E298: Nicole Wiebusch and Petra Ford - "Proofing for Performance"

Nicole Wiebusch and Petra Ford joined me to talk about what goes into training fluency that will hold up under the pressures of competition. 


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, providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Nicole Wiebusch and Petra Ford here with me to talk about proofing! Hi Nicole and Petra, welcome back to the podcast.

Nicole & Petra: Hello.

Melissa Breau: All right, so to start us out, I wanna just kinda have you each remind everyone a little bit about you, your current crew, what's you're working on with them, and kinda get them a little bit of idea from a voice perspective. Who's who? Nicole, do you wanna start us off?

Nicole Wiebusch: Sure, I can start. So I'm Nicole Wiebusch. I have–we have three dogs that live in our household, but only one of them is technically mine. So I'm feeling a little bit like I need another dog. So my nine year old Golden, Strive, finished her Rally championship earlier last year, I guess it was in May. And I handed the leash over to my 12 year old daughter.

So Strive is no longer my dog and Lexi reminds me of that on a daily basis. So I've got Excel, he's five now, he's five and a half.

Melissa Breau: Wow.

Nicole Wiebusch: He is halfway to his Rally championship. He is one leg away from his master title and r a e title and Rally, and then he is getting out in agility and doing really well. We just did a trial and he constantly amazes me with his skills despite how little training he's had. So I came away from the trial thinking, you know, if I actually trained this dog, he'd be pretty good. So I'm really proud of him. I spent a lot of time working on life skills as a puppy. He had some issues.

So he's come so far, he can lay down at an agility trial and watch the dogs run, which is like a miracle. So he keeps me plenty busy. We're gonna keep going on agility, Rally and then when he's finished with his Rally journey, we'll get into competitive obedience as well.

Awesome. Petra?

Petra Ford: I have two retirees, Zaden and Zeal. I have Zena, she's six, she's my current, she's just competing. And then I have Zesty my youngster who's getting older. He's probably three in May. He, I don't, I haven't brought him out yet. He's super, super insanely enthusiastic and still very immature, so some things tend to turn into a little bit of a disaster, but he's getting there. He'll be ready when he is ready, but I'm, I'm having a lot of fun with him, so that's what I'm up to.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. All right. So I wanted to talk about proofing today and since the answered first, Petra, I'm gonna have you take this one first. So what is proofing, how do you guys kind of define it? What do you view as kind of fitting in that category?

Petra Ford: So for me, proofing is something I do with behaviors that my dog is fluent with. And then I look at proofing as something fun I do with them that strengthens their understanding of the exercise if it's done correctly. And it also teaches them to kind of be resilient and to be able to handle novel things that are gonna happen in the ring.

So I may proof for something that is, that may specifically happen in the ring or not. I mean I, there's been countless times when my dogs have encountered things in the ring or in the environment that I've, I had never seen before, therefore we hadn't done it. But if I proof them properly, they were able to handle it cuz they just kind of understand the concept that it doesn't matter what happens or what I see or what it looks like when my mom says do this gives me this cue. I do this behavior. So I just find it makes my dogs a lot more confident and a lot more resilient, especially in the ring.

Melissa Breau: Nicole.

Nicole Wiebusch: Yep. I definitely agree with everything she said. I guess to simplify it, I think proofing is gradually and thoughtfully adding challenges to strengthen a behavior. And so obviously I'm not gonna do this until the dog understands the behavior well.

And then I'm going to systematically go through a process where I generalize the location, but also, you know, adding distractions, changing how I look when I give the cue to prepare the dog for different places, different environments, you know, even even you know, at the, at the training yard or you know, wherever the dog may be including, you know, even, even at the lake or something, you know, if you're visiting some friends, like I have behaviors that I expect my dogs to be able to perform anywhere. So I think proofing is really important for everybody that has a dog, whether it's a pet dog or a sports dog, but certainly has a lot of application in the sports, the dog sports world.

Melissa Breau: So you mentioned the word generalization in there, which leads me very nicely into my next question Nicole. So what are, what is the difference between proofing and generalization? Are they different or are they basically the same concept? Where do you draw that line?

Nicole Wiebusch: I guess the way I look at it, generalization falls under the umbrella of proofing. So it definitely is part of what I use in proofing cuz obviously the dog needs to be able to do the behavior here and at the training building and at the dog show and outside, all that kind of stuff. So I think of generalization in a couple different ways. First I think of location and environmental generalization and then I also think of like the way I look when I give a behavior.

Like I wanna teach the dog that if, if I have my formal obedience body language, that it still means the same thing. And so I will kind of put the dog through me looking funny, you know, can they do something if I'm sitting on the ground, can they do something if I'm laying down, can they do something if I turn my back to them, can they do something if I'm wearing a weird hat? You know, just different things like that. So I kind of break generalization up into those two parts where, you know, one is the location and one is just the changing how the handler looks or you know, that sort of thing. I guess my answer then would be, you know, like generalization is part of proofing, it's part of a part of what I go through when I'm proofing a behavior.

Melissa Breau: Petra?

Petra Ford: I will pretty much go with what Nicole said because I first saw the question. To me, I think it depends on definition, right? Because for some people if I say I'm proofing their definition of that word means I'm gonna make my dog wrong and then tell my dog they're wrong, right? So proofing technically could have a bunch of different meanings. So you know, if proofing means giving your dog a better understanding of the behavior, well then generalization, if that means showing exactly what Nicole said, I'm showing her different locations or I'm showing them different pictures, it ends up being very similar if you're using, you know, those, the definitions I think the way Nicole and I are using them.

Nicole Wiebusch: Yeah, it's not meant to be negative at all. It's simply meant to build confidence and help the dog learn to be right in different situations.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, I know a lot of people have taken objection to the, to the term proofing in the positive community over the years just because it has some of those negative connotations, but it's, it's hard also to take a concept and apply a whole new word to it and get everybody on the same page so it still kind of carries over, you know. But you guys both kind of mentioned in there the idea of not setting them up to fail, not, you know, trying to make the dog be wrong. Where do you start? What options are there for kind of layering difficulty into a behavior? What's maybe that first piece? Petra?

Petra Ford: I think you just start with a, again, first of all the behavior you're gonna proof they need to know it extremely well, needs to be fluent, right? Because otherwise you're, you are inherently setting them up to fail. Cuz when you make it more difficult, they're not necessarily going to know the answer, right? So I need to be sure that my dog know will, would be able to know what the right answer is.

And then you would just start with something very simple so that they can succeed. So if I were going to change the picture, perhaps so, or if I'm gonna give my dog a smaller signal for command discrimination versus my normal signal, I'm not gonna do it at full distance. I'll do it really up close with my dog and I'll do it somewhere that's not distracting.

So I'll do it in my sunroom, just me and my dog with some cookies and I'll, you know, be close to them and then I'll start playing around with giving them smaller signals or just a signal or just a verbal. And then you always have to read your dog, right? Because different dogs are going to handle different challenges differently. So I have one dog that's like, oh that's different. Okay, I got it, no problem. And now mom, you can make it a little harder. I have another dog that's like, whoa, that is not the picture, what is happening here? So I have to go, you know, you have to go much more slowly and much more carefully with that dog. And I also use like props and aids, I pull all that stuff back out. I verbally help my dogs. I, you know, I just give them whatever assistance I can to help to ensure that they're correct.

Melissa Breau: So if I'm hearing you right, part of it is making some aspects of the behavior easier so you can change the picture without the overall picture getting harder. Is that, am I summarizing that fairly okay?

Petra Ford: Yes. I break things into pieces and so it's like, okay, we're just gonna work on this one piece, so I'm not gonna worry about the front or the finish, or I'm not gonna worry about the pivot. I'm just gonna work on this one piece that I'm isolating out and proof that and make that really strong before I would even consider putting it in an exercise.

Melissa Breau: What about you Nicole? Yeah, no, I do the exact same thing as Petra. I want, so when I start proofing, I start, like she said, with a really, really well known behavior. The dog should be fluent in the behavior in a familiar environment. And then I just thoughtfully and systematically add distractions and increase challenges. And so I kinda, I talk about the three Ds a little bit, duration, distance and distraction and how I go through upping the challenge level of each one of those. And I do it, I think where people fall short sometimes with this concept is they, they increase too many challenges at a time. So if you wouldn't wanna change your location and add a distraction at the same time, you need to break those pieces out. And I do the same thing as Petra. I pull out, you know, if I'm working on competition, I'll pull out the props, you know, and basically support the dog and help them to be successful. But my goal is always I want to add a challenge at a level where the, where I am pretty darn sure the dog can be successful. So I try to increase those challenges as in, in as little chunks as I can because my goal is not to have the dog fail. My goal is for the dog to be successful and for me to be able to read the dog and break it down enough that I know that they can do that.

And then I kind of go into, once I do some distractions and stuff, then I start generalizing things as well and I just kinda ping pong back and forth between those different things as the dog is learning the behavior well.

Melissa Breau: So how do you decide kind of what level your dog is ready for, right? Like how do you know when it's time to add this versus that or this level of distraction or location or what have you without kind of setting them up to fail, right? I mean things happen, but how do you, how do you judge that Nicole?

Nicole Wiebusch: So I really am always asking my dog the question, can you work, can you give me criteria in this environment or with this distraction? And so what I end up doing is I play like the "Where's Your Brain" game? Which is like kind of a my, my whole ready to work thing, I call it, "Where's Your Brain?" And I'm asking the dog, you know, can you do this? And I wouldn't go say to a new location and just start training. I'm always going to start with this game. And then the most important part to me is really reading your dog and seeing what often are very subtle cues.

So maybe they take an extra second to come back to eye contact or maybe they're glancing around in between the repetitions or whatever. So I'm always looking at the dog and do I have your entire brain or do I just have part of it? Because dogs are really good about doing the thing and not all being there and that's when they're gonna fall apart when things get a little bit challenging. Like they can do the easy stuff, but then when you start adding some challenge to the behavior and they're not quite there, that's when they fall apart. So if I'm gonna add a new distraction, I'm gonna play the "Where's Your Brain" game with it first. If I'm gonna go to a new environment, same thing. So I'm always gonna be asking my dog, Hey, how you feeling? Where's your brain? Are you all with me here? And then I'm not going to add anything until I'm happy with the way that process goes. So it's, for me, it's about asking the dog in an easy way. Like who cares if they take an extra second to come back to eye contact. You're not ruining anything, you're just getting information. So if the dog's distracted, it's not a big deal to me it's just like, oh okay, well we're not gonna layer on difficulty right now cuz they're not ready for it.

Melissa Breau: Petra, what about you? How do you kind of judge what your dog's ready for?

Petra Ford: I think everything Nicole said, I think reading the dog is critical, but I think that's also the most challenging for people. What I found is if I just tell people that they're trying, because sometimes dogs do behaviors and people misinterpret them, right? So if my dog's struggling and it goes to sniff pee, especially a lot of traditional OB obedience people, they'll be like, what are you doing? You're sniffing, that's naughty, right? And so they're misreading that. So if you just get it in your head that your dog is trying, so anything you see them do that's different or that's unusual or that's not completing the task the way they usually do, it's just an indication that they're challenged, right? Which doesn't always necessarily mean it's completely over their head, but it's an indication, right? The dogs are going to make mistakes, I just don't make a big deal about it at all. Like most of the time we actually laugh at it. So for example, I sent Zesty to a glove, I just had a little beanbag out there. So he runs out, he's like, oh look at the beanbag. And then, but he just keeps going and gets the glove.

I told him he was right anyway, cuz he did, he went out and he got the glove. I didn't make a big deal about it at all. He was completely relaxed. So I did it again, ran out as if the beanbag wasn't there. So it's just keeping the pressure off them, it's recognizing, okay, well yeah he noticed it. There isn't usually a beanbag there, but it's not a big deal. It, you know, let's just help him do it. Again. If he had struggled again, I would've just moved the bean bag further or I would've moved up. I would've done something to simplify. But rather than, you know, have the thought process that what the dog did was incorrect, right? So he's just telling me that he found that odd or if I do articles and I changed something, the first time I did that he just ran out kind of slow cuz he was like, oh that looks different, right? So, okay, that makes sense to me. I'm okay with that. He found the article the second he found it, I said yes and we had a big party and so that keeps him relaxed. So if he struggled again, went out slow again, then I'd say, oh okay, this is too hard. I need to do something to help him.

Melissa Breau: Okay, so that really gets into what I was gonna ask you next, which is how you handle it when they do fail or when something, you know, you kind of misjudged the moment. So it sounds like if you see a little bit of something off in behavior the first time the dog is seeing a new challenge, you kind of roll with that a little bit.

Petra Ford: I do because I feel that I want, especially if my dog's not, you know, like if my dog's panicking, that means I completely over face them, but I'm pretty, pretty careful about how I up my challenges and I expect my dog, especially a green dog to be like, oh well that looks weird cause well it does. And I also want my dog to be able to feel confident enough, comfortable enough that they can solve the problem on their own, right?

Because if I'm in the ring and there's a sunspot and they can't see a glove, I don't want my dog to look out there and go, oh my god, I don't see a glove, I have no idea what to do. And just panic. I want my dog to be like, oh well I don't really see it, but maybe it's one of those crazy games my mom plays where if I just keep running, I'll see the glove when I get there, right? And so my dogs relax enough and confident, comfortable enough that they're like, I can solve this problem on my own and if I don't, if I make a mistake, nothing bad is gonna happen, right? And that's why they're relaxed because nothing bad happens. As a matter of fact, most of the time I'll just say, yes, you're right and reward them. So then I find that if you do that, your dog just gets very relaxed and they go through the process with a much higher success ratio. And like I said, when they're under, because no matter how well we train, no matter how hard we try, they're gonna be stressed a little bit in the ring and unique things are going to happen that we couldn't prepare them for. And we just want that, I just want what, we just want them to be relaxed enough to be like, okay, I can figure this out.

Melissa Breau: What about you Nicole? How do you handle it when something goes unexpected?

Nicole Wiebusch: I really like everything that Petra said. I don't make a big deal out of mistakes at all. If I'm fairly certain my dog can do it, I will try it again and I'll ask the question, can you do this? And if they can't then I know, okay, now I need to change something, I need to make it easier for them. In Rally when they make a mistake, I just throw a reset treat, I don't make a big deal out of it. Sometimes if I'm working with a really sensitive dog, I will ask for, I'll break it up a little bit and ask for an easy behavior. So I'll just do like a nose touch or something really simple just so they can have some success. Because I do work with a lot of sensitive dogs that struggle a little bit. Especially like my, my competition girl Strive, she is very sensitive and she knows all these exercises as well.

So she knows when she makes a mistake, she knows when something's not right. So for dogs like that, I just, you know, maybe I'll throw a reset treat and then do a touch or something just to get him back in the game movement, you know, to get then them tracing that reset treat can really help kinda, you know, break everything up and then I'm going to change something.

I'm going to, you know, bring out a prop, I'm gonna move closer, I'm gonna, you know, do whatever, do whatever I need to do to be fairly certain that, okay, now they can do this thing. You know, I kind of go by the two mistake rules. They make one mistake, no big deal. Don't care if they make two mistakes, you know, okay, now we need to change something. I don't want my dog to keep failing and failing. And I think especially in competition obedience, people get into this thing where they have to get it right, they have to get it right. I can't quit till they get it right. And I think that's really detrimental to the training.

It's totally okay to abort if you need to and to walk away from the session and to think about what went wrong and how you can work through that successfully the next time. And I know a lot of people, including myself at times, have trouble just walking away and saying, you know what, okay, we're gonna, we're gonna re-approach this at a different time.

After I've thought about what's going on and why the dog is struggling, I am a trainer, I definitely do reward effort and I've been working lately with Excel in his weave poles and he's very, very green with the weaves. And what I'm finding is if he goes through those weave poles and he really tries, but he misses a few, I reward 'em.

And almost always the next time it's either gonna be way better or it's gonna be perfect. It's incredible what happens when you reward that effort. Like he did seven out of the 12 weave poles, that's pretty good, that's more than 50%. And then you bring 'em back and he does 'em all right. And what I find is if I just reset him even cheerfully like I'm not mad or anything, I'm just like, hey, let's go try it again. If I reset him and I have him do it again without rewarding the effort, he almost always does worse. And so just kind of looking into, okay, how, how am I helping him work through this problem? Well what I need, what he needs is confidence. That's the most important thing.

He knows what to do, he just hasn't had enough practice to be able to be super confident and to have the skills to do it within all the other things, you know, in between tunnels or after a jump or whatever. So I don't consider that a failure. I actually consider that a success because you know what he really tried now if he would blow right past the weave poles and you know, obviously I wouldn't reward that, but I would say to myself, well what's going on here? You know, like something would be really wrong at this point in his training. If he was like, if he saw the weave and was like, Nope, I'm not doing 'em that would, you know, send off little red flags for me. But if he tries, if he tries to get in that entrance, but he misses it cuz he is going too fast, I just keep going and if I'm running a course oftentimes I'll reward and then I'll just keep running. I won't even repeat them right away. In Rally if I'm just working on the weaves, I'll just, you know, reward and then come back and do it again.

So I think, you know, helping the dog work through these problems inspires confidence and regardless of what kind of help and support we give them, the important part is to give them that help and support so that they can be successful and they can win and they can solve the problem.

Melissa Breau: So since both of you do competition obedience and that's, you know, kind of an end goal, are there specific challenges or what specific challenges do you really try to prepare for when proofing specifically knowing that that's where you wanna kind of end up, Nicole?

Nicole Wiebusch: Okay, so this is a huge question and I'm sure Petra and I can talk about it for like the next six hours, But some, so if I were try to try to break down this question into, you know, like easy little stuff. So pressure I think is a really big thing and I know Petra does an amazing job with bringing attention to the pressures that our dogs feel in the obedience ring or Rally ring, it doesn't matter anytime competition ring, even agility rings, they have pressures as well. So I think, you know, just teaching your dog that it's okay to go through a ring gate.

You know, a lot of the shows where I show like it's this tiny little entrance in a corner of a building, they're one wing trials, they're pretty small. You have to like go back into the corner and squeeze past all the stewards on the table and everything and then get in the ring. And so I, it's definitely something I'm gonna work on a lot and I'm gonna generalize it a lot.

So I'm gonna use different types of equipment. I might use garbage cans, I might use trees, I might use ring gates, you know, whatever. I'm gonna generalize that so that they're okay confidently walking through that kind of stuff. Being okay with the people right there. One thing I work on is, is a lot of dogs, the leash piece is hard for them when you take off the leash and you give it to the judge or the steward in this area, sometimes we're handing the leash directly to the judge and the steward and sometimes we're putting it on the chair of the ring aid. It kind of depends, but there's still enough where they're taking it from us that that's something I work on. A lot of dogs are sensitive to that sort of thing. My dog Excel is just really like, oh there's a person I love you, I work through it for that reason. But you know, a lot of dogs, that's kind of hard for them for someone to be reaching over their head to give the leash to or to get the leash. And then I think about distractions that I would commonly run into at a dog show. So dogs, people noises are a big thing that I think people don't always train for.

It's, you know, especially like during certain, like the bigger trials, the touring trials, the ones that have conformation attached to them, you know, it can get really noisy. And when dogs are parading around a conformation ring, you know, and everybody's cheering and clapping, that can be really hard. And then even just clapping in the other ring for awards, that sort of thing. I work on food and toys, you know, all that kinda stuff. One thing that Petra said earlier that I really like is that, so like training with these distractions you can't possibly predict what's gonna happen in the ring. You know, things happen that you're like, what? Like how that, how is that even possible?

Like I've seen birds like at Purina Farms before, inside, you know, when the birds are going around the ring or whatever, there's, there's all kinds of things that can happen and you can't prepare for all of them, but the more you can generalize distractions and the more you can teach your dog the different, you know, just different types of distractions they might see, the easier it is for them to be like, oh well okay, that's really odd, but you know, it's just another distraction, you know, it's just another thing. And then the other thing that I try to prepare the dog for is the body language. And I worry about this more with my students because I tend to be, I pretty much trained formal body language from the front or from the start.

I'm sorry, that's one of the reasons I like to use props because it allows you, once the dog understands the prop, it allows you to be in that body position. Like say if we're talking about a front, you can stand there square with your arms or your sides and if you don't use a prop at sometimes you know, you're luring the dog or whatever and you're not standing the way you should be.

So I tend to teach 'em what I look like pretty early in their training, but a lot of people don't necessarily think of that. And so that's just another, another thing you have to prepare the dog for is that you know, you're gonna look a lot different. You're gonna go in the ring, you're probably gonna be stiff, you're not gonna talk, you know, and that's really hard for dogs. You know, you're gonna stand all formal and you know, you, you're not gonna like accidentally do a head bob as you're calling a dog on a front. So you have to kind of think through all those things and prepare the dog for what you are gonna look like. It's not quite so critical in Rally because you're not, you know, you don't need to have that formal body language in Rally but in obedience it is really a big deal.

Melissa Breau: You covered an awful lot of ground there. Petra, what would, where would you…

Petra Ford: No, it's endless, right? I mean literally it's endless. So I think that I kind of try to write a list because all dogs are different and then I try to prioritize. So for example, my dogs noise, they could care less. Like, you know, anything noise wise can happen, won't bother them at all. I had a training partner a few years ago, noise like was that dog was incredible. If I played songs like on my phone, the dog was like, oh my god, light ring tones on my phone. The dog struggled. So with that dog, we're going to very carefully, you know, prioritize working through noise cuz that's like a real challenge for that dog. Not to say we won't work on other things, but human pressure is huge I think for all dogs. But again, Zena hates human pressure, like hates it. So I have to work on that a lot with her. Zesty. He's just kinda like, Hey, what are you doing here? But it doesn't bother him, he's just a young dog. Once he understands it, it's not going to be a priority with him, right? Because like, like Nicole said, I could write like three books to cover every single, you know, proofing thing that a dog could, you know, have trouble with in the ring. And I've, you know, I've done eight ring trials where there's countless crazy scenarios that happen. You are not gonna cover them all. But what I do is I pick what's the, what are the bigger challenges for each particular dog and I focus more on those with that dog. So pressure is huge.

Distraction outside, distractions outside the ring. Again, you're never gonna be able to do them all. You just wanna give your dog an idea so that they learn, okay, something happens outside the ring, I'm not gonna worry about it. Same with noise. Smells, Zena. So like we train in front of McDonald's cause you know, she smells something and that's, yeah, so there's just, and then I also do, especially with young green dogs, confusion between exercises sometimes, right? Like they'll do the typical, if gloves are first, they'll go get glove one or two, a glove one or three and then they go to the go out and they run to where the glove was. So I do those kind of things where, you know, they could have a little confusion between different exercises. But yeah, I think it's important to just do a little with a young dog, do a little bit of everything, but then kind of hone in where, you know, what is it, what's more difficult for them, and then work on those kind of things more.

Melissa Breau: All right, so you both have classes going.... Oh, go for it. Go for it. Absolutely.

Petra Ford: So proofing never ends, at least for my dogs. So it's not like you have, you're, you're like, oh my goodness, how am I gonna get all this done before I show my dog a novice or open like I'm doing these things with my dogs throughout their lifetime just because after a while they really think it's fun and it strengthens their understanding of the exercises. But also because I'll think of different things or different things will pop up at trials and I'll be like, oh, you know, maybe I should work on that with my dog. So it's something I do with them like forever.

Nicole Wiebusch: Yep, that's a good point.

Melissa Breau: I like that as kind of a reminder that we need to continue working on it for the life of our sports dogs pretty much.

Nicole Wiebusch: And You don't have to have it all done by the time you go into the ring. You don't have to wait until your dog is 10 years old to walk into the novice ring cause you haven't proofed all the things.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough. All right. You both have classes on proofing on the schedule this term, so for February. So I wanna kind of give you guys each chance to talk a little bit about your class, who it's for and kind of what you're gonna cover. Petra, you wanna go first?

Petra Ford: So mine is for open and utility. So the dogs don't have to be fully trained through utility. There's more than enough information. If your dog is just trained through Open, the dog doesn't have to be ring ready, it just has to have behaviors that are very fluent or pieces of behaviors that are very fluent. And then you have to understand that you should only be working on those pieces, right? If you're just started teaching your dog articles, you don't wanna be proofing articles. But there, if as long as a dog has some really solid behaviors, then you can join the class and we'll be doing endless. I'm gonna give ideas in all the different categories and then I just encourage people not to do them all, just to focus on a few and work on those. I think I tried to have this class split into just proofing for open and just proofing utility, but I was told to do them both. So there's, I'm like, oh my god lot's of stuff.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough. Oh man. Nicole, what about your class?

Nicole Wiebusch: So my class is for anything, any behavior. I don't care if it's a, it's a pet dog behavior, a recall, whatever, or if it's competition obedience or if it's agility or any of the things.

So it's very concept based and kind of goes through providing a formula to get to fluency to strengthen any behavior. So it can be pet dogs, it can be competition dogs of any dog sport, it doesn't matter. Dogs that are working will need, you know, whatever, a handful of really strong behaviors that they can do in a very sterile environment.

So I do ask that the dogs have some behaviors that are trained well, even if they haven't necessarily added a lot of, you know, any of the stuff like distractions and such. So I also kind of have categories and so we have like noise, distractions, movement, distractions, smells, distractions. So what I ask people to do is, you know, pick what your dog needs. You know, like it's he, here's the million different things you can do. You know, let's focus on what your dog needs. Cuz obviously every, every dog is different and there's a lot of learning how to read your dog. Petra made a really good point earlier that until you start pointing out those little things, people often haven't had the experience in, you know, seeing the little subtle signs that their dog isn't, is struggling or isn't quite there, whatever. And so like in the first week I'm probably into the second a little bit. We, we work on, you know, we play like, where's your brain game in new places? And we work on reading the dog and then, and then we play, where's your brain brain game with distractions before we move into the behaviors and then we work on reading the dog there. And so I go through and I kind of point out, okay, here they glanced away and here they sniff the ground and you know, whatever. Just so people can start to recognize that because that information the dogs are telling us is so important and the better we can get about reading it, the better we can do training. So yeah, so basically it's for anybody that wants stronger behaviors, you know, doesn't, doesn't matter what that behavior is, we're gonna, the formula will apply to all of them.

Melissa Breau: All right, so final question. The same one I usually give, which is, if we were to kind of drill down everything we've been talking about into a final kind of takeaway for folks or even just a final thought on your end that you really want people to kind of understand, what would that be? Nicole, you wanna wrap up first?

Nicole Wiebsuch: Sure. I think just what I was talking about, listening to your dog, learning how to read your dog is really important and you know, if you can, if you can read the subtle signs cuz they give us subtle signs before everything totally falls apart. So if you can learn to read those subtle signs and you can, you know, not hit that wall, you can say, okay, we're gonna, I see the dog is off, we're gonna try something else. I see the dog struggling or see the dog's getting frustrated, let's, you know, let's change things up a little bit so that they don't hit that wall. Cause you know, that's not fun when they're like that over faced, you know, that would be my goal is for the dog never to get that over faced and you know, things are gonna happen. You know, it's gonna happen sometimes, but I wanna minimize that as much as possible. So that's one of the most important concepts to me is being able to look at my dog and to tell, okay, are they split? Is there focus split between me and the judge right now? Or are they a hundred percent on me? Do they understand or a hundred percent on the behavior that we're doing or whatever. So I think that's it. That's my, that's my takeaway is learning how to listen to and read your dog and ask them the questions.

Melissa Breau: What about you Petra? Mine is probably, proofing should be fun. Like, I love proofing. Like, I think it's hilarious. I laugh all the time. The people I train with are, that are filming me laugh at what happens and then having that relaxed attitude makes the dogs relax. You know, mistakes are perfectly fine. Just relax, don't be such an uptight obedience trainer.

Nicole Wiebusch: Amen to that.

Petra Ford: Don't panic. It's ok. You know, I was telling my one, my training partner yesterday, I'm like, oh boy, when this class starts, there's gonna be a lot of people that are like, huh, you know, I'm gonna be like, it's okay. So it should be fun, it should be positive, it should be about, you know, creating a happy, confident dog. And once my dogs understand the concept, they really love it. Like they, me, you know, they succeed with a challenge and then I, you can see it, they come running in like, look at me, I did it, I did it. And then we have a big party so that it proofing should not have really be, you know, that old term. Like you said, it will be nice if we could have like a different word right. That we could use because it really should just be all about having fun ha and having it be a positive experience and have your dog, you know, work through some challenges and come out feeling really good about themselves.

Melissa Breau: That seems like a good place to wrap things up. So thank you both so much for coming on the podcast.

Nicole Wiebusch: This was excellent. Thank You.

Petra Ford: Thank you for having us.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with Julie Daniels to talk about fantastic foundations for sport puppies. If you haven't already, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes with the podcast app of your choice that 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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