E180: Getting to Know the New FDSA Alumni Moderator Team

Today we have on the new FDSA Moderators to chat a bit about their backgrounds and get to know them a bit more!


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 the new moderators for the FDSA Alumni Facebook Group, which if you don't know what that is, if you're an FDSA student, you qualify. It's a Facebook group for you to join us and chat about training and all things dogs. Our new mods are Mala Bissoon, Becca Hintz, Ashley Escobar, and Amy Miller, and they're all here with me today.

Hi guys, welcome to the podcast!

Mala Bissoon: Hi, nice to be here.

Melissa Breau: To start us out, I was hoping you could each just share a little about yourselves, who your dogs are, what you're working on with them, and maybe a little about how long you've been taking classes at FDSA. Mala, do you want to start?

Mala Bissoon: I've got two dogs. Lola is 10-and-a-half. She's a Tibetan Terrier crossed with … I was told it was a Jack Russell, but she's not. I've met her mum and she's part Jack Russell, and I bet she's half Yorkshire Terrier.

She's been awesome. She's been wonderful. I haven't done very much with her, but she's the practice dog, the dog I started off training, so she's put up with me through all my mistakes. She's been very compliant, only because she loves food. If I take the food away, she doesn't like the game anymore, so I've figured out she's not my obedience dog.

The other guy, I've got a large 4-and-a-half-year-old Berger Picard. They aren't very common in this country, there were 75, and I think my guy… he's an import. He's been a lot of hard work, but I love him. He loves playing the games and just being there and taking part. He's got his Good Citizens Bronze, he's got his Novice Trick, and I'm working towards my TEAM 3 with him.

Melissa Breau: People may be able to guess a little bit from your accent, but do you want to share where you're joining us from?

Mala Bissoon: I'm in central London, where it's quite unusually hot and steamy. I live right in the middle, and the downside of that is that it's an absolute desert for dog sports. There's nothing here at all. To find anything, you have to get into a car and drive into a neighboring county. We had Kamal Fernandez's group in East London for a while, but he's left for more rural areas. So the reason I'm doing obedience mostly is because I can do it here, with minimal equipment, and limited minimal space as well.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Becca, do you want to tell us a little about you?

Becca Hintz: I am a mom of two. We're currently distance learning, so we're spending a lot of time on that.

We have two dogs right now. Justice is supposed to be a boerboel, who knows, he was a rescue. We got him when he was 2 and a fairly serious behavior case. He's now 10, so we're working on fitness and a lot of love. He thinks he's a lap dog, so we spend every evening together cuddling as he enjoys. He gets to do whatever he wants these days.

Daisy is our second dog. She's a Russell Terrier. My 12-year-old daughter has been totally bitten by the bug, so she started showing off one of my client's Cairn Terriers in Junior Handlers, she shows Daisy, her Russell Terrier, in Breed, and this year at Cal Plus, Daisy debuted in the Junior ring, which they don't go into the Junior ring typically until they're a little further along and they're a pretty solid conformation dog. And then she's earned her first trick title, and we are working on dock diving now.

It's much easier to work with clients who take their dog home, and all of the things they do home. It's much harder when your client lives in your house and talks back in English. But it's fun. I really enjoy it. We're having a good time.

Melissa Breau: Good. And where are you?

Becca Hintz: We are in Northern California.

Melissa Breau: Ashley, do you want to go next?

Ashley Escobar: I have two small children who I'm also home-schooling. Solidarity. This week I'm already ready to pull my hair out.

I have three dogs. I have my retired agility/obedience Doberman who turns 8 this year, he's one of my longest-living Dobermans, and two Australian Shepherds. I have my teenage male, Maui, that's my agility prospect, and I just got a little Australian Shepherd female who is now 10 weeks old, so you may hear some puppy screaming in the background and I will mute.

I've been taking FDSA classes for quite some time because four-and-a-half years ago my son was diagnosed with leukemia and I was put in a bubble. I could not be around in the public or around other people, due to his compromised immune system. Dog training is my outlet, so I was so thankful to find FDSA be able to take all these classes. This wonderful online community has been therapy and just amazing for me.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Amy?

Amy Miller: I live in Ohio, the northwest corner of Ohio. I have six rescue dogs. Four of them lay around and guard the place, or they think they do, from the mailman.

Two were promoted to my dog training partners. We have done dock diving, barn hunt, we are active in TEAM, trick dogs, and we play a little bit at agility and just started treibball, thanks to Melissa's class through FDSA.

I think it has given me a great outlet of things to do with the dogs in our house, who four years ago barely knew how to sit when asked. So we've come a long way.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. I'd love to talk a little more about how everybody got into dog sports and what brought you to this world. Becca, do you want to take this one first?

Becca Hintz: I was that child that brought home every stray animal that she could possibly find, and my mother didn't let me keep any. She said, "If you want a dog, use your own money, go out and buy one that's registered, and you can have a dog." Much to her surprise, I did, and brought home a Doberman puppy, who at the time her father was the first Doberman to go Best In Show at Westminster.

I had a neighbor who showed Labradors and bred Labradors, and so I had a driver and a way to get to shows, and I started showing when I was 15. I did some obedience with that particular dog, who had quite the personality, as most Dobermans do, and really enjoyed everything I could do with her. She was doing dock diving before dock diving was a sport, and she was just absolutely my best friend.

I've always for a long time went back and forth between horses and dogs, and eventually I ended up just doing dogs. I started with FDSA a couple of years ago and loved the variety of things that are available so that we can do almost anything. There's no limit with FDSA, so I've really enjoyed that, and been blessed to show different sports at different times and have really enjoyed it.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Ashley, you mentioned that you found FDSA when your son was diagnosed. Were you in sports before that, or was that where you started?

Ashley Escobar: It was. I grew up doing courses, and that's where my love for agility came from, because I did hunter/jumper and trail horses with my horses, and after sustaining quite a few injuries as a young adult/teenager, I was moving toward smaller animals that were not going to leave me crippled by the time I was 30.

I moved officially over to dogs at that point, and I paid for most of my college books and tuition and such by teaching dog classes on the side. I found a love for teaching and went into that route with my dog sports and competing with my dogs, primarily in agility and some obedience on the side.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Amy, do you want to go next? How did you get into dog sports?

Amy Miller: I started my life in horse sports, equestrian sports, as well, and was always looking for something more, once the horses left the farm. I ended up adopting a 16-week-old puppy who had big feelings, and landed at a training center that offered agility. Probably not the best option for him, but not knowing any better at that point, we signed up for agility classes and that's where it started.

Melissa Breau: That's exciting. That's jumping in feet first. That sounds good.

Amy Miller: It was. It got better because the other instructor at the facility turned out to be an FDSA instructor, so we were saved pretty quickly and found a better path for him. But I had another dog that got to play there too.

Melissa Breau: Was that Dr. Jen?

Amy Miller: It was Dr. Jen, yeah. We found Dr. Jen in the middle of West Virginia.

Melissa Breau: What about you, Mala?

Mala Bissoon: I've only had dogs for about eleven years. I bought myself a little puppy, a little Jack Russell/Poodle cross, and he was the best thing I've ever done for myself in terms of things like mental health, because the dogs get you out, get you sociable, you have exercise, you're out in the open air at least twice a day, you have the cute little waggy thing, and that's a lovely inclusion in your life.

The one funny thing about him was he was such a good dog. I just felt really proud of him. Unfortunately, he was attacked in the park, got bitten up pretty badly, stitched up, was getting better, retained his love of life and other dogs and all people, he always thought everybody else wanted to meet him, and then he died, probably of parvovirus, even though he was vaccinated.

It led me to try and find out what I could about dogs and temperaments and aggression and training, because what people tell you in the park just doesn't sound right. So I jumped down that rabbit hole of looking on the Internet. I read bits here and there. I read the good stuff, the bad stuff, everything.

Where I ended up was Sue Ailsby's website. She had so much information on there. Very generously, it was all free. I found her original Levels training, joined the Yahoo group, I got Lola, and I apologized to her for being in a bad way and probably not being a very good owner at that point. I thought, if I'm going to have this dog hopefully for, let's say, up to sixteen years, I don't want to be going around the park the same every time, being bored. Let's do stuff with her. The more I saw, the more I thought, if that's what you can do with dogs, let's do all the stuff.

As I said before, the thing that's most accessible to me is obedience, although there's a big pile of homemade agility equipment in the hall, so we've had a go at that. I would have tried to have a go at doggie parkour with her, except she's a little elderly and I think her abdominal muscles have divided, so she doesn't have the abdominal support and the back support anymore. So I can always push my other dog on with that.

At some point there was a message on the Yahoo group saying that FDSA was starting. I headed over to the website and signed up for my first class, which I think was Heeling Games. I couldn't make head nor tail of that, but it's still in the library, so if I go back to it now, it would probably make sense to me, but at that point it was too big a step. But I haven't stopped reading about dogs, and working with mine and other people's since then.

Melissa Breau: That's awesome. I love that you went straight from training levels and basics to Heeling Games. I can understand how that would be a big jump.

Mala Bissoon: If you know nothing about it, you don't know what a big jump it is, and I didn't know at that time.

Melissa Breau: This time, let's start with Ashley. I want to hear about when you started out, did you start out in this positive training world? Was it a journey? How did you end up here? Was there somebody or something that turned you on to this stuff? What led you to R+?

Ashley Escobar: I grew up showing and competing with horses, and for those of you fellow equestrians, most of the horse training back in the '90s was not very positively reinforced for horses.

I distinctly remember I was 12 and I went to — I'm dating myself — a Ron McLaughlin clinic. He was one of the first positive reinforcement equestrians at the time, and he opened my eyes to animal training and clicker training. I remember he used to clicker with the horses and it was mind-blowing. He was just incredible with treating, and it changed my perspective altogether for animals.

I always say that the dogs are so much like the horses when it comes to training, except they're easier because they're smaller and you can work with them all the time. You don't have to go to the barn.

I feel like he made such a big impact on how I view my relationship with my animals. For me, it is more of a relationship between the animal in front of me than it is a specific goal in mind. I like just having that bond and that friendship that I have always found with my animals. So he was a big impact for me for animals.

Moving over to dogs, it was very difficult to find a trainer that I, being the strong person that I am, could align my own values with the way that they taught animals. So I found myself without a whole lot of local support, because in the '90s and the early 2000s it was the era of prong collars and negative reinforcement for dogs and negative punishment. I had very sensitive Dobermans and it did not work for them. If you yelled at them, they were done. So I really had to seek and find resources where I could and call on former horse people.

Luckily, things started really coming around in the late 2000s. Things started shifting over to that positive reinforcement side and I have just loved it. Now there are so many more people doing it. It's like, "Oh, there's my people." I love it. It's great.

So I wouldn't say that I've necessarily always been positive reinforcement, just through a learning process, and it certainly started with the horses. But I can say now that my last five dogs have all been brought up and raised and trained with fully positive reinforcement, and I love it. My kids are learning to train the dogs with positive reinforcement and it's fabulous to watch.

Melissa Breau: It's so cool. It's so interesting, because I've interviewed other horse folks, and a lot of them learned about positive stuff in the dog world and carried it over into their horse lives. You had the opposite story.

Ashley Escobar: I found a trainer, I don't even know how my mom found him. She said, "We're going to go to this clinic." I remember the other girls at the barn and their parents were like, "He's not a show person. We're not going to go to him. We want to compete and win."

He was magic. He was teaching his horses these tricks, and they were laying down and doing all sorts of stuff for raisins and little horse treats, and I was like, "I love this man. This is so cool," because I don't want to be mean to my horse. I'm a 10-year-old girl. I'm in love with my horse. I would never want to do anything nasty with him. So it was just life-changing for me.

Melissa Breau: That's awesome. Amy, what about you? How did you get turned on to this stuff?

Amy Miller: I think originally, as a pet dog owner, before we started any training, we had dogs on the farm and I didn't know any better. We had an electric collar to keep the dogs from killing the chickens. But I've been really lucky, because once we started a training journey, I landed right with Dr. Jen — and that's Dr. Summerfield, for anybody who's wondering.

So I've had only positive training since I've been actually trying to train, which has been helpful. And right from there, she introduced me to FDSA, and it's been so much better than all of the struggles that we had before I knew anything and when I was only trying to use tools to get the results that I wanted.

Melissa Breau: Mala, what about you?

Mala Bissoon: Having only been involved in this for the past eleven years, I didn't have a lot of stuff in my head to get rid of to start with.

The question made me think the only TV documentary we had was in 1980 we had a woman on there, Barbara Woodhouse. Because of this question I went on YouTube and looked her up. They were only twenty minutes, her programs, and I lasted ten minutes before my shoulders were up by my ears and everything was clenched because it was unbearable.

I was looking for anything good in the program. She came from horse training as well, and the best I can say is she loved the animals, but I think so little was known then. We've had forty years of developments since then.

So I didn't have a lot to get rid of in my head, and I didn't have a lot to be trained from, apart from those usual things people say about smacking your dog on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. We had a dog growing up, my sister had a dog, and there was never even enough information out there to teach the dog not to poo in the house.

Over here, the history is slightly different, and even now, you don't see dogs with e-collars. You might see an occasional dog with a chain, but mostly they will be non-British people. If somebody came into the park with an e-collar, they would be yelled at.

Melissa Breau: It's a different culture for sure.

Mala Bissoon: Absolutely.

Melissa Breau: Are they illegal over there or are they allowed but just frowned on?

Mala Bissoon: They're illegal in Wales. In the rest of the U.K. it's frowned upon. I think the culture with animals in this country is that we value them highly enough that we will speak up for animals where people wouldn't speak up for other people.

Melissa Breau: That's interesting. That's a powerful thing to say. Becca?

Becca Hintz: I've been at this a little bit longer than some, starting off in horses and then my first dog was a Doberman. My friend raised Labs and hunted. Obviously we started off with correction. That was the basis of training: fix the thing that's wrong.

I still remember the first time we had a Lab, my parents did, and we started hunt training, and to this day I remember his first ear pinch. That's the day I quit hunt training. He yelped and I was done.

My background with horses is three-day eventing and dressage, and three-day eventing is definitely a higher-drive sport. I'm known for being slightly competitive, like, "Get out of my way because I will run you over to win." But with that said, I bred and trained all my own horses, or I did off the track thoroughbreds.

In the horse world, a lot of the training at that time was jump on and go and fix it from the saddle, and my approach was completely different. I've always asked, "What can I do to make it easier for the animal?" And so all of my horses had tons of groundwork, I did long lining, and my goal was always by the time I sat on their back, for being on their back to be the only new thing they experienced. Little did I know at the time that I was training in increments. I had no clue.

With the Dobermans, it didn't feel horrible to have a choke chain on them. They were big, powerful dogs, I'm 5 foot tall, I couldn't do a whole lot. I moved to Germany and I went down to Cornwall in the U.K. to get a dog, and I was getting a Parson Russell Terrier. I still remember coming home on the train, going back up to London to catch a flight back to Germany, and she was on the table in front of me and I thought, I can't. I can't put a choke chain on this itty-bitty little puppy that I thought of at the time as so incredibly fragile. Of course she was a terrier, and she would have taken down any of my Dobermans. And it started me on the path of changing what I was doing.

I was showing quite a bit in Europe in conformation, but finding any type of positive reinforcement in the early 2000s wasn't something I was able to find. I read Don't Shoot The Dog, and that had a lot to do with what I was thinking.

When I moved back to the U.S., I live in Vacaville, right down the street from Davis, and Dr. Sophia Yin was right there. I signed up for one of her classes, and went and talked, and we ended up doing a lot of talking. And as we talked, I found that really this is what I was doing, and didn't totally have a name for it because I had cobbled together all my own things. She highly recommended that I get certified. At the time, I didn't see a need to, because … I still don't have a website, I'm terrible at tech, but I have a waiting list, and it's six to eight weeks out at all times.

After she passed, I took her advice, went to ClickerExpo, and went, "These are my people. We get each other. I need to be here." The defining moment for me was Ken Ramirez at the end talk said, "If you call yourself a positive reinforcement trainer and you're not treating people the same way, you're not walking the talk." I called my husband and I said, "I'm doing this," because it fit my values through and through on how I believe we should treat all species.

That has led to an absolutely wonderful experience. Doing a lot of seminars, I ended up at a Michael Shikashio seminar. I had been doing some stuff with FDSA and following FDSA, and at this aggression seminar we got put into small groups. We had a stuffed dog, and you had to learn how to do leash skills with a stuffed dog.

As I'm standing there, paying attention, trying to figure out what we're going to do, all of a sudden, a stuffed dog attacked me, and it was being wielded by, of course, Denise Fenzi. That's when I fell in love with her, because I love somebody that can take a serious situation and find a way to make it fun and enjoyable so we can learn. I really believe if you're having fun, you actually learn better. Doing that course with her was an absolute joy, and that's when I decided that not only do I love FDSA as an organization, but I truly like and respect Denise as a woman. So that was a neat experience for me, and that's how I have traveled to where I am today.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. I am so glad we managed to get that story in there, because what listeners don't know is we were chatting about it off-mic for a little bit, and I was like, "We've got to find a way to sneak that in there." I'm glad you got to share it. My next question for you ladies is, what's the dog-related accomplishment that you're the proudest of? Amy, do you want to start this one?

Amy Miller: I am still early enough in the training journey that every moment I'm proud of. Every time that we reach a goal, or that they manage something well, makes me laugh and makes me smile.

I did get my TEAM 1 Honors title with Marley, the dog with big feelings, and that was quite an accomplishment, because working outside of our bedroom, we did all of our TEAM 1 training in the bedroom with the curtains drawn because the outside environments were too much for him.

That was the first time I felt like I trained something intentionally. My dogs are doing things intentionally, and not just the accidental sit or teaching the shake because they want a treat. So I think that was probably my best moment. We're working on TEAM 2 now, so we still have a ways to go.

Melissa Breau: But still, I can certainly understand how that's a big moment, being able to say, "We did this and we did this on purpose." What about you, Mala?

Mala Bissoon: We haven't done many competitions or been out there very much. I remember when we passed TEAM 1, me and Indie, feeling ridiculously happy for weeks, completely out of proportion, I think. Even though we passed TEAM 2 since, TEAM 1 was the big one.

Apart from that, I think the fact that they're such lovely dogs to live with because they get all this training. They'd be absolutely unbearable without training, both of them. But they help me whenever I want to put their harnesses on or off, they walk nicely on lead, they don't counter surf, they won't steal my dinner if I leave the plate out, they don't beg for food. They sit, they go nicely through doors, they don't crowd me when I open a door. All of those things that you do every day, they know how to behave to make my life easier, and that's a huge thing for me.

Melissa Breau: That's awesome. I know a lot of dog sports competitors who struggle with those life skills, so that's certainly worth being proud of. Me included. What about you, Becca?

Becca Hintz: It's so hard to pick one. When I was living in Europe, the Parson Russell Terrier I was showing was Top 3 at the World Winner Dog Show and was the Number One dog of her breed in Belgium. We did a lot of things, and that was really amazing.

I was disabled in 1995. I have four cervical fusions. My left arm works when it's in the mood. My right hand, my pointer finger and my thumb are reliable, the other three fingers are not.

When we adopted Justice, which is short for Just Don't Kill Them, he was human, dog, and cat aggressive. Of course I had my Parson Russell Terrier, we had a housecat, and I'm married with children. He was a very challenging dog. He did not connect with people. He had been raised on a chain in an inner city, and they used a high-pressure hose to punish him for barking. He was 27 pounds underweight when I got him, did not walk on a leash, not potty trained.

We have outdoor movie nights at our house a lot, and the kids all love to sit on chairs because Justice goes from child to child, walks up, turns his back, sits in their lap, they feed him popcorn, scratch his back, and he gets up and goes to the next child. If I have twenty kids, he does it to twenty kids. He is a dog that now loves people, hasn't been required to crate for about six years, and lives with my other dogs. He actually is my bounce-off dog for training clients that have challenging dogs. He retired from that this year because he's now 10 and showing a little bit of signs of age.

That is a dog I couldn't train with force. He and I weighed the same amount. With my disabilities, there wasn't much I could do that wasn't asking him what he wanted to do and letting him make the choice. So recovering him and then taking that knowledge and working with client dogs is incredibly amazing.

But the truth is, there is absolutely nothing more amazing than watching my daughter take the dog she is training and compete and do well. That is what I'm proudest of.

Melissa Breau: First of all, what a story. But to top that with … yeah, next generation.

Becca Hintz: There's truly something, and even with my clients, there's just something so incredibly amazing about being able to pass on the gift of learning to love working with your dog. It's just what I'm meant to do.

Melissa Breau: I love that. Not to set you up with a hard one to follow, Ashley, but what about you?

Ashley Escobar: I don't think I have one specific accomplishment. I have lots of titles and achieved lots of materialistic-type goals with my dogs, but for me, every time I take one of my dogs out to the agility field and they just opt in to work with me, no treats, no toys, they just choose to work with me, that's such a huge one for me.

Dobermans are a little bit of a struggle because they're so independent in their thinking ways, so being able to get a dog that is like, "I don't want to today," and they're just like, "Sure, what do you want me to do?" that's huge for me. So that's something that I'm most proud of.

Melissa Breau: I want to shift gears a little bit. I want to talk about the alumni group a little bit more. As the new admin team and the folks that are helping moderate the group going forward, what are some of the things that members can look forward to in the group over the weeks or months or even years to come? Mala, do you want to start this one?

Mala Bissoon: I've already said that I really enjoyed doing TEAM with Indie. We've done TEAM 2, and I'm working toward TEAM 3. I have to say, the thing about those titles is you've got to learn all the different exercises. You get to that point of, "He knows these exercises. We're almost there." That's the point where you kind of go back to the beginning because you'll know when they're ready. You have to spend the same amount of time again putting it all together. So we've been working towards TEAM 3 forever. I kept thinking, "We're weeks away from this." We're really not. There were things that would get in the way there, so I will be doing a bit more of that.

I think we talked earlier about sharing training videos more. I've been doing that anyway with Indie on his breed club page, partly to say, "I know they're supposed to be difficult and stubborn dogs, and they are, but they can do this too." So I'll be very happy to share some of that on the alumni page, because one of the reasons I persist with trying to do obedience with him is that he moves so beautifully. I mean, I think he's a handsome dog. He might look to other people like a very matted old rug, but I think he's handsome. He's got a lovely, easy bounce to his movement, and I'll be very happy to share that.

And then for me, I don't have a club. I don't have people that I train with. I have only FDSA, so it's nice if the page has that community feel to it. I know I'm far distanced in miles, but we're working on similar sorts of things. I won't be sharing "I've gone to this trial or that trial and got this little rosette," but I think showing support for our tiniest little achievements, and in that way, even the people who don't post, don't like to post, feel a bit shy about it, feel like they haven't got very far, can put up little tiny things that they're happy with, and then we can all enjoy them. I will certainly be doing that myself with training video of Indie. It's not the whole picture, but it's a training group. That's what we do. So that's what I'll be doing there.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Becca?

Becca Hintz: One of the best things, I think, about Fenzi is one of the core foundation beliefs, which is it's a supportive, kind place to be. I think that we are all working toward keeping that sense of community, but it's a community that is kind and supportive and loving, and we should all feel safe sharing our videos, no matter how goofy they might be, and put our mistakes out there.

One of the things I love about some of Denise's videos is she shows us the mistakes. I don't know about everybody else, but I get really self-conscious about that. It's like, "I need to make this video. Shoot, I forgot to brush my hair. OK, I'm going to post the video. Oh my gosh, I forgot to put on a bra. Dang it." No, post that stuff. Let us all enjoy it, because it's reaching out and finding the humanity in each other that creates that sense of community.

I am really looking forward to seeing people's videos.

I know that Ashley's going to talk about our challenges that we've been working on, and I had the honor of getting to do the first one and pick the winners with my little randomizer. That was so incredibly fun. Not only did you get to see the videos, but you get to know people, and part of community is getting to know each other, and those challenges allow us to get to know you, they allow us to get to know your dog, and just in this podcast, Ashley and I have so much in common. That can happen in the alumni group. The alumni group is our club. That's our training place. That's where we all come together and we become friends and create relationships. So please post. Post, post, post.

Melissa Breau: Ashley, you were next on my list anyway. Do you want to talk a little bit about the training challenges and what they are?

Ashley Escobar: I am so excited about this, because like most everyone else on here, especially now with Covid I feel like everyone is in the same little bubble, but like I said before, I've been homebound and not been able to be around people for so long, it's lovely to be able to connect with like-minded people. We're all on this journey together.

We have come up with a monthly challenge that we're going to be posting, and in that challenge it's going to vary from different activities and specific training things that you're working on with your dog. There's no right or wrong way to do it. We just want to see what you're training with your dog, no matter what it is, if it's life skills or for a competition. And then we're going to use a randomized generator to pick a name from those who share videos, and somebody's going to win a prize. So incentive to play with us.

I think it's a great way to get to know people. It's like, "I'm working on the same thing," or "I'm really struggling with that too," and then you can have the buddy system. It's such a good way to get to know our fellow dog people. I'm really excited.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. Amy, is there anything you want to add?

Amy Miller: One of the things that I enjoy doing and sharing, and I hope that the students will enjoy coming up, are the things that maybe aren't as well known within our Fenzi group. I know everybody is aware of the discounts going on right now, the shopping discounts, which is a benefit for all of us, unless we have a budget. We're learning to rework those, I think. We're also trying to use some student blogs. If you have a blog post or a blog that you work on, we're trying to add those in and share those in the group and on the FDSA main page as well.

We are creating a book list for the books produced by the FDSA instructors, and that will be in a file on the alumni page for access for everybody, so that if you need a topic and you want to know what a good resource would be, you can just go up there and look.

There are actually quite a few things in that file folder on the alumni page. There's a list of all the groups, all of the smaller groups within FDSA. You can find that there. It's a great resource, if you haven't checked it out. I think adding in all those things and making the total package a little more comprehensive in the alumni group will be a project going forward.

Melissa Breau: I want to round things out here with one last question, which is your favorite piece of training advice. I'm going to ask you each to share a favorite piece of training advice with our listeners. Hot seat: Becca first.

Becca Hintz: My favorite advice, and I use this for myself and the clients, is if your dog isn't having fun, you're doing it wrong. Go back and figure out where you need to change the environment, the rewards, whatever you need to change, and get to a point where your dog is enjoying the process, because training is supposed to be fun for all of us.

Melissa Breau: I like that. Ashley?

Ashley Escobar: My biggest piece of advice for, like she said, myself and for my clients, is train the dog at the end of your leash. It's different for every dog. It's not just breed standard, it's not the dog that you had before, or your neighbor's dog. So really get to know your dog specifically, find out what they like and what they don't like, and have fun from there.

Melissa Breau: Amy, words of wisdom?

Amy Miller: I like to remember that five minutes of happy, fun, productive work is more effective than a half-hour training session when your dog is tired and bored and done with the whole thing. Keep it short and sweet, and enjoy those five minutes, and move on.

Melissa Breau: What about you, Mala?

Mala Bissoon: I think it's something around managing your expectations. I think sometimes when you're working on a particular problem and you see some progress in a session, and you go back to the next time, you think you know where you're going to get to in that next session, and you don't, and that leads to frustration.

What I do now is I have a plan in my head of what I think we're going to work on. But I also try and think back to what is the picture I like the best about my dog, the way he's moving, the way he's looking at me, the way his tail wags, and try and replicate that in whatever I'm training him in.

It's similar, I think, all the way around, but the most I get out of training sessions is working with a happy dog. I don't expect to get to a certain point in that session, but I hope to play games and move forward a little bit without having a certain point I want to reach.

Melissa Breau: I like that. It brings them all together, all of the concepts that everybody's been talking about, so that's a great place to end. Thank you all so much for coming on the podcast! This has been great. We had to coordinate lots of time zones and everything else.

All: Thank you for having us.

Melissa Breau: And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in! We'll be back next week. Don't miss it.

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!

What to expect at a Nosework Trial
Socialization: A Positive Parent’s Guide to Raisin...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/