OB170: Bridging the Gap - Reducing Reinforcers, Proofing and Generalization

Instructor: Denise Fenzi

Course Details


Does the thought of training without a cookie in your pocket make you nervous? Are you happy with the quality of your work, but have no idea how to prepare for the rigors of competition? Do you worry about getting a high quality performance when there are distractions nearby? Are you comfortable training in a novel environment without your toys and cookies to keep your dog engaged?  Do you understand the concept of engagement, and can you get it without showing your dog a reinforcer?

The purpose of this two-part class is to move you from the acquisition of behaviors to preparing for competition - two very different things! To do this, we will systematically consider three of the factors that are essential for a competition dog: Generalization of behaviors, proofing for distractions, and reducing "classic" (toy and food) reinforcers. This class will include short lectures on each of these topics, along with specific exercises and a training plan that will allow you to reach your goal: the dog show!

This class will also lay the groundwork for how to handle those “I have something better to do” moments. Rather than resorting to a leash pop, we will discuss the alternatives which will effectively get you to your goal - sustained focus - without the need for physical compulsion. Part two of this class will consider this issue much more extensively and in depth.

While all of the examples and Gold spots will be obedience or rally specific, this class is designed to be valuable for competitors in all sports, from agility to freestyle to obedience and rally!

Due to the quantity of information which will be presented, this class is being run from February 1st through July 11, 2016, with a two week break the middle (the normal break between terms).  At enrollment you will be purchasing BOTH classes (part 1 and part 2) at the same time.  There is no option for purchasing only one half.  If you choose to enroll in April rather than in February, you will still have access to all of the information from the first half of the class - including the forums.

Gold level participants will actively practice the process of preparing for the ring, so your dog should be close to ring ready for a given class of either obedience or rally competition. If you cannot get the behaviors you want even when you're using reinforcers, or if your interest is not specific to either proofing, generalization or reducing reinforcers,  then a Gold level spot in this class is premature. If you simply want the information for the future, consider signing up at Bronze instead. 

This class also assumes the ability to get away from your home training field on several occasions over the course of the class. Please do not sign up at Gold if you'll be homebound for any reason.  

Other courses that you may wish to consider: 

  • "Confidence Building for the Obedience and Rally Ring" should be taken either before or after this class - but definitely before you compete! 
  • Our "Bogeyman" or Management for reactive dogs class will be helpful if your dog is fearful or stressed; Bridging the Gap will not we address the issue of helping a stressed dog succeed on the the trial grounds.
  • Our "Handler's Choice for Obedience - Polishing" is a better choice to work on the details of your completed behavior chains.
  • If your issue is quite specific to general Impulse Control, then you might want to consider our Inpulse Control for All Dog Sports
  • Our Skillbuilding or TEAM obedience classes will help your dog learn specific exercises.

If you are not sure of the appropriateness of this class for your situation, contact Denise to discuss.

Watch our short promotional video for this class! 

Here's a compilation video submitted by a student that struggled with impulse control; watch her young lab progress over the course of class!:  



Lesson #1: Journal

Lesson #2: Baseline Video

Lesson #2.5: Basic Handler Interaction

Lesson #3: Basic Engagement Training

Lesson #4:  Generalizing Engagement

Lesson #5: Acclimation

Lesson #5.5: Engagement with Work

Lesson #6:  Ranking Motivators and Work

Lesson #7:  Introduction to Proofing

Lesson #8:  Generalization, additional considerations

Lesson #9:  Stop Rewarding Final Exercises in the Ring!

Lesson #10: Reducing Reinforcers; Extending Duration of Known Behaviors

Lesson #11: Engagement for Movement Between exercises in the ring

Lesson #12: Changing the Location of Reinforcers (proofing)

Lesson #13: Generalization of Behaviors through Fluency

Lesson #14: Substituting Games for Classic Reinforcers

Lesson #15: Leashes!

Lesson #16: More proofing!

Lesson #17: Generalization Progress Check

Lesson #18: Downtime; Wander or Structure

Lesson #19: Extending work for Less Valuable Reinforcers


Lesson #20:  Wecome back/quick review

Lesson #21:  Acclimation Using a Down - the Fourth Alternative

Lesson #22: Introducing the Distraction Game (preparation for Fred and Fred-lite)

Lesson #23:  Basic Distraction Training

Lesson #24: Fred lite

Lesson #25:  Warning Signs (aka: thoughts on Fred)

Lesson #26: Rewards on your body but...not used

Lesson #27: Combining the elements of Generalization, Proofing and Reducing Reinforcers

Lesson #28:  Fred within the Distraction Game

Lesson #29: Selecting your Approach to Reduced Reinforcement

Lesson #30:  Sniffing

Lesson #31:  Selecting a Semi-new environment; change location of reinforcer

Lesson #32: Pressure on/Pressure off schedule

Lesson #33:  Combine Proofing with Reward Randomization

Lesson #34:  Combine Generalization Element with the reward

Lesson #35:  The Myth of "ring experience" (trialing too early)


Next session starts: April 1, 2017
Registration starts: March 22, 2017
Registration ends: April 15, 2017

Gold registration will be by lottery. Enter the lottery here.

Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Bronze: unlimited. If you are interested in bronze level, you can sign up any time during the registration period.

Prerequisites and Equipment

This class is about getting into obedience or rally competition rather than creating new behaviors.  Therefore, to have a Gold level spot, your dog should be relatively fluent on a series of exercises for obedience or rally, and you should be considering competition in the future.

This class assumes the ability to get away from your "home training field" on several occasions over the course of the class.

If you simply want the information for a further time, then a Bronze spot will be appropriate for anyone who plans to compete in the future.

Course Testimonials


I have been pursuing a better road to obedience competition training for 15 years. Having been a former traditional trainer I knew I could never go back there and did not need to show and title dogs if that was what it took. I discovered positive training and have been working hard to use this philosophy but felt myself still falling short of how to make that transition from a wonderful working partner at home and class and getting that in the show ring. I feel the knowledge I have gained in the short time I have attended the academy is exactly what I was looking for. When I saw the term 'Bridging the Gap' it all clicked and I signed up! This class has helped me complete the picture and understand what elements were missing from my work. I now feel well prepared to 'bridge the gap' between my training and the show ring and will happily go where ever this takes me with my amazing Border collie partner Fay. Diana H.           

This course is mind stretching. So much to learn and so many things to re-think. And gradually the new ideas become a way of life and then miracles begin to happen. Very exciting course. Mary Ann          

This class is a must for anyone interested in obedience. It covers everything we all struggle with trying to bridge the gap!! The lectures are very clear and to the point and Denise has done a great job both with the lectures and videos, Thank you!                

Denise, I am taking the course at Bronze, mainly because I knew my dog wasn't quite ready for it. Loving watching the gold threads and storing away the info for when I can make better use of it. Your detailed and thoughtful critiques and instructions, and your patience are much appreciated!            

Regarding Bridging the Gap specifically I can only say WOW what a jam packed course! It is a lot of work and well worth the effort. It is geared for obedience but I was able to tweak a lot of the exercises for agility. I especially honed in on the acclimation and engagement aspect of this course which is what I really need with my little terrier.                  

Amazing, game-changing course, from start to finish. I took BTG before my dog and I were ready, knowing we would only apply a fraction of the lectures to our sessions, and it still catapulted our training light years forward. I learned so much about gauging my dog and understanding how to take the next step, when we're ready. It was also super, super cool to see the other teams go from being a little bit shaky to absolutely, 100 percent ring ready. -Sarah O.              

I loved this course and it answered questions I have had for years in regards to preparing myself and my dog for showing. The focus of the instructor is firmly set on the well being of both the student and the student's dog and that comes through clearly and genuinely. I have only scratched the surface with what I can learn at FDSA at look forward to many classes in my future. Diana Hoyem              

Bridging the Gap was my first course at the Gold level. Thank you, Denise for guiding me towards the decision to take it at Gold. You were right when you said "It would be a good fit", It was perfect for Finnian and I.   I would highly recommend BTG for anyone thinking of competing. I learned many valuable lessons in an area that is sometimes over looked when taking that jump from training to competition!! It was great to see the different teams, all at various levels of training, and learn from them, also. The greatest part was seeing the merriment and joy between the dogs and their people, including Team Finnian!! I saw it, I felt it and I loved it!! Sheryl E.