E164: Julie Flanery - "Drop that Prop"

Props are there to help you TEACH a behavior... but often we get stuck, and continue using them for way too long! Julie shares her method for fading them from your training once they've served their purpose, so you can begin building those final behaviors!

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 Julie Flanery.

Julie has been working professionally with dogs and their handlers since 1993. She focuses on the needs of the dog and helping people form a strong relationship through clear communication and positive reinforcement.

She has placed Obedience, Freestyle, Rally-Obedience, Rally-FrEe, Parkour, Agility, and Trick titles on her dogs. She began competing in Musical Freestyle in 1999 and was the first to both title and earn a Heelwork to Music Championship on the West Coast. In 2001 she was named Trainer of the Year by the World Canine Freestyle Organization and has been a competition freestyle judge since 2003.

Five years ago Julie developed the sport of Rally-FrEe to help freestylers increase the quality and precision of their performances. It has since become a stand-alone sport enjoyed by dog sport enthusiasts all over the world. Julie has been a workshop and seminar presenter both nationally and internationally. She currently trains and competes with her Tibetan Terrier in both Musical Freestyle and Rally-FrEe.

So welcome back to the podcast Julie!

Julie Flanery: Thanks, Melissa. I always like being here.

Melissa Breau: It's always fun to chat. To start us out, can you just remind everybody who your current pups are and what you're working on with them?

Julie Flanery: I have Kashi, and she is my Tibetan Terrier, as you said. She'll be 10 years old in a few months, and we are just finishing up a champion-level Freestyle routine that hopefully we'll show in October. Right now I'm also refreshing her on her mimicry skills for the upcoming class that I'll be teaching in June at FDSA. I was pleased to see that she still remembers it all, still is able to learn new things with mimicry, and so I'm really excited about that class coming up.

Melissa Breau: How did she get to be 10? Holy Camole!

Julie Flanery: I know! It's crazy, isn't it? It's like, oh my gosh, I feel like I just got her as a puppy. We went through a lot of health issues as a puppy and all throughout her life, but to think that we've been working together, and dealing with these health issues, and competing still, and everything we've gone through for ten years — it's really just flown by. I'm amazed. But she's doing well, she's doing really well, so I'm happy for that.

Melissa Breau: And what about the other one?

Julie Flanery: Oh, Phee. Little Phee. Pheeburger, as my husband likes to call her. Phee is 22 months — that makes it sound like she's younger than the actual 2 years old that she is — and she is learning all the things, all the time. We're doing a lot of fun and games right now, but also working on her first Freestyle routine as well and the skills that she'll need for Freestyle and Rally-FrEe.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Before we jump into the main topic that I want to talk to you about today, I know you recently worked on a really cool project, a Freestyle project, through Rally Freestyle Elements. Do you want to share a little bit about it?

Julie Flanery: It came about from a friend and fellow Freestyler, Judith Stoodley. She had an idea based on the guy that goes around the world and teaches people he meets a new dance, like a global dance. He compiled all these little video clips and he ended up with one long video clip of all the places around the world with these people performing the same dance with him.

We thought it would be really fun to put together something similar. This actually started before the pandemic, but once we all became stay-at-homers, this took on a new meaning for us because we were missing our Freestyle buddies, we were missing training together, we wanted to be able to meet all of the other Freestylers that we knew from online, and this was a really fun way to do it.

Freestylers submitted a 30-second video, all to the same song, one that they choreographed a piece of, and then I pulled out about 10 seconds from each of the submissions and combined them into one long Freestyle routine. So it's fun. It ended up being pretty long. There were over a hundred submissions, and because the purpose of this was to bring everybody together, I didn't want to cut anybody out.

It's a fairly long video, it's about 15 to 20 minutes, but it's really fun, and it shows the spirit of Freestyle, and the spirit of Freestylers all over the world, and how much we enjoy dancing with our dogs. So it's fun, and since the pandemic it's even become more meaningful to us, so we're happy to share that. We had a lot of fun doing it and putting it together.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned that it was the guy who traveled around the world that inspired it. Where can folks go if they want to watch it and check it out?

Julie Flanery: Right now it's posted on our main Facebook page. You can do a search for Rally Freestyle Elements and you can watch it there.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Alright, to move on to what I specifically was hoping we could talk about today: props. I happen to know that you're a big proponent of props when training new behaviors. What are some of the benefits to using props?

Julie Flanery: For me, they very quickly and very clearly communicate criteria for the dog without a lot of body prompting or hand cues that I'm going to need to eliminate later.

For me, in Freestyle, our goal is to get all the behaviors on verbal cue so that we can use our arms and hands and bodies for interpretation of the music. But even in Obedience and other sports — Rally, Rally-FrEe — I don't really want my hands and my body to become too large a part of the cue. It's far easier for me to remove a prop than it is to remove a body part or train my brain not to send signals that tell me to move my body to help my dog in a certain way.

If we train using a lot of physical prompts, our dogs are going to learn to look for those and not necessarily focus on our cues. A lot of the body prompts are unconscious. They're minute movements that aren't always consistent, and so they are not a very reliable way to elicit behavior. And yet the dog will continue to look for those, even when we don't even provide them anymore, such as in the ring. So by using the props, I'm able to eliminate any of those body cues that I might normally have used to communicate the criteria that I want my dog to perform then.

Second, they create a pattern of accuracy and precision very early in the training process, and that allows us to provide a really high rate of reward for those criteria. The props minimize and in a lot of areas eliminate errors, so we aren't spending a lot of time on incorrect responses that actually don't earn rewards. So all of this tends to speed the learning process, and it allows the dog to meet that criteria quickly. It puts more value in the behavior, due to the increased rate of reward.

All of those things are some of the reasons why I choose to use props. I want to make sure that I'm communicating clearly to my dog what it is that earns rewards, and I don't want to use a lot of body English or body language to elicit behavior, because I'm just going to have to eliminate that later, and that's really, really difficult.

Melissa Breau: To look at the flipside of that, what are the downsides to using props? Are there places where students get stuck, or misuse them somehow, that tend to cause them problems?

Julie Flanery: One of the, I think, is one of the largest downsides is that it can give the appearance or a false sense of understanding a behavior, that the dog understands the behavior when he really does not. He's really just utilizing the prop to provide the criteria for the behavior to start. And so we might end up removing that prop too early or we might not apply a process that allows the dog to maintain the understanding without the presence of the props. So that's one thing. It makes it look like the dog understands the behavior when he probably doesn't yet.

On the flipside, it's really easy for us to keep using the prop for too long. Part of that is because we don't really have a plan of how to remove the prop, how to separate it from the behavior. And when we do start to separate it from the behavior, we don't know what to do with that loss of accuracy, and so we tend to avoid removing. We put that prop back in right away and we avoid eliminating that prop.

I think, too, we are reinforced by our dog's correct responses when they're on the prop. We don't want our dogs to be wrong, we like it when they're

right, and so we continue to use the prop because our dog is always right, and that feels good to us.

There are a couple of other things that are at issue with the prop. Sometimes, if you don't have either the right prop, if you aren't using the right prop or maybe you don't have the right size of prop, then there really isn't any benefit to using the prop, and you end up with the same problems of separating it as well. So you want to make sure that you're using the correct prop, and that you have the right size of prop, for the behavior that you're trying to train.

Melissa Breau: I know that when you're training a behavior, you'll often train it using multiple different props for that same behavior. For example, to teach front, you might use a platform in some training sessions and then gates in others. Why is that? What does that accomplish?

Julie Flanery: I like to use different props for the same behavior and different behaviors for the same props. When we do that, when we use multiple props, the behavior doesn't become associated with just that single prop. And when the behavior is not associated with just that single prop, it makes it easier for us to remove it.

Let's say I'm working both the gates for heelwork and a pivot platform and a standing platform. Those are props that I would definitely use for my heelwork behaviors that I'm trying to train. If I have all of those behaviors as pieces to my heelwork training, then as I start to remove those props, it's not as difficult, because it's not the only thing attached to the behavior.

The criteria is being reinforced during the use of each of those, so your criteria for heelwork is always the same. It's always the constant. And so it's easy for the dog to be able to perform the criteria without one of those specific props, and easier to remove each of those props, because the dog is being reinforced across all of those props for the exact same thing. And that's what becomes important to the dog: "What am I being reinforced for," not the prop that is being used to elicit that criteria.

Did that make sense? Did I say that right?

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So you're using them almost as a bridge …

Julie Flanery: Yes, absolutely.

Melissa Breau: …in the process of removing it.

Julie Flanery: Right. And we don't always know which of those props is going to best help the dog understand. My dog may look great on one particular prop, be performing the behavior beautifully, might include all the criteria that I want in that prop, but the prop is creating that criteria. Make no mistake: the prop is creating the criteria. Until we've built a strong enough reward history, and until we have associated that criteria with a cue, then the prop is doing all the work. And that's what we want to start with.

But we never really know which prop we might be using that actually makes the most sense to the dog. So by using different props, we're giving him the same information, but in a variety of ways. So basically we're maximizing the benefit of all the props and we are making it much easier to remove any one particular prop.

Melissa Breau: I mentioned fronts; you mentioned heelwork. What other behaviors do you like to use props for, and what other types of props do you use? You mentioned gates. You mentioned platforms.

Julie Flanery: Almost all of my Freestyle behaviors, both my foundation work, like spins or circles or weaves, but also more complex or advanced behaviors, like supportive handstands or flip back through the legs or back circles, or any of the fancier Freestyle behaviors, I will use props for.

I use props for my distance work, for heelwork, as we said, anything that I need to convey a physical criterion to my dog — where he needs to be, what he needs to be doing physically — I can generally find a way to do it through a prop.

Targets are props. I love using targets. Target sticks — I use target sticks to do spin behaviors. I'll also use a combination of different props. For example, with spins, I might use both a platform and a target stick, or for spins also I could use a cone and a target stick.

I could use gates to teach my spins as well. The gates define the space that I want my dog to perform the spin in the same way a platform would define the space.

The target stick allows me to eliminate a hand cue very, very easily by just not including a hand cue. Easier to remove a target stick than it is to remove a hand cue.

Freestyle behaviors are really important for me because there are so many of them, and I want to make sure that I can convey all of that criteria very quickly in a way that makes sense to the dog. So pretty much anything that has a physical criterion, I can find a way to use a prop to do that.

That's not to say that that's all I use. If you do use props, I think it's really important that you and your dog understand the process of shaping, because they do go hand-in-hand. Especially when we start to eliminate the props, we're going to use a shaping process to help maintain that skill once the props are removed. Shaping is an important part of the removal process.

So it's not the props alone that are going to give me the behavior that I need. But the props are going to both create and convey that criteria very quickly and early on in the process and they're going to allow me to provide a strong history of reward early on in that process, build value in those behaviors very early on.

Props are not the be-all and end-all of training. I want to make sure people understand that. They're a tool like any other tool that we use, and it's important that we understand their use, their purpose, that we understand the process of both their use and their removal, and that we use all of the other tools that are available to us as well to build behavior in the dog and maintain that behavior as well.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned the fading process. How long do you usually keep that prop in the picture during training?

Julie Flanery: I think it depends on the dog, always, and the behavior and the prop. I know that sounds like …

Melissa Breau: The ultimate "It depends"?

Julie Flanery: The ultimate "It depends." I guess it's always the ultimate "It depends," but that's really true. I can give you generalizations, though. I think, like any training process, anytime that you are spending too much time at any point in the training process, if the dog is not progressing, then you're probably spending too much time there. It's probably not being an effective tool for you, either because of its use, how you're using it, you're not moving ahead of the process.

So I would say, while I use props throughout my dog's training career, and I often will bring props back into training process, or back into the maintenance phase of behaviors, the initial phase of using a prop might be anywhere from three to six or eight sessions.

I don't think you need to use it very long to start to build up a reward history. And that's really the primary purpose of the prop is to build up a reward history for the correct criteria, for the correct behavior, so you can create that accuracy and the precision without a lot of futzing around.

Once you have that, once you've built a reward history, you want to start to remove that prop as soon in the process as you feel that you've built that reward history up for what you're trying to train. And that can vary.

Melissa Breau: To talk through that as an example, say I'm working on fronts. I've gotten the last two sessions he's looked good on a prop for fronts, on a platform for fronts. You'd be starting to think already about other options?

Julie Flanery: At two sessions?

Melissa Breau: Two good sessions. I've obviously introduced a prop. For the last two sessions, things have looked good.

Julie Flanery: If the dog already has some strong platform skills and maybe has gone through the process of using platforms for other positions, then it's possible that after two sessions I might start the process of adding a cue, which is the first step in the process of removing the prop.

Before I start to add the cue, though, I want to make sure there's some other things in place with the platform, especially for a front, because — and I've talked about this before in some other workshops and webinars I've done — I think that a front behavior … it's interesting that you use that example, because I think the front behavior is probably the most difficult position to train and maintain.

So with fronts, you might actually use the platform or the props quite a bit longer than I would for heel side or other behaviors, because it's a very difficult behavior, I think, to train and maintain. So for fronts I absolutely use multiple props to convey the criteria.

The process from the point of starting with a prop to going to the step of just even adding the cue is going to have several steps as well. So I think for fronts you're probably going to use a prop for longer than two sessions before you start to add the cue. And then you're going to always be bringing a platform back in, and also combining it with some of the other props.

I'm going to use an example that I see a lot that I think people stay on for too long, and that's a pivot platform.

I think that pivot platforms have a very specific purpose in my mind. The pivot platform teaches the dog how to shift his rear end with you when you are moving in any direction. That's the foundation skill. The pivots on a pivot platform are the foundation for heelwork and the dog remaining in heel while you are moving in any direction. That's a very specific purpose for a very specific prop, and I think that that can be met pretty quickly.

I think the pivot platform is one that most people tend to stay on for far too long and may not fully understand the process of removing it, and that's one of the reasons they stay on it for far too long. But that's a prop I think you could easily remove within a half a dozen sessions.

Whereas props for a front behavior I think are a little bit more difficult, and so I would keep those props in place for quite a bit longer than that. And I would bring them back in on occasion. And the prop platform — you can bring that in on occasion. Believe me, the dog loves it when you bring a prop back in on occasion. It builds their confidence, it increases the rate of reward, and so it helps maintain that behavior.

But I think that the pivot platform specifically, if we stay with it too long, it's very difficult for the dog to work pivots without it. Because the platform is a piece of the behavior that "How can I possibly do a pivot if there's no place to put my front feet?" And so the dog thinks of that as the behavior.

They don't know the end result. They don't know we're trying to teach "Stay and heel when I make a left turn." That's not what is going on in their mind. They're thinking, "Keep my feet on this thing, keep my feet on this thing, keep my feet on this thing." And so when we keep that prop in place for a long time and then we remove that prop, there's no place for the dog to put his feet, so he can't possibly do the behavior.

That's an example that I think we tend to stay with the prop too long. And fronts we probably tend to remove it too early. So there's the answer to my "That depends."

Melissa Breau: That's all right. I only pulled fronts out because that's what I was working on before this.

Julie Flanery: There you go.

Melissa Breau: That was my last training session. You started to talk about the process for fading the prop, that you name it first, name the behavior first. Let's talk about that a little bit more. How do you go about … what are the big pieces in removing a prop from a behavior?

Julie Flanery: I think of three major steps, and in the workshop we're going to be going over the step-by-steps, and what you might expect, and how to do it for different props.

But before we remove the prop, remember the prop is a cue. Having the prop there tells the dog what to do. So before I remove a prop, I need to transfer that cue to a new cue. Some people might choose to use a throwaway cue. I don't. I use my final behavior cue.

I start to add the cue while the dog is still on the prop. Once I've done that, I can start the process of physically removing the prop, and that process is twofold. In that process I'm both what I call ping-ponging the prop. I'm working with and without the prop, both in the same session. And the way that we remove a prop mid-session is very specific to that prop. So the way I remove a platform is different than the way I remove a training gate, but in both cases, and in all cases of props, when we start that removal process, we want to ping-pong with and without, all within the same session. And again, we're using our cue that we previously attached to the behavior when the prop was in place.

The second part of that is that we have to be willing to accept a lower criteria, a lesser criteria, than what the dog would give us if the prop were present.

When the prop is present — we'll take a platform, for example, because that's easy — when the prop is there next to you, the dog is going to get up on the platform and he's going to be in a perfect heel position. When we remove that prop, he's not going to be in a perfect heel position that first rep after removing the prop. He's going to be a little bit like, "Whoa, where did it go?"

So we want to make sure that when we remove the prop, we're doing it in a way that is very unobtrusive to the dog, that it's very seamless and it's almost invisible. We're removing it when the dog is looking away and getting the treat. So when he comes back in, we want to mark early, before he realizes, "Oh, wait. Where am I going? There's no prop here."

It's not that we want to accept a sloppier version of what he did on the prop. We don't want him to come all the way into heel and be crooked and then mark that. But what we can do is we can mark an earlier criteria in that behavior. So as the dog is coming in, not waiting until he's all the way in heel, but as he's coming in on a correct trajectory, I can mark that, because that is still a correct response to my cue. I just marked it and interrupted it a little bit early, but I haven't marked anything incorrect yet. Does that make sense?

A lot of times I think what people do is they remove the prop — let's say platform again — they wait until the dog comes all the way into heel, and now he's crooked, and they mark that. I think that is an error that oftentimes makes it harder to remove the platform, that suddenly we're marking a criteria that we really don't want anymore.

So we're going to do a combination where we're going through the process, we want to do a combination of ping-ponging the platform, and this goes back to how I train in general, where I can make sure that I can provide easy reps, the dog gets a high rate of reward for correct responses, and then I do a little harder rep, and then back to easy. Ping-ponging the platform not only shows the dog exactly what I want every few reps, but it also provides the reward, the reinforcement, for exactly what I want.

So easy/hard, easy/hard, with and without, with and without, all in the same session, and then, when the platform is not down, or the prop is not there, shaping that behavior back up. Be willing to click sooner in the process rather than waiting for the full behavior, which is now likely to be inaccurate and imprecise because the prop is no longer there.

And again, with the gates, it's a little bit different. Rather than pulling anything out, it's very difficult to lift up a set of gates while your dog is facing the other direction or eating his treat. And so the process there is slightly different in that we are either moving out of the gates with each successive repetition, or we are folding back a panel of the gates so that they are a smaller part, a smaller piece, of a prop. So it's just a little bit different there.

Even with the pivot platform, there are two different ways I remove a pivot platform, and people will learn about those two different ways in the workshop.

Melissa Breau: For those of us out there who have dug ourselves a bit of a hole — maybe used that pivot platform a little bit too long, or a different prop for a different behavior — is there still hope there? How do we salvage that behavior and get rid of the prop without causing undue amounts of frustration? Because obviously now the dog thinks the prop is the cue, you've got a problem.

Julie Flanery: Right. The first thing I would do, and this sounds a little counterintuitive, but I would start using a different prop to train the same behavior. That's going to eliminate a lot of frustration right there because, remember, the prop shows the dog exactly what to do, so there's really no frustration there.

What we're doing is we are just finding a new way of reinforcing the same criteria that we wanted with the other prop. So the behavior and the criteria are still being reinforced, but we've now disentangled it from that previous prop. The more props you use in that way … if you can use three different props to convey the same information to the dog, then those props are not going to become attached to the behavior because they aren't the salient piece of information. The salient piece of information is your marker for the correct criteria and the reinforcement you provide for the correct criteria, and your dog will start to see that across all props.

So the first thing I would do if you're really stuck is I would train the behavior with a different prop. I would start putting more value into the criteria and making sure that you do have that behavior firmly on cue, because you might have skipped that step. You might have been trying to remove the prop and not actually transferred the cue with the behavior to the new cue that you're going to be using without the prop.

So those are the two things I would check first is start using a different prop and ensure that you've added the cue to the criteria that you want to maintain once you remove the prop.

Melissa Breau: The workshop — we've mentioned it sideways a couple of times — 7 Days to Drop that Prop, it starts … when this comes out, it will be this Sunday, May 3. Can you share a little more about what you'll cover and what's included in the workshop?

Julie Flanery: Everything we just talked about. Really, truly, we're going to talk about, again, what are the best uses. We're going to do a step-by-step. I take several different props and several different behaviors because, as I said, it depends a little bit.

I know that's not always intuitive for people. If I just show how to remove a platform, that might be a little bit difficult for you to take that information and then apply it to removing the gates. So we take several different behaviors and we take several different props, and we take different props for the same behavior, even, and I go through a step-by-step of how to remove … first, how to add the cue, because I think people miss that part, how to add the cue, and then how to remove the prop physically, what are the things you need to consider when doing that, how to ping-pong the prop in and out in the same session, and how to shape back up the criteria and then how to maintain the criteria after you've removed the prop.

We're going to go through all of those steps. I have videos of different props, different behaviors, same props, different behaviors, same behaviors, different props. All of that will be covered in the workshop. And then, when people submit their homework videos, they can submit no matter where they are in that process.

They might just be at the point of adding the cue to that process, and so I'll want to look at that and see how you're doing there.

They might be at the process of the physical removal. How are they actually physically removing that prop? Because that's a mechanical skill for the handler. That's a lot more difficult, I think, than people realize is how do I actually pick up that prop? What do I do with that prop once I've picked it up? I've seen handlers grab the prop and then fling it across the room and the dog goes and chases the prop. So it's a mechanical skill of just the physical removal of the prop. So I want to see that.

Shaping it back up. If you or your dog have difficulty with the concept of shaping, that's going to be something that maybe you want to practice, because that is a part of successfully removing props from behavior. Props show the dog the criteria. They allow you to build value in the behavior. But we also need to be willing to lower that criteria and shape the behavior back up when we start the process of removing that prop.

So those are things we're going to cover.

Melissa Breau: Is there an "ideal student" or somebody … what skills does somebody need to have if they're interested in a working spot heading into this?

Julie Flanery: How to click that "register" button. Working spots are going to fill really quickly, so if you're debating about signing up, just do it, no matter where you are in the process.

If you're using a prop right now and you're unsure of how you're going to separate it from the behavior, then you can sign up for this workshop. Again, it's good to have understanding and knowledge of the concept of shaping, because you're going to use that, but don't let that stop you. If you feel like, "I just don't know how to shape," or "My dog doesn't shape well," don't let that stop you from signing up for the workshop, because we're going to talk about how to actually do that for this process.

If you're using a prop and you've been on it for … I know people say, "I've been on this prop for a year; I'm thinking, Oh my gosh, what makes you think you're ever going to get off it?" It's very difficult. But if you've been on it for longer than a few weeks and you're not sure how to eliminate it from the process, you'll get that information in the workshop.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Is there anything else students should know if they're debating signing up?

Julie Flanery: No, I don't think so.

Melissa Breau: That's all the important bits.

Julie Flanery: That's the important bits. I really think that props have taken on a bigger and bigger role in our training the last several years. I've been using props for about, I don't know, ten or twelve years now, and it would be hard for me to train totally without props at this point. It would just take so much longer. The process would take so much longer for me.

And if we're going to use props in our training, we need to understand the whole process. We need to understand the process of both using them to convey criteria, but we also need to understand the process of removing them in an efficient and very effective way so the dog can maintain that criteria even after the props are gone.

Melissa Breau: One last question, Julie, and it's the one I'm asking to round things out for all of all my guests lately: What's something that you have learned or been reminded of recently when it comes to training?

Julie Flanery: Lately I've been doing a lot of different fun things with Phee, my younger dog. I'm working on making sure she finds value and joy in the training process. I'm also working that she finds value and joy in certain behaviors such as heeling, because I want that to be a chosen default for her.

Part of the way I'm doing that, which is … I'm not going to say it's different for me, because I've always wanted to make sure that my dogs found value and enjoyed their training, but I'm training more things that may seem irrelevant in terms of my sport and my ultimate goals with her, things that might seem like silly things to some people.

Teaching her to stick her snout in a bunch of different things. I don't need to train scentwork for any of the sports I'm involved in, but trying a little bit of scentwork to stretch my skills and allow her to enjoy that process. Playing tug to touch games, teaching big out runs, a lot of tricks, of course all the focus games and some Freestyle skills too.

But I think for me, one of the things I've learned is that I really want my focus to be on just enjoying what we're doing and not get so hung up on making it perfect, and that's really hard for me. As a trainer, I tend to be very structured in my training. I tend to focus on mechanical skills of the handler, I tend to focus on making sure that I'm progressing with my precision skills.

And it's not that I'm letting go of that, but I feel like, especially in this time of uncertainty and where we are at in the world, I just want to make sure —oh, gosh, I'm getting all choked up about this; I didn't expect to — I just want to make sure that both she and I are really enjoying this process and that it's fun. And that in this time of her training, where I'm wanting to really build the relationship with her so that we can meet our goals, and that in meeting those goals we're actually enjoying it.

So many people, I think, they're so goal-oriented and they're so driven to reach those goals that the training process can lose some of the joy that we started with. There's plenty of time for perfection, but if we spend a lot of time on that at the beginning, it can easily take all the joy out of that process. And in the long run it may not get us to our ultimate goals.

I'm trying to keep myself on track with that because, like I said, that is really hard for me. I tend to be very structured in my training. Not that I don't have fun, but to keep me on track I'm doing a hashtag, Fun With Phee, and I'm posting little snips of video on my personal page of Phee and I doing and learning silly, fun little things together. So you might check that out. You can do a search, #FunWithPhee, and all the videos will come up. I'm trying to add one every day or every other day, every couple of days. So that's been fun.

Melissa Breau: That's awesome.

Julie Flanery: Yeah, it is awesome.

Melissa Breau: Thank you so much for coming back on the podcast Julie!

Julie Flanery: Thank you. I love talking to you, Melissa.

Melissa Breau: I love talking to you, too.

Julie Flanery: We should do it more often.

Melissa Breau: We should! And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in! We'll be back next week with Peta Clarke to talk about learning to understand, interpret, and predict behavior in your training, and what it is about sniffing that's so dang good for dogs.

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. 

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.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

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