E131: Janice Gunn - Positive Training for the Obedience Ring

International obedience competitor Janice Gunn joins me this week to talk about using positive training to reach the highest levels of competitive obedience.

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Does Your Dog Feel Threatened (And Would You Really Know)?

Can you tell when your dog is uncomfortable? With experience, most people can figure it out. They get to know their own dog well and tend to notice when he's not being himself.

There are some typical stress-related behaviors most of us easily pick up on, but just like people, dogs might sometimes exhibit some less common or downright unusual signs of stress. I have a friend who laughs uncontrollably when she feels intense pain, and another who succumbs to giggle fits at really inappropriate times, like during a funeral or, once, while getting fired from a job she loved. Under very stressful situations, these friends respond with some rather unexpected behaviors.

Your dog might also display behaviors that are less than "textbook" when he's stressed. It takes practice to pick up on the more subtle clues, especially when they're a little on the unique side.

The good news is that most dogs will display the more easily recognized signs. The faster you can detect your dog's discomfort, the sooner you can intervene. Doing so will help prevent the development of a bigger fear-based problem, and if one already exists, knowing when and how to intervene can help your dog overcome his fear or discomfort. 

About twice a year I teach a class for FDSA on how to use counterconditioning and desensitization techniques to help treat fearful behaviors. Throughout the course I emphasize the importance of preventing dogs from "going over threshold" — that is, from putting them in a position where they are forced to cope with more than they can handle.

So how can you tell whether you've crossed that line? How much stress is too much?

First, we need to understand that signs of discomfort are often much more subtle than the bigger, more obvious signs that our dog is feeling extremely fearful.

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E130: Michael Shikashio - "Muzzles and Unwanted Encounters"

Michael Shikashio joins me to chat about the Muzzle Up Project, reducing the stigma behind muzzles, and handling unwanted encounters of the canine kind — like loose dogs!!

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440 Hits

On Target with Target Training

Want to improve your training accuracy and precision? How about helping your dog learn how to be an active partner in the training process? Would you like a way to build solid complex behaviors? Then targeting is the technique for you! Sure, shaping is fancy and fun, and luring is quick and easy, but targeting offers its own unique advantages. 

Whenever I talk about teaching new behaviors I always say that I rely on three main techniques: shaping, luring, and targeting. Target training can be an incredibly versatile and useful way to develop new behaviors and refine existing ones. As with any other training technique, targeting can be accomplished in a smooth and precise manner or in a sloppy haphazard one, with the expected results.

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724 Hits

E129: Brenda Weeks - "Blogger and Service Dog Buffy"

Today I'm joined by author Brenda Weeks to talk about what it's like living with a service dog and competing in dog sports from a wheelchair. 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-quali...
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265 Hits

It's a Puppy, Not a Problem

Left to their own devices, what do puppies like to do?

They like to bark, play, run through the house (sometimes with muddy feet), jump on people, put things in their mouths and chew on them, eat tasty foods, explore, sniff things, dig holes in mud and sand and dirt, and a host of other things that I don't have time to mention. They do these things because they are baby dogs. Fortunately we can train our dogs to show more appropriate behaviors, but it takes time and the natural outcome of maturity. Puppies are a challenge.

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E128: Anxiety in Dogs

Drs. Jennifer Summerfield and Jessica Hekman both join me to talk about anxiety in dogs -- we talk about the cause, effect, and treatment of anxiety in dogs!

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841 Hits

Understanding Hyperawareness: What Happened When I Showered with a Spider

Today I took a shower with a spider.

It wasn't like I volunteered for this; I hopped in and was well along in the process of getting clean before I saw it in the shower pan. And this wasn't a tiny spider – it was a big one. I'd' say 3″ around or so.

Ok. Maybe it was closer to 1″, including the legs. But it FELT like 3″ when I realized that I was not alone.

I'm not afraid of spiders but I also do not choose to take showers with them. I was particularly unthrilled about the thought of one crawling on me when I shut my eyes to rinse my hair. But I could manage, and anyone watching would not have been aware of the turmoil going on inside of my mind as I kept half an eye on that spider and the rest of my brain on getting done with my shower.

And then my husband unexpectedly opened the bathroom door. I startled, screamed, and am quite lucky I didn't go through the glass.

What happened?

My husband has seen me shower before- after 20 years we're well past any issues there. And I had been showering with that spider for a couple of minutes already so that wouldn't have caused my reaction. But in my hyper aware state I seriously overreacted, likely risking my health a good deal more than anything that spider could have thought up to do to me.

When we are agitated, we are hyper aware. That internal state of awareness may or may not show on the outside, but the effort to continue on in a normal fashion absorbs most of our capacity.

Now let's talk about dogs.

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9775 Hits

E127: Julie Symons - "Having Fun With Obedience"

A lot of people think of competition obedience as 'boring' — not Julie Symons! Julie and I chat about keeping obedience skills fun through the use of games... and she gives us a peek into her Obedience Games Starter and Obedience Games classes!

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490 Hits

Feeling Stuck? How to Overcome Overwhelm and Get Training!

"Urgh – she broke her start line," "He shut down when he realized I didn't have a cookie on me," "I don't know what to do next." You've heard each of these lines – perhaps adapted for your sport a little. I know it's a rare week that I don't hear something in this vein.

We train, work and play with living sentient beings. That is wonderful. Something to treasure. Something to complicate our lives. Sigh.

When things go wrong in dog training it's a little like standing at a crossroads in the middle of a very thick forest. It can feel like we have lots of choices to make and no way to see where the paths we are taking will lead. If you are isolated regionally from progressive positive training, choosing what and when to train can seem insurmountable. 

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E126: Ann Smorado - "Are You Ready for the Ring?"

If you're prepping a dog for competition, there's a lot more to think about than just the skills of your chosen sport. Ann and I talk about what those 'things' are and her current class on preparing for the competition ring.

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573 Hits

Training Smart: Adding Fun To Your Obedience Training

This is an excerpt from one of Julie Symons' Obedience Games lectures along with a few other thoughts about dog training!

When it comes to dog training, everything we need to train and prepare for trialing can be overwhelming. Skills, precision, ring confidence, OUR confidence, weaning off primary and secondary reinforcers, etc. We all have goals and ambitions and want to do well.

We start that journey by building a strong emotional foundation when training our dogs. First and foremost we want a happy, motivated, secure, and engaged dog!! I don't worry about a lot of precision early on. The key is to prepare your dog by training smart and reinforce improvement on the way to perfection. The path to perfection or as close as we can get is the journey you take with your dog, not something you achieve all at once early in their career.

What does "training smart" mean?

It means being present when training and having a plan. It's not training when you don't feel well or in a bad mood. It means to make what training you can get to count and make a difference toward progressing.

If you don't have a lot of time to train, then make the most of the time you do have to make it productive and effective. Don't rush or get sloppy.

Make it your goal to rehearse correct behavior and be consistent with criteria as much as you can. And remember, no dog trainer trains perfectly. You constantly have to make quick decisions. To paraphrase Bob Bailey … you need to make a decision as the next one is right around the corner!

So you have to decide what/when to mark, when to release (ie., to avoid a crooked front), when to ask for more, etc. Don't fret over missed decisions, just get ready for the next one. Make it your goal to grow and expand as a trainer by experimenting and approaching it like an art form!

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E125: Julie Flanery - "Precise Positions & Clean Communication"

Julie Flanery joins me to talk about her positions class, clean communication, the importance of good mechanics in getting trained behaviors more quickly, and more.

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498 Hits

Cavalettis: Why You May Be Underestimating This Canine Conditioning Tool

 My dog can already trot through cavalettis, so what do I do now?

The cavalettis can be a daunting piece of equipment to buy or make, especially when traditionally it is only used as a trotting exercise. However, cavalettis are actually one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can use for canine conditioning.

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1819 Hits

E124: Bad Dog! Dealing with Unwanted Canine Behavior

Chrissi Schranz, Chelsey Protulipac, and Tania Lanfer join me to talk about dealing with problem behaviors like resource guarding, jumping, counter surfing, and unwanted chasing!

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855 Hits

Management, Training and Maintenance, Part 2

In part 1 of this blog post, I discussed management, training and the intersection of the two. Now let's turn our attention to the concept of maintenance.

Behaviors that I am maintaining are well trained, well understood, and have moved into the realm of habit.

Here's how that works:

After I have called my puppy into the house hundreds of times, and I have backed up her good responses with a cookie and my genuine praise, then I will stop rewarding most of her responses with a cookie and I'll offer only praise or a life reward (to be discussed in a further blog post). People often ask me how I know when it's time to start reducing reinforcement and the answer is relatively simple:

When I am no longer impressed by the good behavior. 

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E123: Nicole Wiebusch - "From Four on the Floor to the Rally Ring"

Pet Professionals Program and FDSA instructor Nicole Wiebusch joins me to chat about her upcoming PPP Workshop and Rally classes!

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449 Hits

Management, Training and Maintenance Part 1

I'll refer to these terms over time, so it might help if you have some idea what I'm talking about.

When I talk about management, I'm talking about preventing your puppy or dog from rehearsing bad behaviors, either while you decide to start training or until she outgrows whatever misbehavior is currently expressing itself or….forever, if that is your choice.

Management may involve applying external controls to the dog, or it may mean structuring the environment.

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E122: All About Puppies: Socialization, Foundations, Playtime & More

I'm joined by Dr. Jennifer Summerfield, Amanda Boyd, Casey Coughlin, and Sara Brueske — our Pet Professionals Program instructors — to talk about working with puppies!

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1246 Hits

Language and Dog Training: Do the Words We Use Matter?

Ok, I admit it! At heart I am a scientist. My training is in maths, physics and psychology – I'm proud of my geek status and am happy to own it! However, the people I train on a daily basis are not geeks. They do not get a thrill when confronted with a new scientific bit of jargon to digest; they just want to be able to DO THE THING, dammit! So, wi...
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1223 Hits