For our one year anniversary we're releasing a special edition of the podcast... a compilation of some of the most popular clips from the year in an extra long bonus episode. I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.
Today I’m here with Teri Martin -- for those of you who don’t know her, Teri is Denise’s right hand woman; she handles setting up the classes for all of you each session, plays tech support, and is the main organizer for camp each year.
Teri and I will be doing something a little different this episode… roughly a year ago today, December 23rd, I launched our very first episode, which was an interview with Denise Fenzi.
To celebrate our anniversary, today we’re going to reshare some of the more memorable moments from the last year. But before we dive into that, Teri is here with me to talk a little about the plans for FDSA Training Camp 2018.
Welcome to the podcast Teri! Excited to have you co-hosting this special episode with me.
Teri Martin: Thanks, Melissa. Happy to be here.
Melissa Breau: Alright, to start us out, do you want to just remind everyone when and where camp is going to be next year?
Teri Martin: Camp is going to be June 1st to 3rd, that’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and it’s going to be at the Roberts Centre/Eukanuba Hall in Wilmington, Ohio. I’m super excited about the venue. It’s going to have six different rings running and it’s going to be amazing.
Melissa Breau: I’m super excited because it’s the first year that it’s been close enough that I can drive, so I can bring a working dog, and I have a puppy, so can’t beat that.
Teri Martin: Cool.
Melissa Breau: How does registration work? I know it’s a little complicated and people tend to ask questions.
Teri Martin: Working spot registration is complicated. The regular stuff isn’t. Working spot are given priority registration, so there are two phases for those. The first one is Phase 1, and it’s going to open on January 8th at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. If you have eight or more courses at any level in FDSA, you will get an invitation to register for that phase. After that, we have Phase 2, which is for people who have four or more courses at any level. That will start January 10th. And then after that we open it to everybody. I should add that auditing is also available and you don’t need to register super early for that, but we do suggest you do at least fairly soon, but it’s not going to be the same as the demand for the working spots.
Melissa Breau: Can they start registering for that on the 8th, did you say?
Teri Martin: If you’re eight or more, then it will start on the 8th, and if you’re four or more it starts on the 2nd. And then general registration opens on the 15th.
Melissa Breau: Gotcha. Where do people go for the official schedule and all the additional information that you’ve got out?
Teri Martin: Go to the FDSA website and it’s up on there under “More FDSA Education.” You will see a link for the training camp and all the information is there.
Melissa Breau: All right, last one -- what is your favorite thing about camp?
Teri Martin: Oh, so many things. For so many of us it’s getting to see all these people that we feel that we’ve formed these friendships with, and it’s just like you’re greeting an old friend that you haven’t seen for so long. And those instructors are exactly the same way as they appear when they’re giving you advice. They’re friendly and warm and funny and fabulous. So it’s just the sense of bringing that whole community together in real life and getting all inspired to go home and train your dog.
Melissa Breau: Awesome. I’m so looking forward to it. It’s been an amazing experience the last few years being able to attend as a volunteer, and so I’m totally looking forward to seeing things from the other side!
Teri Martin: We’re going to miss having you as a volunteer, though.
Melissa Breau: I’ll be back next year. Do you want to introduce our first clip, or should I?
Teri Martin: (something about the question I asked that led to this -- how Denise’s training philosophy has influenced other aspects of her life -- maybe “First up is that first episode, an interview with Denise, from when you asked her…” ).
I think it’s pretty appropriate that we start with our fearless leader Denise. I think you had a question in the very first episode where you asked her how her training philosophy has influenced other aspects in her life, and for me that just totally sets the ground for how this whole wonderful school and the sense of community that surrounds it has come to be.
Melissa Breau: Excellent. Let’s play that clip.
Denise Fenzi: It’s been probably the most significant thing that’s happened in my entire life. When I changed how I trained dogs, you have to be pretty obtuse not to recognize that we all learn the same way. And if you’re a positive trainer with dogs and you really emphasize catching what they do right and ignoring what they do wrong, I mean, you really have to choose not to think about it, to realize that exactly the same thing is true with people. So for example both of my kids have very good manners, and I know how that came about in part. One thing is, I’m simply a respectful person and I encourage that.
But I remember our first outings to restaurants when they were smaller, and if they said they would order for themselves, and they would say please and show nice manners, the second that person would walk away from the table I would say to my husband who’d be there, “I am so proud that we have kids who are so respectful and have such good manners. It makes me happy to go places with them.” And you could almost see the difference the next time that opportunity came up again, you could almost see them go just a little bit further with their good manners.
And it’s not something I comment on any more, because they’re older, they’re 12 and 16, but they do it by habit. And I know that some part of their brain is always aware of it. So I’ve never said to them “Say please, say thank you,” I don’t tell them what to do, but when it happens I really work to catch those moments and acknowledge them. And I think dog training is a lot easier than child training, that’s just my perspective. But I try to work with that, and I try not to think in terms of getting my kids to go to school and do well because I’ve restricted the rest of their lives, and I try to think in terms of balance and cooperation.
Of course with people you can talk things out more. But at the end of the day if you’re having any kind of conflict with another person, whether it’s a family member or some random person you see on the street, the question I ask myself now is, do I want to feel better or do I want to change behavior? So if I want to feel better I may well behave badly, I may yell. I do yell, by the way. I do yell at my children, I do yell at my dogs. I know some people say, “That’s amazing you do, you’re not supposed to do that.” Well that’s great, I’m glad you’re all there. I’m not, so I will yell, “Get off the couch,” or whatever.
I’m not really training, I’m expressing my upsetness. So that’s, do I want to feel better? Yes, so I’m going to yell. Or somebody irritates me on the street because their dog runs up to mine and is off-leash, and so maybe I’m having a particularly bad day, and I might respond inappropriately. But then the second question is, do I want to change behavior? And I think recognizing that those are different things is really important because never, ever, ever am I yelling if I want to change behavior, and never am I talking to somebody like they’re dumb, or ignorant, or anything, because it’s all perspective, because they just have a different perspective.
So maybe they don’t understand that their off-leash dog running up to my old dog is a problem. And the reason it’s a problem is, my dog is old and she doesn’t like other dogs jumping on her. And I’ve had much better luck saying, “I know your dog is friendly, but my dog is very old and she has a lot of arthritis. And when your dog comes up like that it really scares her, and it hurts her.” And when I say that, without fail they apologize and they put their dogs on a leash. And I smile, I’m not angry. I might be inside, but I don’t show it. The next time I see them we continue with a pleasant set of interactions.
And that kind of thinking, do I want to feel better or do I want to change behavior, has been really quite impactful, whether in my family or with people. We often talk about with our dogs, sometimes dog trainers are a lot nicer to their dogs than people. I find that very incongruent, and I don’t like to live my life that way. I like my life to make sense. And I think we need to be very aware of not only how we treat our pets but show that same courtesy to each other, and I find that from there I am a happier person.
Because when you are kind with people instead of getting your emotions from stewing in your, "oh my God, I can’t believe how stupid that person is," that I understand that we take pleasure in those periods of time when we feel superior to other people, because I guess that’s where that comes from, I understand that.
But it is a short-lived and negative form of emotion, and in the long run it leaves you feeling worse about the world. Whereas when you take the time to think about things from somebody else’s point of view, I find that that leads to an understanding, and honestly it makes my life a lot better. It makes me a more pleasant and happy person, so that has a lot of value.
Melissa Breau: I think that one has really stuck with me. I think it’s really influenced what FDSA is and how it works, too.
Teri Martin: A little-known fun fact about all of that: As you know, we have a really active Facebook group that’s been so much of this community, and that started way back in November 2013, which was maybe two sessions in. There was a group of us that had taken both of these courses and were totally all excited about the FDSA thing and wanted to start a Facebook group. So I pushed Denise about it, and she was like, “Oh, you know, I’ve had so many bad experiences with groups. People get really nasty and mean, and I just don’t want to have that. Well, you guys can go ahead, if that’s what you want to do, but I don’t want to be part of it.” and then she comes back about a week later and she says, “You know what, I thought it over and I think this is actually a pretty good thing, so let’s go for it.” And from there on, the rest is history.
Melissa Breau: Yeah, think about how big a part that plays in the community today. It’s huge.
Teri Martin: Yes. And another fun fact is she has to be really nice to me, because I can actually kick her out of the group because I’m the original founder.
Melissa Breau: That’s funny. Since you brought up the early days, for our next clip let’s use the clip I have from Amy Cook, where she shares how she became one of the first instructors here at FDSA.
Melissa Breau: So I wanted to ask you too about the early days of FDSA because I believe, I think you actually told me that you were one of the first teachers that Denise brought on at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. So I was really curious to get some of your impressions on how you think it’s changed and kind of what happened when she initially approached you.
Amy Cook: Oh, boy. You know, it was standing in the right place at the right time, I swear. You know, she had taught online elsewhere and decided to do this endeavor, and I was just…I’m pretty sure I was just finishing grad school and saying, well, I guess I’m going back to dog training. I wasn’t sure what I had in store, I’ll just revamp or ramp up my business again, fine. And I can remember, I was standing near a freezer in her garage and I can’t exactly remember how it came up but she said, “We have a behavior arm, could you teach what you teach, teach a class in what you do?”
Boy, I felt…the answer was both yes and no. The answer is no because I’ve never done that, but the answer is yes because well, it has to be possible, right? Sure. I’ll certainly try it. I really wanted to do something like that. But for a second there I was like, really? Behavior? Behavior, though. I mean, behavior. It’s complicated. People are all over the place. Dogs are behaving all over the place. It’s a lot to…how will I do this online?
But I had faith. She really had vision early on for how this was going to go and we brainstormed, I was really excited about it. She actually came up with the title of the class, Dealing with the Bogeyman, that’s hers. She’s like, let’s call it that. I was like, sure. It was exciting. It was exciting times and I was really just like, well, I’m happy to run a class and see what I can do for people. If it’s something I don’t feel is resulting in improvements that are reasonable for the dogs I’m helping then it’s not right, then online is more suited for skill-based stuff and not so much the concepts or the complicated behaviors.
I shouldn’t have been afraid because it’s been amazing.
Teri Martin: It’s just so cool how all this online stuff works. There was a conversation elsewhere about this with Amy where she said she couldn’t believe how much her online students progressed. They get to digest all their information on their own time frame, they get their feedback quickly, they can take the time to set up the scenarios properly so they don’t get dogs overwhelmed, and can ask daily questions of the instructor. That’s just so more efficient than meeting once every two weeks. So it’s really a great way to work behaviour stuff.
Melissa Breau: I think that was on her blog, where she wrote about the impact of online training.
Teri Martin: I know it’s come up a few times, so it very well could be in her blog.
Melissa Breau: Not only is it an awesome way for people to train where they can set up scenarios and whatnot, but because it’s online, it lets our students learn from some of the best trainers in the world, no matter where they live, it gives them access to these training concepts that maybe haven’t quite become widespread enough for there to be classes on those topics locally. I think a good example of that is Julie Flanery’s Imitation and Mimicry class. It’s this really interesting concept that I couldn’t imagine a local trainer trying to run a class on that. They’d be scrounging up students left and right. So I want to make sure we include a clip of her explaining that concept from her interview back in May.
Melissa Breau: You kind of mentioned shaping and luring in there, but you wrapped up a class on Imitation and Mimicry and I have to say that’s like such a fascinating concept. If you could start by just kind of explaining what that is for the listeners in case they’re not aware of it, and just kind of sharing how you got into that, that would be great.
Julie Flanery: Yeah. No, I’d love to. Imitation and Mimicry is a form of social learning or learning through observation, and we’ve long known it to be effective in human learning, but it wasn’t until probably the last 10 years or so that we’ve really seen any studies on its use in dog training. I first heard about it at a ClickerExpo, a talk that Ken Ramirez gave on concept training in dogs, and then further researched Dr. Claudia Fugazza’s study that she did, and in 2006 she created a protocol that showed that dogs can learn these new skills and behaviors by mimicking their owners and it’s her protocol that we use in class.
Also what’s fascinating is that Ken Ramirez has developed a protocol for a dog-dog imitation and mimicry, and some of the videos I’ve seen on that are just truly, truly amazing. So, things that we didn’t think were possible now we know are and we’re actually able to bring to more people now. The class was really quite inspirational for me because my experience of course had been limited with it in working with it with my own dog and then some of my live classes, my students there in my live classes, we worked through it, and when Denise asked me to do a class on it I was really excited, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I have to say my students in that class are just amazing. They have really shown me what this protocol can do and how truly capable our dogs are of learning some of these concepts, so it’s been a really exciting class for me. And matter of fact, I’m going to go ahead and put it back on...I think it is already...Teri’s added it to the schedule for August, and so I’m really excited about doing it all over again.
Melissa Breau: I love that our instructors are really well versed in such a wide variety of animal-related training and research.
Teri Martin: No kidding! I think there’s been tons of podcasts where you’ve had discussions about all sorts of cool research with dogs including I think even Kamal talked about teaching dogs how to fly a plane. I listened to one with our newest agility instructor just recently, Barbara Currier, who said that she was doing some wonderful things in the field of service dogs.
Melissa Breau: Awesome. Let’s give that a listen.
Melissa Breau: So, I have to say, kind of working on your bio, it seems like you’ve had the opportunity to do lots of different really interesting things, in the world of dogs, from animal wrangling to working on wearable computing, so I wanted to ask a little more about what you do now. Can you tell us just a little bit about the FIDO Program there, at Georgia Tech, and what you’re working on with the dogs there?
Barbara Currier: Sure. So, FIDO stands for Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations. My best friend, Dr. Melody Jackson, she’s a professor there, at Georgia Tech, and she runs the brain lab and the animal computer interaction lab. She came up with the idea of creating wearable computing for service dogs, military dogs, police, search and rescue, any type of working dog, and she asked me to come on to oversee the dog training aspects of the work. Within the last year, I’ve been really busy with travel, and so I, actually, haven’t been working a lot with them, on the project, and she’s actually taking over most of the dog training aspect, the pilot testing, with her dog, but up to this point, a lot of the stuff that they’ve created, it’s kind of funny, when I tell people what I do there, the team that creates all the stuff, it’s Melody Jackson and her lab partner Thad Starner, they’re brilliant people, and the students that all work there are super brilliant. I am not a techy person. I’m lucky if I can turn my computer on, I just train dogs, so I kind of compare it to like the Big Bang theory, and I’m Penny amongst all of these brilliant people, and they just say stuff and I’m like, that’s great, just tell me what you want the dogs to do. That’s, kind of, where my expertise is, and I don’t have any idea what the technical aspect of it is, but we’ve, actually, created some really cool things.
They’ve created a vest that a service dog is trained to activate that has a tug sensor on it, and so we had a woman come to us that had a speech problem where she doesn’t have, she can’t project her voice out very loudly, and she’s also wheelchair bound, and she was at the dog park, one day, with her dog, and her wheelchair got stuck in some mud, and she couldn’t holler to anybody because her voice just didn’t project like that, and she really needed, like, a way that she could send her service dog to get help to come back, and you know, but a dog running up to somebody, at a dog park, barking, nobody is going to think that’s anything unusual. So, they created a vest that has a computer on it, and the dog has a tug sensor, on the vest, so she can direct the dog to go to somebody, and the dog can go up and it will pull a tug sensor and the vest will actually say, excuse me, my handler needs assistance, please follow me, and the dog can bring that person back to the handler.
Teri Martin: And how cool is that! FDSA instructors have also been on the forefront of some of the new force free happenings with veterinary medicine. It makes so much sense to extend the positive philosophies when dealing with things that are so often necessary but not necessarily pleasant for the dog. I think Debbie Gross has some great views on that?
Melissa Breau: Yup, let’s roll that clip.
Melissa Breau: Now, I think that veterinarians and the medical field in general isn't always known as the most positive part of dog sports, so I'd love to get your take on that. How do positive training and rehabilitation overlap, and are there places where they just can't?
Debbie Gross: Yeah. And that's a very good question. I belong to an organization, I sit on the board called Fear Free, and their whole goal and mission is to establish fear-free veterinarians’ offices, rehab offices, looking at training facilities, boarding facilities, things like that, so it's all aimed at making sure the experience is positive and fear free. And certainly…you know, we laugh in our clinic because we're not the vet, so dogs come in and they know they're getting copious amounts of cookies, and it's going to be a great place, and they love it, and so I think it's very important to, you know, right off the bat we want to make sure the owner and the dog are very comfortable.
Certainly, dogs often will become fearful or potentially aggressive if they're in pain, so I always tell the trainers that I work with, assume that it's physical before behavioral. Now, I'll hear so many times from owners, "Oh, my dog didn’t want to do the A-frame this morning. It's probably because …" You know, they make something up and then get steak for dinner. They swear they don’t think like that. You know, they probably didn’t want to do something because they're in pain. Something like the A-frame puts a lot of stress on the dogs back, and the hips, and stuff like that, so understanding if a dog is fearful, or doesn’t want to do something, looking at the reason why, you know, so is it pain that is prohibiting them from doing something.
And certainly, some dogs are not candidates, like, we've turned dogs away because they're either too fearful, or they just can't do … they don’t want to do anything, and rather than forcing them, we won't do that, you know, and that's a little bit different than traditional vet medicine where dogs need to go in. They may need to get an exam, or their vaccinations, or things like that, but this fear free movement is fantastic, and you know, looks at everything from the lighting, their potential pheromones in the air to relax the dogs, and cats also, and other animals, so most the time in rehab dogs love it. They love coming into our office, and it's fun, and it's all positive, and you know, that's the way I want it to be. I mean, I love when the dogs pull their owners into the office, so you know that they're having a great time, so it's great.
Teri Martin: And of course, using positive training in places where it hasn’t historically been used, carries over into training sports that have been resistant to positive methods too -- like IPO and Gun Dog sports.
Melissa Breau: Cassia offers positive gun dog training classes here at FDSA, so I wanted to include this clip from her on the importance of work and play.
Melissa Breau: I know I mentioned in your bio that you believe dog training should be a form of structured play. It sounds like that’s a little bit what you’re talking about, but can you explain a little more what that phrase means, or at least what it means to you, and what it looks like in practice, like within a training session?
Cassia Turcotte: Sure. I think that…I’m trying to think where I actually first heard that term, and it may have been even Lindsey that said it, but really, it’s…you know, I don’t want the dog to feel like what we’re doing is work. If you feel like you’re being dragged to work every day, it’s mentally hard, but if they go out and they go, oh my gosh, this is the coolest thing ever, I can’t wait to do more of it, then the attitude’s up, the motivation’s up, and you don’t have any trouble with compliance.
You know, they’re really willing to play the game, and it’s fun. It’s fun for me and it’s fun for them, so you know, it’s one of the things…you know, how would it look in a training session? One of the things that we do in field work is called the walk up, and all that is, is a bumper is thrown in the air as you’re heeling with the dog, and it’s thrown in front of the dog, and the point of it is to challenge the dog to stay heeling and stay steady with you, and the traditional way would be to correct them for not doing that.
So in our way, we jackpot with Chuckit! ball or tug or food as a reinforcement for being steady, you know, so they see the bumper go up, and they sit, and we say, “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome,” and we throw a Chuckit! ball in the opposite direction, and so it’s all a game, and it’s about keeping them guessing and mentally challenging them and getting it so that they really understand what they’re being asked to do, and they’re not just corrected for not understanding. So I think that’s pretty much what it would look like in an average day.
Melissa Breau: We also mentioned IPO, before sharing that clip from Cassia, and the trainer best known for that at FDSA, hands down, is Shade Whitesel.
With driven dogs, frustration problems can be a real issue; Shade has spent the last few years looking at how to prevent frustration through clear communication. During her interview back in February, she talked about location specific markers, which are one of the things she’s known for here at the school.
Teri Martin: I’m taking Shade’s class right now with my young, 6-month-old puppy, and I’m absolutely loving this concept. It’s really cool to see the clarification in how my dog knows that chase means [26:33] and you get the ball and [26:34] grab it out of my hands and [26:37] you can see the clarity, so I’m happy to see this clip.
Shade Whitesel: No matter how you train, communicating as clearly as possible is so important, because 99.9 percent of our problems are due to the unclarity of our teaching.
And all of our problems with dogs — I mean it’s really our problem it’s not theirs — go away when you look at the clarity, or more accurately the ‘not clarity’ of your teaching.
When your communication is clear arousal levels go down, frustration from your learner dog goes down, and you get more confident and fluent behaviors from them. And this holds true over trialing, over living with them, over everything, just to be as clear as possible and predictable, that goes into predictability too. So, no matter what method you do that is just so important I think — obviously, since I talk about it.
Melissa Breau: So, I think one really good example of that is the work you’ve done with location specific markers. Do you mind just briefly kind of explaining what that means and kind of how you use them?
Shade Whitesel: You know, markers are such a good thing and people are exploring them, and figuring out that it’s really nice to bridge what behavior your dogs doing to get their reward. Tell the dog where to collect their reinforcement, like, technically I want a different marker that means collect it from my hands, whether that’s food or a toy and I want a different marker that means collect it away from there, whether it’s go pick-up the toy on the ground or whether I’m going to throw the toy, and again it’s just that clarity. And I notice with my own dogs if I had a different marker word for, “Strike the tug out of my hand,” versus, “I’m going to throw it,” the dog stopped mugging me, they stopped looking for where the toy was all the time when I was asking for behaviors. Because they knew that I would tell them exactly how to get their reinforcement. And again, it just goes back to the clarity.
So, location specific markers is just the dog knows exactly where to go and they don’t have to be checking where the toy is or the food — is the food in your pocket? Is it over there in the dish? Because you’re going to tell them so they can put 100 percent of their attention to figuring out what behavior you want them to do, because they can trust that you’re going to tell them where the reinforcement is.
Melissa Breau: The other person who really focuses on helping frustrated dogs at FDSA is Sarah Stremming. Sarah has her own podcast, but I’ve been lucky enough to chat with her twice so far, and wanted to share her take on frustrated dogs vs. dogs who just lack impulse control.
Teri Martin: Let’s roll that clip.
Sarah Stremming: I think that for the worked-up types of dogs the most common misconception that I hear about is that these dogs lack impulse control, that a lack of impulse control is the problem. Or that a lack of … if we’re going to be very accurate, we would be saying a lack of impulse control training is a problem. Just the phrase “impulse control” makes my eye twitch just a little bit because I think that it implies that there’s this intrinsic flaw in these dogs that if they can’t control themselves that there’s something wrong with them, or that teaching them to control their impulses is something that we can do. I don’t think that we can control their impulses one way or another. We can certainly control their behaviors with reinforcement. Whether or not we’re controlling their impulses is probably one of those things that we would have to ask them about, kind of like asking them if they were lonely and if that was why they were jumping all over the person coming home. So I like to stay away from stating that lack of impulse control is a problem. I also think that in agility specifically we accept that our dogs will be in extremely high states of arousal and be kind of losing their mind, and we almost want them that way, and any kind of calmness is frowned upon. The dogs that are selected to breed for the sport tend to be the frantic, loud, fast ones, and looking at behaviors, there’s just kind of a distaste in agility, I feel — and I’m going to get a million e-mails about this — I love agility, people! I love agility! I’m just going to put that out there! But there is a distaste for calm and methodical behaviors in agility. We push for speed, speed, speed from the beginning, and we forget that sometimes maybe we should shut up and let the dog think through the problem. So I think, to get back to your original question, “What’s the misconception?” The misconception is that we need to put them in a highly aroused state to create a good sport dog, and that impulse control is the be-all, end-all of these things. And then, for the hidden-potential dogs, I think the misconception is just that they lack work ethic. They say, “These dogs they lack work ethic, they give you nothing, they don’t want to try, they’re low drive,” yada yada. I think that’s all misconceptions. Everything comes back to reinforcement. When you realize that reinforcement is the solution to everything, you can start to solve your problems and quit slapping labels on the dogs you’re working with.
Teri Martin: I love that. She says, “Shut up and let the dog think,” and also that she says to quit slapping labels on the dogs, because we see so much of that. I love how she’s challenging people to think outside the box on all those arousal questions.
Melissa Breau: I couldn’t agree more. Those are definitely topics that have come up again and again on the podcast, just the idea of not labeling your dog and giving your dog time to process through things. But they definitely aren’t the only running themes. I think probably one of the most popular things I’ve heard, talking to FDSA instructors at least, is how important foundation skills are, and how much of a difference a strong foundation can really make. In fact, Kamal said it was his absolute favorite thing to teach.
Teri Martin: Cool. Let’s hear.
Kamal Fernandez: My actual favorite topic is foundations for any dog sport -- that is by far my favorite topic, because that’s where all the good stuff happens. That’s where you really lay your… well, your foundations, for a successful career in any dog discipline. And I think the irony is that people always want to move on to what I would qualify as the sexy stuff, but the irony is the sexy stuff is actually easy if your foundations are laid solidly and firmly. And I think I’ve had more “ah-ha” moments when I teach foundations to people than I have with anything else. I also, i have to say, i like behavioral issues. You can make GREAT impact, and literally change somebody’s life and their dog’s life, or save somebody’s life with behavioral work and giving them a new take on how they deal with their dog at present, but i would say really, really extreme behavioral cases are really, really juicy to get involved in, and dogs that people say they’re on the cusp of writing the dog off, and the dog is so phobic or aggressive or dog reactive or whatever the case may be, and you can literally turn that person and that dog’s relationship around. That’s really rewarding and enjoyable to work with. But I would say as a standard seminar, I would say foundations by far. It’s just you’ve got young, green dogs, you can see the light bulbs going off for the dogs, you can see the pieces being strung together, that are going to ultimately lead to the dog being this amazing competitive dog, and you can see it literally unfold before your eyes.
Teri Martin: Foundations are one of those things that keep coming up. We see it at camp all the time. People think it’s part of an exercise that’s wrong, and it’s something that’s in that exercise, but nine times out of the ten it comes back to how that foundation was taught.
Melissa Breau: I definitely want to share one more clip on that because, like you said, it’s constantly coming up. This next one’s from Deb Jones, who’s known for covering all of the awesome foundation skills in her Performance Fundamentals class and her Get Focused class. So I asked her that exact question: Why are foundations so important.
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.
Teri Martin: So true what Deb says. Having those foundations just sets up the basis for everything we do in a dog’s life, including how they have to function in our society today ... which I believe takes us nicely into our next clip, which is Heather Lawson talking about life skills in her Hound About Town classes.
Melissa Breau: Excellent. Let’s let it roll.
Melissa Breau: Now, you didn’t touch on two of the things that stood out to me when I was looking at the syllabus, which were the Do Nothing training, and Coffee Anyone, so what are those and obviously how do you address them in class?
Heather Lawson: Yeah. I always get kind of weird sideways looks when I talk about Do Nothing training, because it’s kind of like…people say, ‘What do you mean do nothing training,’ and I say, “Well, how often do you just work on having your dog do nothing,” and everybody looks at me, “Well, you don’t work on having the dog do nothing,” and I say, “Oh yeah, you do.” That’s what we call settle on the mat, chill, learn how to not bug me every time I sit down at the computer to do some work, not bark at me every time I stop to chat with the neighbor, stop pulling me in all different ways, so it’s kind of like just do nothing, because if you think about it the first maybe six months of your dog’s life it’s all about the dog and the puppy.
Then when they get to look a little bit more adult all of a sudden they’re no longer the center of attention, but because they’ve been the center of attention for that first eight weeks to six months, and there’s been all this excitement whenever they’re out and people stop, and you chat or you do anything, it’s very hard for the dog all of a sudden now to have this cut off and just not be acknowledged, and this is where you then get the demand barking, or the jumping on the owner, or the jumping on other people to get that attention, whereas if you teach that right in the very beginning, okay, and teach your puppies how to settle, whether it be in an x pen, or in a crate, or even on a mat beside you while you’re watching your favorite TV show. If you teach them to settle, and how to turn it off then you’re going to not have that much of a problem going forward as they get older.
The other thing, too, is that by teaching the dogs all of these different things that we want to teach them, that’s great, and that’s fabulous, and we should be doing that, but most dogs aren’t active 100 percent of the time, they’re active maybe 10 percent of the time. The other 90 percent they’re chilling out, they’re sleeping, they’re…while their owners are away working if they’re not lucky enough to be taken out for a daily hike, then they’ve got to learn how to turn it off, and if we can teach them that in the early stages you don’t end up with severe behavior problems going forward, and I’ve done that with all of my puppies, and my favorite place to train the “do nothing” training is actually in the bathroom.
What I do with that is my puppies, they get out first thing in the morning, they go their potty, they come back in, we get a chewy or a bully stick, or a Kong filled with food, and puppy goes into the bathroom with me and there’s a mat, they get to lay down on the mat and that’s when I get to take my shower, and all of my dogs, even to this day, even my 11-year-old, if I’m showering and the door’s open they come in and they go right to their mat and they go to sleep, and they wait for me, and that’s that “do nothing” training, right, and that actually even follows into loose leash walking. If you take that “do nothing” training how often are you out in your loose leash walking and you stop and chat to the neighbor, or you stop and you are window shopping, or anything else that you when you’re out and about. If your dog won’t even connect with you at the end of the line, then just…they won’t even pay attention to you while you’re standing there, or they create a fuss, then the chances of you getting successful loose leash walking going forward is going to be fairly slim, okay.
The other thing that you mentioned was the coffee shop training, and that is nowadays people go and they meet at the coffee shop, or they go for lunch, and more and more people are able to take their dogs to lunch, providing they sit out on a patio, and on the occasion where the dog is allowed to stay close to you we teach the dogs to either go under the table and chill or go and lay beside the chair and chill, and teach them how to lay there, switch off, watch the world go by. Even if the waiter comes up, you just chill out and just relax and that allows the dog, again because they’ve got good manners, to be welcomed even more places.
Melissa Breau: Right. It makes it so that you feel comfortable taking them with you to lunch or out.
Heather Lawson: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. There’s lots of places that dogs can go, providing, and they’re welcome, providing they do have those good manners, and if we can keep those good manners going then regardless of whether or not your dog sports or not, it just opens up the avenues for so much more of us to do…more things to do with our dogs.
Melissa Breau: Of course training and competition aren’t entirely about our dogs… we play a big role in their success or failure in the ring. And that can lead to some serious ring nerves on both ends of the leash.
Teri Martin: It always comes back to us, doesn’t it? But the good news is FDSA has our resident “people trainer,” Andrea Harrison, to help us with this.
Melissa Breau: So let’s dig into a couple of those specifically just a little bit more, because I know there are a couple that we talked about a little bit before the podcast and whatnot as being particularly important. So I wanted to dig into this idea of kind of ring nerves and people experiencing nerves before a competition, things that really impact their handling. I was hoping you could talk a little more about that, maybe include a tip or two listeners can use when it comes to ring nerves and tackling it themselves.
Andrea Harrison: Yes. For sure. One of the things I really encourage people to do is test those tools. So people go off to a trial and they’re really, really, really nervous, but they don’t know whether those nerves are physical, right, or in their head, or if they’re affecting the dog at all, right? Because they’ve never really thought about it. All they know is that they’re really, really, really nervous. They feel sick but they don’t know is it in their tummy, is it in their head, is it their respiration, is it sweat glands, is it all of them, right? They haven’t thought about it, they know it makes them feel sick so they push it aside, they don’t work on it between trials, they go back to a trial and they’re like, oh my God, I was nervous again. Well, of course you were nervous again. You didn’t try working on anything, right?
So like everything else it’s almost like a training exercise. You have to think about what is making you nervous, how are you manifesting those nerves, and how can you break them down? It’s just the same, right, just the same as positive dog training. Break it down into these tiny little pieces that you can then find a tool to address.
So for example, if your mouth gets really, really dry and that distracts you and you start sort of chewing cud, as it were, as a cow, you’re like, trying to get the water back in your mouth and it makes you nervous. Well, once you figure that out you take peppermints with you in the car, you suck on a peppermint before you go in the ring, and that’s gone away. Right? And that’s gone away so you feel more comfortable so you can concentrate on the thing you need to concentrate on, right?
You want to always build to those results slowly. When you look at the nerves, I can’t say to you, “Here’s my magic wand, I’m going to wave it over you and all your nerves will be gone.” But you get that sick, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, why is that? Are you remembering to eat the day before a trial? Are you eating too much the day before a trial? Are you remembering to go to the bathroom? Because when you’re nervous you have to go to the bathroom, so make sure you make time to go to the bathroom because then there’s less to cramp in your tummy, right?
So step by step by step, you know, you make a plan, you look at the plan. What kind of music should you listen to on the way to the show? Should you listen to a podcast that’s inspirational to you? Should you put together an inspirational play tack? Do you know exactly where the show is? If you’re anxious and worried and always run late, for Lord’s sake, please drive to the trial ahead of time or Google Map it really carefully and build yourself in 15 minutes extra, because being late to that trial is not going to help your nerves. You’re going to arrive, you’re going to be panicked, you’re going to be stressed.
So where is that stress coming from? How are those nerves manifesting themselves, right? So the music that you listen to on the way, having the mint if your breath is dry, remembering to go to the bathroom, thinking about what I call Andrea’s Rule of Five. So Rule of Five is really simple. Is it going to matter in five minutes? Five hours? Five days? Five years? Right? So if something is stressing you out you can actually stop, ground yourself, which I’ll get into in a sec, but ground yourself and think, Rule of Five. And the vast majority of the time, yeah, it might matter in five minutes because your run will just be over and it was not successful and you’re embarrassed, maybe, or maybe it was great, and like, super.
But very, very few of us are going to remember a run in even five months, let alone five years. I mean, you might remember in general, but your anxiety is not going to still be there, right? I mean, a great run you can remember. I can probably still tell you the details of some of Brody’s amazing agility runs or Sally’s amazing work, right? Like, I can describe going from the A-frame around to the tunnel and picking him up and staying connected and it was beautiful. I can remember the errors of enthusiasm, right, like when he took an off-course tunnel, and he’s never done that in his life, and I was like, oh my God, he took an off-course tunnel. That’s amazing. That’s so cool, and we celebrated. So I just loved that he was that happy about it. But do I remember those very first, early trials where…do I remember the courses where I stood thinking, I’m never going to get my agility dog to Canada? No. I don’t really remember. I remember being sad that he was three seconds over the time and _____ (18:35) [47:44], and that was kind of sucky, but it was okay, right? Like, now with all this perspective it’s fine.
Teri Martin: There’s a lot, really, that affects both ends of the leash. After all, we’re all learners… it can be easy to forget that sometimes.
Melissa Breau: Nancy, for example, shared during her interview how her father influenced her training. He was a football coach, and she’s a dog trainer, but that doesn’t matter -- because it’s all training. Let’s listen to that clip.
Nancy Gagliardi Little: He was a master at analysis, details and creative solutions and i think that's something that I've either inherited or I've learned from him.
Melissa Breau: I was going to say, even just listening to you I can hear the parallels to dog sports; just the idea that breaking things down into pieces and foundation skills.
Nancy Gagliardi Little: Exactly. This is the other piece that I think is so cool is he expected them to be excellent players, as well as excellent human beings, and he believes in people, and he respects people, loves to learn about people. There's so much about his coaching that parallels the way I train my dogs because I expect and focus on their excellence too. I believe in my dogs -- I always believe in them. I believe they're right and they're telling me things. I listen to them and try to make changes to my training based on what they need. Those are all things that my dad taught me from the way he coached his players. There are so many parallels between coaching and dog training; just his way of coaching, it helped me as a dog trainer.
Melissa Breau: I'd really love to hear how you describe your training philosophy now -- what's really important to you? Or what do you see as the big things that you believe in how you believe in training when you work with dogs today?
Nancy Gagliardi Little: Well, I guess to sum it up, it's not a really long philosophy. What sums it up for me is I just always look at my dogs as my coaches. So the dogs are my coaches, whether they're my students' dogs, whether they’re my dogs, they're the ones who they're helping me develop a plan, and I like to think of it that way because it keeps me always evaluating and looking at things.
Teri Martin: Dogs as coaches is one of those gifts that sometimes takes us in new directions we never expected. Take Stacy Barnett, nosework instructor, for example. She sort of fell into that sport because of her dog, Judd, just needed to have something, and now it’s turned into this incredible passion for scent sports. I think she talks about that on her podcast and how the sport is so good for dogs that might struggle in some of the more traditional sport venues.
Melissa Breau: She did! Let’s give that a listen.
Stacy Barnett: Nose work is not only a confidence builder. It can also help reactive dogs. Nose work itself is very reactive-dog friendly in those venues because the dog doesn't have to work within eyeshot or earshot of another dog. They get to work on their own. However, it really does help from a confidence perspective. The sense of smell is actually pretty amazing. It goes through the limbic system, which means that it goes through the hippocampus and the amygdala. So the amygdala is kind of the fight or flight area, and the hippocampus is responsible for developing those early memories.
So what happens is, is that the dog is scenting, and the dog is using about one-eighth of his brain with scenting, and this is all going through this system that’s responsible for emotion and responsible for memory. If we can develop this positive feeling toward sensing and toward scent, we can actually help to put the dog into a really good space so that they can work, and also, you know, as long as you’re working the dog under threshold, the dog is able to continue to work and will actually become more confident over time and actually less reactive over time.
I saw this particularly with my little dog, Why. When he came to me, he could not work at all away from the house. He was also fairly reactive to other dogs. Had about 100-foot visual threshold to seeing other dogs. Now, through nose work, he has developed a lot of confidence. He’s now able to search in novel environments with very little acclimation, and he’s also quite a bit less reactive. He’s got about an eight-foot visual threshold now to other dogs, which I think is absolutely amazing. So the behavioral benefits, especially for a dog like Why, they’re off the charts. Absolutely off the charts.
Melissa Breau: It has been a lot of fun to see the sport of Nosework grow so quickly in the last few years. The AKC has even added it to their list of sports. I caught up with Julie Symons on the new handler scent portion that is part of the new Scent Work competition program with the AKC in Episode 39.
Melissa Breau: I want to switch a little bit from outcomes to training… what challenges are there when training a dog to search for handler scent, you kind of mentioned that, that may not be present when you’re teaching traditional odors?
Julie Symons: That’s a good question. First, it is just another odor. We can attack it that way and it’s true, this is another odor that we teach your dog. But it is different in that it does have its challenges, especially for savvy nosework dogs that have been in oil for a lot of years. We’ve seen a little bit of it being a little bit more difficult for them in certain situations. For example, there’s no aging handler scent, like with the oil odor. So oil hides, the nosework venues we’ve been at, they’re usually placed and they’re out there 30 minutes to hours, so the odor is going to disperse more and diffuse into the area. For handler scent you pretty much give it its last scent, you hand it over to the helper, they place it, and then you go in and run. So the scent’s going to have less diffuse in the area, handler scents is heavier, that’s going to fall down more than, like, a vapor odor oil will disperse in a room, and of course it depends on airflow. Any kind of airflow is going to travel in each scent. It’s going to be helpful to your dog that the scent’s going to travel into the space.
With my dogs and many teams that I’ve worked in, I find that the dogs have to get a lot closer to where the hide is for handler scents to really hone on that. So in this case I’m not talking about the novice level and boxes; I’ll get back to that. But if they hide Q-Tips or cotton balls in a search area, your dog really has to get close to it to find it. So what I’m finding is that I’m actually introducing a little bit more of direction with my handler scent and it’s actually helped a lot, and it gets my dog focused and more... not a patterned search, but just getting them to search. For example, in Advanced Handler Discrimination, it’s an interior search, and no hide is higher than 12 inches. So I’m going to plant low. I’m going to be, like, have my dog search low, and they find it really easily. And I found when I have blind hides somebody has set up for me, I feel more liberated to point and direct. Whereas if I know where the hide is, we tend to not want to intervene at all and my dog finds it quicker, because I don’t know where it is and I’m just going to have my dog cover the area and then they usually find it. So that’s been very helpful in the difference with the handler scent.
Also another thing that’s interesting if you watch dogs search the traditional oil hides in a box, they just find it really easy. You put your scented glove in a box and the dogs just search differently. They have to go cover the boxes a few times, they just don’t hit on it as easily as oil. That oil odor, especially for AKC, is so strong, and your handler scented item is just not going to be as strong in a box, especially it’s not aged. So those are some of the differences and why I think the handler scent is a little bit harder to source for a dog, just because of the amount of odor that you have and the fact that it’s not aged.
Melissa Breau: And while we’re talking nosework, we have to include a clip from my call with Melissa Chandler. Like Stacy, nosework became her passion after she saw the positive effect it could have on a more sensitive dog, like her dog Edge.
Teri Martin: I think there’s some really great takeaways for handlers who have softer dogs in that interview.
Melissa Breau: Now, having worked with a soft dog, do you have tips for others who have soft dogs, kind of to help them let their dog shine or that they should know about setting up training sessions? I mean, what kind of advice would you share?
Melissa Chandler: Sure, this is another subject that I did a lot of research and I attended a lot of different seminars to try and get information, mostly to help Edge, and I think, first and foremost, it’s so important to keep your dog safe and build their trust because once they trust you, that you will keep them safe, that gives them more confidence, and as I always tell my dogs, I have a cue, it’s called “I have your back.” So, if they see something and they get concerned, I’m like, “I got your back.” So, that’s our communication of whatever it is, I see it, you’re fine, I got you, and it just takes time and by keeping them safe you build that trust that they know that you do have them.
I would say never lure or trick your dog into doing something that they don’t feel comfortable doing. Sometimes we find that in parkour because someone really thinks their dog should be able to do that behavior and the dog doesn’t feel comfortable in that environment, so they tried to take cookies and lure them there. Just back off, work on it somewhere else, and eventually it’ll happen. If you lure them, and then they get up there and they’re really afraid, they’re never going to want to do it again. If you let them do it on their own then they’ll be able to do that anywhere in the future.
Teach new behaviors in a familiar, comfortable environment, and then when you’re ready to take it to another room or on the road, lower your criteria and reward any effort that the dog gives you in trying to do that for you. And one thing, when you’re setting up your training sessions, make sure you’re not always asking for difficult behaviors or, in nose work, difficult searches. You want your dog to always look forward to and succeed in your training sessions. If your sessions are always difficult and challenging your dog will no longer look forward to them. Have fun sessions that you reward everything, or just play, or do whatever your dog enjoys most. I had mentioned how much Edge loved his dumbbell, there’s times we just go in the other room and we play with the dumbbell and he loves that, and just think of the value you’re building in your relationship in your training because we just went and did what he loves doing.
And then, for nose work, play foundation games. Just have one or two boxes out, do the shell game, play with your game boxes so it’s fun, fast, quick, highly rewarding searches. And, I have a thing that I put in most of my classes, it’s kind of like your recalls but it’s for odor. How much value do you have in your odor bank. And, when you set up these fun, fast, foundation games, you’re putting lots of value in your odor bank so, then when you have a more challenging side, you have deposits in that odor bank that they can pull out in order to work harder to find that odor.
Melissa Breau: Gotta love those tips from Melissa C. So our next two clips, I think, really speak to Denise’s sixth sense for bringing on new trainers… she seems to excel at tracking down people who really are incredibly good at what they do, but who also truly imbue the FDSA additude.
Teri Martin: I agree. I think our next clip, from Chrissi Schranz, really shows what that attitude is all about.
Melissa Breau: So I wanted to get into your training philosophy, and lucky me, I got a sneak peek before we started. You sent me over the link for this, but I’d love to have you kind of share your training philosophy and how you describe your approach, and for those of you who are going to want to see this after she talks about it, there will be a link to the comic in the show notes.
Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, so I’d say my training philosophy is based on my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. So Calvin has a shovel and he’s digging a hole, and then Hobbes comes up and asks him why he’s digging a hole, and Calvin says he’s looking for buried treasure. Hobbes asks him what he has found, and Calvin starts naming all kinds of things, like dirty rocks and roots and some disgusting grubs, and then Hobbes gets really excited, and he’s like, “Wow, on your first try?” And Calvin says, “Yes. There’s treasure everywhere,” and that is the kind of experience I want people and their dogs to have with each other.
I want them to feel like life is an adventure, and there’s so many exciting things to be discovered that they can do together. I want people to learn to look at the world through their dog’s eyes a little bit and find this pleasure and just be together, and doing things and discovering things, whether that’s digging a hole or playing in dog sports. Yeah, I want them to feel like they’re friends and partners in crime and have that Calvin and Hobbes kind of relationship, because I believe if you have that kind of relationship as a foundation, you can do pretty much anything you want, no matter whether you want to have a dog you can take anywhere or whether you want to compete and do well in dog sports. I think if you have that kind of relationship as a basis, everything is possible.
Melissa Breau: I like that… “Everything is possible.” You certainly can’t predict how far a handler and dog can go, if they build a fantastic relationship. Sue Yanoff talked to that a bit too -- she had some great things to say about how our relationship with our dog makes us a great advocate when they need medical care.
Melissa Breau: Is there anything in particular about veterinary medicine that sports handlers often just don’t understand?
Sue Yanoff: Yeah. I don’t think it’s just sports handlers. I think it’s a lot of people. Veterinary medicine is a science, and the decisions that we make have to be based on science, and not just what people think, or what they heard, and so when you’re making a decision about what the best diagnostics are for a condition, or how best to treat the condition, it has to be based on a series of cases, not just on what somebody thinks, and I go a lot based on what I learn at continuing education conferences, and what I read in the veterinary literature. Because papers that are published in peer reviewed journals are scrutinized to make sure that the science behind the conclusions are valid.
So while, you know, it’s fine for somebody to say , “Well, I did this with my dog and he did great,” what I want to make my decisions on is what worked well for many dogs, dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of dogs, and not just something that might have worked for your dog where we don’t even know if the diagnosis was the same. So I think I want people to know that veterinary medicine is a science, and we have to make our decisions based on science.
Melissa Breau: I think that, you know, especially with the internet these days it’s very common for people to turn to their favorite local forum, and be like well what should I do, but…
Sue Yanoff: I know, like, let me get advice from everybody, and I know it’s hard to make decisions when it involves your dog and you’re emotionally involved, and that’s one of the reasons I want to teach this class, to give people information that they can use to make those hard decisions.
Melissa Breau: What about the reverse? Are there things about sports that you think most vets just they don’t understand?
Sue Yanoff: Oh yes. Yes there’s a lot. Unless you’re a vet who’s involved in this thing, most vets don’t understand the time and the effort, and the emotion, and the money that goes into the training, and the trialing that we do. They don’t understand the special relationship that we have with our dogs when we put the time and effort into training them. I have had dogs that were wonderful pets, and I loved them, but I never showed them for one reason or another, and there is a different relationship when you accomplish something special with that dog. So I think that’s important thing.
The other thing that most vets don’t understand, and might not agree with, but I have had some clients where we have diagnosed an injury, and said, “Okay, we need to restrict activity, and do the conservative treatment route,” and they say, “I will, but my national specialty is next week, and she’s entered in whatever class.” Or they say, “I have a herding finals coming up in two weeks, and I really want to run her in those trials,” and I’m okay with that if the dog has an injury that I don’t think is likely to get much worse by doing a little more training, or trialing, then I’ll say, “Okay. Well, let’s do this in the meantime, and when you’re done with your national or with your specialty or whatever, come on back and we’ll start treatment.”
So I think a lot of vets would not understand that point of view, but I’m okay with it as long as I don’t think that it’s going to do serious harm to the dog, and as long as the owner understands that there’s, you know, a slight chance that things could get worse.
Teri Martin: One of the great things about all these podcasts is hearing all the instructors’ personal stories. For example, you’ve just gotta love a Sue Ailsby story. Her talk stories are well worth the price of admission in any of her classes.
Melissa Breau: She shared a great story about her cross-over dog when we talked.
Sue Ailsby: The first dog I trained, it wasn’t clicker training but it was without corrections, was a Giant Schnauzer and I got her to about eight months and it was glorious. And we were getting ready for an obedience trial and I’m heeling along, and part of my brain is saying, isn’t this glorious? She’s never had a correction and she’s heeling. And the other half of my brain is saying, but she doesn’t know she has to. And then the first part, why should she know she has to? She knows she wants to, but she doesn’t know she has to.
I’m going to put a choke chain on her and I’m just going to tell her that she has to. This is not negotiable. You don’t want to put a choke chain on her, you’ve spent eight months telling her how to enjoy this and you’re going to put a choke chain on her? I can handle it. So I put the choker on and we’re heeling along, and she just glanced away for a second. She didn’t quit or anything, she just, her eyes flicked away and I gave her a little pop on the chain, and my good angel is screaming, “Don’t. Don’t do that.” And the bad angel is, “She can’t refuse.”
And she kind of... “What was that?” And I say okay, so we go on and a few minutes later her eyes flick away again and I give her another shot with the collar. And she stopped and the angel is saying, “Now you’ve done it. You’ve ruined it completely. Why don’t you just go shoot yourself right now.” And the devil is saying, “I could just give her another shot. She can’t just stop.” So she stood there for a minute with a confused look on her face and then her ears came up and her tail came up and she started wagging her tail and she got all excited, and she ran around and started heeling on my right side.
Melissa Breau: Okay.
Sue Ailsby: Okay? Heeling is good, I like to heel. Heeling on the left just became dangerous, let’s do it on the right side instead. And I just sank to the floor and I’m sobbing and apologizing. That was the last time I ever had a choke chain on a dog.
Melissa Breau: She showed you.
Sue Ailsby: She sure did. Oh my goodness. And what an amazing solution.
Melissa Breau: Absolutely. She was brilliant.
Teri Martin: Sue was such a great pioneer with her Training Levels and early days of clicker training and she is so willing to share her experiences both good and bad with such amazing style and humour. You’ve got to love her.
So now we’re getting close to the end of the episode, and Melissa, seeing as how you’ve asked this question in every single podcast, it’s your turn. I wanted to ask you… what’s your favorite piece of training advice?
Melissa Breau: Hmmm. I think if i had to share just one piece of advice, it would be to take a class at FDSA. I don’t even think it matters which one… pretty much any class you take, you’re guaranteed to learn something and have fun with your dog.
Teri Martin: And, since that question is consistently one of the most popular parts of all episodes, to end things tonight we’ve rounded up a bunch of responses to that question, starting with Hannah Branigan’s response from Episode 3.
Melissa Breau: So, what is the best piece of training advice that you've ever heard?
Hannah Branigan: Oh, that one's easy. So, Leslie Nelson: "When in doubt, throw food."
And I fall back on that all the time. Whenever there's a question, something weird comes up in a training session or even at home, I don't know what to do right now, that was a very weird behavior and I have no idea how I should handle it, throw a handful of food on the ground, and while they're gobbling the food, I can think about my solution, and it turns out that there's a whole lot of behavior problems out there in the world that we can solve in very practical ways by throwing a handful of food at them.
Melissa Breau: And a response from Donna Hill.
Donna Hill: Not specifically training related although it totally is relevant. Many years ago, I think I was about twelve or thirteen, my older brother who's quite a bit older than I am. I'm the youngest of five kids and there's a bit of a gap between me and the previous four and I'm also the youngest of three girls and back then it was the old hope chest. I don’t if you’d remember what those, were but they were kind of the hope for the future when you get married. There’s things you started collecting in preparation for that. Kind of an old-fashioned concept I know, but whatever, that’s my family.
Anyway, so many years ago when I was about twelve or thirteen, he gave me this little trivet, which is like basically a hot plate that you can put a pot on the stove and stuff on the counter. It’s just this little metal thing and it had a picture of a little yellow tacky caterpillar on it. But it had a little quote on it, and the quote said, “Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch!” For some reason it really struck me and I have really taken that to heart and I've applied that to almost everything I do in life.
When I’m faced with something hard, I know it's not this big thing. I can break it down into smaller pieces and we can get through it step by step by step, and ultimately get the final goal that I wanted. And of course dog training is EXACTLY that. It's all about these teeny tiny little pieces that get you to that final goal, that final behavior, the competition, whatever it is that’s at the end. So I take that and apply it in many different ways in my life, and training certainly.
Teri Martin: Episode 26 with Nancy Tucker…
Nancy Tucker: The advice that’s always stuck with me and that I incorporate into every single training scenario is that the learner is always right. So if I’m trying to teach a dog something and he keeps offering me the wrong behavior, the problem lies with me as the teacher. The dog is doing the right thing. If I want him to do something different, I’m the one who needs to adjust my approach, so I think that that has been the handiest piece of advice, the most, uh, what's the word I'm looking for? Not handy…not convenient.
Melissa Breau: Applicable?
Nancy Tucker: Yes. Yeah. For any scenario.
Melissa Breau: Love that. This next one is from Amy Johnson, on photography and dog training.
Melissa Breau: What is the best piece of advice, and this can be either production or photography, that you've ever heard, and bonus points if it applies to both, but it doesn’t have to.
Amy Johnson: The best thing that I've learned to do over the years, and I don’t know that it's ever been told to me exclusively, but it's the thing that I have learned to do is to slow down, and to think, and to just breath, and so that is the thing that I try and tell my students all the time because there's this urge to…the action in front of me is happening really fast and so that means I have to grab my camera fast, and throw it up to my face, and press the shutter, and get the picture really fast, and it doesn’t work that way, or it doesn’t work well that way. So taking a moment to make sure your camera is set correctly for the situation you're trying to photograph, making sure that you understand what's going on in front of you, and can maybe anticipate what's going to happen next, and then just breathing, because if you get out of breath or find yourself holding your breath because you're just so excited you end up messing it up more often than not. And that advice I think applies to dog training as well. Slow down, think, just breathe, and that kind of brings you back to center, and lets you focus on what's important, and focus on what the task at hand is. Block out everything else that is going on around you and just take it one thing at a time, and the results will be much better.
Teri Martin: And from Mariah Hinds…
Mariah Hinds: Well, I think there is a ton of really great pieces of training advice that I’ve heard. My favorite piece of training advice is that training really should look like play. So my goal in my unedited training videos is that it really looks like play with just a tiny bit of training mixed in. But for me, the most impactful piece of training advice is that you don’t have to end training on a success, and when I embraced that, it was really pivotal for me with Jada and my journey to positive training methods.
Originally when a training session was going horribly, I would just keep going and build more and more frustration and anger with our repetitions instead of just calling it a day. And so once I was able to end a training session that wasn’t going well and go back to the training board, then our relationship really improved a lot. So I guess ultimately, it’s play a lot and don’t be afraid to give your dog a cookie and end the training session when it’s not going the right direction.
Melissa Breau: Then from Sara Brueske in episode 17.
Sara Brueske: That everything’s a trick. From my history -- when I couldn’t do agility anymore, I just did tricks with my dog. So when I actually started looking into IPO and Mondioring, and looking at these very complicated obedience maneuvers, and precision things, it was really kind of eye opening to remember that everything is a trick. And that kind of came from Sylvia Turkman’s DVD, “Heeling is Just Another Trick.” And that was kind of a light bulb moment for me -- this is just another trick, this is just like teaching all those other things I teach.
Teri Martin: This next one from Julie Daniels really stuck with me -- it was one of those total Ah Ha! Moment.
Melissa Breau: So my second and perhaps my favorite question that I ask the guests who come on is what’s the best piece of training advice that you’ve ever heard?
Julie Daniels: Yeah. I remember hearing that on the other podcasts and I remember thinking at the time, oh my God, how did they choose? It’s such a difficult question. So I actually gave this some thought and obviously it is hard to choose, but I decided to go with some words that struck me at the time like a ton of bricks and still come back to me strongly almost every day when I work with other people’s dogs particularly. And it’s from an abnormal psych class that I took in college, but you said training, you didn’t say dog training. So it pertains to everybody, it pertains to everybody, including dogs. But this professor said in abnormal psych class, I don’t remember the question he was asked that he was responding to, but it was about irrational fears, it was about irrational fears, phobias and the like, and this professor just, I remember the stroking the goatee type thing, and he says, “You can’t help anyone unless you begin by accepting their premise as valid.”
So I think I try to bring that acceptance to all my dog training. So therefore I’m less apt to judge the dog, I’m less apt to waste time trying to talk him into things that he’s obviously loathe to do or certainly afraid to do. I go deeper, I get inside its head, I fall in love, and I help. And I help by starting where the dog is right now and I accept his premise as valid.
Melissa Breau: I love that one too. Next up is Loretta Mueller, with an equally important lesson on recognizing effort.
Loretta Mueller: I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing people in obedience and herding and agility, and I guess, I don’t know what everybody else has said, but to me, one of my most cherished and amazing statements that I’ve heard was from Ray Hunt, who was a horse trainer and he said, “You must realize the slightest change and the smallest try,” and so meaning, reward the effort. Acknowledge that the animal is trying, and if you choose to recognize that smallest try or slightest change, that’s what makes or breaks your training. And if you don’t notice that small change in the dogs, then they do one of two things. They either give up, or they get harder, and they say, you know what? I tried. You didn’t acknowledge it, therefore, meh, I’m good. And for me, if you ever owned a dog like that, they do that. They just go, “Eh, whatever. I’m going to keep doing my thing.”
And so for me it was huge, because we get so stuck in a world of criteria, right? Criteria, criteria. Did they meet criteria? When in reality, when you think about it, it doesn’t matter how much training your dog has. It doesn’t matter if their weave poles are spotless, right? It doesn’t matter any of that stuff. If your dog is in the wrong emotional state, that training will never show. So, what they’re doing, is a lot of the dogs, they are trying so hard, but then they don’t get rewarded and then that causes a lot of issues. So, that’s why I always have kind of a graduated reward system that I do with my dogs. So, I’ll use either lower value, higher value treats. To differentiate, I’ll choose the way I play with the dog, and that way these dogs always get rewarded for that effort and I acknowledge those small changes in their behavior and I don’t ask for too much too soon and I think that that keeps the dogs confident, it keeps them feeling like they’re a champion, because that’s very important if you want a dog to be confident and feel like they can conquer the world, you have to tell them that they can conquer the world.
So, if they give you the smallest change, then you reward it and you have a dog that’s going to try even harder the next time, and so for me that totally changed a lot of my training. Because before, an example would be if my dog didn’t do six weave poles, and let’s say they were in a novice trial and they were baby dogs, I would be frustrated. And if they continuously did it, before I got this little nugget of information, I would go home and say, “Okay my dog has a weave pole issue and I’m going to go train the weave.” But in reality, is it a weave pole issue, or is it the fact that the dog’s not emotionally right? Most likely it’s because the dog’s not emotionally right. So you actually have to deal with that. So what does that involve? It might involve the dog doing three weave poles and you clapping and having a party and leaving. But that’s not to criteria. And so for me, it was just a huge eye opener that the dogs know how to do these skills. It’s just we have to have them in the right emotional state so they can actually perform the behaviors that they’ve been taught. And that’s just to me a cornerstone of what I think of when I’m training. So, it’s just been huge for me to have that statement and understand that and apply it to all of my training.
Teri Martin: Loretta always makes me wish I did agility just so I could take her classes. This next clip is also from one of our amazing agility instructors -- Amanda Nelson!
Amanda Nelson: So this is again from Sunny, she told me just to let it go. I feel like I should start singing “Frozen” or something. You know, things are going to happen, mistakes are going to happen, you know, what kind of mistake you had as a handler is a mistake you had as a trainer, you know, stuff is going to happen and just let it go, because if you keep dwelling on it, you keep thinking about it, you keep beating yourself up over, oh, my gosh, if I would’ve handled that differently, or if my dog hadn’t missed that contact, you know? Learn from it. Learn from it, move on, and just let it go and think about your next run. That’s the best training advice I’ve ever had.
Melissa Breau: Next up is Laura Waudby, with something I think we all encounter and probably could serve to be reminded of even more often…
Melissa Breau: I think this is probably the question I get told is the hardest question a lot of time, what is the best piece of training advice that you’ve ever heard?
Laura Waudby: There’s been a lot of good ones out there already, so I thought I would pick the you don’t need to end a session on a good note. Generally if things are going pretty well you should enjoy it, quit before that just one more piece. But when things start going down hill, and they will, just end the session. Quit before you’re digging yourself a hole that’s even harder to get out of. I also would make sure that neither you or the dog are getting frustrated about it. So I have no problem just going, “Well, I guess we’re done for today, or at least done with that exercise,” move onto something else before things get worse.
Teri Martin: Another important reminder came from Lori Stevens… while she was talking about TTouch, it’s definitely true no matter what you’re doing with your dog.
Melissa Breau: Right. So what about training advice, what is the best piece of training advice that you've ever heard?
Lori Stevens: You know, it's funny. I don’t really think these are what you have in mind, but…
Melissa Breau: That’s okay!
Lori Stevens: Yeah. Meet the dog where she is or he is. That was the best piece of advice I heard and that was in TTouch, but just kind of change to meet both learners, the dog and the person, where they are. You can't really tell people to change, right, you have to guide them gently, and kind of move with them when they're really to move. People have to decide for themselves to make changes, and communication is so incredibly important. I've seen dogs and people go from, you know, a pretty dark place to an incredible place, and I'm so thrilled with what, you know, with the influence that I had on that. I would have to say just meeting everybody where they are, and recognizing how important communication is, and that it's not just about what we think, or how we think it should be done, but bringing the person and dog along at their own pace.
Melissa Breau: Of course we couldn’t leave out Patricia MCconnell…
Patricia McConnell: Oh man, oh wow. Let’s see. Do I have to pick one? OK, I’ll be really fast.
Melissa Breau: You can share more than one if you want. I’ll let you get away with that.
Patricia McConnell: Good. The thing that pops up in my mind the first time I hear that is actually … it’s not a piece of advice. It’s just a saying and it makes me want to cry. I sound like such a crier.
It makes me want to cry. The saying is, “We train by regret.” It just hits home so hard to me because I think every one of us who cares deeply about dogs and is really honest, and insightful, and learned, and grows, you know, admits that there’s things we’ve done that we wish we’d never done and, you know, some of them are just tiny little stupid things. It’s like, “Oh, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” or, you know, so I think that’s a really important saying. But I think that the most important part about it is to remind all of us to be kinder to ourselves. I think a lot of the people I work with who are progressive dog trainers who just adore their dogs and move heaven and earth for them, we’re so hard on ourselves. Don’t you think? I mean, we’re just, you know, I work with clients who are just … they’re just, oh, they’re being so hard on themselves because they haven’t been perfect. They made this one mistake and it’s like, oh man, you know, we are all human here. So I think that strikes home with me a lot.
And I guess the other just sort of solid, quick, concise piece of advice is basically “Say less, mean more.” I just made that up, but I’ve heard people say versions of that, you know, so basically another version is “Just shut up.” I think, I mean, you can hear I like to talk, right, so I can get badly with my dogs, and I think it’s confusing and tiring to our dogs. And I think, you know, some of the people who, you know, those people who dogs just don’t ever want to leave, you know, they meet them, and the second they meet them they sit down beside them and don’t want to leave. There aren’t many of them, and I was never one of those people. I sometimes am now, which makes me really happy, but those are often people who are really quiet. So I think being very mindful of the way we use words and sound around our dogs is really, really important because, I think, frankly, our dogs are often just simply exhausted trying to figure out what the heck we’re trying to convey to them, you know? So I guess I’d just stick with those two things.
Teri Martin: And finally, because it seems like the perfect note to end things on, Sue Ailsby’s response when Melissa asked her what dog-related accomplishment she was most proud of.
Sue Ailsby: I’m proudest of my relationship with my dogs. I’m proudest that I can go to a competition and people watch me in a water trial or whatever we’re doing and people will come up after and say, “That was so beautiful. She was working with you so beautifully that you were like a team. And it didn’t look like you were trying to get her to do anything, it just looked like you thought, I think I’d like her to do that, and she went and did it for you.” And that to me is the essence of why I have a dog.
Melissa Breau: And now I just want to say a couple of thank you’s here at the end. A big thank you to Teri for co-hosting this episode with me. An equally big thank you to everyone who has come on the show … we absolutely could not be more thrilled with how the podcast has gone in this first year, and I’m so excited to be celebrating our first anniversary…. Hopefully our first of many. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in! We truly would not be here without you, and without all of your kind comments over the last year.
We’ll be back next week with more of our usual programming…
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!