E140: Julie Daniels - Stimulus Control and "When to GO!"

Julie Daniels and I chat about her upcoming When to Go workshop, and how she gets beautiful startline stays... and the difference between the type of stay she teaches and the one Denise and Shade discussed last week!


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 Julie Daniels.

Julie has worked with dogs her whole life. In fact, she learned to walk by holding on to a German Shepherd. She was one of the early champions of agility and helped many clubs throughout the country get up and running.

She owns and operates both Kool Kids Agility in Deerfield, New Hampshire, and White Mountain Agility in North Sandwich, New Hampshire.

Julie is well known as a premier teacher at all levels of play. She has competed, titled, and won with all sorts of dogs through the years, including two Rottweilers, a Springer Spaniel, a Cairn Terrier, two Corgis, and four Border Collies. She is the only person to make USDAA National Grand Prix finals with a Rottie or a Springer, and she did it two times each. She is also a two-time national champion and a two-time international champion.

Hey Julie, welcome to the podcast.

Julie Daniels: Hi Melissa. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Breau: I'm excited to chat. To start us out, do you want to just tell us a little bit of information about the dogs you share your life with today and what you're working on with them?

Julie Daniels: We have quite a dog family here. My roommate is my best friend, Karen Kay, and she's about to get a new puppy in the next couple of weeks, an Australian Koolee, so that will be a brand new baby in the family. She also has a mixed-breed dog named Comet, who's quite famous in all her online fitness classes. He's a mixed breed that's black-and-white, part Staffie, I guess, Staffie/Jack Russell cross is good, and he's going on 7.

I have three Border Collies: 14 years old, 11-and-a-half years old, and 4 years old, who's my little Kool-Aid, who has grown up Fenzi. She's been in every single class that I've taught for Fenzi. She was born in 2015, and I started teaching for the school in February of 2015.

So that's the five dogs that we'll be having in our little family here.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. The main reason I asked you on today was to talk about your upcoming workshop on When To Go, because I know that people often have a lot of questions about what it covers. I know the exercises you share are foundational steps for multiple end behaviors, so I want to start there. What are some of the behaviors that you're building with the skills you share in this workshop?

Julie Daniels: So why would you need something like When To Go? Certainly start lines in agility — that's the obvious use for this program. But what about just being polite? What about just going in and out of doors around the house? Any kind of obedience work, agility, rally, freestyle, the TEAM titles that Fenzi's so famous for, or common household manners, all benefit from a dog's understanding the concept and enjoying the delay involved in waiting and listening for a cue to go.

Melissa Breau: Tell me a little more about how you begin that. What skills are you actually covering in the workshop?

Julie Daniels: This workshop is all about creating what I call eager patience. This is a fun-and-games approach. It's a way to create a precise behavior, and that behavior is listening and waiting for the cue to go. But eager patience means that the dog is not chill, really, in the waiting process. The dog is on tiptoes just eagerly waiting for that cue, listening for the cue to go forward. So it's a fun-and-games approach and it uses a bit of energy from the dog. So it invites and uses energy involved in waiting. 

Melissa Breau: I went back through, as I was working on questions for this, through the webinar you did on a similar topic. One of the skills you talked about is your take it game, and the process is a little bit like what some folks might call a no-fail leave it, or it's even very similar to how some folks train a location-specific reward marker. So I wanted to ask you, in your mind, is it different from those things? If so, how is it different than those two things? 

Julie Daniels: Well, it does create an errorless leave it. In fact, I'm glad you said that, because my original full name for that game that you were referring to was, or is, Take It, Leave It. That's the whole name. So it is absolutely designed to create an errorless leave it.

It's not so much about location-specific markers, although we will do a little bit with that in the workshop because people like them. They're very popular today, and it does lend itself to that kind of work. But the real deal about the take it, as you say, is an errorless leave it, and so Take It, Leave It is something that I'm going to cover completely in this workshop. I did not take it that far in the webinar, as you remember. I did the take it part, but not adding the leave it part.

But I think we'll have some advanced dogs in this workshop who might want to take that all the way to conclusion and create an errorless leave it, and it's very fun to do. The dog will need a little bit of background to do that. But by now, since I've taught the webinar and I've taught it in class — Cookie Jar Games uses that game as well — I think we will … I hope we will have some advanced dogs who are ready to go all the way through five steps and come out with an errorless leave it. So it's very fun to do.

Melissa Breau: I want to ask you about the type of dog. What kind of dogs does that really work for? Is it specifically for dogs like Border Collies, who love movement? Or can it also work for those dogs who may be a little more hesitant, they're kind of thinkers?

Julie Daniels: That's a great question. I know you hear this all the time, but I think — no kidding, honest — I think it does help either end of the spectrum. I realize that sounds like, "No, everybody should take my thing." But this workshop is designed to start with the fun action part of go, and then, from there, to create value for when to go, which is delay, which is the wait part, the less fun part.

I think because we start with high-energy action and the fun part of go, and there's a high rate of reinforcement in creating value for go, I think the thinkers start to relax and operate, if you know what I mean. The thinkers start getting excited about, "Wait, I got this, I got this."

We do have a lot of crazy dogs who come from motion, and they're going to learn to think, and their hard work comes a little bit later. The hesitant or thinking dogs that you described need to get comfortable with the go part, and then the thinking part will be a little bit easier for them.

But I do believe, honest to goodness, that it helps both ends of the spectrum come to the middle and learn to enjoy movement and learn to enjoy waiting to move on cue. Both those.

Melissa Breau: I know in the webinar you included the Corgi. I don't remember what the Corgi's name was.

Julie Daniels: I don't remember which one either, but I think there were a couple of different Corgis in that, and she was a thinker, right? She was the thinking example and benefited from the goal portion of the fun part of the action. You pretty much have to get the fun part in there first. No matter which end of the spectrum the dog is on to begin with, whatever your baseline is, you'd better enjoy the first couple of games that we play, or else the dog is going to have a negative experience with anything you tack onto that afterwards. So I make sure that the first couple of games that we play are joyful. They're truly fun.

Melissa Breau: I know this wasn't in my questions, but I was just thinking about it as you were talking, and it sounds sort of like the concept is partially teaching stimulus control, right? It's like that idea.

Julie Daniels: Yeah. I think that it fits exactly with what we're talking about. That is the problem with dogs who lack self-control is that stimulus control becomes quite a challenge, that whole business about not going until you're asked to go.

And, in addition, the high-energy dog, we have to remember, wants to offer additional behaviors because he has so many good ideas. So that's part of stimulus control, too, is we don't want those extraneous behaviors to be offered. We want the behavior of going, which we've already established as a delightful, fun thing. We want that go to be tempered by the listening part of the when to go. So yes, stimulus control is a big deal.

Melissa Breau: I don't know if you caught my interview, the one I did with Denise and Shade over the last two weeks, but they talked about a really relaxed state, something that would allow a dog to acclimate, having the dog know that they weren't working in that moment. But this is definitely not that. Like, you talked about eager patience. Can you talk about that difference and dig into that a little more?

Julie Daniels: Sure, because that's such an important topic. And I did hear both Week 1 and Week 2 of your podcast with Shade and Denise. It was wonderful. I enjoyed it a great deal. They both, of course, feel very strongly — as I think most of us need to be working on with our clients' dogs — they feel very strongly that a dog should be able to hang out and chill in … I think they were talking about a down-stay.

Of course it could be a sit-stay, but frankly, we're much smarter to use a down-stay for a settle behavior because it's much more relaxing to the dog. It's much more work to maintain a sit-stay for the dog than it is to maintain a down-stay.

So, as you say, that's a very different kind of behavior on a station from what we'll be doing in When To Go. But let's talk just a little bit about it because I do think it's really important, and I did hear both of those podcasts and loved them.

I believe you would have no trouble discerning whether a dog of mine lying on a mat has been told to stay, meaning "Settle and expect nothing until I come back to get you," or whether that same dog is on what we're talking about in this workshop: a wait.

The way I use wait, it causes a very different anticipatory energy from the dog who's on that same mat. You'd have no trouble telling is that dog on a stay or is that dog on a wait. My dog on a wait is ever hopeful of being cued to action. That looks really different from stay. And what settled means is stay. It means chill. Stay. Nothing is going to happen for you until I come back.

So guess what that looks like in my dogs. You just look at that pitiful face and you go, "Wow, boy, my life sucks." That's exactly what that dog is saying so clearly with this energy because he expects nothing. He expects absolutely nothing. It's not like he's upset, but he's bored. I mean there's that, right? So either he's got something to chew on, which Shade and Denise both talked about. It's perfectly fine to give them something to either soothe or occupy themselves with. But it's not about working for the person at that time.

So that's very different from what we're doing in this workshop. In this workshop we want the wait part, we want eagerness, we want the dog's attention to remain engaged with the human who's going to cue the go. So yeah, it's completely different, but both are very important.

Melissa Breau: So for your dogs you have it on two different verbal cues.

Julie Daniels: Yes, I do. Oh yes, absolutely. Stay is different from wait. Very, very much so.

Melissa Breau: Fascinating.

Julie Daniels: Wait means you're going to get lucky. Wait and something is going to happen. I want the eagerness along with the patience. Stay means whatever you see around you does not concern you personally.

Melissa Breau: Interesting. Because my next question was going to be, do you also teach that real relaxed state? So absolutely. You just teach it as a totally different cue.

Julie Daniels: Yes, yes.

Melissa Breau: OK. I mentioned earlier that a lot of the skills in the When To Go workshop are foundations for some of the more advanced behaviors that you teach. We mentioned the start line stay. Can you talk a little more about how far the skills and the game can actually take students and how far you're going to go in the workshop?

Julie Daniels: Well, I'm hoping that some advanced dogs will take the workshop, some dogs who have already mastered a certain degree of eager patience. And I'm hopeful of that because many people have taken my webinar on When To Go, and have taken classes with me, and so they do have some background. So my hope is that some of those dogs will take the workshop also, where they'll be able to pick up where they left off, so to speak.

For example, the errorless learning that you and I talked about for leave it is one example of that. And there will be others as well, where dogs who have background will just be able to add some of the distractions, motion being probably the biggest one.

We know that the distractive value of motion is very high. I call it value because it's always a game with me. You can say the caveat emotion or the liability of emotion, but for me it's all a game, so it's such an enjoyable thing to be able to work with advanced dogs who are ready for more motion and more distraction around them. More distance. You know, there's just so much we can do.

Melissa Breau: What if somebody has already taught a stay using a completely different method, or they do have that more advanced dog. Can you talk about whether the games will still be valuable, even if they've taught some of the skills using a different method or are already actively competing?

Julie Daniels: I don't think this precludes any prior learning. I think whether the dog has had no prior learning or whether the dog actually knows a lot, I still want everyone to start at the beginning with me. Even if you've played these games before, you probably haven't seen them played the way I play them.

But let's just say that you have. Let's say you took the webinar, you did great, and you've been working on it ever since, and your dog has a super-fantastic cookie bowl game, for example, because that was a fun one that we played in the webinar. So, so much the better if your dog already comes with that background. Then we can do so much more with that.

But let's just say the dog has been taught to stay through force methods or something. The only way that's going to hurt — because you're still going to start at the beginning — but the only way that's going to hurt is that your dog might have a negative conditioned emotional response to some of the things that we'll be doing in the workshop.

But that's why it's a workshop, right? You get to work on it. This is not just a webinar or a one-way street. This is a thing, I would hope, that if your dog has any kind of negative feelings about wait, for example, or hates to wait on the start line — in other words, already comes in with a negative emotional feeling about this kind of work, patience — then I very much want that dog in a working spot so I can help. I know I can help.

By beginning at the beginning, everybody shows me what they can do. So if your dog already knows a lot of this — let's say you have a perfect cookie bowl game from the webinar or from Cookie Jar Games class with me — great. Then you're going to whip through these. You're not going to skip any of the steps, but you're going to whip through those steps with just one or two reps to show me what you got, and then we get to move on and do more and more and more.

Whereas somebody else who has no prior background might spend their workshop homework entirely on Steps 1 and 2 of Cookie Bowl. That's fine. That's what I'm here for. And the workshop stays in your library, so you get to progress on your own after we get started together.

I have great hopes, as you can tell, that some advanced dogs will come into the class so we get to show off some of the skills that we can use in this workshop. But no background is required, and anybody's different background is also welcome.

Melissa Breau: For those who don't know, because you were explaining a little about the workshop format, workshops are two per class. There's the initial lecture, and then students have a week to practice, and then the working students get to submit video for review, and Julie will review those videos and then put up a second lecture with feedback for each of them. Is there anything else that you think students should know if they're trying to decide whether or not take the workshop if it's for them?

Julie Daniels: The most important thing I can think of is that we love questions, and everyone — whether you have a working spot or an audit spot — anyone can ask questions, and I'll be answering any questions during the feedback video.

If something comes up during the workshop and someone asks a question that actually … I don't think this would ever happen, but exposes a hole in my lecture — you know, something that I should have covered but didn't, or something that I need to clarify — then I'll just get right onto the group, into the forum, and answer that question and say, "In case anybody else is wondering, this question came up and here's the answer."

So if additional information is needed during the week in order for people to get the most out of their homework, then I'll be active on the forum to make sure that that's all understood. But any question that is asked during the week regarding any of these things that you and I are talking about — those will all be answered in the feedback video too. So it's two lectures for the price of one.

I'm just going to be honest: What we are finding in the Fenzi workshops, and similarly in the Pet Professionals Program workshops — I've done two of them there — people don't tend to want to submit homework. I'm sure people are all 100 percent doing their homework, but lots of people don't want to put it on the line and submit it, and I understand that completely. These webinars and workshops are a bargain just as a one-way communication, and if people feel like, "OK, I got what I wanted out of it. I'll just work on it on my own. It's pretty clear to me what I want to do, and I don't need to submit it to anyone," I do understand that.

But I'm just going to tell you: I like to inspire people to submit homework. I really want homework. So I'm hoping that I have designed this and made it fun enough that people will actually want to participate in that way, so that we can all benefit from what you're doing with your homework and the questions and snags that you might have with your homework.

They're so enjoyable to me to help people just tweak little tiny things. It's usually — Don't you agree? — it's usually little tiny things that we can tweak that just change everything about how the dog perceives the information.

One of the things I like to do — and thanks for giving me the chance to talk about this, because I so want to inspire people not just to take the workshop but to actually participate in the workshop — I like to include a separate slide in the initial presentation. Toward the end of the presentation there will be a separate slide that lists some ideas for homework choices. I'll have at least five. I actually have five already, so I'll probably end up with about seven different bullet points, and you can pick any one of them, if you haven't already got an idea of what you'd like to do.

Obviously you can pick any part of the workshop and run with it, and "Here's what I want to show you from my homework because here's what I want feedback on," and that's what I'm here for. I want to help you with whatever you want me to see.

But if it's hard for you to pick something, "Oh, I just can't choose. There's so much to choose from and I'll just work on my own," then I have some bullet points that might give you an idea of something that you could show me and get some feedback on that could be helpful to you.

So I really try to inspire people to participate, but I completely understand that most people who take the workshops don't actually choose to submit homework. And it's fine either way, but I'm going to do my very best to create a party that you're going to want to come to.

Melissa Breau: Julie throws a pretty good party, guys. So I wanted to touch on that for just a second. For folks that don't know, we also include a note in the thing that we recommend you video your training every day for seven days while you're doing the workshop. You've got seven days; surely you can pull your camera out for each of the sessions, because I think that a lot of the time what people struggle with is their dog does something weird once and they don't have it on camera, so they don't have a way to show it to the instructor to ask the question. It's one week. You can video one training session each day for one week, and then you'll be sure to have what you want to show on film and on video.

Julie Daniels: Yeah. This is one of those topics where we can make a huge amount of progress in one week. I mean, it's a very specific topic and it's not diluted by trying to do a lot of various side things. It's pretty targeted.

Melissa Breau: Workshops are good for that. The workshop opens registration on the 22nd, but so do December classes. So I wanted to talk for just a second about the class you have on the calendar for December: your Shaping Games, Clean Mechanics, and Keen Observations class. I'm going to go out on a limb here: I'm going to guess the class is about shaping.

Julie Daniels: Oh, you're right, it is!

Melissa Breau: But can you just tell us a little bit more about what you plan to cover?

Julie Daniels: Well, it's an intro class, so everybody gets to play. We'll start right off talking about clickers and other markers, the difference in the usefulness of using various different clickers and markers. We'll also be using our hands and lots of other targets, so it's a game. It's a class where you become very familiar with targets and pretty astute about picking the right kind of target for the job that you're trying to work with.

Another thing that I'm going to do this time around … this is the second time that I've taught this class, and you always learn so much the first time you present a class. One of the things that I learned the first time around is that I actually need to break the mechanics apart more, so I'll be doing that this time around.

We'll also be doing a couple of things that I added specifically because I saw these problems the last time and decided they were important, and they're foundation problems. We are going to teach a sustained hand touch. People do not know how to get duration on something as simple as a touch. And so we're actually going to go through the mechanics of that, and everybody will learn how to build duration on a hand touch or a target touch. But we'll start with a hand, no doubt about it.

We're also going to teach, as an important mechanical skill, luring. Luring is a duration touch. It's actually a skill that we will need many times in life, both in daily life with our dogs, when we want to get from here to there without the dog becoming distracted, luring is the best way to accomplish that. And by that I mean blatantly, shamelessly gluing a meatball to the nose and walk together from here to there through elements that would otherwise be too difficult to keep your dog's attention. So that luring is something that we actually need to learn.

I covered this in a webinar that I did regarding puppy raising. It's a foundation skill that I teach during puppyhood: to glue your nose to my hand or to a meatball or to whatever it takes, so that I can get from here to there without losing the connection with my dog, and without inviting unwanted attention from any other people or dogs around us.

There's always a reason in life to get from here to there without interacting with the environment, where you don't want your dog to look away. You want your dog to remain fully connected. And shameless bribery works very, very well for that. But the dog needs to be trained to lure. So rather than begging your dog to come along with you, if he's trained, luring as a sustained touch to either hand or cheese or whatever it is — that's incredibly useful in life.

So actually it also will help him … we'll talk about this during the class much more than you and I can talk about it now, but luring is also a very important skill to have in order to clean up a reinforcement loop and prepare seamlessly for the next rep of the exercise. But we'll get into that in the class.

So yes, it's a very intro class. It's a very basic class. But we're going to do really good stuff that people will be able to build on through all the other classes that they take.

Melissa Breau: It sounds like the answer to this is no, but are there any baseline skills or experience people need? Is there an age or anything else that people should think about?

Julie Daniels: No.

Melissa Breau: Well, that's easy.

Julie Daniels: Well, no. We'll be doing fun things with timing and rates of reinforcement and how to reduce that rate of reinforcement as a dog learns. I think when we're dealing with very, very young puppies, we don't do as much reducing of reinforcement. So there could be some individual differences within the class, but absolutely no background is required from either the dog or the handler.

I will be, as I said, breaking the mechanics apart quite a bit more than I did the last time I ran the class. I made some assumptions that I am not making this time. I specifically am building the coordination of the handler skills from scratch. So this time around, nothing is assumed.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Would you be willing to share one of the games that you cover in the class? Just something fun that people can give a try?

Julie Daniels: Sure. Actually I did this one last time, and we had so much fun with it I'm going to do it again. We taught the treat cup game, and the reason I had chosen that game — which is where the dog knocks over a paper cup or a plastic cup, whatever, and gets the cookie that's underneath that — the reason I chose that game is it's a very elementary shaping task. But it's wicked fun because it's part of the AKC Tricks program.

In the Novice Trick titling program, toppling a single cup to get a cookie underneath is actually part of the titling exercises you can do. And then in the intermediate level you use two cups, and in the advanced trick titling program you use three cups. So I thought, well, let's just do that. That'll be a lot of fun.

So whatever level, whatever background the dog has, we'll either use one cup, two, or three, and we'll actually teach the dog to target a little Post-It Note, and we'll put it on the top of the cup because, believe it or not, treat cup can be complicated, because if the dog only pushes the cup around at the bottom, meaning the wider part of the cup — which is what they would naturally do because there's a cookie under there and that's where it is — then that's much harder to topple the cup. But if we can train the dog to target the top part of the cup, meaning the narrow part of the cup, this higher up in the air, when the cup is upside down, then the cup falls right over. So the dog can become quite the expert in treat cup in this little basic shaping class. So just for fun.

Another thing that we will do and I think is incredibly useful — and dogs who have come in with a little bit more background can certainly be sent further distances — but we'll be playing the game of sending to a vertical target. As the class goes on, we'll be able to take our targeting skills and then actually send the dog to nose-touch a vertical target, which is a very fun thing to do and which is an important part of the TEAM titling program, if you've looked at that.

So anyway, that's a couple. That's two, not one, and I could go on and on, but I'm not going to. You just have to check it out.

Melissa Breau: Alright, one last question for you, and this is the question I've been asking all of my guests lately. What's something that you've learned or been reminded of recently when it comes to dog training?

Julie Daniels: I thought about that as I was driving today, and I had something ready to talk to you about because I've been through this with you before. But I have something else that I decided to talk about instead, and that is something that's been dawning on me for a while now.

It's now because Karen is getting a new puppy and our pack is going to be five dogs, and it will fall to me, believe it, to incorporate this pack with its new member and to make sure everybody likes everybody else and gets along and does well together. That's going to fall to me.

What I've realized, as I started getting excited about this prospect, is that my own number, which has been three dogs now for a very long time, my own number is going to change, and through attrition, because life happens, I will be down to two dogs at some point, and two is going to be my new number. So that's been an interesting slow-to-gel feeling that has come over me over the last couple of months. And now it's very, very solid in my head that as our pack expands, and Karen, my roommate, has two dogs here, my number is going to decrease from three to two.

I don't know whether other people listening to this have the same feelings that I do, but people that I've talked to, dog people that I've talked to, have a feel for how many dogs belong with them, if you know what I mean, if that makes any sense. When my daughter was young, we often had four and five dogs at a time. I was a stay-at-home mom and training professionally, and as my life went forward, my number decreased to three and has remained three. That's the number that feels right to me for a very, very long time.

And now here I am feeling like, you know, going forward as I go into my older age, and I want to do as much as possible with all the dogs that I have and the new dog coming in — although it's not my dog coming in, it feels like my dog coming in — even though I'm the auntie, not the mommy, but I'll still be one of the primary trainers, and my own number for how many dogs I actually own is going to decrease from three to two. I can just tell.

I'm not in the market for a puppy for myself now for quite a while. So that's something for me to wrap my brain around, and it's gelled for me in the last week or so.

So it's very fresh on my mind that I'm very comfortable now with … it's been many, many years since I've had only two dogs, I can't even tell you, but that's the number that's going to feel right to me going forward. Now, don't tell my 14-year-old dog that I'm saying that, because she's going outlive us all, and I have no expectation of which of my dogs will leave me first or any such. So it's not about that. It's just about a change in my own self-image of me as a dog owner.

Melissa Breau: ​It's interesting. I think you're right — everybody has a number in their head of this is the number of dogs that's kind of the right fit.

Julie Daniels: It's me. This is who I am. It's me with my three. Yeah.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. That's interesting. Well, thank you for sharing that, Julie, and thank you for coming on the podcast. This has been awesome. 

Julie Daniels: Thank you Melissa. It's always a pleasure.

Melissa Breau: And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with Julie Flannery to talk about the pesky problem of handling, training lots of behaviors all at once, and how to finally get those behaviors finished and on cue.

If you haven't already, subscribe 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. 


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.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

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