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