E310: Kelly Daniel - Fitness for Performance

Years of competition led Kelly to a focus on fitness — join us as we talk about her journey in this new podcast episode! 


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 I have Kelly Daniels here with me to talk about her training journey and an upcoming webinar, Focusing Fizz into Fit: Managing Arousal for Performance Dogs in Fitness. Hi Kelly. Welcome to the podcast!

Kelly Daniels: Hi. Thanks for having me. I'm super excited.

Melissa Breau: I'm super excited to chat. To start us out, do you wanna just share a little about your current canine crew, what you're working on with them?

Kelly Daniels: Yep, sure. And excuse me if you, my voice is a bit crokey cause I'm a bit sick, so hopefully I last through the podcast. So I currently have five dogs. I've got, my oldest dog is Chase, she's retired. She's a 12 and a half year old Border Collie. She's the dog I've learnt the most about behavior because she's very dog reactive and very anxious. So she's competed in almost everything that she can. So nosework and agility and heel work to music and bits and pieces. My next oldest is Dio, he's a Fox Terrier Cross with I think Chihuahua. He's 4.3 kgs of pure bad ass, but he's, he's so naughty, he's terrible. But he's an excellent agility dog. He's my most successful agility dog by far. And I also competed on a New Zealand TV show with him, which was quite, quite cool. Yeah. Then I, yeah it was super cool. Then I've got Evo, so Evolution is my younger Border Collie, he's my crazy one that features in my webinar quite a lot cause he's a little bit over the top but he's a very sweet boy. And then I've got two working cocker spaniels, so I've got a black one Flory who competes mostly in nosework cuz her knees don't work so well. And then I've got a Australian import Grid and he's doing agility and he's also starting to do some nosework and both the cocker spaniels also come to school with me as school support dogs for the kids at school.

Melissa Breau: How cool. Yeah, super cool. Okay, so you mentioned it's a lot. So how did you get started in all this? What got you into the dog world?

Kelly Daniels: So I've always been into dogs. My dad was always into dogs. We always had them around. So as soon as I could when I moved away I looked to get my own dog. I actually started with a Siberian Husky cross Border Collie, so a cyborg, which was not an ideal dog for a first time dog owner to start with.

He was a very sweet boy. But recalls were a bit of a challenge and he did, we did some sports so we did some obedience and we did some agility, but he mostly just really looked pretty and trotted around and had a fun time. So I started with him because he needed some training because of the husky side of him. And then I just kind of got hooked into the sports from him. I mean there's something to be said for looking pretty too, but he was very beautiful and it was very rare for him to have a bad photo. So I've got a million fantastic photos of him, which is lovely. Hey, there's definitely something for that too. Photos are an important part of the dog journey, right? Yeah. They are.

Melissa Breau: Thinking about that, do you consider yourself a positive trainer? What got you started kind of down the R plus path?

Kelly Daniels: Yeah, definitely. So it kind of goes in with my philosophy with teaching as well, with the positive reinforcement being effective and sort of the ethically the best thing to do for, for all living things. But I really, I really learned from Brody because when I started obedience there wasn't very many people in New Zealand to get training from and I was trying to work on a dumbbell retrieve and the person I was working with who was a lovely person, but this is all that they knew, suggested putting a slip lead under and and holding a dumbbell up under his cause he wasn't holding very well and from that point he would never do a dumbbell retrieve ever in his life cause he was a sensitive boy and just that one time where we held a slip chain, not even very hard, but under his chin to hold the dumbbell in his mouth, he said no more. And that was kind of the point and I didn't feel good doing it, but I didn't know anything else at that point and did it once, never again. And it was literally from that point that I've always tried my hardest to find the best way for the dogs and the humans to learn things.

Melissa Breau: So how would you kind of talk about your current philosophy or your current approach?

Kelly Daniels: I've definitely changed and sort of added to what I do over the last few years, which I think is very, very cool. So I'm all about trying to find the most effective way for the human and the dog to learn new things in a way that they both enjoy. So the emotional state of the dog I think is extremely important to what they learn and how they learn it.

And being a canine fitness trainer as well, the physical state of the dog comes into that too. So it's really about looking at the whole picture for the dog. So not just how they're learning things and that that communication is super clear, but also how they feel about the things that they're learning and that their body is in a state where they're physically able to do the things that, that they're learning and do those things easily. It's nice and strong.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, that's super interesting. So you kind of mentioned how you got into dog sports, but looking at the fitness piece specifically, what drew you in there? What made you kinda lean into the fitness stuff?

Kelly Daniels: That was Brody again, my Siberian Husky Cross Border Collie. So I got right into tricks with him. So we did heel work to music. So he actually won a couple of nationals, quite a small thing in New Zealand, but it's still pretty cool with the heel to music. And he had a lot of tricks. But what I found was with how I was teaching some of the tricks, he actually got a little bit sore. So we ended up having to get quite a lot of chiropractor and physio adjustments on him because of how we were teaching the tricks.

And that kind of led me to learn a little bit more. Cause I come from a science background and I've got a bit of a background in sort of physiology and how bodies work. So that led me to sort of go down the track of how dogs' bodies work and how I can teach these things in a better way that's gonna make their bodies stronger rather than soar.

So you mentioned the teacher bit in there, we haven't really talked about that at all yet. So do you wanna just talk a little bit more about kinda how being a teacher and science teacher in particular has maybe influenced your training and your approach to training? Yep, yep. So in my non-dog life, I'm the head of the department of a science team at a local junior high school.

I'm actually off on parental leave at the moment with my tiny human, which has been a whole new adventure. But yeah, definitely, definitely for teaching. So, we'll often talk about like your teaching philosophy and your pedagogy and human teaching and that's kind of made me think a little bit more about my pedagogy for dog sort of teaching as well.

So, and obviously being a science teacher, I've gotta be science backed. So a big part of what I do is looking at what research is around, looking at what best practice is and what the research and the science backs up as being best practice. So I really like to look into the why of why I do things and the, and the sort of science and the research behind that.

But also the school that I work in is really cool and I'm really, really lucky because we look at all the kids as individuals and we have some amazing learning programs, but a big part of what we do with those students is build relationships and ensure that the individual plan each student is appropriate and meets their needs. I think that really ties into, and it's taught me a lot about, I think it's really shaped the direction that I've gone on with the dog training.

Melissa Breau: That's so interesting. And I feel like that's so rare. I mean, I don't know, maybe it's more common over there in New Zealand, but at least over here I feel like a lot of the times you kinda have to fight to get an individualized plan. But yeah, no I think it is rare. I think our school's amazing and I think we're really lucky. We also do this super cool modules like, so instead of teaching our class a science class, we actually combine them together. So you might teach art and science in a class or PE in science in a class and it's, I've taught quite a few dog-related or animal related classes for the kids, which they love. It's a very cool school. I'm very lucky.

Melissa Breau: That's fantastic. And so much fun. I mean any chance you can get to bring your dog to work, right?

Kelly Daniels: Yeah, definitely. Okay, so for the webinar, you're focusing on fitness for sports dogs, but not just any sports dogs, kind of those who are a little bit over the top. So why is fitness kind of critical for those dogs who maybe, you know, kind of tend to be a little more on the muscular side sometimes? Yeah, I get this question a lot and in my opinion I actually feel like fitness is almost more important for these dogs. People tend to neglect fitness for the naturally athletic dogs, the naturally muscular or the naturally fast dogs.

But when these dogs are in a high state of arousal in their sport, sometimes they're not very thoughtful about what they're doing with their body and they actually don't use their body properly as they should with how the skills were trained. So by using fitness we can build muscle and muscle memory for correct movements so that even when their brains aren't engaging quite as much as they should, their body already remembers how to move in the correct way and hold the correct positions. So it can benefit your sport in that way so that you're gonna get better precision and the correct movements that's required in your sports even if your dog's not thinking properly. But also these dogs tend to have, well they tend to really, really lack looking after themselves. They don't have to, they don't really care, they just wanna do all the things and most of these dogs will do all of these things on three or two legs. So we really need to preserve their bodies and their joints because they are quite happy to put their bodies on the line for their sports because they love it so much and they love any of the work. So when we build extra muscle around the joints, we provide stability to the joints and it's gonna help prevent injury potentially. But also a lot of these dogs tend to use momentum because they like to move and a movement's a big part of the arousal. So they often lack the finer core stability muscles, which can also mean that they've got a lack of stability for muscles and joints in terms of injury and they can again inhibit their performance.

So pretty much we want muscle memory so that they can still do the correct positions and movements and under high arousal we want muscle to protect their joints from injury and we wanna provide them with some core muscle and stability muscles that they might not normally have. And I'd imagine that last one helps prevent injury to some of the bigger muscles that maybe, you know Yeah, the things we can see.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Cause a lot of the finer sort of core muscles that that hold posture, we often don't see injury in them, but you're right, if they're strong then the larger muscles that produce movements are less likely to be put under pressure. I feel like that's so, so critical In the description, you kind of mentioned the importance of managing arousal for these dogs specifically in fitness work. So I wanted to dive into that a little bit more. What does over arousal look like in a fitness context first and then maybe why is it problematic?

Kelly Daniels: Yeah, so and I learned all this from Evo, my dog who's Evolution, all the kids at school think he's a race guard. But so these are the things that I've learned with him that I wish that I'd known when he started his sport. So what I've learned with him is that he's over the top in his sport. He's high arousal to a point where our performance in our sport is inhabited. He never does as well in agility as he has the potential to, because when we step over that line, he literally foams at the mouth and dilates pupils. And that's with a lot of work as well. Like we've spent a really long time working on his arousal, in agility and he's a fun dog. We always smile running him, but he gets about one clear round a year if we're lucky. So it's definitely inhibiting performance. But what I found when I looked back is that he's actually a little bit lower in his state of arousal in fitness and I have been able to, with the strategies we are gonna talk through on the webinar, actually allow that arousal even more in a fitness context. So it's kind of the strategies that I've managed like so he's not over aroused in fitness when we use the strategies to help manage that. But I mean other dogs or what I've seen in clients' dogs cause a lot of over the top dogs are over the top in everything that they do.

And I see things with people that come to me for lessons. Like instead of standing in the foot pod, attacking it with their mouths and carrying it around, barking lots, like not being able to stand, still spinning around in circles, choosing to do positions instead of being sort of able to respond to cues adequately. Yeah, kind of that need to move, need to be hectic, need to be frantic.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, Usually loud.

Kelly Daniels: Yeah.

Melissa Breau: Okay. So talk to me just a little more about that. What are you kind of planning to cover in the webinar? What are all the bits and bobs?

Kelly Daniels: Cool. So it's quite a lot. I'm very bad at putting too much stuff in, but I think it's all really important. So hopefully everyone has their pens and paper ready and they're ready to take lots of notes and ask lots of questions. So we're gonna talk about what is over the top for performance dogs, like at what point do you sort of class them as being over aroused or over the top. We're gonna talk about why that matters in terms of inhibiting performance in your sports.

Then we're gonna go through basically two groups of strategies to use with these dogs in a fitness context. So we're gonna talk about the non fitness things. So these are more general training skills and these are all things that I've learned from different Fenzi courses and instructors, which is super cool. So a lot of that won't be new for people, it's just gonna be about maybe refining it and putting that in a new context.

Then we're gonna talk about some fitness specific skills that we need to consider for these dogs and all dogs that do fitness. Like it's not just the over the top dogs that need to have fitness and think about these things. Then we're gonna talk about how potentially we could take some of these skills that we are learning and some of the things that we do in fitness and take them outta the gym and take them to your sport to help hopefully manage that arousal a little bit better in your sport.

Melissa Breau: That's, I like the last piece just from the perspective of, okay, once you've actually taught a different arousal state, like imagine how helpful that'll be for some folks to just be able to take that and actually carry it into the ring with them and actually have some of those skills. Yeah, And like it's made a big difference. Like I've taken some of these things since I sort of realized that Evo was better in fitness into agility and it has made an impact for him, but also with my newer dog with Grid, been able to do these strategies from the start has been, has really meant that I've been able to manage his arousal into that optimum zone in agility. So he's peppy and he does what he wants, what I'd like him to, and he responds to cues but he doesn't get over the top and he's a spaniel that's really into smells in the environment and birds and things that move.

So he's definitely got potential to be over the top when we're at agility shows. Cause all of our shows in New Zealand are outside. We don't have indoor shows. So there's a lot of stuff in the environment. There's like because we're, I mean a lot of the shows are quite rural, so there's bunny rabbit smells, there's poop on the ground, there's birds flying around in hedges. That's a lot of fresh, I dunno anything about that. No, I know entirely too much about that. Trust me. Yeah. But it's, it's fun, but it's a lot.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, absolutely. So any kind of final thoughts or key points you maybe wanna lead listeners with? Yeah, I guess the other thing that I'd like to mention for the webinar is that yes, it's aimed at the high arousal dogs, but the strategies that we talk about in the webinar are really appropriate for any dog that it's doing a performance sport that needs to do some fitness. So they're really gonna help any dog do fitness in good form and help the handlers pick appropriate fitness for them to be doing with their dogs for their sports. Cause we're gonna talk about making the fitness skills sports specific to help in their performance sports. So over the top, come to the webinar, but other people that are doing sports with their dogs, if you haven't done fitness or haven't done a lot, this would definitely be a great webinar for you as well.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. All right, well thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Kelly Daniels: Thank you for having me.

Melissa Breau: I'm really excited about the webinar.

Kelly Daniels: Me too.

Melissa Breau: And thank you to all 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.


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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