dogs with you each day… how many tend to compete in any given show?

Sara Brueske: So we run 5-6 dog shows. And I rotate through those. So I don’t like my dogs to do more than 3 shows a day, and I actually rotate days. So for instance, yesterday it was Zip Tie, Nowie and Taboo and Zuma’s day to work. I rotated through those dogs for the show, the other trainer covered the rest of the dogs in the show. And then tomorrow, since today was my day off, I’ll have 4 different dogs that I’ll put in the show again.  

Melissa Breau: It’s so interesting, just kind of juggling all of it, and managing schedules.

Sara Brueske: Yeah, we count a lot of shows. We tally it all up and make sure everybody’s not working too much all the time, and it’s helpful having other trainers there because we each pull equal weight on any given day.

Melissa Breau: So I want to switch gears and talk a little more specifically about disc -- I know that’s kind of what you teach at FDSA. I think, like you were talking about having watched agility on TV, I think a lot of people have seen some of the cool tricks disc dogs can do and I think that some people probably look at it and go, “my dog couldn’t do that.” So, I was curious what skills a dog actually needs to be able to learn some of those disc tricks.

Sara Brueske: Sure. So freestyle is what you always see on TV and in the incredible dog challenge and really, in reality, that’s just a tiny little aspect of the frisbee dog community and the competitions. It’s actually not even the most competitive, you could argue. There’s a ton of different games you can play with your dog in each competition, in each venue. Just like there’s AKC agility, NADAC agility, USDAA and they all have different rules and different games, the same thing applies to disc dog. So your tradition frisbee dog competition will have freestyle and a toss-and-catch competition. And the toss-and-catch competition is just like it sounds -- it’s a game of fetch, a timed game of fetch where you get extra points for distance and accuracy, so you want to throw in a certain zone, and how many throws you can get off in a minute or the 90 seconds that you have. So really, to compete in toss and catch at the novice level all you have to do is have a dog that loves to play fetch. I mean, whose dog doesn’t really like to go out there in the backyard and catch a frisbee, right? So that’s pretty applicable to any dog. Oh so you also have your handler, who has to be able to throw… but lucky in like the novice competition you just have to throw 20 yards, which isn’t very far. Then there’s other venues, such as UpDog, which is my preferred venue, it’s just come out in the last 3 years or so. And they really cater to new disc players -- they do something that’s called a roller, which is you throw the disc on it’s edge on the ground and it rolls and the dog has to grab that. So you don’t even have to be able to throw a frisbee to be able to compete in novice. And they have a bunch of strategy games, each kind of tailoring to each dog’s individual strength and each handler’s individual strength. So that’s kind of cool; they’re really starting to incorporate the idea that anybody can play frisbee with their dog, which is really interesting.

Melissa Breau: So, in your classes at the academy, what are some of the common things or tricks that you wind up teaching?

Sara Brueske: So all the tricks that we wind up teaching in the academy classes, the tricks themselves, are for freestyle. There are some that apply to the other games, such as the flatwork and stuff like that -- and that’s just moving your dog around the field and connecting with your dog. That’s where I really like to lay my emphasis with my classes, it comes from my agility roots - it’s a lot like handing in agility. But the tricks themselves, for freestyle, we teach a whole bunch of different things. We do dog catches - which is where you literally catch your dog, with or without a disc. We do rebounds, which is where… it’s kind of like a flyball box turn, but on your body, so the dog hits you and then jumps off. And then leg weaves, which is really good for any sport because it’s a nice warm up, and then we also teach things like stalls, where they actually jump up onto a part of your body, and hang out there for a while.

Melissa Breau: That’s kind of neat.

Sara Brueske: Yes, it’s very exciting.

Melissa Breau: So If somebody’s trying to decide if they should take the class, are their any skills they need or their dog needs to start to do some of those tricks?

Sara Brueske: We teach all those tricks actually with food, first. So if your dog has food drive, then you’re pretty much golden for it. You can actually wind up taking the class and teaching those tricks for food and not ever touching a frisbee if you want to. But ideally, if you want the whole frisbee aspect of the class then your dog should have some sort of toy drive or disc drive, because I don’t hit on that a whole lot in the classes. There are plenty of other Fenzi classes that build on toy drive, and I want to make sure that mine focuses just on the frisbee aspect of it.

Melissa Breau: If someone was just interested in getting started, what’s that first step -- where should they start out?

Sara Brueske: The first step, which is what i always recommend to anyone looking at any sport, find a local club, find some local help that can give you hands on help because that hands on help is going to be priceless. And hopefully there’s somebody there that’s actively competing, and who has gone to the world’s level to help you out. That’s where I would start. There are a whole bunch of places on facebook that you can look - disc dog discussions is a group that you can check out and they have a whole bunch of different clubs that participate in that discussion group, so you can always post where you are and somebody will chime in to give you some contact information. After that, the online class at Fenzi is a pretty good one for foundation, and there are other online classes as well for disc dog foundations currently.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. And kind of the way that we end every episode -- our big three questions -- what’s the dog-related accomplishment you’re proudest of?

Sara Brueske: So I thought long and hard about this question. I have a whole lot of accomplishments that I’m very, very proud of. But the reality of that is that I get to experience something that a lot of people don’t get to experience -- forming a new relationship with a whole bunch of different dogs. So in the last 4 years I’ve had 14 different dogs plus many fosters and dogs I’ve raised come through my house. And all of those dogs I’ve started in training and formed relationships with. My most favorite accomplishment i’ve ever had is with each of those dogs is when that dog really kind of has that light bulb moment and goes, “I really do enjoy working with you. This is fun, this is a game!” That’s what I’m most proud of.

Melissa Breau: That’s definitely like that golden moment, that everybody is looking for, right? To form a relationship.

Sara Brueske: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Melissa Breau: So, what’s the best piece of training advice you’ve ever heard?

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 like teaching all those other things I teach.

Melissa Breau: I think that’s really interesting, because you mentioned it specifically in relation to Mondioring, which is not a sport people look at usually and go, “oh it’s just tricks!”

Sara Brueske: No they definitely don’t.

Melissa Breau: And then finally, who is someone else in the dog world that you look up to?

Sara Brueske: So Sylvia Turkman. And the reason for that is that when i first started my dog training career she was the one i went to for online classes, i watched all the DVDs, and it was her upbeat attitude and her relationship with her dogs that really inspired me to be that kind of trainer. I wanted [my students] to be happy - i wanted to think that they’re still going to come out the other side and they’re still going to enjoy their dog and they’re sitll going to be having fun.
Melissa Breau: Thanks so much for coming on the podcast Sara -- and thanks to our listeners for tuning in!

This week have a special treat -- FDSA's own Hannah Branigan Also runs a podcast, called Drinking from the Toilet - and today we’re sharing an excerpt from her most popular episode, “What to do when you get stuck.” Enjoy!

Hannah Branigan: Hey there - you’re listening to Drinking from the Toilet and I’m Hannah Branigan. Today we’re going to talk about what you can do when you get stuck.

Why are we even talking about this? Well mostly because I was sitting here trying to think what topic i should make my next podcast be about, and I got stuck. I couldn’t think of anything to talk about. So I kind of sat here, I looked at a few things on the internet, facebook, took a few pictures of my dog with my phone, and pondered on how many other places in my life I feel stuck, maybe feel like a failure. And at least one of those places in my life where i feel stuck is when I’m training a dog. So I thought, well, let’s do a podcast about getting stuck when you’re training because I think that’s a fairly ubiquitous experience. There’s probably people out there that sometimes get stuck when they’re trying to train a behavior. And so in my previous life, when I would run into a problem, it really was almost a pattern, really… so I’m working on training a behavior or maybe untraining a behavior problem and I would get so far; I would make a certain amount of progress and then I would get stuck and i would revert to punishment. Maybe intentionally, as a training choice, or unintentionally as an emotional expression of frustration. But either way I would often fall back on these old habits -- after feeling like I was running out of choices. And so as my journey continues, i continue to improve my understanding of behavior, i have a better picture of the behaviors I’m trying to train. My knowledge in that area increases and I think clarity in your goal of your behavior is always helpful. And I learned more and my skill set improved. I had better tools for manipulating behavior and for manipulating contingencies, particularly those using reinforcement. Better understanding of how reinforcement works --  both in general, in concept and in theory, and then also in practical application. And so overtime, i can get a lot further before i would resort to that old habit.

So eventually, maybe about 10 years ago at this point, I made a conscious decision to just take punishment totally off the table. So aversives are no longer an option for my training. So I still have frustration attacks occasionally - I am human - but i do try to recognize them for what they are. They’re just emotional expressions, they have nothing to do with training the dog and i don’t have any expectation that they’re going to change either of our behaviors for the better in the long run. But I still have a lot of situations where I still get stuck. And now there’s a vacuum. I’ll still get training to the same point -- a little further each time because I’m learning more -- but when I get stuck, there’s a place where I would punish or I would use an aversive in some way, which may or may not solve the problem because we know that simply bringing in punishment is no guarantee of getting the results that we want.

And so now I’ll get about 80% of the way there -- I’ll get about 80% of the behavior trained that I want -- and then I’m stuck. And simply not punishing doesn’t give me any information about what i should do instead to continue making forward progress. I end up with a kind of vacuum.

So sometimes I quit. I don’t have all the answers. And I know that’s disappointing to hear, because frankly it disappoints no one more than i disappoint myself when i don’t know the answer to a problem, when i don’t know the solution…. Well, maybe my father. He has pretty high standards so he might be more disappointed but I learned it from somewhere. And I’m willing to bet that you get frustrated sometimes too. And your stuckness may not manifest in quite the same way that mine does, maybe instead of frustration, anger, and potentially aggression you turn to other defensive strategies. Maybe like rationalization. Sometimes I find myself thinking thoughts like, “Maybe my dog just doesn’t like to do obedience. Maybe my dog actually can’t do this -- it’s not possible. You know, maybe he has a health problem! Maybe it’s his thyroid -- he could have a thyroid, he could have low thyroid! So if my training plan didn’t pay out the way that I expected it to, clearly the problem is caused by his thyroid and no protocol would have worked. He needs medication! This dog needs pills to fix this problem, and it has to be just the right medication, and it might take weeks or even months, or years, to find what that medication could be and so none of this is actually a training problem, it’s not in my control. It’s not me, it’s the dog, right?”

Okay. Now, to be clear, I’m not trivializing endocrine disorders in any way. They’re very real and certainly having a health problem does throw a wrench into the works and can add contingencies beyond those that we can realistically control within the context of a training session. So if you’re worried or suspicious that your dog has a physical or medical problem, it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet. Get that physical problem ruled out. Make sure your dog is healthy and sound. I know I certainly have no problem paying my vet $100 -- sometimes maybe more -- to be told I’m crazy and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my dog. But just to be clear again, every now and then I’m actually right. And so I have that long interval of random reinforcement effect that maintains my behavior on dog after dog, year after year.

Anyways, okay. Let’s assume that we’ve ruled out any physical issue. What can we do when we get stuck trying to train something? So it is a training problem, we’re stuck with the training, we need to change something about the training to get past this obstacle. Ok. So here’s a pretty common scenario. You’re trying to train some behavior. Maybe you’re following a training plan or a recipe that you found on the internet -- or you saw on youtube, or maybe you’ve just been to a seminar and this is now Monday morning and you’re trying to apply the technique you learned at that seminar to your training in real life and now the powerpoint slides aren’t there and the presenter isn’t there, and so you’re on your own. And so maybe you get through the first couple of steps --  you’re shaping and things seem to be going ok. You think you’re doing it right; you think you’re doing it the same way as you learned in that seminar. And then all of a sudden you hit a plateau. And the dog keeps doing the same version of the behavior over and over again without progressing to the next step. So maybe you’ve made it through steps 1 and 2, and step 3 - instead of performing step 3 a couple of times and then moving on to step 4 your dog keeps doing step 3 over and over and over again. You can’t see why you’re not able to make the leap to that next step.

This is a common problem that I run into with different behaviors with different dogs and certainly see it in my own students periodically. Maybe you’re trying to teach your dog to retrieve an object and your shaping plan is I’m going to start by clicking when the dog looks at the object and then click him for sniffing it and then I’ll click him for touching it with his nose or targeting it. And then the next thing I’ll click is for him to open his mouth and bite the object… but instead of biting the object he just keeps touching it with his nose over and over again and he never opens his mouth. What do I do then?

Another common place where we’ll run into this situation would be adding duration or distance to an existing behavior. So you can get the dog to hold the sit for 8 seconds -- as soon as you reach for 9 seconds the behavior falls apart. Or you can get your dog to respond to a cue -- maybe he’ll lay down if you give him the cue at 6 feet but one more step back and the behavior disappears or starts to degrade. And it’s really frustrating - and then it’s easy to think this isn’t working, something’s wrong with this technique, this method is ineffective, or we can continue to spiral down and think about what might be wrong with the dog, and then the world in general.

And so obviously continuing to repeat the thing that’s not working isn’t the right choice; that brings to mind that quote that I know i’ve seen lots of different places… I often see it attributed to Einstein but I don’t know if that’s true or if it’s just internet-true. So, to paraphrase, the idea that repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. So, I may still be crazy, but this totally applies here.

Even if we just look at the A-B-C operant contingency, repeating that same A-B-C … the same Antecedent or A, the same Behavior or B, and the same Consequence - “C” - then yes, we’re probably going to continue to get the same result. So, we need to change something. I like thinking about it this way because it gives me three solid categories of things to look at -- and three is my favorite number, also it’s a prime number so a lot of things to recommend it. Three categories is a very achievable way to start putting stuff in buckets and structure our thinking.

So let’s start with A -- antecedent. So the Antecedent, this is the cue. It’s what’s inducing or causing the behavior, what’s associated with the behavior. And when we’re thinking about this in terms of cues from us -- so I say sit and the dog sits --  well that’s easy to recognize and understand. In active training, when we’re learning, the antecedent really is much bigger than that. It’s a bigger idea; it’s more than just the cue you’re deliberately giving, but it’s that whole picture, all of the stimulus and all the pieces of the picture. So it’s the whole set up that the dog is associating with a particular behavior. It’s your body, your body position, where you’re situated in space, your dog’s position, any props that you might be using, if you’re using a platform or a target or if you’re using an object in the case of that retrieve. And it’s the environment in general -- where the dog is, where you’re training, all of the sounds, smells, feels, tastes maybe, all of those things are in that big stimulus picture and that whole picture functions as the cue when the dog is learning the behavior.  

Melissa Breau: Thanks to Hannah for letting us share that with you -- I hope you’ll consider subscribing to both our podcast and hers if you haven’t already, in itunes or the podcast app of your choice. We’ll be back next week, this time with Laura Waudby to talk Fenzi TEAM training and training service dogs.

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!

Jun 23, 2017

SHOW NOTES: 

Summary:

Amanda Nelson has been traveling the country and teaching seminars for 20+ years teaching all levels of agility, with nearly all dog breeds. She focuses on teaching teamwork and how to create a strong connection between dog and handler.

She works with all styles of handling, from running with your dog to distance handling, and tailors each training session, large or small, to the dog and handler. She’s always looking to help bring out the best in each team.

Amanda’s handling system, “Cues for Q’s” works off her three base cues: Upper Body Cues, Lower Body Cues, and Verbal Cues. This system was derived from the natural cues that most dogs read and pick up quickly. Amanda teaches handlers how to use all of these cues, together, to create a customized handling system that can be tailored to their unique dog. All of these techniques have resulted in Amanda earning numerous top agility titles with her own dogs.

Links mentioned:

Next Episode: 

To be released 6/30/2017, featuring Sara Brueske.

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 Amanda Nelson. Amanda has been traveling the country and teaching seminars for 20 plus years teaching all levels of agility with nearly all dog breeds. She focuses on teaching teamwork and how to create a strong connection between the dog and the handler. She works with all styles of handling from running with your dog to distance handling and tailors each training session, large or small, to the dog and the handler. She’s always looking to help bring out the best in each team.

Amanda’s handling system, Cues for Q’s, works off her three base cues, upper body cues, lower body cues, and verbal cues. This system was derived from the natural cues that most dogs read and pick up quickly. Amanda teaches handlers how to use all of these cues together to create a customized handling system that can be tailored to their unique dog. All these techniques have resulted in Amanda earning numerous top agility titles with her own dogs. Hi, Amanda, welcome to the podcast.

Amanda Nelson: Thank you for having me. This is great.

Melissa Breau: I’m excited to chat. I’m not an agility person, so it’ll be fun to learn a little bit more about the sport and hopefully learn some things that I didn’t know before.

Amanda Nelson: Yeah.

Melissa Breau: So to start us out, do you want to just give us a little bit information about your dogs and what you’re working on with them?

Amanda Nelson: Yeah. So, in the house I actually have three dogs, but one of them belongs to my boyfriend, who’s Trip. I obviously work with him in a lot of stuff, but Jimmy runs him and competes with him and all that, so he’s in my house but he’s technically not my dog.

I have Nargles who is 8 years old, and everybody always asks me what her name is and it’s from Harry Potter because I’m a huge nerd like that, so Nargles is 8, and this season I’m working towards doing conditioning with her and getting her prepped to go to the NADAC Championships in Ohio in October, so that’s my focus with her this year. Then I’m also working towards earning her Platinum Speed title, which is a NADAC title that consists of...it’s a certain number of runs that all have to be extremely fast. In NADAC there’s DRI which is the dog’s run index, and you earn so many DRI points kind of for how fast your dog goes and a Platinum Speed Star, an award, that focuses on how fast your dog is. So I’m working on running that with her this year as well as taking her to the NADAC Championships.

And then Allons-y, again, I’m a bit of a nerd, so Allons-y is from Dr. Who, that’s where her name comes from, I call her Ally for short. She’s 4 years old this year, and her main goal and my main goal I guess with her is prepping her for the NADAC Championships, so that’ll be her first year competing in that, but I want to take her...and I’m not focused on winning as much as I’m just really wanting to go and experience the atmosphere of it and have a good time. So, I’m doing a lot of prep work with her and bigger agility trials, and let her get used to atmosphere of all the dogs and all the people and all that sort of stuff, and then just working on her skills that she’ll need for the championships themselves.

Melissa Breau: Now, are they Border Collies? Are they Shelties?

Amanda Nelson: Yes. All three are all Border Collies, yes.

Melissa Breau: Okay, Border Collie household, for sure, huh?

Amanda Nelson: That’s right, yes.

Melissa Breau: So how did you get started in dog sports? What was kind of the beginning for you?

Amanda Nelson: I’ve actually been involved in dog stuff and dog sports since I was extremely young. I actually did obedience with my Cocker Spaniel when I was I think maybe like 4 or 5 years old. My mom was very much into obedience at that time and then she later was very much into agility, so I kind of grew up with it. So I started, like I said, with my Cocker in obedience and then agility kind of really started taking off and it was a lot of fun. So I had a corgi also, named Sunny, and I started with her in agility. We did USDA. I competed in the European Nationals many times with her. I think I started doing agility when I was like 6 or 7. I don’t remember a lot of it, but there’s pictures to prove it, so I can only remember bits and pieces every now and then.

Melissa Breau: So you definitely grew up in this world, so to speak.

Amanda Nelson: That is right. That is right.

Melissa Breau: What kind of Cocker was it, an English Cocker, American Cocker?

Amanda Nelson: American Cocker.

Melissa Breau: Okay, okay. My grandmother breeds English Cockers so I’ve always kind of followed Cocker Spaniels. They have a special spot in my heart, so...

Amanda Nelson: Oh, that’s very cool, very cool.

Melissa Breau: So, starting off in obedience a while ago, have you always been a positive trainer? If not, kind of what got you started down that path?

Amanda Nelson: So at heart I know I’ve always been a positive trainer. I’m pretty sure I took some detours now and then, you know, as I learned. I try to surround myself with people who are also positive trainers, but I would have to say that I really...you know, because I started so young you kind of just do as everybody else is doing sort of thing, but I really wanted to start training my own dog.

I had a Border Collie before Try and he was 10 and I did agility with her, but I don’t remember really training her, if that make sense because I was young. Try was my first dog that I really...I had her from when she was a puppy and she was really, you know, I trained her I guess - as odd as that sounds. Honestly, my mom helped a lot with my dogs when I was younger, so Try I felt like was my first, I’m going to train her, train her, you know?

And so, I just went in to want to read all these books and I had this cute little angel puppy and she was...she really, really loved clickers and shaping, and I really started getting into it because she loved it so much that she had thought that that was the coolest thing in the whole wide world, so then that really shoved me into the positive world and I just wanted to immerse myself in everything. And so, any book I could get my hands on, YouTube videos, anything I could do to learn more for her I guess, and really I wanted her to be so happy, and then that kind of...I started bringing it into agility, you know?

She didn’t really at that point in time, the way I was teaching the weave poles, like it didn’t work for her, like she didn’t get it, and I’m like, well, I don’t understand why we’re not getting it. So, I started doing all this shaping with the weave poles and then all this targeting and stuff like that and I’m like, oh, my gosh, she really likes this. So I started, you know, what else could I do in agility that I could shape, and that really opened a lot of doors and it also opened my eyes to...then also like a lot of the business work that I do, shaping is a huge part of it now because it really brings it into the dog’s realm that they can...they’re learning.

You know, it’s not just kind of a forced thing, and I don’t say that in a negative way like I’m dragging the dogs out there forcing them, but more of the dogs are making their choice. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but they’re making that choice. They’re being shaped and going, okay, I’m going to go out here and do this and my, you know, Amanda really likes that so I get a click, you know that sort of thing, and she really, really opened the door for that.

She was the kind of dog that any sort of correction, even just me kind of going, oh, you know, and I can’t help it sometimes, you know, something would happen and I go, oh. She would really take it to heart, so I really learned that she liked all that positive, and it really changed the way I looked at things and the way the dogs look at how I could teach something.

Melissa Breau: As someone who hasn’t really done much in the agility world, I definitely did a little bit of research before we had got on the call and it seemed like you can be pretty heavily in NADAC? Did I pronounce that right?

Amanda Nelson: Yes, you did.

Melissa Breau: So, would you mind talking a little bit about how that differs from some of the other agility organizations out there and maybe why it appeals to you so much?

Amanda Nelson: So a lot of focus within NADAC is it’s floating courses that test the dog’s ability to collect and extend. So for example, it might be a really kind of open wide sequence that then comes into a really tight serpentine or pinwheel and it goes back into this really fast extended sequence. So NADAC really focuses on testing the dog’s ability to really extend, really stride out, and then collect in for this nice tight sequence, and then really extend out again, and it tests the handler’s ability to read those sequences, to read, okay, I need my dog to really extend and go fast through this loop here and then run in to collect, collect, collect, and do this really technical sequence here, and now I want them to extend again.

So I like the variety as far as, you know, there’s definitely dog tests I guess on the course as far as testing the dog’s ability to do that kind of collection/extension, and then it tests the handler’s ability to know the dog, know what the dog needs, and to read those sequences.

NADAC also has some focus in distance handling and they have awards aimed at the distance handling, and that’s something that I’ve done for a long time and I really...again with Try, she loved doing that distance work, so NADAC also was a big part of that and I could do a lot of that big distance stuff that she really liked and we liked doing it together as a team.

So, I like the variety with NADAC, but I can go out and I can run right with my dog and be with her and do that sort of thing, and then the next course I look at and go, oh, I’m going to try a distance on this one and I can now work on distance skills all at the same trial, so I really like that variety within NADAC, but I can do different things with my dog whether it’s distance or running with them and looking at the course for those collection/extension sequences and all that sort of fun stuff.

Melissa Breau: Just having watched some distance handling type stuff, it’s just so cool when you see somebody who, you know, they can send the dog out and they have good control and the dog’s doing the things in the right order and you have that distance, it’s just really an impressive skill to watch, it’s really pretty to watch.

And I know that one of your specialties at FDSA is teaching distance, so I wanted to ask a little bit about the kind of skills that a team needs, I guess partly as a team, right, but also just like what skills the dog needs before they can start to introduce distance into their training and before they can really...what they need to be successful with that, right? I would imagine it needs some special skills.

Amanda Nelson: Yeah. So there’s many different ways to teach distance and the way that I do it is my whole philosophy with distance handling is it has a very unique skill in the fact that you’re asking the dog to move away from you and that can be moving out of their comfort zone, and so confidence plays a humungous part in everything I do with my dogs which kind of goes back into all that shaping and clicker training stuff that I do, is that I want my dogs to be super, super confident. I want them to be confident in my handling, confident in their skills, you know, they’d know how to do dog up, they’d know how to do a jump, all that sort of stuff.

So when I start working with a new handler or a new dog or even someone who’s been competing but they want to start introducing distance, the first thing that we sit down and do is like, okay, now let’s see where is your dog at and what is their confidence level at. Are they okay 5 feet away, 10 feet away, you know, where’s their limit? And if say their limit is at 10 feet and their handler really wants them to be 15 feet away, we’re going to build the dog’s confidence up at 10 feet.

And my biggest thing is because of that confidence I want my dogs to trust my handling, I want them to be confident in my handling. So for example, if I tell my dogs “out” and I want them to...out means for them to move out away from me. So I tell them out, and so they understand that, and let’s say I’m at a trial and I’ve forgotten all the core skills, so I’ve said out but in all reality I actually need them coming in towards me and I’m like, oh, no, I’ve given them the wrong cue.

So my reaction and almost all reactions, the same reaction happens for every handler, is you know we’re trying to save that cue so we’re going, no, no, no, no, come in, come in, come in, you know, and we’ll try to save it and get the dog in, and dogs are forgiving and dogs are awesome so they’ll just turn on a dime and come in, but what happens with that is then the dogs don’t trust their handling anymore. You know, we’ve said out, they’re going out, but now in our heads we’re telling ourselves, oh, I screwed up, I screwed up, I needed to say “come in”, but in the dog’s head they’re viewing it as, well, she said out, I went out, and now she’s saying no, no, no, come in, and so that’s what kind of chips away at that trust.

So the first thing I really, really get into with all my students is if you’ve given a wrong cue sometimes you just have to suck it up and go and know that you just lost that run, but you’re going to gain ten more down the road because if the dog doesn’t have confidence in our cues then when we do need that distance and we tell our dog out I never want my dog to look back at me and go are you sure? Like I just want them, when I say out they go, yeah, all right, here we go, she means it, you know, and off we go. So that’s a big thing.

I do lots of ground work. I use road cones and teach my dogs a lot of confidence work around just the road cones because it’s a nice, easy ground work exercise, and also teaches me, myself, and all my students, the timing that they need for all their cues. I teach them the speed the dogs are going to run, and it’s all about equipment so that we’re not also working toward dog knocks a bar and it’s like oh, no, no, we have to fix that. We can just focus on getting our dogs to move out away from us and build that confidence. That’s basically my training philosophy. Everything revolves around confidence.

Melissa Breau: No, I mean that makes total sense because especially when, you know speed is also important and obviously agility, speed is important. Getting a dog to move away from you and not doubt. If they doubt you they’re going to move slower than if they believe that they’re doing the right thing. So even if the dog did come in right, like you might have shaved some seconds the wrong direction...

Amanda Nelson: Exactly. Exactly.

Melissa Breau:...your next run. So, even though I haven’t done agility I do Tribal and that’s also kind of a distance sport, and I know that for me when I was training distance, reward placement was just so important to kind of get that confidence and get the dog to understand, you know, to stay out there and not come back in for a treat, so I’d assume that was a big part for you for training agility too. Do you want to speak to that a little bit and talk about...I mean you can totally correct me if I’m wrong too, you know, I’m kind of guessing a little bit but...

Amanda Nelson: No, no, reward placement is huge, huge, huge, which is why I love using toys when it comes to distance work and it’s super easy, you’ll be able to pass that toy out there, reward at a distance, you’re either handler talking or get toy placed down or something like that. You have to understand they maybe aren’t a big fan of toys, they only want food which Ally absolutely hates toys, she has zero interest in them, but she loves food so for her, you know, reward can be a little bit difficult with her because my other dogs, you know, they love going after the toys so it makes it “a little bit easier.”

With Ally I use those Lotus balls, you know, and they’re Velcro, kind of open, you can put food in, so I use those as some I would be able to...she does a really nice distance sequence. I can either have it placed out there for her out away from me or she can then open it up and get her treat, or a lot of times I just always carry one on me so if she does something really awesome out there at a distance, I can just toss that toy and reward right there. I also have students that the Lotus ball, it does not work for them. Either the handlers don’t really like tossing it, maybe the dogs don’t like it, that sort of thing, so even tossing food is good.

I still vary my rewards because a lot of times, at least with something like distance they get so focused on all this distance and distance and distance, and so they reward  all this distance out-away, out-away, out-away, which is great but there are some courses where the dog has to come in, and so sometimes we get a little bit stuck on, oh, my gosh, I’m not going to let my dog out there and the dog gets used to always being say 10, 15 feet away from a handler, but then when we go out of sequence where they need to be say 5 feet within the handler the dogs don’t want to come in.

So, I still do kind of vary my rewards in that sometimes they will come in to me for a treat so that we’re still kind of keeping a nice balance between my dog going really far out and staying out away from me or coming in, but I would say I definitely reward out-away a lot more than I do next to me because I want them again it’s all about that confidence. I want my dogs to feel confident and high reinforcement way out there away from me as well.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, some dogs really struggle with distance and building that confidence to go out there. I have seen that in my own sport, and I think it’s kind of neat that reward placement really can make a huge difference in just communicating and building that confidence.

So I wanted to ask if there was a particular aspect of distance training or really kind of anything in what you do that people usually struggle with, and if you kind of walk us through a little bit how you might problem solve that or some of the solutions you might try out. Just kind of give people a sense of what you teach and how you teach it. Is there anything that jumps out at you?

Amanda Nelson: Yeah. So for me I would say across the board the biggest aspect that I see with all handlers whenever they want to get into distance is they want to stop all movement. They get nervous, especially if there’s a Gamblers line on the ground or _____(20:01) or something like that, and they see that line and we just stop dead.

So a lot of...the way I handle and the way I teach is all based on my body. So my lower body, my feet, are...that’s what creates impulsion. So even, you know, like my videos I use it a lot because people say, “oh, you tell us when we have to keep moving, but your video doesn’t, you know, you’re not.” But I am. It just has to be, even if it’s a small non-movement, even if it’s just one step, one step, you’re still creating movement, and dogs if they see us just kind of come to that brick wall, you know, when we stop right at that line, well, that’s cueing a collection, you’re telling them to stop. So what I try to tell my students all the time is if you want your dog’s feet to move, your feet need to move. It doesn’t mean you have to race them, it doesn’t mean you have to run. Even the smallest step, that motion is going to help them continue to move and continue to push out there.

So again, back to road cones, I do tons of work with footwork for the handlers teaching them, you know, I want you to practice this distance, but you need to always kind of be moving a little bit, you know, always be creating a little bit of motion in your lower body so your dog will continue to read that. And I do a lot of work laying lines on the ground and teaching handlers not to be scared of them, they don’t have to stop right at them, and even staying off that line just by a foot gives you that little bit of cushion that you can still kind of push it on up and they get a little bit of movement, and I would say that to me is the biggest aspect because dogs naturally read our body language.

You know, when you take a little 8-week-old puppy and you start to walk, they’re going walk with you and you stop, they stop, you know, they naturally will read it, whereas we can teach distance with just a verbal cue and teach the dogs to get out there. I know many distance handlers that don’t use a lot of body language, it’s all verbal, and they do extremely well, but it’s a taught skill, it’s not natural to the dog, and I like to do as much natural stuff as I can for the dog so that it makes things easier, and I think for both of us as a team it just makes things easier. I don’t have to teach something that is harder for both me and the dog to teach them, okay, I’m standing perfectly still, but I want you to drive out 30 feet, and it’s harder on the dog and it goes again back to that confidence. It’s harder to gain that confidence when the dog doesn’t feel that level of support from their handler, so I would say that’s the hardest thing that I’ve across with handlers and it’s just a matter of just muscle memory. You know, teach them that you really...it’s okay. You can keep moving at that speed, you’ll be okay, sort of silly -- the line is not going to bite you, I swear.

Melissa Breau: So I mentioned in the bio, and I mean you talked about it a little bit there in that last answer that you have your Cues for Q’s handling system, and I want to make sure we talk about that a little bit more. You kind of mentioned the idea of adapting to what the dog does naturally and building on that, but can you explain the concept a little bit more and maybe touch on how the system can allow a team to really create their own unique handling system?

Amanda Nelson: I kind of break things down into...I have lower body cues, upper body cues, and then my verbal cues. So my lower body cues, that should be basically my primary cue, that should be the first thing my dog sees. So I always want to point my feet or point my foot, you know, if you’re running you’re not going to be able to point both feet at the same time, but point this way where you want your dog to go, so that’s going to be kind of their first cue. Your foot is pointing at that jump you want them to take.

And then your upper body is going to define that cue. Do you want them really continue to push, you’re going to have your arm out because you’re really driving them down that line, or is your dog closer to your body because we’re going to collect after that jump? So your upper body is kind of defining what your lower body is doing, and then your verbal cue should be kind of backing that whole thing up.

So, the picture that I would want to see is if I have a student who, they need to do an out-tunnel is that their foot should be pulling at the tunnel, the hand should be pulling in at the tunnel, and then their verbal cue should be backing all that up by saying out or whatever cue that student uses.

Where I go from there is that I don’t feel that every dog can handle the same way. I’ve had multiple dogs and worked with multiple students’ dogs and run student's dogs, that every dog is unique, every dog is different, and not everything is going to be exactly the same, you know? Like I have all Border Collies and every single one of them is different. I handle every single one of them different. They don’t all just kind of come out of the cookie cutter that just because they’re Border Collies this is the way I’m going to handle them, you know, they’re all very, very different.

So I can adapt this handling system into something that works for each dog. So for example, Trip, that my boyfriend runs, he is much more dependent on Jimmy’s upper body, then he has his feet, and he was trained, you know, all my dogs go through the same foundation training as every other one before them and one after, and Trip and Ally, the two youngest, they were trained in exactly the same way, but for some reason Trip just, he responds better to upper body. So we just adapt the handling a little bit into, okay, instead of Jimmy’s foot is now pointing where we want to go, we really focus on his upper body. His arm really needs to be pointing, this is the jump we’re going to take, and then his feet then become more of a defining cue and not a verbal, if that makes sense. So it just kind of swaps the order.

Whereas now Ally, Ally 100 percent reads off my lower body and then upper body is her defining cue, and what she doesn’t like, and maybe it’s just a phase she’s going through, it’s a teenager phase, she does not like to hear me talk. So verbals cues are just a no-go for her. Every time I say something to her like go or something like that, she barks or she gets a little angry or yeah, I feel like we’re having a teenager stage, you know, don’t tell me what to do. So, for her I use very little verbal cues and she reads my lower body like there’s no tomorrow, you know, she’ll pick up that foot cue and she just goes with it.

So, we just mold and adapt things within that. I have my students kind of follow the base of it, you know, most dogs are going to read your foot and here’s your arm and your verbal, but I let my students pick. They can use any verbal they want as long as it makes sense to them and it makes sense to the dog. They can say spaghetti for all I care as long as it works for them and we all understand it and that’s awesome. I want them to be happy.

My biggest thing and I guess I learned this years and years and years ago. I taught a seminar and I was working with this woman who just, you could tell she was struggling, like she was just having a hard time, she couldn’t get her cues out right, and her handling was very stiff, and so I sat and talked to her, like what’s going on? What’s the issue? She’s like, well, I’ve been taught that I need to handle like A, B or C and I need to do this and I’m like, well, but it’s not working. You know, you’re not happy, which in turn is now making your dog not happy. So I said what would you like to do? Let’s talk about it. So she had shown me and said, okay, now this is how I wanted him. I’m like, well, let’s do that. As long as it works for you and your dog let’s do that.

So my biggest thing is take kind of the baseline basically, you know, here’s how most dogs respond to things, but then mold it into what you like and what works for you. You know, just like Jimmy and Trip, if I were to force them and say no, no, no, you must use your leg and that is what’s going cue him, but if he doesn’t like that, you know, if the dog doesn’t respond and that doesn’t work for him then it’s just a constant battle.

So my biggest thing when I’m teaching any seminar or anything online is my poor students have to hear me say and over and over again, do what works for you and your dog. Don’t get caught up in this, that, or the other that you saw online or whatever. Take something, take an idea and go, okay, how can I make this work for me and my dog, how can I mold that into a training idea or how I handle that makes sense to me and my dog because a Bulldog is not going to remember the same as a Border Collie and they should be handled and trained in each of their own unique way basically.

Melissa Breau: Right. So you kind of mentioned that each dog has their own unique handling system. Is it hard as a handler to have two dogs with a slightly different...I mean I know you mentioned your boyfriend’s dog, but your down dogs I’d assume and also slightly different. Is it hard as a handler to remember which dog you’re handling?

Amanda Nelson: Extremely...extremely hard. So, yeah, I ran with Nargles and like I said, Ally, I’m assuming it’s a phase, perhaps doesn’t like my talking, but Nargles on the other hand loves it, she likes the verbal. So sometimes I’ll work in the ring and I’ll start talking to Ally and she starts barking... I’m like, oh, wrong dog. It is extremely hard and I know I forget and I’m actually working with a student online right now who has two dogs and they are like night and day and she is just having a hell of a time. I’m like, well, you know, when you figure it out you let me know because...

Melissa Breau: I’d imagine that’s the hardest part in some ways because like you said, part of it is muscle memory and you’re trying to teach yourself to remember to do the same things and be consistent for your dog and when you have two different dogs who want to do things differently you have to learn two sets of muscle memory. Oh, goodness, it’s funny.

So, I want to end the episode the same way I kind of end most of the episodes which is asking you what’s the dog-related accomplishment that you’re proudest of?

Amanda Nelson: Oh, my gosh. So the 2011 NADAC Championship I won and it is one of the proudest accomplishments I have. So I was competing against Super Stakes which is a distance class, and it’s a very, very hard distance class. Most of the time the distance challenges, your dog is 60 feet, if not 80 feet away from you, extremely hard, and I was competing. It was in Springfield, Illinois and my friend Sunny and I were competing and I was running Try, and we were basically kind of going back and forth between first and second and her and I were probably both having absolutely the best weekend of our lives in dog agility terms, like she was on, I was on. Her dog, Vanessa, we train together all the time, so it was just awesome to go out, and I would  have this amazing run and then out comes Sunny and she would have this amazing run. It was absolutely fantastic.

So we ran in the finals. I ran first and oh, my God, it was just a fantastic run, an amazing connection I had with Try. It was one of my best runs. To date it still was one of the best runs I ever had with her. Sunny and her dog, Vanessa, ran after me and they again...it was an amazing breathtaking run and we were 24 seconds apart and Sunny ended up winning. It was the most amazing weekend of my life as far as I just every...you know, four days is how long the championships are, and the level of connection that Try and I had that weekend was absolutely amazing, and to lose to my friend was fantastic.

For her to have such a fantastic weekend as well was just awesome, and that second place ribbon, I love that second place ribbon because every time I look at it all I can think about is we were on fire that whole weekend. It was just such an amazing weekend and competing there with my friend, who was also having the best weekend of her life, it was just one of those things that is just amazing. So I have to say it’s not a title or award or anything like that. It’s my happiest second place ribbon I’ve ever gotten.

Melissa Breau: That’s awesome. Sometimes, you know, there’s really something to be said for the relationships you form in the sports world, right, and you’re cheering on your friends and  your teammates and your training buddies and it’s not always just about you and your own dog, but that’s awesome.

Amanda Nelson: Yeah.

Melissa Breau: Well, my favorite question of the whole series always, what is the best piece of training advice that you’ve ever heard?

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, 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.

Melissa Breau: And finally, who is someone else in the dog world that you look up to?

Amanda Nelson: I would say all of my students. Every time I teach a seminar and in all my classes, all of that, I learn so much from all my students. They inspire me every day to be a better handler, a better trainer. Even I’m in the middle of a Fenzi class I’m teaching right now, I am learning so much from them. The questions they ask, you know, they’ll ask me a question like, oh, you know what, there’s probably a different way to teach this and it brings about how we can approach things differently, how we can train things differently.

I have to say working on all of those awesome people, they inspire me and I look up to every one of them, you know, how we can train different things, you know, all that sort of stuff I just...as corny as it sounds, it’s probably all of my students. I love every single one of them and they do, they truly inspire me to be better, to just be better in general.

Melissa Breau: That’s not corny at all, it’s sweet. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Amanda. It was great to get to chat and to learn a little bit more about what you do. And thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in.

Amanda Nelson: Well, thank you so much. This was fantastic.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, it’s always good to learn a little bit more about some of the different sports out there, and agility is pretty mainstream but it’s still new to me. And we’ll be back next week, this time with Sara Brueske to talk training and competing for disc sports. 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!

 

Jun 16, 2017

SHOW NOTES: 

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.

Links mentioned:

Next Episode: 

To be released 6/23/2017, featuring Amanda Nelson. 

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. At FDSA Andrea 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. Hi, Andrea. Welcome to the podcast.

Andrea Harrison: Thank you so much, Melissa. It’s lovely to be here.

Melissa Breau: I’m excited to chat. To start us out, do you want to just give us a little about your current fur crew?

Andrea Harrison: Sure. We could take up the whole podcast talking about them so I won’t do that, but we’re currently living with too many dogs including my dad’s dog, Franny, who is a lovely older cocker spaniel, and then we have Brody who is 17 almost and he’s what I refer to as my heartbeat at my feet. He’s my Shih Tzu mix and he really taught me that gurus even in dog sports don’t necessarily have all the answers for every dog. Then we have Theo who is a 14-year-old Chihuahua, Sally who is an 11-year-old border collie mix who has really taught me to appreciate joy in everything. She was supposed to be palliative foster, she came to us when she was about six months old and was given less than six months to live, and she’s about to turn eleven. So she’s a good daily reminder. Yeah. She’s a really good daily reminder that life is good and life is worth living. Then we have Sam who is my husband’s golden retriever and I do very, very little with him. He just turned eight, and he came to us as a palliative foster as well. He was five months old with terminal kidney disease, so he’s doing pretty well. We’ve got a crazy, crazy little terrier named Dora who is five years old, and then we have a toy American Eskimo, Yen, who just turned four, and she is certainly my daily reminder that every dog you have to do things your own way.

So yeah, we have a bunch of different breeds and different types represented in the house right now, and as I say, too many dogs, but I also joke that on a per acre basis we have less dogs than most people do because we live on a fairly large farm in the middle of nowhere in Lake Ontario. So per acre we’re well under any limit anybody could set.

Melissa Breau: That certainly helps. I mean, having space is a big benefit when you have dogs.

Andrea Harrison: Yes. For sure. And it’s nice because I can train down at the front with them, a little agility field set up at the front, so I can take a pair down and work them down there, but every day a part of our routine is to go for a one to two, well, sometimes even three kilometers once the weather is nice, but we’re out doing a good hike off-leash with all five of the dogs who are at a stage in their development where that’s something they enjoy, right? So their fitness, their brain, their recalls, all of that stuff just gets worked on as part of life, you know? They hang out with me, they want to hang out with me. It makes when they come to town much easier, right, because they’re constantly being reinforced for doing sort of the right thing to my husband’s and my eyes.

Melissa Breau: So which of the dogs are you currently competing with?

Andrea Harrison: I don’t actually. Since I’ve been down here we’ve been busy setting up the farm, but Sally, the border collie mix, finished doing a major film fairly recently and has been going out doing some publicity work around that. So her training stayed pretty current. Yeah. She was a lead role in a feature film that was about the character dog, Dinah, in the movie. So she is Dinah. So that’s been kind of neat with being down to the…Toronto has an international film festival and we’ve been in the main theater for that. She was the first dog ever in that theater and stuff. So we had to make sure she was really, really perfect. They were, “A dog? You can’t have a dog in the theater.” We’re like, “Well, she’s the star of the film.” And they were like, “Oh, yeah, okay, well, if she’s the star of the film I guess it’s okay.” So she’s been doing stuff.

Ad I’m hoping to get Dora, the two young dogs, Dora and Yen, going in competitive agility one of these days. But my problem is because everything is two or three hours of driving for me, and with my 17-year-old guy, I don’t like to leave him very long, right? He’s very much my heartbeat at my feet, he’s happiest lying on my feet, and I hate to leave him and make him stress out when I’m gone. But unfortunately I don’t think he’ll be with us all that much longer. And then Dora and Yen can get their day of, their 15 minutes of fame, right, the Andy Warhol thing, they can get out there and get their fame and glory or embarrass me, whichever way they choose to go out. They do agility at home and they’re great. They’re ready to go. I just have to get off the farm.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough. How long have you guys had the farm now?

Andrea Harrison: Well, we’ve had the land for about ten years and we’ve been living here, we’ve been living here and building our house. We had a house just around the corner, we’ve been building our house for just about five years, we’ve been permanently at the farm for three.

Melissa Breau: Wow. That’s awesome.

Andrea Harrison: Yeah. Yeah. It’s been pretty neat. It added a dimension to my life that I really didn’t know how much I was missing until I had it.

Melissa Breau: So how did you originally get started with dog sports and the film stuff? I mean, where did all that start?

Andrea Harrison: So when I was little I apparently was pretty opinionated, I hear this quite regularly, and I didn’t like school and I didn’t think I like learning. Turns out I love learning but I was just not being taught the stuff I liked to learn, right? So my dad and mom realized that if they could connect anything to animals I’d buy into it. So they taught me history at the dining room table by using the names of dogs and cats and horses, whatever kind of animal they could find that was connected to an event. I learned about the Civil War in the States because of the horse Traveller, for example, right? Ancient Greek history, they connected it to Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s horse. Rin Tin Tin for the war stuff, right? All of those kinds of things.

And then they realized that if they brought home books that had animals in them I would read, and it turns out I’m a voracious reader, but they connected it through animals. And one of the kinds of books I started reading were books about people, there was a real trend for books about guide dogs, service dogs, seeing eye dogs and those kinds of things, and I read a book, and I was trying to think of the name of it. I think it’s called like, Guided by the Light or something, or Candle in the Light or something, and I read the book and it just amazed me, the gorgeous German shepherd, and I had this clear picture in my head, it was an amazing dog.

I looked at our Irish setter at the time and I said, “You and I are going to do stuff.” And I was 12 and there were no classes available for kids, kids just were not available to take classes. So I made my mom go to the dog sport classes and is at on the sidelines and I watched everything she did and I went home and I did it with our Irish setter in the backyard. By the end of our time doing that class our Irish setter would actually walk down a main street of Toronto off-leash with squirrels and other dogs going by me. She was your pretty typical Irish setter, she was a busy girl, and I was so proud of that. The lift that gave me as a very introverted, not super academic kind of person really built my confidence.

So then just every dog we had from there, I put one leg of an obedience title on a golden retriever. We had foster Sheltie for about eight months, I did some show handling with her. So I just slowly got a little bit more into it. I never found my passion, right?

Then one day, twenty years ago almost exactly I think, I saw agility, just in a field at a local university. Somebody set up a class and I literally stopped dead and went, “That’s amazing.” And I started thinking about agility. I had two older big dogs at the time who couldn’t do it, but I started learning about it and watching it and thinking about it. Then I was hooked. That was it. I mean, my blog is called Agility Addict. I was just absolutely, and I am just nuts about agility.

Melissa Breau: What’s the URL for your blog?

Andrea Harrison: Andrea Agility Addict Blog Spot I think. I don’t know. It comes up, as soon as you type any of that in it flies right up.

Melissa Breau: I will look it up and I will include the link in the show notes. So what do, what you teach at FDSA is a little bit different, kind of, than what any of the other instructors do. You definitely have your own niche. I mean, how do you explain what it is you do at FDSA? How would you kind of summarize it 

Andrea Harrison: Yeah. It’s such a good question. I think what I’d say and what I do say all the time is that I focus on the handler side, right? Because it doesn’t matter if you’re an agility addict or you’re into nose work or you’re into obedience. I’m so grateful I’m learning so much about all these amazing different sports, Rally-FrEe, and all this stuff, it’s just so super what I do because I get to learn and I love learning, right? 

So I really focus on the handler side of it. My experiences through all the different things that I have done have reminded me all the time that my mental state, my beliefs, my hang-ups, right, really are going to affect what happens at the end of the leash. When I was filming Zoboomafoo and I needed 15 puppies to run across the floor towards me, if 13 of them ran towards me and two of them went another way it didn’t help to get mad about it, right? I had to just think it through, figure it out, and redo it, right? Or when my little dog was on the stage at the Elgin Theater in Toronto, one of our big theaters doing a thing of Annie, I had to just to let it go.

And it’s hard for me to let it go. I’m your typical Fenzi instructor, you know, type A, cares a lot, wants everything to be right, right? We’re a passionate group of people, right? I mean, that’s wonderful, but it can be hard to remember that we can’t control everything, right? No matter how much we want success we can’t always make success in the moment that we want it. So as I was looking at what I could bring to the FDSA table it was like, there’s a piece of stuff that I’m doing all the time, I’m getting asked to do it all the time, people are asking me questions in my face classes all the time about this, people respond to any blog I write about it.

So I taught a little tiny course just for people locally online, and ended up telling Denise about it, and she was like, “That’s really cool. Do you want to try bringing that here? I don’t know if it’ll work.” She was really honest, right? She’s like, I don’t know if it’ll work. I’m not sure there’s a thing. But that’s where the first course, All in Your Head, came from, this tiny little genesis of a course I ran one summer through a Facebook group, and then it just developed from there. Students are amazing, they ask amazing questions, and they’ve given so much back to sort of my funny little niche program, like you said, but they’ve built it. I’m along for the ride. I’ve got tons of different resources I can plug into and pull out and experiences, but the students of FDSA have really driven what’s happened in my little circle.

Melissa Breau: So to give listeners kind of a sense of the type of issues that your classes can help with, do you mind just talking a little bit about some of the problems you’ve helped handlers address within the classes?

Andrea Harrison: Yeah. Sure. I mean, it really ranges, right? So All in Your Head looks at sort of who you are, right, and how who you are is going to affect the training choices and things that you do, and starts to address the nerves side of it a little bit, because nerves are a big, big thing that come up. Disappointment, worry, anxiety. People don’t want to let down their dog, right? They get frustrated by their dog, they aren’t sure they’re doing the right sport, they maybe aren’t sure they have the right dog for the right sport, right? How can they make all of these things work, right?

Like, I personally hate coming in second. For me that’s a huge source of frustration, right? So if I was always coming in second I would want to work through a whole bunch of the stuff that I do in a class to make sure that I was dealing with being second. I’d rather be last than second, right? Give me first or don’t place me at all. I mean, I’d like to cue, thank you very much, but in terms of placement type stuff, right?

So the problems really range. I mean, I’ve had people look at relationship issues, grief. The two sort of really specialized courses, Infinite Possibilities and the new one I’m running now, Unleash Personal Potential, people pick their own thing, right? So the range of things we’re seeing in there is amazing. Then of course with Handle This and No More Excuses people are largely looking at setting plans, setting goals, learning about goals, figuring out how to implement plans, right? We all make these great plans, I’m going to train every day, and then life gets in the way because life always gets in the way, right? It always does. So what do you do when life gets in the way? How can you not say, “Oh my God, I’m the worst trainer in the world ever,” and crawl under a rock and not train for three weeks? And there are times when a three week break is what you need, but sometimes you need to say, you know what? This was a throwaway day. It was okay, I didn’t make my plan, it’s okay, tomorrow is a new day and I can start over, right? So the range of problems is just, I mean, you know, you could almost open up a dictionary and look for any adjective and there it comes, right?

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 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 want, 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 trail 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 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 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 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), and that was kind of sucky, but it was okay, right? Like, now with all this perspective it’s fine. 

So you have to rehearse for success, let those nerves…think of something that gives you just a little bit less nerves and go and do it, right? Where you get that slight flutter and figure out how to tame the slight flutter. Don’t expect to say, oh my God, I’m so nervous at a trial, I don’t want to be nervous anymore. That won’t work. You need to figure out, right, what tools are going to work for you, right? What makes you nervous, what tools will reduce that element of anxiety, and work on it one element at a time.

I have students where I say to them, I don’t care that you’re not really ready to run, right, in a trial. If you were so nervous about it that’s making you sick, find a match that’s going to make you half sick. Go to a trial and know that you’re not going to be successful. Go and do one lap of the ring. I don’t care. Walk in there and do six things and leave if it’s accessible in your venue. And practice getting over that nervousness so that you can give yourself and your dog the best things that you need to do to be successful. Set yourself up for success, if I had to reduce it to just a couple of words.

Melissa Breau: Right. The same way you set your dog up for success.

Andrea Harrison: Exactly. Exactly. We’re as important part of the team, right? Without us there would be no dog sport. So we spend so much time, right, working on our dogs, and it’s great that we do, and I love it too, but you have to remember to work on yourself too. You know? Unless you’re by nature perfectly calm, perfectly extroverted, never have a thing to worry about at home which I still have yet to meet anybody who can say all of that, right?

Melissa Breau: You and me both. I wanted to dive a little more into the motivation and planning aspect of things too. I know one of the lines in your class description for No More Excuses is it’s for the students who have a library full of classes and haven’t done them, or they have goals and aspirations that they simply aren’t meeting. I think a lot of people who read that, that kind of strikes home, right? So I wanted to ask, what is so hard about just doing it?

Andrea Harrison: Such a good question. And you think, like, we all blame ourselves when we can’t just do it, right? And I think many of us hope that if we fill our libraries up enough that something is going to resonate, something is going to suddenly, magically make us do it. And you know, we all want that magic solution. I mean, self-help sections of libraries and book stores are full, like, shelves and shelves and shelves of books because we all want there to be a magic bullet answer, right? And there isn’t.

I mean, in a nutshell motivation often comes down to people being confused about whether it’s outcome or process that they want, right? Whether it’s learning or performance, right? Four different sort of models to look at motivation. Outcome goals are like, I want to be an Olympic gold medalist, and a process goal is I want to build the skills to be able to be an Olympic gold medalist. Many of us want to go straight to an outcome, goal, right? We want to be able to get the cue without sort of remembering that we have to build that process in. And once people understand that everything we do, we have to break it into a process, that can help them with their own motivation.

So training, and this sounds awful, because different things bore different people, but there’s always some element of training that bores most people, right? So I’ll hear people say, “I hate working on stays, they’re so boring.” Or, “I’d rather be playing on Facebook than training,” right? And that’s okay, that’s legitimate. But if you can start off even just with two or three minutes of whatever you don’t like, particularly working on it, as you start to meet success it becomes more rewarding so you can do more and more. So if you can break down your process, again, similar principle to earlier, if you can break your process down into little tiny chunks and build on those little tiny chunks, as you attain success you’re going to be moving closer to doing the outcome stuff, right?

I mean, in true motivational speak the issues with motivation usually fall into either direction, can you get up off the couch and actually go and train or are you going to get up off the couch and head towards the ice cream in the freezer, right? Which direction are you going to go in? The intensity of what you do, so are you like, oh, yeah, this is great as long as I don’t have to work too hard each step, right? It’s good, I got to the gym, I chatted to the girl at the desk, I did my thing or went to dog school, and it was great, but I really didn’t put any time into training, I was really busy chatting to my friends and watching other people train, right? That’s the intensity piece of it. And then the final piece is persistence, which is do you go back, right? Will you go to training once and you do a great job or will you go to training five times and do as good a job as you can each of those times?

So direction, intensity, and persistence are sort of the hallmarks of real motivational stuff, and they break down really nicely for dog training too, right? Like, where is your gap? So in No More Excuses we help people figure out which priority they want to work on of those three, and then how to do that.

And then the last thing that you want to think about when you’re doing motivation issues is are you in a learning phase or a performance phase of training, trial, and showing, whatever? If you’re in a learning phase you might still be trialing, right? Because you learn when you trial. Every trial I’ve ever gone to you learn tons, right? But if you’re in that learning phase you don’t want to be having tons of outcome based goals or else what happens is you get frustrated and turned off and you stop. I think what happens to a lot of people is they don’t understand the distinctions between outcome and process goals, learning and performance outcomes, right, the goal, and then that intensity, persistence, and direction piece, and if you can sort of marry all of those pieces and figure it out then you’ve got a real head up on making some motivation work for you, right? So it comes to down to sort of planning, right? Figure out what you need to do and then plan for it.  

And remember that all those self-help books, right, that are in the library, all the gurus, all the people who say there’s only one way to do things or this is the right way, they have a whole lot invested in making you buy in to what it is they are promoting. They believe it. I’m not saying it’s charlatans at all, but they believe that their way is the right way, and if it doesn’t work for you it tends to make you feel kind of rotten, right? You’re thinking, so-and-so could do this and it’s amazing, and my friend did it and it was amazing, and it doesn’t really work for me. What’s wrong with me? Right? And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with you, you just have a different approach to learning or the message or the method than the person does. So I think sometimes all the self-help can kind of be negative, you know, which is too bad. 

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Yeah. Despite my comment about just doing it I do know that you’re a big fan of self-care and gratitude, and I’m sure a lot of students in the alumni group on Facebook have seen your Joy Day Care posts. So I wanted to ask you a little bit about that and have you kind of tell us what’s the story there, how did that get started?

Andrea Harrison: Yeah. It’s such a neat thing. So again, you know, my whole thing earlier my students are always teaching me, the first time we ran Infinite Possibilities back in August of 2013, I think, I had an amazing student, she’s still a great student at FDSA, I know she listens to the podcast so she’ll be like, “Hey, that’s me she’s talking about.” She said, “You know, this gratitude thing, I work on it all the time and it’s really hard for me. I want to get better at being happy.” And there’s tons of great research that says that gratitude is a really good path to being a happier person, right? How can I be happy? It’s a big question I deal with in all of my life.

So we started a gratitude challenge in the class, right, on the discussion thread there was a gratitude challenge that I posted, and then at the end of the class people said, “You can’t stop this. This isn’t right. You just can’t stop this. We need your prompts. We need your help.” I said, “All right. Well, why don’t we take it over to the alumni list and see if people like it?” And people really like it. It’s funny, if I forget to post, if I forget it’s the first day after class officially ends, any of those things for sure somebody will message me, and often it’s somebody who has never worked with me. “Hey, don’t you normally do Joy Day Care now?”

So it started off, we called it just a gratitude challenge, and then it slowly worked towards being a Joy Day Care, the name just evolved over time. It was Joy Day Dare for a long time and then somebody, I mistyped, I think, and it came out as care, and I’m like, yeah, that’s even more perfect for us, do you think? Because one of the things I love about it is how much everybody cares about everybody, right?

 And it just helps people remember that happiness is a conscious choice, you know? I had somebody ask me just yesterday, what can I do to be a happier person? I said it sounds so trite, it sounds so dumb, I hate to even tell you this, but you really do have to choose happiness. You know? Life is tough, life is hard. There’s a lot going on in life that gives us good cause to be angry or upset or frustrated or sad, and I mean, obviously if you’re facing some really big thing you’re going to need more than just to go, oh, today I’m going to be happy.  

But a gratitude practice where you pick some time of the day to think about one thing you can be grateful for has a measureable impact on people who are suffering from depression, who have schizophrenia. There are tons and tons and tons of studies that show that a very, very short, ten second daily gratitude practice can make a difference to your state of happiness. Like, that’s pretty powerful, right?

And it’s so easy for me to do, right? It’s such an easy thing for me to remind people of sort of in the lull between classes. It’s fun. I enjoy it. I actually quite miss it when it’s done even though sometimes I have to get kind of creative with the prompts because we’ve done it now for a long time. So I’m like, have I done this in the last three sessions? I don’t think so.

Melissa Breau: Well, you could certainly…it certainly can’t hurt to recycle some of those prompts and just think about…absolutely people can think about different things they’re grateful for off the same prompt, and I mean, just…

Andrea Harrison: Sure. Sure.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Yeah. No. That’s great.

Andrea Harrison: Yeah. So in fact I did a little workbook too for people because they wanted something in between classes. So there’s a little workbook called Love the One You Are With, it’s just a little workbook that has a bunch, I don’t know, 140 other prompts and pretty pages people can fill in and stuff too. So people seem to be liking that as well.

Melissa Breau: Where can they find that?

Andrea Harrison: It’s called Love the One You Are With, and there’s a Facebook page for it.

Melissa Breau: Cool. Excellent 

Andrea Harrison: Yeah. Very cool.

Melissa Breau: So I wanted to kind of end out the podcast, even though we spend a lot of time talking about the handler half of the team, the same way I do for everybody else, because I thought it’d be interesting to talk…I know if the beginning we talked a little bit about you and your dogs, and I wanted to make sure we kind of close it out that way too and talk a little bit about the dogs again. So what is the dog-related accomplishment that you are proudest of?

Andrea Harrison: You know, it’s interesting, and I wrack my brain because obviously if you listen to the podcast you know this question is going to be coming up. I mean, I have lots of things, I have been lucky enough, fortunate enough to do some really, really cool things with my dogs, right? They’re superstars and rock stars all in their own right.

But I think if I had to pick the one thing I would have to say it’s probably the hundreds of foster dogs that my husband and I have rehabbed, worked with, trained. We’ve had many, many foster dogs that have been with us more than six months and as long as three years before they’ve been able to go into their own homes, and I think if I had to pick one thing it’s probably doing that, right? Giving back in such a sort of hands on way. Yeah. It’s been pretty amazing. We’ve met some really amazing dogs and by being able to be strong enough to give them up, and sometimes it’s really hard to do that, you know, it lets us take in the next one. So it’s been pretty precious.

Melissa Breau: Right. And that’s always the hardest part, right, in some ways, of fostering or helping with that process.

Andrea Harrison: Oh, I mean, it’s grief. Yeah. It’s absolutely grief in its own way. You miss them. You give a little piece of your heart. I had one of my vet tech friends say to me, “Andrea, you’ve got the biggest chameleon heart of anybody I know.” She calls me Lizard Heart now. I said, “What do you mean, Lizard Heart?” She goes, “Well, if you cut off a little piece of a chameleon’s heart apparently it grows back.” I don’t know how they even do that, I didn’t ask, I didn’t check it or anything. But she calls me Lizard Heart because she says, “You’ve given so much of your heart to other animals, your heart is so patchy and big, right, from all the repairs.” So I’m like, that’s so sweet. Right? Yeah. So I would say that’s probably my proudest accomplishment.

Melissa Breau: And then what is the best piece of training advice, and for you you can do handler or the dog, that you’ve ever heard?

Andrea Harrison: So there’s two, because, you know, why would any of us do what you ask and give one?

Melissa Breau: That’s perfectly okay.

Andrea Harrison: I think the one that really made me think the most and really work on understanding what it meant and figuring out how to apply it to handler side stuff and dog side stuff, actually, is somebody said to me a long, long time ago when they were mad at me in my counseling gig that’s outside of dogs, they said to me, “Andrea, you have to understand, it’s really not personal.” I was like, “But you’re mad at me.” And they’re like, “I’m just mad. I’m not mad at you. It’s not personal.” And I thought, it’s not personal. It really isn’t, is it? And so much of what we get ourselves so worked up about, right, is because we take things personally that aren’t meant personally.

So if your dog has a lousy day and blows you off, your dog poops in the ring, your dog isn’t do that to destruct you. Your dog is being what my husband calls his dog self, right? We talk about that all the time here at the farm. Oh, he’s just being his doggy self. They come in and they’ve rolled in something disgusting, and you know, oh my God, I have to go out for dinner in half an hour and I don’t have time to clean you. My stress level goes through the roof and Tom’s like, “They’re being their doggy self.” And I’m like, yeah it’s not personal. We bathe the dog and we’re ten minutes late and we’re good, right?

So it’s not personal applies, like when that group of women, often, sadly, are standing at the side of the ring watching your run and you think, oh my God, they’re watching me, they’re judging me, the pressure is great, and then you leave the ring and you think, wait a minute, I was the first, second, or third dog in the ring, and they were actually just watching to see how the judge works, or where the judge stands, or what pattern the judge is looking for, whatever, right? So it’s often, even though we take it very personally it’s not personal there. Even when somebody is making a comment to you, right? They’re saying, “Oh, well, if it had been me I would have done it this way.” So what if they would have done it that way? It’s about them, that’s not about you. It’s not personal.

So I think it’s not personal is a really big one that has worked for me to really try to remember both in my dog sports and my just surviving life piece, right? Whatever the issue is it’s much more often about the person who is doing the whatever that’s causing you stress or distress, and it’s often just the dogs being their doggy self. So that’s the first piece of advice I think to get into.

Then the other one came a long, long time ago, and this is sort of for handlers to remember with their dog, and that’s just to stop nagging. I guess that actually could be seen as a life skill too. I work pretty hard not to nag my husband too, but the sort of persistent drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, it can be really irritating, right? Like, if you’re getting nagged it’s irritating, and if you’re nagging your dog it’s irritating too. You’re much better off to break off if things aren’t going right, break off and do something, and have fun with it, and then come back to it, right? Rather than nag, nag, nag, nag, nagging.

If I have a dog that I’m trying to get to sit perfectly on its flat form, and you have a dog that you’re trying to get to sit perfectly on its platform, and I drill, drill, drill, drill, drill that skill for my dog, and you try it three times and say, oh, you know what? You need a break, you need to let off some of that stream, I’m going to go play with you for a minute and come back to it. My guess is a whole lot of the time you’re going to end up with a much nicer sit that’s much more solid in more situations than I will for nagging. Right? 

And that came to me from my horse sport stuff early on in life where I was riding a rotten little pony and I had a crop, somebody hands me a crop and I was doing the thwack, thwack, thwack on the shoulder but never hurt enough to make a difference, and like, my coach, Martha Griggs, said to me, “Andrea, if you’re going to use that crop take it and use it once and be done with it. Stop nagging that poor pony.” And I thought, oh, but I don’t want to hit the pony, right? Who wanted to hit a pony? Even back then I was sort of like, there’s got to be a nice way to do it. But I realized that if I could figure out a way to be clear and consistent with my message and stop the drip, drip, drip, drip, dripping nagging of it it was going to work much better, and the pony and I went on to do pretty well in the show we were headed for. So you know, that worked in that moment and that in itself of course became reinforcement.  

So it’s something I really look for in my face time students, right? Are you nagging the dog? Because if you’re nagging the dog if I can help you stop nagging the dog you’re going to end up with much more success. Yeah. So I’m grateful to the horse instructor for pointing that out so many years ago.

Melissa Breau: I mean, sometimes it’s really interesting the lessons that carry over from other sports and other things in our lives into the dog world, and how much carryover they really have.

Andrea Harrison: Well, it’s absolutely right. One of the things that people always say, how do you know…what made you come up with the fact that getting a good night’s sleep before a show is important? And I’m like, because in my work as an educator and as a counselor I’ve discovered that if I’m doing a session with somebody and they had a good night’s sleep the night before we’re going to get a lot farther than if they’ve had an awful night’s sleep. Doing sort of a counseling session, if I’m talking to someone and they’ve had a terrible night’s sleep I’ll be like, you know what? Today is not a good day to dig into the heavy stuff. Let’s find something light and fluffy to deal with because we’re not going to get nearly as far, right? Here, let’s talk about how to sleep better, you go home and sleep better, and next week make sure you do those strategies, and then we can get into the heavy stuff.

So yeah, absolutely. What you learn in one place has tons and tons of crossover. And again, I think we forget that, right? We get so hung up on there’s got to be the perfect way to do it that we forget to pull these different skill sets that we have from different places. In the All in Your Head course somebody in the first or second session said to me, “Oh my God, I did this at work, the Meyer Briggs temperament inventory.” He said, “I did this at work. It never occurred to me to think about how what I know about myself at work might influence myself as a dog trainer. It really does make a difference.” I was like, yeah, of course it does. But so many people, we compartmentalize, right? It’s part of being human, we keep things in their little compartments and we forget to open the door between them.

Melissa Breau: So for our last important question, so someone else in the dog world that you look up to, who would you recommend?

Andrea Harrison: There are so many ways to answer this question. I mean, I’ve said it before in this already, the FDSA instructors are just amazing people and so many of the people, like I can throw out a ton of big name agility trainers, American, Canadian, European, but I think if I was going to say who I look up to regularly, and this sounds kind of, I don’t know what the word is I’m looking for so I’ll just say it, it has to be the people who struggle with their dog, right? They’re the inspiration for me. They’ve got this dog that maybe isn’t the perfect match for them, they’re in a sport that isn’t maybe the perfect match for them, and they persist. They want to figure it out, right? And that might mean changing dog sports, that might mean retiring a dog, that might mean taking a long break. There’s so many different things it can mean, but they’re the people that I really look up to because…and lots of the instructors, right, have had their own challenges too. The very fact that they come back to it, right, the resilience of the human, right?

So I guess I would have to say that it’s the resilience that really makes me feel inspired to keep going, right? That if I were looking for a reason to get up in the morning and to log on to see what’s going on with my students, the people who are working with the deaf dog or the blind dog or the dog that, as somebody said, I would divorce if I could, but I can’t divorce him because he’s living with me now so I’m going to figure out how to do that, you know? It’s all those people that really create this inspiration, and I’m sure you would have loved it if I’d grabbed one name, but really when I thought about the question that’s really what gives me my get up and go, is those people.

Melissa Breau: Hey, I’ll take it. It’s a different answer so it works for me. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Andrea. It was so much fun to chat.

Andrea Harrison: Well, such a pleasure, honestly. Just delightful. You do a great job with it.

Melissa Breau: Well, thank you. Thanks. And thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in. We’ll be back next week, this time with Amanda Nelson to talk agility, including tailoring your handling style to your specific team. 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 one extra request this week, guys. If you could leave a review on iTunes or mention the podcast to a training buddy we would greatly appreciate it.

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!

Jun 9, 2017

 SHOW NOTES: 

Summary:

Dr. Deborah Jones is a psychologist who specializes in theory and social behavior and teaches those subjects full time at Kent State University. An early innovator in the use of clicker training, she has owned and worked with a variety of breeds and has earned top level titles in Agility, Rally, and Obedience over the last 25 years. 

In 2004, Deb worked with agility trainer and World Team member Judy Keller to develop the Focus Training System. FOCUS stands for Fun, Obedience & Consistency lead to Unbelievable Success. Deb has also worked with Denise Fenzi co-authoring the Dog Sports Skills book series and has authored several other books with more in the works.

At FDSA, Deb offers a wide range of popular classes including a number of excellent foundations classes. Her focus is on developing training methods that are enjoyable and effective for both the dog and the trainer.

Links mentioned:

Next Episode: 

To be released 6/16/2017, featuring Andrea Harrison. 

TRANSCRIPTION:

Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you’re listening to the Fenzi Dogs 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 will be talking to Dr. Deborah Jones, better known around FDSA as Deb Jones.

Deb is a psychologist who specializes in theory and social behavior and teaches those subjects full time at Kent State University. An early innovator in the use of clicker training, she has owned and worked with a variety of breeds and has earned top level titles in Agility, Rally, and Obedience over the last 25 years. 

In 2004, Deb worked with agility trainer and World Team member Judy Keller to develop the Focus Training System. FOCUS stands for Fun, Obedience & Consistency lead to Unbelievable Success. Deb has also worked with Denise Fenzi co-authoring the Dog Sports Skills book series and has authored several other books with more in the works.

At FDSA, Deb offers a wide range of popular classes including a number of excellent foundations classes. Her focus is on developing training methods that are enjoyable and effective for both the dog and the trainer. Oh, and she’s working on a cat class, too.

Hi, Deb. Welcome to the podcast.

Deb Jones: Hi, Melissa. Thank you, very much, for having me.

Melissa Breau: I’m excited to chat today.

Deb Jones: Oh, so am I.

Melissa Breau: So, usually to get started I ask people to tell us a little bit about their dogs and what they are working on with them, but since I know you also have the cat class coming up, do you want to just walk us through your full furry crew and what you’re working on with all of them? 

Deb Jones: Sure. Yeah. I have quite a crew right now. I have three Border Collies and three Shelties that I’m working with, along with the cat, Tricky, who is going to be the star of the cat class -- because he insists. Every time I train dogs he’s there, so I figured if he’s going to show up regularly he might as well earn his keep and be part of a class at FDSA.

I have my three Border Collies that I work with the majority of the time now. Many people know Zen, who is almost 10 years old, which seems impossible. He is my demo dog for everything. Always willing to work. He’s done Agility, Obedience, and Rally, and titled in all of those and, these days, he’s pretty much semi-retired. He gets to do almost whatever he wants except what he wants to do is play ball 24 / 7, so we don’t do that, but other than that he gets to do whatever he wants. 

Star is my next oldest dog, a Border Collie, who is, I say constantly, the smartest dog I ever met. She’s scary smart and Star is also great demo dog. Also showed her as well. And my youngest boy now, who is actually Zen’s nephew, Helo is going to be three. A lot of people have seen him in class videos. Ever since he was a puppy he’s been working for FDSA in some form or the other.

And the latest, youngest Sheltie is Tigger, who is a tiny little seven pound thing and he is just so full of himself and full of life, and he’s a lot of fun, so he is also in quite a few of the class videos and he enjoys every second of it, and then the other two Shelties are a little bit older, so they have what we call old dog immunity, which means, again, you get to do whatever you want and they enjoy that.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough.

Deb Jones: So it’s a busy household.

Melissa Breau: I’d imagine -- but I’ve seen some of those videos you share of Tigger. He’s so cute.

Deb Jones: Oh. He’s a little firecracker. To have such a tiny little dog…he’s way below size for what Shelties usually are and this was just by chance. It was just a fluke that he was this small, but oh is he full of it, so he makes us laugh every day. That’s the thing we say about Tigger is he makes us laugh constantly, so there’s a lot of value in that. 

Melissa Breau: So I wanted to ask about how you originally got into dog sports -- I know that you’ve done a lot of different sports and with a lot of different dogs, so what got you started? 

Deb Jones: Yeah. I have. I’ve had a lot of different dogs over the years. Settled on herding dogs now, but I actually started out with a Labrador Retriever, black lab named Katie, and I was in graduate school and I’d been in about two years and just had to have a dog. I’d always had dogs just as pets, and never done a lot with them, but I really felt the need to have some sort of companionship in graduate school that was not stressful, so I got Katie, who was a rescue…from a rescue. She was about 18 months old and we did training classes. Took her to local training classes. 

And this was in 1992, so at that time all there was, was obedience. If you wanted to show a dog in anything you were going to show it in Obedience, so I went through a number of classes. I met a lot of people. I got to know quite a bit about obedience competition and the only…the problem was I was already trained in behavioral psychology and learning theory, and what I saw happening in classes did not match at all my expectation for how we should be training animals. It was still very, very heavy handed and traditional back in those days.

So I liked the idea of competition and performance but I didn’t like the way that people told me you had to train in order to get to it, so that sort of started this conflict in me about I want to do this but I don’t want to do it that way and made me work very hard to try to figure out 'how can I apply what I know from academics and get successful performance?' And so that was the start of it.

Melissa Breau: So how did you bridge that gap? What actually got you started on that positive journey and at what point did you get introduced to clicker training?

Deb Jones: Around the same time I got Katie I was introduced to the book Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor, which was probably the very first book that many dog trainers ever saw that had anything to do with positive training. I’m a voracious reader so I read every dog training book out there and this was one of many, but this was the one that really, really spoke to me and said to me you can take what you know from science, you can apply it to training the animal that you’re working with now and you can be successful. Except the thing was nobody had actually done it. It was theory. It wasn’t yet application.

And so that set me on the path of being able to do this training the way I want to do it and having an enthusiastic and very willing animal partner rather than one who was basically forced to do it because there would be unpleasant consequences if they didn’t, so I really would credit the book with getting me started on that.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Is that also how you were introduced to clicker training and shaping and all that good stuff?

Deb Jones: Yeah. It all came around about the same time. There was actually…the first internet email group that I was ever on, which was called Click-L. This is really ancient. This was also back in about 1993 or so. When we first got internet at home, which was a big deal at the time, but ClickL was a group of like-minded people and we were all just simply trying to figure out how do we do this? How do we apply this?

And Karen Pryor was on the list along with a number of other people who are still training today and we were all just kind of talking and throwing ideas around and trying to figure out how we could use this kind of technique, a clicker training technique, to get the…all different sorts of behaviors, so it was a time when nobody was really an expert because nobody had done it yet, but that’s really what I wanted to work toward was to make it work in our day to day training.

Melissa Breau: I bet back then you never would have thought you’d be teaching online in today’s day in age.

Deb Jones: Absolutely not. No. I remember my great excitement the first time my modem actually hooked up at home because for the longest time we only had access at school, when I was in graduate school, for the first couple of years, so no, I could never have foreseen that one day I would be involved in these online classes. That just would not have ever crossed my map.

Melissa Breau: So one of my favorite lines to come out of the podcast so far Sue made this whole analogy during her interview about training without focus being almost like sending a kid to school without clothes on, right? Like you would never imagine…

Deb Jones: I love that.

Melissa Breau: ...sending a kid to school… 

Deb Jones: No. Yeah.

Melissa Breau: …without his clothes on. Like why would you train a dog if you don’t already have their focus? So I wanted to talk a little bit about that concept. Focus seems likes a place where people just tend to struggle and I was kind of curious to get your take on why you think that is?

Deb Jones: Oh, so many reasons. Yeah. Sue always has the best descriptions of things and I think that one is perfect. The problem with focus though is that it’s invisible to a large extent. Oftentimes people have the illusion that they have focus because they have cookies and they have toys and they’re in a training mode. Then they try to go into performance and all of a sudden it becomes very clear it was only an illusion. You did not have actual offered focus from your dog. You thought you did but you didn’t, so that’s about the time people contact me. They’re like I don’t know what went wrong. Everything was going so well and then they’re really surprised.

Sometimes people equate focus with eye contact and what we say is that’s only part of it because you can be focused but not looking at each other. Looking at each other is not always focus. It’s easy to look at somebody and to be a thousand miles away in your mind and dogs do it the same way that people do it, so it’s more than eye contact, which can be a trained behavior.

There has to be this desire to want to do whatever the activity is or the task is. And if that desire isn’t there, there’s not going to be any focus. You’re always going to be looking around for something else that’s more interesting, and I think people just don’t realize any of this. You’re training your dog. You’re teaching behaviors and skills but you’re not teaching it with focus and it falls apart very quickly when it’s put to the test.

Melissa Breau: It’s very hard to...I mean even as a person, right? If you’re focused on one task there’s a big difference between being focused on the task and having eight million tabs open on your browser and you’re jumping back and forth between Facebook and the thing you’re writing and something else and it… 

Deb Jones: Yeah. There is and it takes a while. It’s not something we can expect to have immediately. Every once in a while, and it’s very rare, you get a dog that just is naturally focused but it’s really rare. I’ve only known one dog who, I would say, was really, truly always just focused from the get go. That’s not the norm, so we all have to work at it to get our dogs to that place and people then don’t know. Okay, they want focus but then they have no idea. What do you do? How do I get focus? And that’s really the tricky part of it because there’s a lot of things you do. Some of them work. Some of them don’t.

Melissa Breau: So how do you approach it in the class?

Deb Jones: We have two classes that address focus and the first…I always hope people take them in order. The first class is Get Focused, which is what I always recommend people take first and then a follow-up to that is called Focus Games and we always try to offer Get Focused in one term and then Focus Games in the next so people can follow through with it.

What I try to do is isolate focus from…take it out of the context of anything else and distill it down to this mutual desire to interact with each other, so convincing the dog that what we’re doing is what he wants to do, which sounds hard and it is hard. Sometimes it is very difficult. It’s not easy. We have a number of very specific exercises to work on letting our dogs know that focus pays off and if you focus on me I’ll pay you for it and we try to get people quickly to move from food to toys and back and forth and into personal play as well so that you get paid in some way for focusing. There’s a reinforcer for focusing.

Then we start adding work to focus but what we do is typically the opposite of what everybody else does. We have to have focus first before we ask for work or play even. If the dog isn’t focused we do not go on. We never train an unfocused dog and I say this…this is like a million times. I say this over and over again. If my dog’s not focused I need to stop and this is really, really hard for people to do because they have a plan in their head for something that they wanted to train, but training an unfocused dog is just a waste of time if you truly want to develop this. Work and training always has to be combined with focus.

So we go through a series of exercises designed to improve focus and also to teach people what to do when it’s gone. What do you do? What’s the protocol for when the focus is lost? Because lots of times then people are just kind of stuck. They don’t know what to do so they take responsibility for focus and try to make it happen rather than allowing the dog to offer it.

Melissa Breau: That whole being more exciting than a clown on crack line from Denise, right? Like that idea of just trying to be more and more exciting and your dog just continues to ignore you.

Deb Jones: Yeah.

Melissa Breau: Yeah.

Deb Jones: Yeah. That ends up being kind of a death spiral. Things never go well if I have…if I have to add more and more energy to the interaction then there is a problem. I’m giving everything. My dog’s not doing anything. We need to go back to getting the dog to want to focus and work with us and so we continually go back to that and we don’t try to overwhelm the dog with fun and excitement because that’s a dead end. You won’t get very far with that. The problem is it often will temporarily work but it won’t work over the long term. It won’t hold up.

We work on all of this in the Get Focused class. When we move onto the Focus Games class, that’s a lot more about finding the flow and the rhythm to working together and extending it out and adding things like movement and taking food off our bodies and still getting focus, so we add all those kinds of things in there, so it’s a good 12 weeks worth of focused focus on focus.  

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.

Melissa Breau: Talk a little bit more about the Fundamentals Class specifically. Do you mind just giving some details around what you cover in that class and how you work to set up that foundation within the class syllabus? Within the class…within, I guess, what you teach there?

Deb Jones: Sure. Yeah. Sure. We approach performance fundamentals very differently than many other people do or the way that people think they should approach dog training. I’m considering typically as a class that you either start with a puppy or you’ve gone through a puppy class and now you’re ready to move onto the next thing, so that’s where we would come in. I also think that it’s a really good class for people who haven’t done a lot of positive reinforcement training and they don’t quite understand how to get started with it and what to do.

I think it’s also a good place for that, but the thing is rather than focusing on skills and behaviors…I don’t care at all in a class if the dog learns to sit or lie down or do whatever it is on cue. In fact, lots of times they won’t and they don’t need to. What they need to do in Performance Fundamentals or what I want them to be able to do is to build the foundation for a good working relationship so that, again, the dog is ready. The dog’s willing. The dog really wants to do what you’re doing.

We work hard on balancing things like getting dogs to play as well as food motivation and going back and forth with those quite a bit and my goal is always to make it seem like the dog doesn’t know if you’re playing or training. If they don’t believe there’s any difference, that’s perfect. That’s perfect training, so we do a lot of the foundation things like targeting behavior, so you might have the dog targeting to your hand. You might have the dog targeting with their nose to other objects. Have the dog targeting with their front feet or with their back feet, so we would explore okay there’s all these different things we can do with targeting behavior and those are all going to come in handy for you on down the line.

We’ll look at and play around with shaping because shaping is one of my favorite techniques and it’s also one that’s really hard for people. It takes a lot of practice and you make a lot of mistakes. There’s just no way around it. It’s experimenting, so we play around with shaping and I always like to shape tricks and things that people don’t care about a whole lot so if you mess it up nobody cares. It’s no big deal, you know? You don’t want to start being like.. on your competition retrieve, you don’t want that to be the first time you shape. Because that matters to people, and so we try to get them to do the easier things first. 

In that class we’re also just looking at can you effectively use…once we’ve taught targeting, can you use luring? Can you use shaping? You can teach any behavior any number of ways and so we look a bit more at the techniques that underlie that and there’s…people can make decisions about what they want to train and how they want to go about approaching it and we help them with that once they make some informed decisions. 

Melissa Breau: For sure. I thought, writing the questions for this talk, I felt like there were eight million things I wanted to ask about and jumping back and forth between focus and then the Performance Fundamentals class and I’ve taken the Cooperative Canine Care Class  and loved it, so I wanted to at least briefly kind of touch on the other subjects. We’ll definitely have to have you back to talk more in depth about them, but can you tell us a little bit about the Cooperative Canine Care Class and a little bit about the new cat class you’re working on? And give people… 

Deb Jones: Oh.

Melissa Breau: …a sneak peek?

Deb Jones: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah. Cooperative Care has turned out to be one of my favorites. Which I think we’ve only been teaching it for a couple of years and I was…I became interested in this whole idea of husbandry work and working on grooming and veterinary procedures with animals after I had gone to a week-long training seminar at Shedd Aquarium a few years ago and the majority of the training they do is cooperative care type training.

They train every day for things that their animals may or may not ever need but if they need them then it’s there, so training their dolphins, for example, to flip upside down and hold still so they can take blood out of the vein by their tail and that’s something they work on everyday even though it happens very rarely, and that got me thinking a lot about what we do with dogs because mostly what we do with dogs is we wrestle with them and usually because we’re a little bit stronger and because they’re nice they don’t bite us, but in reality we do some pretty unpleasant things to them and we don’t prepare them for it. We just do it, okay.

So I wanted to really explore with dogs what can we do to make this more pleasant, more fun for everybody involved? Because it’s no fun for the people either. It’s just a stressful thing all the way around when you have to do something to an animal that it’s afraid of and doesn’t want you to do, so that was the idea for it and we’ve had a lot of fun with it because if you make it all into games and tricks and trained behaviors it really tends to be amazing what they will cooperate with and what they will allow you to do and I’ve used my own dogs as guinea pigs, of course, for everything on this and really been amazed at how much better it is for them than it was in the past.

One of my dogs, Star, had developed a terrible fear of the vet. I was out of town and she ended up having to be spayed and it was unpleasant and just terrible things happened to her at that point. To the point that I was worried she would bite somebody at the vet, and now she goes in. She’s pleased with herself. She jumps up on the table. She wants to do her chin rest and take her squeeze cheese and it just made her…it just made everything so much better for her and that made me so happy and that’s what I hear from students all the time. It’s these little things, you know? That my dog went to the vet and jumped on the scale by themselves or they held still while the vet gave them a shot and didn’t even act like they noticed and that’s what I want to hear. Those are the kinds of things that make that class worthwhile.

Melissa Breau: And I know, for example, I have a German Shepherd with some pressure issues and just the working through the class and working through being able to touch them in different ways that just helped her so much in terms of wanting to cuddle and be a little bit closer to me at different times. It just had so much of a positive impact in the relationship over all. I can’t recommend the class highly enough. 

Deb Jones: Oh. I’m really happy to hear that. I just love hearing things like that because I think when we give our animals a choice…everybody’s afraid to give them a choice because they’re afraid they’re going to say no. We’re afraid they’re going to say no I don’t want you to touch me. No, I don’t want this to happen, but if we approach it in a very incremental, systematic way and make it highly reinforcing they’re much more likely to start saying yes and the whole idea that they have a choice, I think, makes them brave. It makes them confident and it increases our bond with them because we no longer have to wrestle them to the ground to try to do something with them, so they trust us more.

Melissa Breau: Right. Do you want to share a little bit about the cat class?

Deb Jones: The cat class. Yeah. I was just thinking about that. I’m still working on the cat class, which I honestly…honestly when I said it, it was a joke. I didn’t necessarily actually ever intend,…when I first brought it up, I was like you know oh I’m so busy so here I am thinking about teaching a class to train cats and I thought that was funny, but people started jumping in and what I realized from that is every video I get from a student that has a cat the cat is there. Like I said earlier. The cat’s in it. The cat’s interested so what the heck?

And people really do not believe that cats can be trained. They think cats are totally different than any other creature on the planet and you can train everything else but not a cat, so…and working with my own cat, Tricky, who’s about six years old now, I think. I’ve worked quite a bit with Tricky over the years. He likes to train and he trains differently than a dog but in some ways, he’s faster. In some ways a little bit…it’s a little bit more challenging than I expected, so it’s an exploration. It’s an experiment but I’m looking at…started looking at what could we do with a class like this? How could I set it up?  

So it’s going to be a little bit different than some of my other classes because first we have to convince the cats that they want to work with us and I think that’s a little…that’s even more than it takes with a dog because our dogs we tend to be a little more social with anyway and cats sometimes we allow them to be very independent and we assume that’s what they’re supposed to be, so convincing them now that they want to do something with us and that it’s going to pay off. I think that’s going to be a big step, but other than that 90 percent of what I’m looking at it’s the same way you train any animal.

We use lots of positive reinforcement. We break things down into small bits and we work our way up, so I don’t know that it will be that vastly different. It’s not like there’s one way to train cats and then another way to train every other animal in the world. It’s that we train the same way but we have to remember that they are cats and that there are some things that we’ll have to keep in mind that make them different than dogs, so it’s an interesting challenge and I’m really excited about it now, so I’m spending the summer training my cat.

Melissa Breau: I can’t wait to see some of the videos from that. It sounds like it will be entertaining and really useful. I mean, it’s always…I feel like anytime we learn more about training a different species than dogs it only improves your overall ability to train.

Deb Jones: Oh. Definitely. I think I’ve learned more from other species by far than I have from training dogs. They’re always more challenging. You have more to learn about them. Approach them differently, so yeah. I love training other species. That’s one of my favorite things to do.

Melissa Breau: We’re getting towards the end of the podcast so we’re at those last three questions that I ask every episode. So what is the dog related accomplishment that you are proudest of?

Deb Jones: Oh. That’s a tough question. First I…because you’d think okay I’d want to talk about titles or something but not really. What I think I’m most proud of just overall with all of my dogs is that they all want to work with me. If they have a choice between me and anything else in the world they’ll choose me and there’s a lot of effort, on my part in terms of training, that went into that but I’m very proud of the fact that my dogs freely make that decision and I don’t ever have to coerce them to make that, so I’d say that has to be my overall answer.

Melissa Breau: I think that’s an accomplishment almost everybody listening to this would love to have, so I definitely think that’s a good answer. What is the best piece of training advice that you have ever heard?

Deb Jones: Oh. That’s a hard one, too. These are hard questions, Melissa. I’ve heard lots of good and bad training advice over the years but most recently what’s sticking in my mind comes from Denise, actually, which is train the dog in front of you. Train the dog you have right now not the dog you want or the dog that you think you ought to have, but train the one that’s standing there and that is harder than it seems to be, but I think that’s a very good piece of advice. They’re all different and we need to work with each one as a unique individual.

Melissa Breau: And even as a unique individual I mean the dog you have today is not the dog you have next week and it’s so hard to see that sometimes.

Deb Jones: Oh, it is. It’s really hard because we just have built up in our minds this image of what this dog’s like and even if the dog changes our image doesn’t always change, so I think that’s a really good point and I sometimes…I’m so bad I forget which dog knows which behavior. So I’ll tell Helo to do something that Zen knows how to do and then I’ll look at him like oh I never taught you that, so I need to focus a little more on the dog that’s in front of me at the moment. 

Melissa Breau: That’s funny. And then finally, who is someone else in the dog world that you look up to?

Deb Jones: Oh. Quit asking me hard questions. Well, I have to say as a group really, truly every instructor at FDSA is just amazing and they really inspire me. I feel challenged to always do better because of the people I’m working with. Because the instructors are all so awesome and I don’t want to be the weak link so I always feel like I have to do more and work harder because of them, which is a really good thing.

If we move out of that realm a little bit someone that I do truly admire would be Ken Ramirez. I worked with him at Shedd. Got to know him and work with him at Shedd Aquarium when I was there and have seen him several times since then and I like his approach and I like the fact that he’s worked with so many different species and that he still maintains the science of it but at the same time it’s not clinical. It’s also humanized in a way. I don’t know if that even makes any sense.

Melissa Breau: Very practical. It’s applicable.

Deb Jones: Yes. Very, very applicable to a huge variety of situations, so I admire that.

Melissa Breau: All right. Well, thank you, so much for coming on the podcast, Deb. It was really great to chat.

Deb Jones: Oh. Thank you for asking me.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. No. I was thrilled that you could make some time and that we could fit this in and thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in. We will be back next week. This time with Andrea Harrison to talk about the human half of the competitive team. 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!

Jun 2, 2017

 

SHOW NOTES: 

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 mentioned:

Next Episode: 

To be released 6/9/2017, featuring Deb Jones. 

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’ll be talking to Mariah Hinds.

Mariah’s 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.

Hi Mariah. Welcome to the podcast.

Mariah Hinds: Hi Melissa, it’s great to be here.

Melissa Breau: I’m so excited to get to talk to you for the podcast today. I think we’ve been talking about this for a long time so it’s good to finally get you on.

Mariah Hinds: Yes, absolutely.

Melissa Breau: I wanted to get started with the same question that I ask pretty much everybody to start out, but I think you’re the first person I’ve actually had on who I’ve actually met all of your dogs. Still, since the listeners haven’t, can you share who they are and what you’re working on with them.

Mariah Hinds: Sure, yes. I have three dogs. Jada is my oldest. She’s a Doberman. She’ll be 11 years old next month. She’s my Novice A dog and she has her Utility title. She occasionally makes appearances in my training videos. And my middle dog is Clever who I call Liv and she’s four years old. She’s a Border Collie and she’s my first positive-only trained dog. She has her CDX and will be entering utility this fall and I hope to get an OTCH with her. I really think that she can do it. And my puppy is Talent who I call Tally. She’s eight months old and we’re just getting started. We’ve done some shaping and some obedience and agility foundations, but really the focus has been on house manners and socialization and focus and just enjoying each other’s company.

Melissa Breau: Well as I mentioned in the bio at the very beginning, you pretty much always knew you wanted to be a dog trainer... so I wanted to ask how you got started and about that "always a positive trainer" question.

Mariah Hinds: So I’m…I was not always been a positive trainer. Jada actually is my crossover dog. I started off, as most people do, assuming that dogs really just play dumb and choose to ignore us and that some coercion is really required for training. But the more that I worked with dogs, the more I realize that they’re really trying their best to interpret our world and I was what I would call a balanced trainer until I took the Susan Garrett Recallers course and saw dogs of all breeds coming when called in really challenging situations, and that really started my journey, and I spent the next two years watching every competition dog training video, every generic dog training video, and attending as many online classes and seminars as I could.

And all the while I was training pet dogs for 30 hours a week doing private training sessions and so I was able to try new things with those dogs as well, and I decided to commit to raising my middle dog with only positive training methods and watching her thrive and learn and become so precise using only those methods, and incrementally setting her up to succeed, really cemented my commitment to positive training methods.

Melissa Breau: Like you talked a little bit there about kind of how you crossed over and training pet dogs, so what got you into competition obedience?

Mariah Hinds: Well so my first experience with competition obedience was I worked at PetSmart, that was my first job, and I had this dog and we took this…I took this class from a PetSmart trainer named Barb and she competed in obedience with her dog and invited me to go watch a competition obedience class and immediately I was hooked and the dogs were all heeling and paying attention to their handlers, even when they got close to other dogs and it just really looked like a lot of fun. So when I got Jada I knew that I wanted to do competition obedience and when she was four years old I finally found a place to train regularly and she was entered in novice that year and she got her UD when she was four and she really taught me a lot and I’m really proud of her.

Melissa Breau: Was getting a Doberman partly inspired by the obedience? I’m always curious because now you have Border Collies, so what led you to start out with a Doberman?

Mariah Hinds: So it’s kind of interesting. So at the time, before I got my Doberman, I had a Standard Poodle that I was fostering and I kept getting these comments from my pet people saying, "Oh well, you know it’s a fluffy dog, you know and you can’t train a fluffy dog the same way as you train one of those hardcore breeds." And so I was like, okay, well I’ll go get a Doberman because they’re really pretty and I like them and so that’s how I ended up getting a Doberman.

Melissa Breau: I’d imagine that the Border Collies are very different to train.

Mariah Hinds: They are different, you know, and I never would have gotten them as my first dogs, but really I love Border Collies. I think that they’re a lot of fun and they’re much easier to live with, or mine are, than most people think that they are.

Melissa Breau: Interesting, and we were talking about that a little bit this weekend, just even the difference between the two that you have now, right?

Mariah Hinds: Yeah, they’re definitely different, but they have a lot of similarities as well, and part of that is just how I raised them. Clover was my first Border Collie and so I wanted to make sure I didn’t have the same issue with Jada, like the checking out, so really did a lot of focus on building drive and with my young dog, I’m like, I know that it will come and yes we’ve done a little bit of drive building, but most of it has been, "all right I’m going to get you excited and then we’re going to practice calming down afterwards," and so she was much better at that than my four year old dog.

Melissa Breau: Most of your classes at FDSA kind of revolve around self-control on the part of the dog, like in one format or another, right? So just glancing over some of your upcoming classes, you have Proof Positive this session, a stay class in August, impulse control and a greeting class in October. What is it really about that topic that’s kind of drawn you to teach it and that fascinates you so much?

Mariah Hinds: Well, really it's that I think that reliability is greatly affected by self-control and not knowing how to teach impulse control and self-control positively to dogs initially is what held me back from crossing over just to being a positive trainer, especially early in my career as a pet trainer, and so when I realized that I had this gap in my understanding, I really pursued learning about it as much as I could. I also feel like reliability or the lack of it is really frustrating to most of us and we can greatly impact our relationships with our dogs by working on impulse control and building reliability and I really enjoy seeing people understand their dogs. We see their dog’s point of view and ultimately have a better relationship with their dog.

Melissa Breau: And I want to focus in on proofing for a moment there, so I wanted to ask how you define proofing and kind of how you approach it.

Mariah Hinds: Well so I think that the traditional definition of proofing is to set the dog up to be wrong and tell the dog that he or she is wrong and hope that the dog can bounce back from corrections time and time again, and what we’re going to do in proofing is set the dog up to succeed time and time again with tiny little increases in the difficulty level, and so what I find is that that really builds confidence by showing the dog that they are indeed correct and they have earned a reward for their effort. And so that’s really the big thing of building their confidence and helping them understand that it’s the same behavior even if it’s slightly more challenging with a distraction.

Melissa Breau: And I’ve heard a rumor about, something about costumes in this class. Is that right?

Mariah Hinds: Yes. One of the games we’re going to be playing is about having handler dress up and making sure that the dogs can do the behavior even with the handler dressed up or with a helper dressed up and I find that a lot of times that really impacts the dog because our body language is different, so really helping to again build that reliability. So the other thing that we’re going to go over in Proof Positive is we’re going to over covering maintaining criteria, and often times I find that we build these really beautiful behaviors that are really crisp and clean and fast, and when we add distractions then our criteria drifts and we lose some of that beautiful criteria. So we’re going to go over how to maintain that while we’re adding more levels of difficulty.

Melissa Breau: I definitely think that’s something a lot of people struggle with, just like figuring out how to do that and keep that really pretty behavior that they can get in their living room, when they’re out in the real world, and then eventually in a show ring.

Mariah Hinds: Yeah, it’s definitely…it can be done, it can be done.

Melissa Breau: So I wanted to make sure students got something, or listeners got something that they could kind of take away and act on as part of this, so I wanted to ask you if there’s a common piece of proofing or if there’s something else that jumps out to you, that’s fine too, where you feel that students like usually struggle, and if so, kind of how you recommend working through it.

Mariah Hinds: Well I think that most people struggle with seeing the benefit of systematically helping their dog overcome distractions, which is my definition of proofing. I think that a lot of people see it as mean or unnecessary, and personally I think that if we’re going to enter a dog in a trial at some point, then they’re going to need to be able to do the behaviors with distractions and that systematically helping the dog become reliable with distractions is a really kind thing to do to help them prepare for that environment.

I think that the second most common struggle with proofing is really over-facing our dogs. We pick the distraction that’s too challenging for the dog and the dog struggles to make the desired choice and then we get upset or disappointed in the dog, even if it’s just a tiny bit, and then we’re building stress into our behaviors and that’s not the goal. So when a dog struggles with a distraction, then really distance is our friend, you know. We can always go further away from the distraction and then the dog is like, oh okay, I can do it now.

Alternatively, we can dissect the distraction into its simplest parts and build back up from there, once the dog is successful with the individual components. So for example, if a dog struggles with a judge in the ring, then we want to work just on judge being far away and not work on it being a new location and having sounds and having food on the table and all those other things. And the bottom line is that we really want to build confidence with proofing, and not add stress.

Melissa Breau: So do you want to talk just for a minute about how you can kind of tell when the dog is over faced versus kind of working through something or trying to make a choice? Like how do you walk that line? Can you just talk to that for a minute?

Mariah Hinds: So a big part of that is body language. The other thing that I really make sure that I practice with my own dogs is that the 50, 60, 80 rule, and that rule to me is if they’re 80 percent reliable and you’ve done it about five times, then we can make it slightly more challenging. If they’re between 60 and 80 percent reliable and you’ve practiced it five times, then really we’re doing okay. We can keep practicing at that level and the dog will figure it out. We might want to help them a tiny bit if they’re leaning towards the 60 percent, and again, we still want to look at stress signals. If the dog is checking out or if they’re looking worried, then definitely we need to make it easier.

If they’re below 60 percent successful, then we most definitely need to make it easier, and if they’ve failed to make the desired choice twice in a row, then again, we definitely need to back up and help them understand because they’re not going to miraculously figure out that, oh I should be doing this behavior instead of that.

Melissa Breau: You mean they can’t actually read our minds?

Mariah Hinds: No, they can’t. If they could then they would do it already.

Melissa Breau: All right. So I wanted to kind of round out things the way I normally round up a conversation, which is asking about the dog related accomplishment that you’re proudest of.

Mariah Hinds: So last year when I was in Florida, we had this competition called DOCOF, and what it is it that every year all the obedience clubs in Florida put together teams and then all those teams compete against each other in this one day event. And so last year we were entered in open and Liv won First Place in open with a score of 199 and a half and so I was very proud of that. There were a hundred dogs in that class and she beat several dogs who were really expected to win who were taught with traditional methods, and those trainers had told me in the past that dogs who are only positively trained can’t win, but we did. So that was really exciting. So we tried for…

Melissa Breau: I was just going to say, you’ve had a lot of success with her, right? I mean you guys have done a lot of really cool things.

Mariah Hinds: We have done a lot of cool things. She’s one really fun dog, you know. Yeah, she’s a lot of fun and she loves to train, so we train a lot. And we trained for high in trial with my friend and we did a run off and we finished up in second place out of the 3 hundred dogs that were entered, and then in addition to our individual successes, our team was really supportive of each other and we celebrated each dog and handler’s big and little successes, and we didn’t let each other worry about the tiny baubles, so really overall it was a really great day.

Melissa Breau: That’s awesome. It sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe you have to start something like that here in NC.

Mariah Hinds: I know, it would be fun. I really…it’s one of the big things that I’m going to miss about Florida, not the heat, but I’ll miss that.

Melissa Breau: And what is the best piece of training advice that you’ve ever heard?

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 and 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.

Melissa Breau: So I’m really curious there. You mentioned your unedited videos kind of look like a play session with a little bit of training mixed in. I mean your dogs are pretty drivey, just kind of knowing them and watching you work with them. What ratio are you actually talking about? Are you thinking like five minutes of play, two minutes of work, or like what do you…can you break that out for me a little more and just talk a little more about it?

Mariah Hinds: So I do a lot of focusing on tiny pieces of behavior. I know that a lot of people really work on sequences, but I don’t focus on that really with my dogs. I focus on just tiny pieces of behavior, like five steps of heeling with some proofing. Or five steps of doing left turns and right turns and then rewarding that and making sure that each tiny piece is really crisp and so that’s what I aim for in a training session, and so we do three minutes of work and they get kibble with that and then we do, after our three minutes, then we do a little bit of play and then we do it again. That’s kind of what it looks like. I don’t really do a lot of five minutes of training in one duration.

Melissa Breau: So for our final question, someone else in the dog world that you look up to.

Mariah Hinds: Well I really look up to Silvia Trkman. I love how she teaches heeling which is now how FDSA teaches heeling. I have no clue if that’s really related or not, but I think that she’s really an expert in shaping and she teaches her dogs some really fun tricks and the reliability that she gets with her dogs in really big events is awe inspiring and she does it all with positive training methods.

So I also really like learning from Bob Bailey. He has some really important things to share regarding training, such as matching law, reward placement, and rewarding more substantially for duration behaviors and I think that these things really impact precision and reliability. So I love taking things that I learned from him and thinking about how I can apply that to 10 different behaviors or scenarios.

Melissa Breau: All right. Well thank you so much for coming on the podcast Mariah, and thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in.

Mariah Hinds: Thanks for having me.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. It was good to finally get to talk to you while the recording was running instead of just for fun.

So in case you missed it last week, for all our listeners out there, you’ll no longer have to wait two weeks between episodes. That’s right. We’re taking the podcast weekly which is why you’re hearing this episode now, even though we just published the interview with Julie last week. And that means we’ll be back next Friday, this time with Deb Jones to talk performance fundamentals, cooperative canine care, shaping and that all important topic, focus. If you haven’t already subscribed 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 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!

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