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Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast

For the last 2 years, FDSA has been working to provide high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports online, using only the most current and progressive training methods. And now we’re bringing that same focus to you in a new way. Each episode of the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast will feature an interview with a leading name in the competitive dog sports training world, talking in depth about issues that often get overlooked by traditional training methods. We'll release a new episode every other Friday, so stay tuned--and happy training!
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Jul 7, 2017

Summary:

Laura Waudby was, until recently, a service dog trainer helping to prepare dogs for different types of service dog work. Now she’s a new mom. In her "free time," Laura trains and competes in obedience, rally, agility, and dabbles in disc dog and trick training. She was halfway to her OTCH with her UDX Corgi Lance before his early retirement. She has also competed at the Masters level in agility.

Due to the special behavior needs of her Duck Tolling Retriever Vito, Laura has developed a strong interest in learning how to create motivation and confidence in dogs that struggle, either through genetics or through less than ideal training, to make it into the competition ring. At FDSA Laura offers classes through the Fenzi TEAM Titles program and teaches ring confidence and several specialty classes including a class on articles and a class on stand for exam.

Links mentioned:

Next Episode: 

To be released 7/14/2017, featuring Denise Fenzi talking about FDSA camp 2017.

TRANSCRIPTION:

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

Today we’ll be talking to Laura Waudby. Until recently by day Laura was a service dog trainer to prepare dogs for different types of service dog work. Now she’s a new mom. In her free time, and that’s in quotes, Laura trains and competes in obedience, rally, agility, and dabbles in disc dog and trick training. She was halfway to her OTCH with her UDX Corgi Lance before his early retirement. She has also competed at the Masters level in agility.

Due to the special behavior needs of her Duck Tolling Retriever Vito, Laura has developed a strong interest in learning how to create motivation and confidence in dogs that struggle, either through genetics or through less than ideal training, to make it into the competition ring. At FDSA Laura offers classes through the Fenzi TEAM Titles program and teaches ring confidence and several specialty classes including a class on articles and a class on stand for exam.

Hi, Laura. Welcome to the podcast.

Laura Waudby: I’m glad to be here.

Melissa Breau: So to start us out, do you mind just telling us a little bit about the dogs you have now and what you’re working on with them?

Laura Waudby: As you already mentioned, I have the Corgi, his name is Lance. He did have to retire due to an injury, so right now he’s pretty much just kind of my old dog at home. He’s very sassy, pretty much barks his way through life. Occasionally competes at organizations that have a jumper on the ground, but he’s my sassy man.

Then I have the Toller, his name is Vito and he’s my special need dog. He does have a lot of anxiety issues and some pretty severe ones, but luckily I’ve been able to kind of accommodate him through my lifestyle. Mainly right now we’re working a lot on engagement training and choosing to work. He does compete in agility where he’s mostly conquered his anxiety issues, but obedience is oh, kind of halfway on hold while we work on attitude, attitude, attitude.

And then my youngest dog is the Duck. Her name is Zumi and she’s two and a half years old so we’re primarily working on foundations for agility, obedience, some disc dog field work, pretty much all the things right now. She did just start to compete in agility this past summer but hasn’t really made her way yet into the obedience and rally ring.

Melissa Breau: So how did you originally get started in dog sports?

Laura Waudby: Well, when I was in high school I saw agility on TV and of course that’s the flashy, the fun stuff and it kind of got me hooked on wanting to do that. Obedience, though, I kind of only started taking competition classes when I knew I wanted to become a dog trainer and I thought it would prove my skill, I thought I wouldn’t like it very much and it was kind of lame, and then I actually started doing it and I realized how hard it was. and that’s really what I came to love about it was trying to get that happy attitude in the ring along with the precision, so pretty soon I was kind of hooked on the sport of obedience which I thought I would hate to begin with.

Melissa Breau: It’s funny how much, those of us who enjoy dog training just because we enjoy training behaviors to a certain extent, I mean, obedience certainly appeals to that part, right?

Laura Waudby: Oh, yeah, and it helps that the Corgi was very easy with me, kind of held my hands as I was learning things and showed me one by one where I kind of sucked in all the training and he eventually helped me fix them.

Melissa Breau: So you mentioned you still have your Corgi. Have you always been a positive trainer? Did you start out that way with him? If not, what kind of got you started down that path?

Laura Waudby: Yeah, he’s always been positive training, at least in the traditional sense. So when I first started training dogs I was doing more pet training route and that was pretty positive, at least at the time, and I was also really lucky that we have one of probably the few, maybe the only I don’t know, a positive-trained AKC club in the area, and so that was my introduction for the competition world. It’s not very popular in the area because most people want to go to the traditional route, but we exist and we’re trying to encourage people to compete positively, so I was really lucky to be pretty much positive straight from the get-go.

Melissa Breau: And what area are you in?

Laura Waudby: Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Melissa Breau: I kind of mentioned in the intro that you were training service dogs full time. How long did you do that for?

Laura Waudby: Seven years.

Melissa Breau: Wow. So how did you go from training pet dogs to training service dogs?

Laura Waudby: Well, my first experience with training service dogs actually was my last year of high school. I was able to do a community service class where we were able to volunteer with whatever we wanted to for basically half the day, and my parents were very generous and they allowed me to puppy raise during that time, so I took a little black lab service puppy home to live with us and I was responsible for all of its training.

So that was my kind of my very first experience, and after I kind of graduated from school and their lack of dog training stuff, I went back to volunteer for them and they happened to have a job available at the same time I was volunteering again, so I was very, very lucky in that regard.

But I’d say my first experience was as a high school student being a volunteer puppy raiser.

Melissa Breau: That’s awesome. I think so many people would love to spend all day doing nothing but training dogs.

Laura Waudby: It certainly is easier than training people.

Melissa Breau: Most of the time I’d go so far as to say, but…

Laura Waudby: Yeah, most of the time.

Melissa Breau: So I believe, and certainly correct me if I’m wrong, so you trained several different types of service dogs, right?

Laura Waudby: Yeah. Another organization up here trains five different types of service dogs, which was actually really nice because allows us to have a very high success rate because the dogs who are lower key might do really well in one type or as the kind of nuttier job might do better at another type of job, so I guess the five types of dogs that we trained were mobility assist dogs. Those are the dogs who retrieve things, tug open doors, tug the laundry basket, help with the laundry. Those are most fun for me to train because kind of all the tricks that you think of in the service dog world.

And then we have the hearing alert dogs. Those dogs are trained to alert to sounds in the environment. The diabetic alert dogs who are trained to alert to the smell of low blood sugar, the autism assist dogs who help kids with autism who tend to bolt, and then seizure response dogs who respond once a seizure is happening and help the person get through that seizure.

Melissa Breau: That’s quite a range of different skills.

Laura Waudby: Yeah, it can help break up the day a little bit.

Melissa Breau: I would think that the hardest part of teaching all that is really proofing the behavior for all environments. I mean, when you’re talking service dogs you really need a dog who’s going to do the work kind of no matter what’s going on. Is that your perspective, is that really the hardest thing or is there something else that sticks out as maybe more difficult?

Laura Waudby: Yeah, the training behaviors are really the easy part of the service dog training. It takes time to train their skills to be pretty solid, but that was great, the fun part. The hard part is that dogs have to focus anywhere and everywhere without any acclimation time. We talk a lot about acclimation time with our competition dog training, but the service dogs don’t get that. They might arrive at a store and have to pick up keys at the entrance way, or maybe they just really get out of the car and they have to alert to a low blood sugar, so they kind of have to be ready to focus anywhere no matter what’s going on, and that definitely takes quite a bit of training which is why most of the dogs who are two to three years old by the time they’re placed with a client and they’re still very, very young but definitely no longer puppies at that point.

And of course the general public doesn’t help, either, with all the I know I shouldn’t but as they reach to pet your dog or are barking at your dog and all of the crazy stuff people do in public.

Melissa Breau: Do you mind sharing just a little bit about kind of how you teach that so that the dogs can kind of do their work in those types of environments?

Laura Waudby: Yeah. I’d say a lot of it is their personality. A lot of dogs simply aren’t able to do that, like of the dogs I have now in my house, Lance, like the perfect Corgi, sassy guy, he’d probably be the only one who would make it as a service dog. Vito’s anxiety issues, he couldn’t do that. My young dog Zumi had a little bit of confidence issues where she’s not quite ready to focus all the time. So their natural temperament has a lot to do with whether they make it or not.

But past that point I do a lot of choose to working, a lot of distractions out to the side, rewarding focus, and of course we do it all without a command just like we do want the competition dogs to do. We don’t want to be saying “Watch me, watch me, watch me,” or “Leave it, leave it, leave it.” We want the dogs, their name if they see something, that means their job is to look back at you. Kind of the exact same stuff we do with our competition dogs, just everywhere.

Melissa Breau: And it’s really teaching the dogs how to make the choice and think a little more independently at least than most people probably think about, right?

Laura Waudby: Oh, yeah. It’s a lot of free choice, especially because the clients, they might have limited range of mobility. They can’t force the dog to do anything, the dogs have to want to do it, so it’s a lot of choice-based training with the service dogs.

Melissa Breau: So I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about TEAM. I know Denise and I talked about it briefly the very first episode of the podcast, but for those who aren’t familiar with TEAM at all, do you mind just explaining a little about the concept, kind of what it is and how it works?

Laura Waudby: Sure. So TEAM is an online video-submitted titling program. There are currently six levels that you can title in, and I think there might be plans to have more, I’m not sure. But the goal of TEAM unlike some other organizations, the emphasis isn’t really on finished behavior change whereas I’m teaching the dog and the human each individual piece to get to a really high level of perfection. So basically even if you only get through the first three levels of TEAM, we’re working on those foundational pieces being very solid to get you through pretty much any level of obedience training.

Melissa Breau: Really kind of the concept, right? Is that if you do TEAM you can probably do almost anything else.

Laura Waudby: Oh, yeah. Definitely takes you beyond utility even, I think.

Melissa Breau: I don’t think there’s been an episode of the podcast yet where a guest hasn’t talked about how important foundation skills are. I know that that’s kind of one of the places where TEAM shines, right? How does it kind of do that, how does it approach teaching a foundation?

Laura Waudby: Well, the way that testing is laid out, you’re pretty much forced to work in all those little pieces. The first level you use a ton of props in it, throughout the testing so it pretty much guarantees that the dog is learning those little perfect movements. Basically you don’t really teach just a sit and just a down, but you use a target to help us. The dog is not learning how to sit and down but they’re learning how to do the individual position changes with zero forward movement so by the time you get to 40 feet away, the dog already knows how to do that perfect fold back down, tuck up sit without having any forward motion.

It’s kind of the little pieces that people tend to skip over if they don’t know what the end result should look like. And the levels themselves I think really reward the handler for being patient and not rushing through those foundations because…

Melissa Breau: Because they’re really easy to rush through. It’s easy to overlook kind of the precision that you’re going to want later on early when you have a puppy who’s eight or ten weeks old and you just want to sit.

Laura Waudby: Yeah, definitely.

Melissa Breau: So I believe you’re teaching TEAM one in August, right?

Laura Waudby: Yeah.

 

Melissa Breau: I know you’ve taught it once or twice now. Is there a skill that kind of stands out as something that people struggle with a little bit, and do you mind just sharing a couple of tips maybe on how they can approach it?

Laura Waudby: Sure. Heel position is probably one that people struggle with the most. Primarily in the TEAM level one and two we’re working on the foundational piece of pivoting, teaching the dog exactly what heel position looks like and how to move with the handler to maintain it. And a lot of people who haven’t taught it that way before, because it’s not the way heeling has been traditionally taught, it’s a really hard skill for people to kind of figure out how to hold their hand and how the dog is supposed to move into you. And there are a lot of ways to teach pivoting, there’s not. just one way. I tend to use a blend of shaping and luring that’s a little bit more lure-based based.

And generally probably the biggest tip for people is they want to use a really big arm where they have the dog go really wide, but generally you want the dog’s head to be up a little bit more. Turning their head out causes their butt to swing in towards you, and sometimes it’s easier to see that using a mirror so you can watch the dog’s back legs easier, but generally not having such a big, wide head lure, but really keeping the dog’s head nice and close to your body so he can focus on the head turning out and the back legs moving towards you.

Melissa Breau: And that’s what lets you get those really pretty corners, right? When you’re making your turns in heeling?

Laura Waudby: Oh, yeah, and makes the heeling look really sexy when you do all the side stepping, the backing up, the pivots, and so by the time you do any forward motion your dog already knows all those really fancy moves.

Melissa Breau: I like that, it makes heeling look really sexy. So I want to kind of end things the way I normally end the episode, which is kind of what I guess my three favorite questions, so first, what’s the dog-related accomplishment that you’re proudest of?

Laura Waudby: When I started thinking about that I first thought I would go with some of the service dog teams, but then I realized that’s actually pretty self centered, and so definitely has to be about my own dogs. And Vito, my very special boy, we’ve been through a lot together, and my most proud accomplishment, and no particular trial with him, but just the ones where he’s radiating pure joy where he’s so happy to be with me and I can just see what the focus he has in me that all of his worries about the people and the stewards have kind of melted. You don’t have that every time but the ones that he does do that for me is just really special, that shows all that hard work that we’d done.

Melissa Breau: That makes it kind of magical.

Laura Waudby: Yeah.

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.

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

Laura Waudby: One of my favorite trainers is Silvia Trkman, the famous Slovenian agility star, and while she only does agility, she doesn’t actually compete in obedience, I really love her philosophy about having fun with the dog, not being afraid to experiment, respecting the dog in front of you. And Silvia is one where I got a really great piece of advice to help me and my Vito, teaching happy tricks to release stress, and that was probably the biggest change to help Vito a couple years ago to get him barking at me on the start line, get him sassy, jumping up, so that even if he doesn’t feel brave and happy it forces him to kind of act like it and that has helped him a ton. So I really like Silvia Trkman a lot.

Melissa Breau: I love that idea. They kind of have that line for people where if you stand in the Superman pose for two minutes before a talk it makes you feel more confident and like your body chemistry actually changes. It’s a similar idea kind of for dogs, right? The idea that if they get happy and bouncy...

Laura Waudby: It works a lot with people and I think it helps the dogs, too. Happy-making tricks.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. I like that a lot. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Laura.

Laura Waudby: Well, you’re welcome.

Melissa Breau: And thanks to our listeners for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with a special episode with Denise Fenzi to discuss the inspiration behind the theme from camp a few weeks ago, and to chat a bit about next year. 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 it becomes available.

CREDITS:

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

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!