E171: Julie Daniels - "7 Days to a More Confident Dog"

How do you build confidence? Can you? Julie and I do a deep dive on the topic and talk about her upcoming workshop, starting this Sunday!

Additional Resources

Recommended video: The Science of Emotions with Jaak Panksepp at TED



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 Daniels.

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

She owns and operates Kool Kids Agility in Deerfield, 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 two-time international champion.

Hi Julie! Welcome back to the podcast.

Julie Daniels: Hi Melissa. Thanks a lot for having me.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. To start us out, can you just share a little information about the dogs you share your life with right now and what you're working on with them?

Julie Daniels: We have a blended family here at home. We have five dogs total, and the youngest is 8 months and the oldest will be 15 in a few months, so we've got quite a range.

What I'm doing the most of is my 4-year-old, Kool Aid, is a challenge and a lot of fun every day. We're training both agility skills and concepts every day, and also she's an advanced student in Karen Kay's Canine Fitness classes, so we do a lot of precision mechanics and exercises on fitness equipment too. So she's the one I'm doing the most with on a daily basis.

I just retired my older competition dog, Sport. He's now just turned 12.

I have a nearly 15-year-old who's the star of the show around here, if you ask her, and she does whatever she wants and is incredibly high-maintenance, and I'll just admit I enjoy her more as an old dog than I ever did as a young dog. She's just one of those personalities.

So that's what we're dealing with here. That's what I'm doing the most of.

Melissa Breau: I know you've got a new workshop on the schedule that starts this coming Sunday, called 7 Days to a More Confident Dog, and I was hoping we could chat about that a little bit today. I think many people notice if a dog is super shy or very fearful, but perhaps they miss some of the body language when it comes to a dog that is just unsure. Can you describe the kind of body language we're talking about when we say a dog is confident and some of the more subtle signs that a dog may be lacking in confidence?

Julie Daniels: Sure. It's good that you mentioned that, because obviously that's a construct, and different people will see different things and look for different things. So to operationalize something like confidence, I think we can look at specific indication of is the dog looking to approach or is the dog looking to avoid.

If you see the center of gravity shifting forward and the dog actually taking steps forward toward, let's say, a new item, a novel stimulus, then we measure the dog's confidence a little bit by that, and I would say that dog is demonstrating curiosity, another concept.

Or is the dog's center of gravity going backwards. In other words, are we seeing an avoidant response instead of an approach response, in which case we might say the dog is a little bit more pessimistic and not so optimistic, and more anxious and less curious.

All constructs, I know, but we do have similar interpretations of seeing those elements of body language in dogs, as in people. I think that's probably why we're pretty good at being able to make the discernments about whether a dog wants to approach or a dog wants to avoid, because we're so good at seeing that same thing in people, and it depends upon the weight shift and the head and eye movements that the creature makes. So yeah, we're pretty good at seeing that.

Melissa Breau: When we're talking about a switch or trying to build confidence, can you talk a little about how you approach that in training?

Julie Daniels: The easiest way to describe my approach is that I'm interested in the emotions that are going on underneath the behaviors that we just discussed.

I'm a big fan of the work of Jaak Panksepp. He describes things like emotional affects, and emotional feelings and affect, and all sentient beings have various emotional affects, and Jaak Panksepp described ultimately seven. He started with four and then he added three more.

I'm going to, in this workshop, rather than get into all seven affects, I do just talk a little bit about each one in the workshop, but the real point here is that I chose the seeking system and the play system as being the two emotional affects that I was going to emphasize in the workshop.

We can't do everything, and what I decided to do was make it an active confidence session. I'm using things like movement, value for novelty, actions of coming forward with the nose and with the head, push games, and things like that. So it's all a games approach with me, but what we're doing and why is very, very important.

And so the direct answer to your question is that I take an emotional approach. I'm interested in the dog's emotions, and I'm interested in using the dog's emotions to create feelings of curiosity and optimism. Those are my two fundamental desires for the dog that I'm working with. Can I turn the dog's pessimism into optimism, and can I overwrite, we will say, a negative CER with a positive CER. And the answer, by the way, is yes, absolutely. And also can we kindle that curiosity. We all have a natural curiosity, and can we kindle that and thereby increase the dog's sense of optimism. Does that make sense?

Melissa Breau: Yeah, yeah. And it gets into what I wanted to ask about next, which is, there's this huge nurture versus nature debate, and I was hoping you could talk a little bit about the impact training for confidence can have on that. What kind of changes is it possible to see?

Julie Daniels: If I'm just going to continue with the things I was just talking about, I think we could say that you have a natural threshold in any creature that you work with, and if we were to look at ourselves, we would see the same on introspection that we all have a natural range of, let's say, optimism and, let's say, curiosity set points, you might say, and thresholds, you might say.

There's a certain threshold over which curiosity can get the better of you, and all of a sudden you're anxious, like, "Uh-oh, I came in too close." I'll talk more about that later, I think, but nature versus nurture, sure. Nature gave you something to start with and consider it a range, a big range, and a set point. But it's only a start point. From my point of view, I can make a difference, and so that's what I'm going to do.

Melissa Breau: A lot of people think about this concept, and they're like, "Yeah, it's essential to do it during socialization," and then maybe they don't even think about doing it with an older dog. Is there an age when it's best to do this type of work? Is it ever just "too late"?

Julie Daniels: Two questions in one, and they're both so good I'm going to do one at a time. Is there a best time? Well, it's hard to disagree with the importance of socialization during the critical periods of acquisition of those kinds of feelings. Very, very, very young baby puppies don't really have a fear response, and that's a good time to introduce certain things, and it's also a good time to imprint a recall. There are many, many, many things that benefit from our starting young.

Gosh, I just did that webinar on Train This First, do these things right now, these are the things to do in the first few weeks that you bring your puppy home. You can't do everything. So many things can be done at any time in life, but there are certain things that benefit from starting them very early, and I would not deny that.

However, that said, this workshop is about I don't care where you're at. I don't care where your start point is. I can improve your dog's confidence to the upper end of his range, even starting later in life.

Now I'm answering the second part of your question. There is not a time when it's too late. There is not a time when it's too late. You can overwrite, and we will do some of that in this workshop, and you'll learn how to do it. You can overwrite a negative conditioned emotional response with a positive one. You can't erase what's done. You can't take the salt out of the soup. So the longer the dog has had this problem, you might say, the more salt there is in the soup.

So we're overwriting. We're adding more carrots and potatoes and everything else to the soup, so that the aggregate level of experience is much, much greater when we finish, and all the stuff that we're adding is good. Do you see what I mean? So we can make a very big difference in the conditioned emotional response that any dog will have to an upcoming event.

Melissa Breau: I like the salt in the soup analogy. I haven't heard that one before. But I've certainly done it — you put salt and then you have to dilute it back down.

Julie Daniels: Yeah, you can't do that anymore. You wish you could. You wish you could. So you can't erase a negative experience, but you can make a big, big, big difference in how the dog views the future through an aggregate level of really good, solid training that will improve the points that you want to work on.

Melissa Breau: 7 Days to a More Confident Dog is kind of a bold name. I know technically I helped come up with it …

Julie Daniels: You're glossing over that. Yes, you did help me come up with that. We were chatting up at my place at New Hampshire Mini-Camp, and you said, "Here's your workshop: 7 Days to a Braver Dog," and it was perfect for me. I think it was beautifully well-contrived. It took me a while, Melissa, but now I'm running with it.

Melissa Breau: I wanted to ask you, is it reasonable to think that handlers will actually see an observable difference in their dog's behavior over the course of those seven days or over the course of a week?

Julie Daniels: Yes, ma'am. Absolutely. You want me to prove it?

Melissa Breau: Well, I hope that's what the workshop is going to do.

Julie Daniels: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I'll tell you a little bit about it, and I'm going to go back to the work of Panksepp. I talk a little bit about him at the beginning of the workshop, before we get into the games.

I'm actually going to read you a little quote, and this quote was one that I wanted to include in the workshop, and I just didn't have time or space. I'm just admitting this disclosure: I think I went about fifteen minutes over on the workshop, so I couldn't do everything I wanted to do.

But from Panksepp, the emotional mind, this quote by Jaak Panksepp I think sums up the kind of work I like to do. So just listen to this. This is Jaak speaking. "Perhaps the best therapy for depression, at least in its milder forms, is to coax people to play again, and also to have lots of physical activity, which can invigorate many brain systems."

That's just a simple quote from Jaak Panksepp. That is just a fundamental truth of the way I train dogs. I don't know enough about humans. It's been dogs and me my whole life. I'm not an expert on humans. But this works, this kind of approach. So one of the things you'll see in the workshop is that I make the case for movement. I'm teaching lots of silly things that help dogs feel more confident. But I'm not doing much with stationary games. This workshop is about active confidence, and movement is big, it's very important to me.

So the two affects — remember, an affect is just an emotional set of feelings — the two affects that I'm doing the most with in the workshop are the seeking, which is just about exploring and searching for resources, and you could always consider it … Jaak Panksepp always called the seeking system also the source for enthusiasm. People think the seeking system — snuffle mats and such, if you picture that, cookie scatters and everything — people think of that as being calming and soothing, and I don't deny that it is. It is calming and soothing. But it's also where eager enthusiasm comes from. So it's a very important affect.

The other affect that we're going to do the most with is play. Panksepp describes — I just love his description of play, so succinct, so perfect — he calls it social joy. Is that cool or what? So we're going to use that big-time a lot.

Do you want me to tell you the seven categories that we'll be playing with in seven days?

Melissa Breau: Sure.

Julie Daniels: I'm just going to tell them to you in the order in which I present them in the workshop. I also mention that I'm not numbering them. They are itemized, but they're not numbered, because you could play in any different category in any order. It's not the kind of workshop where one day builds on the previous day. You don't have to do them all. You can tackle any individual category.

However, I do make the case in the workshop that areas of weakness benefit from starting with areas of strength, then going into the area of weakness. So I'll make the case for that in the workshop. Here and now I'll tell you my seven categories, and boy, it's hard to choose.

As you had mentioned, this is a lot about my Empowerment class, this is taken from Empowerment class. We have a lot that we do in six weeks, so to condense it into an hour is a little bit tough. But I think I have something for everyone. I think I chose things that any dog can benefit from and any person would have fun with.

So the first category, the snuffle things, talking about the seeking system. It's not just snuffle mats. You might or might not know what a snuffle mat is, but anybody can make a snuffle box. And anybody can take a bolstered dog bed and fill it up with plastic bags and tennis balls and plastic bottles and sprinkle cookies underneath. Anybody can make snuffle items. You don't need a fancy snuffle mat and you don't need a fabric material. It doesn't have to be. Crinkly paper inside a box makes a fabulous snuffle box. So that's the first category.

Value for novelty is the second category, and that's the curiosity principal. That's huge, and I actually spend quite a bit of time on that in the workshop because it's so important. I'll just give you here the quickest, briefest little tease about what that's about. One familiar item out of place that is in a wrong place around your house every single day. So 365 novel, happy, good surprise experiences, because they're familiar items and your home is familiar. It's just that the item is in the wrong place.

If you don't think that builds confidence, you have to try it every day for a year and you'll have a different dog. And I'm not kidding, and I don't care how old your dog is. But anyway, that's just a tease for that. I could spend the whole podcast on that, but let's go on.

The third category is movement, as I talk about. I'm expressing that as good energy, positive energy. Since I already read you Panksepp's concepts quote, I'll just move on.

The fourth category is pushing, pushing initially with the nose, and then pushing with the face, and then pushing with the whole head. Remember we were talking at the beginning, you were asking me about how do you see confidence, what looks confident.

Well, the body coming forward is a confident response, and so you can turn that around in the brain. Did the dog come forward because he was confident, or does he feel more confident because he's coming forward? If you can create an exposure, which makes the dog feel safe enough, so that whole safety and security thing.

It's not just about the dog trusting you. It's that the dog inherently feels safe in the situation. So establishing operations for the dog to feel comfortable is hugely important. But teaching the dog to bop things and then push his head forward actually changes the dog's feeling about who's in charge, so to speak.

Let me just give you one example. I don't slip the collar over my dog's head. That's not how I do it. I hold up the loop and my dogs think it's hysterical and they smash their heads through because it's a game. So talk about a life skill — that's useful, whether or not your dog has a confidence problem. But also it's an empowered response, and it's a game that creates more optimism and confidence just through that fun action and movement.

The next category, which is the fifth category, is arguably again my favorite, another of my favorites, and that's the Broccoli Principal, which is everybody's favorite who takes Empowerment class. We have more fun with broccoli than anything, and that's the big brag is, "She loves her broccoli! Yes, she loves her broccoli!" The game of broccoli — just think of it as playful resistance.

We call it the pushback game, like, if you picture the handler just putting a little bit of pressure on the chest with the flat hand, in a playful and humorous and fun-loving way, usually what happens is the dog leans in. Then you get that confident response. It's just an opposition reflex. Most dogs don't even know what they're doing. They're just leaning into the pressure of the hand, because your goal is to underwhelm with that pressure so that the dog will push back, and push back just hard enough to come forward. Again, we're looking for that.

So this is one of those things. The Broccoli Principal is full of artistry and cleverness and timing, and the pace and the tempo of the game that's going on when you choose to play it and apply it. It's where the art meets the science, for sure. Anyway, one of my very favorites, and everybody loves playing Broccoli and I have quite a few fun examples in the workshop.

The last two categories are about noise. I decided noise was so important we had to cover it in two sections. The first is about noise that the dog cannot control. It happens in the environment. There's nothing the dog can do about it. And so I call that "noise tolerance." Many dogs have a lot of trouble with that, when they can't really identify necessarily the noise. Other dogs are fine with that, and they can't stand the other type of noise, which is the dog now causing the rude noises themselves.

I actually have an example and will take you up through the progressions of helping a dog improve who was perfectly fine with extreme levels of one category of noise and completely incapacitated by the invitation to participate in the other kind of noise. I'm not going to give it away and tell you, but I think I can make quite a commanding case for how I do things to make progress in that.

And it's not a puppy. Many of the dogs in this workshop are older dogs who've had problems for a long time, many years, so we've got a lot of salt in that soup, so we have our work cut out for us. But you can always make a difference, and you can make a difference in a week. Do you believe me?

Melissa Breau: I do. I believe you, and I think that sounds like a very full workshop, so no wonder you ran a little bit over. It sounds like there's a lot in there.

Julie Daniels: I hope so. I hope so. I tried.

Melissa Breau: One of the lines in your description caught my eye and I was hoping to talk about it for just a second. You mention in the description, you ask this question: Are you still using food when your dog is afraid? I'm going to guess that many people listening to this who have less confident dogs are thinking that yes, they absolutely use food when their dogs are afraid. Can you talk about that? Why might using food not be the best approach, and how do you address it instead?

Julie Daniels: Thank you so much for asking that question. That is really key to a lot of what we tend to do as humans who think we can buy our way into a dog's head. And it doesn't go like that.

Actually, the fact that you're asking this question after we've already talked about the emotional affects and what's going on at the emotional level — I think that's good timing because I think that makes it more clear that whether the dog eats the food or doesn't eat the food, if you don't address the underlying emotions, you're not really going to make the difference that you want to make.

And we all know that that's true. Yes, sure, you can be bought for a moment, but have you really changed the dog's underlying emotional affect? It's doubtful. It's doubtful.

So yeah, bribes are problematic, and many times bribes will put a dog over their natural curiosity threshold. We were talking about how we watch curiosity, but what we want to do is invite optimistic curiosity, like, "I think this is cool." And when the dog says, instead of, "I think the novel stimulus is cool," the dog says, "I think steak is cool," that steak can be problematic. As soon as the dog gets, for example, closer to the novel stimulus than they would choose to be, and then suddenly they notice where they are, that's a problem, because in that instant the dog is now in the affect we call panic. It's just a bad idea.

Food is problematic. There are times to use food for luring, and there are times that food is extremely valuable, if you place it ahead of time. And we'll actually do this in the workshop. I do use pre-placed treats on a regular basis. That's what a snuffle mat is.

There's nothing wrong with having placed the food there in the first place, and then allow the dog on his own, without your interference, to make a decision about whether he'd like to go get that piece of steak. In which case, probably the dog who is extremely food-driven would be hesitant and show you terrible internal conflict, which is not hard to see. Although it's a construct, it's pretty clear. The dog would grab the steak and run, given his druthers.

So have you really changed the dog's opinion or improved the dog's optimism toward the novel stimulus? Doubtful. Doubtful. He still likes steak as much as ever, but in fact if you do it badly enough, you can ruin the dog's feelings about steak. I won't go into that either, but it's not that hard to do.

So anyway, food is problematic. It's not that you would never use food. It's that bribery is coercion, and coercion has fallout. And so it's probably not ultimately going to accomplish the emotional effect that you are looking to have.

I'm so glad you asked that question, and I'm so glad we talked about the importance of the emotional systems before we talked about food. Because otherwise we tend to say, "Well, food works for me," and we're not really addressing what's going on and what we're trying to accomplish. That's my whole thing. It's know what you are doing and know why. What are you trying to accomplish.

Melissa Breau: We talked about this next one a little bit already. The workshop description mentions that you're addressing novelty, noise, strangeness, and the unexpected. I know you talked about them a little bit, but can you still address how those pieces come together to help create a more confident dog?

Julie Daniels: What do you mean by come together? Do you mean how we would combine surprise with novelty? That kind of thing?

Melissa Breau: Yeah, or even just I know that before we started recording, you were talking about how one thing impacts the other, so even if you want to talk about that a little bit.

Julie Daniels: Sure. By starting with an area of strength, you build your dog's optimism for the next thing that you want to do. So you actually can have a good effect on a completely different area by warming up in an area of strength and then going on to the lesson that you wanted to have in an area of weakness, obviously, on a simpler level. Is that helpful? So yeah, I'm all the time combining different kinds of things.

Novelty and surprise pretty much go hand-in-hand. Many times it's hard to separate them. So I have that game about one familiar item in a new place around your house every single day. That's novelty of a sort, but it's surprise. Surprise is big.

I actually mention this in the workshop, and I'll just give you a tease about it here, because it had such an effect on me at the time. Years ago, I saw Tony Robbins. You can imagine the stadium has millions of people, a gajillion people, and he just yells out in that big booming voice. He goes, "Who likes surprises?" A gajillion people raised their hands, "I love surprises!" And here's Tony Robbins' booming voice, "No, you don't!" Then he goes, "You only like surprises you want."

So I'm like, "That is dog training." That's how I try to impose surprise on a dog for whom I'm working on confidence. If what you want to do is improve the dog's confidence, it has to be a quick startle, a quick recovery, and a surprise they want. Does that make sense?

Melissa Breau: Yeah. When you're talking about an area of strength and an area of weakness, you mean it like when you were going through the seven different pieces, some dogs are going to respond well to, versus other dogs are going to be less confident in some of those things, right?

Julie Daniels: Exactly. Exactly. Everybody will have areas of strength and areas of weakness. So don't feel like you just want to target your areas of weakness. I'm asking you to start with an area of strength, and that will carry over. The positive transfer is huge.

You don't even have to work in the same category in order to improve the dog's … and by that I'll say raise the level of confidence that the dog would bring to the next category. Positive transfer is huge.

Melissa Breau: Which makes total sense because it goes back to that optimism thing that you were talking about, where if nine experience out of ten have a good result, you come to expect a good result, even in a situation where you feel a little less confident than naturally.

Julie Daniels: I think that's exactly right, and that's perfectly put because the dog turns "Oh, I can't do that" into "Wait, I just did this." So you're on a roll. By coming off of a big success, I think that's exactly what it is. It's an optimism, expecting to do well in the next thing, even though you haven't done that one before. Exactly.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned earlier that a lot of the pieces of this workshop come out of your six-week Empowerment class. I'd love to hear a little more about how you became interested in this as a topic, back when you developed the class or even before that. What led you to experiment and explore the idea of building confidence? Is there a story there?

Julie Daniels: It always goes back to childhood, right? It has been dogs and me my whole life. I was that little 10-year-old kid, and the stray dog would come to me and nobody else could get the dog to come to them.

I've done a lot of work on confidence. In fact, one of my webinars that I did for the Pet Professionals Program was called How to be Attractive to a Dog. It's a mix of artistry and science and sensitivity and targeting the emotions, instead of just trying to get what you want.

So it does go back to childhood for me. It's my whole life with animals, the sensitivity to what I see and how I can help. I'm always about how can I help. And it's by targeting the underlying emotions that you end up really making a difference in the dog's life going forward. So who wouldn't want to do that work? I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want to do that work.

Melissa Breau: Can you share a bit more about who should take this workshop? I know we talked a little bit earlier about there's never too old, but is there an age that's maybe ideal for this? Or anything else folks should know about the workshop to help them decide?

Julie Daniels: You know how I feel: everybody should take my workshop.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough!

Julie Daniels: It's not really targeted toward extremely young puppies. I think the Train This First, the Train This Now webinar that I did, was really targeted to the younger, the better. This is not. This is designed to be for everybody.

And certainly there are some puppies in the videos, too. They're not little babies. This is not the first imprinting that you're trying to do, because I truly believe you can make a difference at any point in a dog's life, and many of the example dogs in the workshop are middle-aged and older.

So it's for any dog who has … I wouldn't say it's for aggression problems. It's just not targeted that way. I'm not saying it couldn't help, but it's not designed for that at all.

And it's not designed for dogs who are so anxious that their inertia has incapacitated them and they really can't. Certainly if a dog is reluctant to try something, or in general tends to hold back and not be willing to come forward — in other words, inertia's your enemy now — the thing I would say to anyone is get them moving. Go for a walk, and then train right off the walk. Don't come out of a nap and train. Get the dog moving and then go for a walk.

But if the dog is truly incapacitated and unable to make a start, I think you would pick one category and maybe make a start there, rather than think you're going to work every day in a row for seven days.

So the workshop is not targeted to the super-extreme cases. It's more targeted toward the marginalized dogs who don't feel like they fit in. Does that make sense?

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So we're coming to the end here. I've got one last question that I'm asking all my guests lately: What is something that you have learned or been reminded of recently when it comes to dog training?

Julie Daniels: Very recently, as a matter of fact, one of my private students brought this back to mind, but it's something that comes up regularly for me as a teacher. I think many of our Fenzi listeners will identify with this too.

It so often happens with my students, and I think it can happen with individuals about themselves. We think we're doing badly and not making progress when really we're fine. We're making perfectly fine progress. If you really were to look at what things were like when you started and now what things look like at this present time, anyone on the outside would see huge improvement.

And yet, whether we're talking about ourselves or whether it's a student talking to the teacher, the student feels, "Oh, I just can't do this," and "I don't think this is going to work," and "This is just not working," and "I'm worse than I ever was. I'm just worse than ever."

And when you as a teacher, or as an objective person looking at yourself, you actually compare the start point with where you are now, it's easy to see improvement. Anyone would see the improvement.

I try to address that type of thing by realizing that that problem originates in our brains because our brains get so smart so quickly, and our brains learn so much faster than our mechanics can improve.

So the way I like to describe it is your standard goes up. Your standards go up pretty high. You're no longer in that category where you're blissfully ignorant and you think you're doing great because you have no standards. And then, as your standards go up quite rapidly because you learn more, you begin to get into that quadrant where you're consciously incompetent, and that's painful. Painful.

Every student is going to go through that category. You can't get to unconscious competence without going through the painful category of conscious incompetence, and boy, that just hurts. So when you're trying to guide a student through that category, it's so important to remind them that they're actually making perfectly fine progress and that they look great. I just said to someone recently, "Don't make me show you the video of when you first started, because I don't really want you to identify with that anymore, because you're just making lovely progress.

So that's come up recently, but it comes up as a teacher, it comes up on a regular basis.

Melissa Breau: That's such a great reminder, too. It's sometimes really hard to recognize progress, and it's good to have somebody objectively look at things and go, "No, really, it's getting better. I promise."

Julie Daniels: For sure. For sure. And so it's the teacher's job to say, "Look at your mechanics. You now can hold your hand still, and you didn't used to be able to do that." Do you see what I mean? You're actually working the elements of difficulty sequentially, like you're supposed to, and you used to blend them all over the place. You don't do that anymore. Concentrate on what's going well, quick, a brief reminder of you used to be a blend-in mess. And then target what is going well and what the student does well.

Or do that for yourself. I have to do it for myself on a regular basis. I suck now and then too. So it's important to keep that perspective. That's what optimism is all about.

Melissa Breau: I love that, and what a great note to end on. Thank you so much for coming back on the podcast, Julie! This was great.

Julie Daniels: Thanks, Melissa. It was my pleasure.

Melissa Breau: And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in! We'll be back next week with Michael Shikashio to talk about taking on aggression cases, working with dogs who guard their handlers, and his upcoming conference on aggression in 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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