E308: Chrissi Schranz - From Free Roaming Dogs to Recalls

Chrissi joins me for this episode to talk about their recent adventures and observations — and to talk about training a recall that will stand up even out in the real-world.  


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 Chrissi Schranz here with me to talk about their recent adventures. Hi Chrissi, welcome to the podcast!

Chrissi Schranz: Hi Melissa. It's fun to be back. Thank you for having me.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. I'm super excited to kind of catch up and talk about stuff. So to start us out, do you wanna just share a little bit about you and your pup?

Chrissi Schranz: So Game is my go everywhere dog. She speaks five languages by now and has traveled three continents and right now we're doing even more hiking and walking than usual because I'm in a place in my life where I need lots of off leash exercise and Game kindly provides me with it. And apart from that, we are playing with some fun marker cue games from Sarah Brueske Bombproof Behaviors class from my library just because I love marker cues.

Melissa Breau: Fun stuff. You mentioned in there you've been doing some traveling. Do you wanna just kind of paint a picture kind of roughly of what life has looked like for you and Game the last little while? When was it that we last talked?

Chrissi Schranz: So we used to, we used to be in Guatemala but we've been traveling around Mexico for a while and eventually landed in Mexico City. And then recently we've been to Colorado to visit two wonderful people. If you're up for some personal chit chat. I stayed with two great people and two amazing dogs and I love all four of them.

Melissa Breau: Awesome.

Chrissi Schranz: The dogs because you know they're dogs.

Melissa Breau: How can you not love dogs?

Chrissi Schranz: And the people in my unique ways of loving people in their different ways of being and I don't know, it's just one of these times where in the end of the day I feel so lucky about my web of deep friendships and about the ocean of love that I'm capable of feeling and about all the nuances of love that exist in the world and about the joy and the sadness of the human experience. And I'm just so grateful that I get to live all of it. I mean, dogs are great and all, but humans we're pretty amazing too.

Melissa Breau: It's a pretty far kind of side trip to go from like Mexico City all the way up to Colorado.

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, I mean we're back in Mexico now, currently outside of Mexico City in the small town, both gay men I really like because there are so many trails and you can just hike for hours and not meet another soul.

And the free roaming dog culture here is just so nice. Just like the people, it's like, I don't know, everyone's just really, really nice dogs as well as people and it's just, it's really nice to be back here.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Speaking of the kind of free roaming dogs, do you wanna talk a little more about that? I know you shared a fair bit of content both in terms of like videos and some of the stuff on your website. What, what kind of draws you to them as you travel?

Chrissi Schranz: I think it just started with me loving people watching, just sitting on a park bench and watching the world go by and people watching at some point turned into dog watching. So I can spend hours observing free runners or following them around town and I've learned a lot from them and from the dog cultures of Latin America.

And even when the dogs are out with their people, they're usually off leash, which is also my favorite way of walking. And there's a tendency of communicating with ease or just politely greeting and moving on when two or more dogs run into each other. It amazes me how socially savvy most of these dogs are and I love observing them so much that I've even dedicated a YouTube channel to them and I try and share a video about their interactions and body language every two weeks.

Melissa Breau: Very cool. Do you wanna mention the name of your YouTube channel?

Chrissi Schranz: I think it's called Free Ranging Dogs.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So folks wanna go look that up. I will try and include a link to it in the podcast notes if you guys wanna go take a look.

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, I'll send it to you after.

Melissa Breau: I think that's probably a pretty different lifestyle, right? Than like a lot of like your western pet dogs maybe get to live. How do their lives kind of differ, you know, from those of non-free roaming dogs or kind of like, I don't know, your typical pet dog in you know, the USA maybe? So I see that what stands out to me most is that I see much less reactivity in free roamers than in Western pet dogs or in my clients, but I'm probably biased because the people I work with often look for a dog trainer because there is reactivity. So it's hard to say if that is actually representative of the general pet dog population, but like if it is, I can only speculate why, but maybe part of it is that free roamers self-select for dog-dog sociability. And we don't do that when we are breeding them on purpose.

We select for other qualities and maybe dog, dog sociability is one minor slice of the pie, but it's not the main criterion and, and here I think it is or it's a selective advantage to be dog, dog social. So definitely a much stronger one than it would be in the pet dog or sport dog world. And I mean could also be, and it's maybe a combination of all these factors that western pet dogs don't have the same level of at liberty dog-dog interactions as free roamers. So these dogs here from puppyhood onwards, they grew up with other dogs all around them and learn from them as they interact with them. And then of course maybe there is more leash or barrier frustration among pet dogs or sports dogs.

I really don't know. But the difference is, the difference is fascinating and it does seem very obvious to me. But again, that could be my bias based on the dogs I work with. But like around here, even when scuffles occur, no one tends to draw blood and the people, if a dog is out with their people, usually the people just shrug conflicts off and the dogs do the same thing and everyone moves on with their lives.

It's a very different culture than countries like the US today have. And I think, I mean I think this culture still exists in rural parts of Switzerland or Austria and because you've got free roaming farm dogs there and US cities also used to have this kind of culture up until like the seventies because I looked at some research papers and there there's one about free roamers in Baltimore from the seventies and I think another one also from around that time looking at free roaming dogs in Chicago.

But I think things just have changed rapidly in the last couple decades and people don't really remember what it used to be like anymore. Many younger generations never experienced that. So I'm trying to show them a slice of that on my YouTube channel.

Melissa Breau: Super interesting cuz when you do hear about free roaming dogs here in the US at least in my experience, usually they're a nuisance, right? Like so, I'm currently at my parents house and their neighbors don't keep their dogs on leash or in their yard or anything and their dogs roam up and down the neighborhood, but they also get hit by cars fairly regularly and they chase cars and they do all sorts of things. They get them into trouble. You know, it's kind of interesting to hear how much the dogs on there seems to seem to be adapted right to that lifestyle versus like just being able to take a dog here that wasn't necessarily bred for that or there aren't the genetics behind it, maybe, you know, just kind of thinking it through as I say it. But it certainly seems different.

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, and I mean I think what you say about them getting hit by cars that I'm sure that is true here as well. You see that dogs on highways that have towns next to them like you learn or you get run over and that is the reality. I believe that's just the reality of it cuz other dogs I see who know when to cross the street or to stay on their side of the sidewalk because they've learned. So yeah, I mean you can romanticize it all you want. That is definitely part of the reality as well.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, that's really interesting. How has, you know, your observations about these dogs and kind of the time that you've spent watching them and learning from them and learning about them kinda influence the approach that you take to training?

Chrissi Schranz: Like the biggest influences it has had is it has made me more aware of a dog's baseline needs and the importance of having them met. So if I, if someone comes to me with a behavior problem when I'm first, make sure that the dog has an opportunity to be out and about and sniff and just be a dog and, and do whatever it is this particular dog enjoys and then we address the behavioral issue.

So it's secondary now. And it used to be primary for me when assessing a dog, but now I feel like the dogs I see around here are kind of the proto-dog and many of the behaviors that they're showing are, those are normal dog behaviors and giving Western style pet dogs an opportunity to display a version of those behaviors may up their life quality quite a bit in my opinion.

Melissa Breau: Anyways, I think I've, I've kind of seen a trend towards that, quite recently in the last, I don't know, I've been doing the podcast now for about five years, maybe in the last like two to three years even of folks who at least anecdotally have noticed a definite correlation between dogs being able to get their behavioral needs met. Like just in terms of being outside and being dogs and getting adequate enrichment and what have you. And it's significantly reducing a lot of behavioral problems. It's really kinda an interesting thing, right?

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah. And it makes perfect sense once you think about it. And like all those food toys for example are snuffle mats that we have or make or give our dogs in the house. Like free roaming dogs basically do that all day long. They snuffle and or they use food toys by getting into a trash can.

We are basically just recreating these behaviors for them in a way that can be brought into the living room and like an off leash walk where the dog gets to set the pace and sniff and run or walk or whatever, like it's different for every dog. That again is what a free roaming dog would do all day long. They get to set the pace, they get to wander, they get to sniff where they want. So I feel like we rediscover this and we kind of think of it or often we have this tendency to think of it as this new thing that western style pet dog or sports dog trainers have come up with when really that's just what it is to be a dog.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So to not totally change topics but shift a little bit since we talked last, I believe you also started a podcast, right?

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah.

Mellissa Breau: Do you wanna share a bit About it?

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, it's been way too long that we, that we last talked. I seem to have done a million things. Yeah, I started the kind of podcast that I wanted to listen to and it's called Our One Wild and Precious Lives and Our Dogs. The title is taken from the last line of a Mary Oliver poem that I really like. And the original, the original line is tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? It's a storytelling podcast where I have conversations with people I appreciate about topics I care about and it's about living off the beat, the beaten track, and of course about dogs. It's very eclectic but somehow it all ties together.

Melissa Breau: That's not the only new thing you've kind of been up to, right? I believe you also became a Certified Control Unleashed instructor, is that right?

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, that's right. I've wanted to do more CU stuff ever since reading Leslie's first book. Many CU games and patterns are approaches I've used. I've been coming back to over and over again for my own dogs and client dogs. And then one day I talked to Leslie because I wanted to learn more and have a mentor and then I ended up working on the certification and it's a really amazing program. Yeah, I say all the time, I think she's brilliant. I don't know how she quite comes up with some of the concepts that she does, but a lot of them are simple enough that they're easy to understand and implement, but complex enough that they seem to tap into, you know, whatever the dogs actually need in the moment to kind of help them overcome things. It's really quite fascinating. Yeah, I love how adaptable they are, it's really amazing.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Can you share a little bit about kind of the experience of going through the program and maybe kind of how you're applying what you learned?

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, I think it may have changed by now because I believe it's now being run on Clean Run rather than by Leslie themselves. So I'll just share my own experience. It may be different now, I don't know because it was Covid times we could record videos of working with clients online as well as offline and we could use our own dogs and client dogs.

And I personally ended up doing a bit of everything because I wanted feedback on a bit of everything. So in my video submissions, there's some online clients, some in-person clients, my own dog and also a puppy I borrowed. And some of the submission videos ended up being step-by-step guides for how to teach a certain pattern and others just show the first step or the final result of a game.

And like I really like how much flexibility Leslie gave us in approaching this so we could share different steps in the journey towards different goals with different dogs and, and get feedback on that. And that was, that was just a really, really amazing experience and Leslie's feedback is always kind and constructive and yeah, I've appreciated it so much.

Melissa Breau: I know you've shared some interesting content on your site, just kind of adapting some of what you, what you learned, right?

Chriss Schranz: Yeah, Yeah. Sorry, go ahead.

Melissa Breau: And you started to say something about the best go for it.

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah, no, no. And like that is actually what I, what I was gonna say. So like in the pattern games, that's one of my favorite parts is that Leslie really stresses that we should modify the patterns. So, so they make sense for the learner in front of us. It's not about teaching this one pattern and then sticking to it and doing the exact same thing for every single learner. And it's been so helpful to experiment with different patterns and really tailor them for a particular dog or other animal and their needs.

Cuz the concept behind Control Unleashed is making the world a little more predictable and a little less scary. But what exactly that means looks really different for every learner. Yeah. And in terms of how I've been applying it, there's a little bit of CU in my Out and About class, but I mostly use it for private students online or offline. And more so now than previously.

I currently for example, have the amazing opportunity to explore Control Unleashed patterns with two amazing horses and they're awesome person and I am so grateful for this. I'm learning so much about horses along the way. It is really cool.

Melissa Breau: That's pretty neat. Where are you, are you doing that locally or are you doing that online?

Chrissi Schranz: I'm doing that online.

Melissa Breau: That's so cool.

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah. All the way across the world. I don't know if that's better or worse in some ways, you know what I mean? Sometimes it's so fun to be able to see some of that stuff in person, but also like online then you have video content and you can, you know, watch it again and yeah. But I feel like it's both, it's like, yeah, it's always both.

Melissa Breau: All right. So you've got, can I just shift to some of the, the FDSA stuff you've, you're working on, you've got your Recall class back on the schedule for this coming term. I was taking a look at it kind of before we hopped on and really loved kind of how you broke some of the stuff down in your description. So what goes into, you know, building a really fantastic recall?

Chrissi Schranz: So my answer today is two ingredients, one, the science of learning and two, lots of fun. So really quite, quite a simple recipe. You just have to find the right ratio for the learner in front of you, right?

Melissa Breau: Very simple but not so easy, huh?

Chrissi Schranz: Yeah.

Melissa Breau: Do you wanna elaborate just a little bit?

Chrissi Schranz: The way I teach it in this class, I'm just starting from scratch. So it's really a gateway class and you can take it with a puppy or a newly adopted dog, or you can even take it if you have never trained a dog in your life. So I'd call it a beginner's class, but it can also be taken by advanced trainers at the gold level. So if you're new to recalls, bronze should give you all the information you need. But if you're struggling with a particular recall challenge as a more experienced trainer, yeah, gold is a good way and you'll get personalized feedback and we'll tackle that challenge together. I really like making my gold spots about whoever is taking them and I don't mind going like a little bit beyond the class material there.

So that's also always an option. And also this term, I have an amazing TA for the first time and so I believe this will be the best round of Calling All Dogs yet! So thank you for ta-ing Chris, in case you're listening to this.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. You mentioned kind of advanced skills. Do you have an example? Maybe you could share something that might ring true for someone.

Chrissi Schranz: So in the past I've had a, a really, really good trainer with a Border Collie who tended to chase cars, so like in their yard, but they wanted to be able to interrupt that behavior and that would definitely be an advanced skill, something like that. So you already have a really good baseline recall, but there is this, there's this problem you're really struggling with. I'm not like the class materials do not focus on that. They really focus on building a recall from scratch for a dog who does not have a recall or who has a very weak recall currently and needs a new one. But whoever shows up at the gold level, I just make it work for them. And sometimes that means, you know, we work on not chasing cars, right? Yeah. But otherwise, like in general out and about would be, you could like, would be more advanced in that respect. But I usually have like, there's usually one person or two who already have a strong recall and this very specific issue that they really want resolved. And if it's gold I can make that work.

Melissa Breau: So can you tell us just a little bit more about the class, kind of what you cover and, and any prerequisite skills maybe that teams should have or, I mean it sounds like it's pretty, pretty low on the, on the prereq skills.

Chrissi Schranz: So no prerequisites, we start with relationship building and games as a foundation for a strong recall. So like the first two weeks are not about the recall at all. They're just about getting to know your dog, having fun with them, connecting with them in new ways, including out and about or in difficult environments. And also testing out what their strongest reinforcer is. And then we break things down as finally as they need to be broken down for a particular dog. So for example, I break things down in terms of environment, so easy environment, intermediate environment, difficult environment. Then there's a long line stage and a stage where the distraction is being protected, for example, behind a fence or in a wire crate and then an off-leash stage. And we also introduce distractions against starting with an easy one, going to an intermediate one and finally a difficult one and not everyone gets to the distraction step.

It really depends where you start out at and who your dog is because every dog learns at a different speed. And every student, every human student has a different amount of time to dedicate to a class like this. And this is a class that will require you to sometimes go outside, like you can't do everything in your living room and then expected to work like on the trails. So it really depends also on how much time you have to put into the class, how far you will get.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Any kind of final thoughts or, or kind of key points you wanna leave folks with before we call it?

Chrissi Schranz: Well, I mean, I thought about this question because you sent me the question earlier, the questions earlier, and I, if I could make a final point today, it wouldn't be about recalls, it's just to love your dogs. They are amazing and they take us so many unexpected places and I'd be a different person today if it wasn't for all the dogs who've shared my life. And if you're listening to this, it's probably true for you as well.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, I like that. That's a good place to leave things off. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Chrissi.

Chrissi Schranz: Thank you so much for having me.

Melissa Breau: I know this was a little bit of all over the place, but it has been a lot of fun talking to you as always.

Chrissi Schranz: Likewise. And, and yeah, we, we talked about a bunch of different topics, but I think it's good, right? I think that variety is the spice of life, so..

Melissa Breau: Yeah, I agree. All right. 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 and 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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