E345: Bronagh Daly - The Power of Agility + Control Unleashed

Worried about the wheels coming off while playing the game of agility? Join Bronagh and I as we talk about the ways that Control Unleashed can help your agility dog adapt to experiencing the unexpected in a trial, seminar or even group class environment. 


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 Bronagh Daly here with me to talk about her journey into dog sports and about using the patterns from Control Unleashed in an agility specific context. Hi Bronagh, welcome to the podcast!

Bronagh Daly: Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Melissa Breau: I'm super excited to have you. So let's start out, just share a little bit about you, a little bit about kind of who your current canine crew is.

Bronagh Daly: Yeah, so I am in Connecticut and I run my own dog training business here, Five by Five Canine. I'm a Certified Control Unleashed Instructor, a family dog mediator, a Certified One Mind Dog Instructor, and then I'm a graduate of the Aggression and Dogs Master Course that Michael Shikashio teaches. My current dogs are, I have a nine year-old Border Collie named Razzle. And then I have a six-year-old Border Collie named Oz.

Melissa Breau: Excellent. So let's go back to the beginning a little bit. How did you get into this world? What led you to dog training?

Bronagh Daly: It was actually agility, basically that got me into dog training, so I always wanted a dog forever. And then I finally got one when I was like a teenager after my sister moved outta the house, like I was allowed to get a dog. Finally I got my first dog and that's when I started to get into agility and as like a teenager with, you know, my like agility pet dog. And then as I continued kind of further into agility, that's what got me more into the actual training aspect and training other people's dogs. I started off kind of co-teaching for my agility instructor and then I started getting to cover for her classes when she wouldn't be able to make it for some reason 'cause she would travel a lot.

And then I started to get some of my own classes, which was very exciting. And then I started to work with some of the people who I'd been like training agility with, which they all of a sudden had like basically agility related behavior concerns, like barking other dogs or you know, like running off course to like go like be like, hi dog, let me bark at you on the fence line, things like that. And so I started just kind of working with those people and then that was going well and that was, we were, they were making a lot of progress so I ended up getting classes specifically more tailored towards that and tailored towards Control Unleashed as well. And then kind of the rest is history.

I started getting more and more into behavior work and Control Unleashed related. And now I do a lot of, you know, agility work, kind of like the full scope of agility work, like behavior related to agility and then agility training itself as well as I do a lot of like pet dog behavior concerns or like puppy training too. All the things. All the things, the whole, the whole spectrum.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. How would you kind of describe your approach to training these days?

Bronagh Daly: I would say it's very dog driven. I always struggle to answer this question, but basically I like to meet every single dog exactly where they are and make sure I'm looking at each dog as who they are and kind of, you know, their history as well as like what that dog specifically needs kind of holistically and make sure not try to, you know, put a dog into like a peg hole that they don't fit into. So really trying to tailor each training concept to like each specific dog and really let that dog kind of tell us exactly how they need to progress along their journey.

Melissa Breau: Have you kind of coming at the world from the agility standpoint, have you always been a positive trainer?

Bronagh Daly: Yes. As far as training goes, like when I was a teenager where we got our dog from like the man who we would take dog training classes with would like, you know, was definitely not that. So my initial kind of like intro into dog training was, you know, not positive training, well at least like very far adjacent to it, like trying to be that but then moving into agility and when I actually started training myself. Yes. And I think agility basically fueled that because that's, you know, you have to use positive reinforcement primarily to have a successful agility dog and agility career for sure.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. All right. So let's talk a little more about that agility and control unleashed kind of intersection there. What are some of the common issues that can come up with new competitors or dogs who are, you know, newer to the agility ring?

Bronagh Daly: Yeah, so something that I see a lot, which actually happened with my own first agility dog when I was like, whatever, 16 or something is that dogs have a very clear picture of what agility should look like. We basically tell them that agility is not gonna be this like crazy environment where there's all these things happening that it's just gonna be like us together doing this sport with like maybe a couple other people or just one other person or even no people depending on where you train.

And then all of a sudden we go, "Hey, you're going into a trial now and there's gonna be like crazy things everywhere. There's gonna be like people stealing your leashes and there's gonna be like people making weird hand movements and like saying lots of, you know, random yelling, random things and like dogs barking and being super excited and staring at you," and the dogs are like, "whoa, excuse me, this was not like the contract that we signed," what agility is supposed to be and just get, you know, very stressed or amped up or just confused because that's not the picture that they thought was supposed to happen. So a lot of things I see as a result of that are, you know, stressing up or down and that often looks like, like zooming around the ring or you know, getting super focused on the people 'cause they're like, what are you doing here? Why are you, you're like, you're not supposed to be here and like people are so cool. Like let me go like give you a hug and a kiss and like see what you're doing or let me jump in your lap 'cause you're sitting in a chair right next to me And like that's weird.

Like I usually jump in people's laps when they're sitting in the chair or you know, being really stressed out by the dog that's coming into the ring after you, 'cause like that doesn't usually happen to them. Or you know, the dogs barking outside the ring and like having them check out or they kind of go the opposite way and get super, super high and start to kind of not be in their good thinking brain anymore.

And so, you know, the wheels kind of fall off a little bit with, you know, contact behaviors kind of fall off because they're humans also acting really weird and stressed, which is not the normal way that we all do agility either. And so the person you know is not as focused on them as maybe they feel like they usually are. And so they're like, I don't know your criteria seems weird. So like I don't know what my criteria is anymore. So like I'm just gonna go when you move your hand instead of like your, you know, okay release cue or whatever. It's so basically like lots of criteria just falling apart and then suddenly just becoming too absorbed into the environment that's going on.

Melissa Breau: So why are these things kind of so common? What causes, I guess you just see them more than just occasionally, right? It sounds like they come up fairly frequently, especially you know, you're kind of saying if somebody you know has trained a lot on their own or whatever, what can we do about the gap? What causes the gap?

Bronagh Daly: Yeah, I would say that there isn't a lot of bridging moments that dogs can go to experience that. There are like some things like the ACT test or something, but even that is like usually like a very quiet room with like one person or like maybe a few people, which is a big thing that I'm trying to do with you know, doing my own classes of Control Unleashed agility and the webinar that I'm trying to bridge that gap a little bit for people and give people more skills to be able to give a dog kind of the understanding of "hey all these weird things are happening might happen during this game that we like to play but the game is the same and the criteria of the game is the same and you know, we're still playing this game together."

Like I'm still here for you no matter what. I think I went off topic with a question though, but basically I think it happens ideally because dogs just don't get to practice that essentially. And so they come in with the understanding of what that looks like and when we flip it on them without giving them any opportunity to experience all those weird things first for a lot of dogs that can be really stressful or you know, exciting or concerning or confusing, whatever it is that they're feeling and that may look like as you know, big of a change or a small of a change and maybe something like their contact criteria just starts to slip a little bit or it could mean that they literally just like zooming around the ring 'cause they're just like, ah, what's happening? So it can really vary depending on, you know, what that dog's reaction is basically to that stimulus.

Melissa Breau: So why Control Unleashed? How can that help? What does that have to do with all this stuff?

Bronagh Daly: Yeah, so the thing that I really love about Leslie's control unleash program is that it really is flexible, which is really helpful and it's also predictable. So the big thing with kind of everything that I was saying about the dogs going into this new environment is that that environment isn't predictable for them anymore.

Whereas agility was predictable. And so what Control Unleasehd can do is kind of like bridge that gap of making the unpredictable more predictable. So by putting these patterns into place that they understand and they feel comfortable with and that are very predictable, that are just gonna continue along with the pattern, you can then put those weird things of the trial environment or the seminar environment or whatever it is and put those into those patterns and then help the dog understand kind of how to feel more comfortable with those weird things happening while they're in like the safe predictable pattern. So it kind of can ease them into all those weird distractions and make all those distractions, you know, less distractible basically.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough. Can that, you know, same approach really help for dogs who maybe struggle in a group class situation or you know, need some help to kind of manage a seminar type situation?

Bronagh Daly: Definitely yes. Yeah, so I work with dogs who are like geared toward trialing or who just really would wanna stick with classes or seminars or whatever it is, like very, you know, varied goals. So definitely 'cause we wanna basically just let each of these dogs know that hey, you can be really comfortable in what's going to happen. So even if something weird occurs, they're like no that doesn't matter. Like this is, I know you know, this is me and my human, this is our fun thing that we're doing together.

I can feel really comfortable and safe in this no matter what's occurring. A big thing I think also with classes and seminars is that sometimes there'll be another dog like running at the same time as you or there'll be like people creating like right in the same ring as you. So I definitely think that bringing these patterns in and bringing that predictable aspect in for them, even if it's just like outside the ring or you know, right before you're going in or like right before you start, I think it can definitely really help those dogs also bridge the gap and continue to feel comfortable in those like slightly more exciting environments that maybe aren't quite as crazy as a trial. So let's say the wheels don't totally come off the bus right that first time in the ring.

Melissa Breau: What are maybe some of the more subtle signs that there might be something that handlers, you know, wanna get ahead of kind of before things get bad or you know, something might get a whole lot worse kind of based on that initial run even if the dog kind of manages to hold it together then?

Bronagh Daly: Yeah, so I think a cuddle cue. Oh. So I think a couple things that you can look for are just kind of like the initial signs that they are very aware of the environment because I think it's not abnormal for the dog to be like, whoa, this is different. But if the dog is like starting to really stare at the different people at the start line, even if they then stay and they're fine and do the rest of the run, okay, but they're very hyper aware of what the people are doing. If they're pretty aware of the leash runner, like they're looking back at the start line at all instead of just kind of focused on their job with you, that fun game you're playing, if you know your picture of how you are going to expect them to act around agility is looking very different.

Like they can't, you know, with the same fluency do what you're asking for them as their warmup before you go into the ring. Then that's something you wanna take kind of take a look at and be like, okay, what factor maybe is causing that lack of fluency that I'm seeing at home or that I'm seeing in class, whatever it might be.

Another little thing is, you know, pushing on the start line or being a little pushy on contacts I would say. 'Cause we can let a little bit go and then that criteria can fall apart super, super fast.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, yeah. Is there, you know, maybe something specific to agility that kind of contributes to making Control Unleashed a particularly good fit?

Bronagh Daly: I would say, well I know that Leslie specifically did kind of create control unleashed around agility a lot. So I think that's why it goes so well kind of hand in hand together. But I also think just the way that it's incredibly, incredibly adaptable is a big part of it. So you can really easily fit it into what is already an agility program basically.

And I think it would honestly be a great thing if it was part of like all puppy foundation agility classes that they had all these skills like from the get go that'd be amazing probably, you know, big goal down the line. But I think that would be amazing. But I think a big part is just that it's so adaptable and it also really helps dogs regulate themselves really nicely because of these patterns.

Because agility can be so exciting and there's lots of movement with agility and so by bringing in patterns where they're able to move but predictably and also constantly a be reminded like, hey there's another person here working with you as well as help, just kind of like regulate those feelings that they're having, I think that that works really well then into agility when we add more emotion and you know, more factors that make that connection difficult.

Melissa Breau: When you say another person here, are you talking about like the, for lack of a better term distraction person? Or are you talking about like kinda staying more tuned into their handler? Their handler?

Bronagh Daly: Sorry, I should have been clearer.

Melissa Breau: No, it's okay. Just wanted to, you know, kind of check.

All right. So you, you kind of mentioned in there the webinar in one of your earlier answers. Let's talk about that for just a sec. Do you wanna talk a little more about what you'll cover? Who might wanna join us for those listening? It will be next week, this will come out and it'll be the following Thursday, so we'd love to have them there.

Bronagh Daly: Yeah, Definitely. So the webinar is about basically common things that we can see in the agility environment when we kind of move into trials or move into more exciting places like classes or seminars, kind of depending on where you're going with your dog. So things that I'm gonna cover are like just like big excited feelings, start line feelings.

So like, you know, stickiness at the start line, breaking start lines, you know, just distracted or the stress of the start lines due to like social pressure and physical pressure and of gates and stuff. People visiting feelings. That's a big one that I see, you know, whether it's displacement or whether it's just like, what are you doing here? I have to go like see what you're doing.

I'm gonna talk about other dogs in the ring feelings so you know how to feel more comfortable having that other dog, you know, like rushing towards you at the end of their run. Or you know, barking and being exciting next to you when you're getting ready to run. We're gonna talk about some knocked bars more from like a distraction standpoint, so adding like distraction work into that.

So not like jumping form but knocked bars in the sense of like how handling distractions can be a big part of that or like split focus can be a big part of that because they're aware of things around them and the broken criteria which we discussed. So more from like a context kind of standpoint, I would say this webinar would be great for anybody who's doing agility, particularly anyone who has like a new dog coming into agility who has already kind of started a bit with trialing and is seeing all these things pop up or someone who you know, is just getting ready to get into that. Because I think, you know, as much as it's great to address things after they've popped up, it's like even better to not let them pop up ever.

So I would say it's, you know, even if you haven't seen any of these concerns kind of occur in your agility career so far, I think it could be really great just you know, for your future dog or your current dog even, just to make sure that they never do occur. And then obviously if they are happening then let's talk about it.

Melissa Breau: Heck yeah. All right. So I know you publish quite a bit of content about the internet, so go ahead, share where folks can find you, where they can follow you, where they can get more of this kind of stuff.

Bronagh Daly: Yes, so to be very confusing on Instagram and TikTok, I have like, so on Instagram I am spelled out as five by 5 canine and then to be very confusing on TikTok it is five by five and then the letter K and then number nine just because someone had stolen the name already and you know, of course doesn't post on that and use the handle of course, but yeah, but just like has it for fun. But those are where I mainly post. I do technically have a Facebook page. You will not find much there but it exists.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough. Any final thoughts or concerns or comments that you maybe just wanna leave folks with?

Bronagh Daly: Yeah, so I think something just to keep in mind is that, you know, bringing control unleashed into agility can be for every dog. 'cause I think, you know, any dog, no matter how long they've been trialing or anything like that, they can always use a little extra help kind of tuning out all of the excitement that goes around.

So I think, you know, whether or not you're seeing these concerns or whether you're seeing these concerns or not, I think it's a great thing to just kind of check it out and see if it can be applied to your own dog. 'Cause all of the exercises that we will go through in the webinar are so easy to just kind of like take bits and pieces of and be like, yeah, I like that. I'm gonna, you know, put that into my own kind of training plan I'm already doing or you know, I like that actually I'm gonna change it and make it slightly more tailored towards my dog. So everything is really, really easily adaptable to kind of your own situation and your own dog.

Melissa Breau: I love that and I think it's a kind of a good note to end on, right? Just the idea that you can take little pieces and I think that's a nice thing about the pattern games as a whole, right? So you can take little pieces and plug in what your dog needs and just kind of forget the rest.

Bronagh Daly: Exactly. I know that's why like I think I said like adaptable like a hundred times in my webinar because that is like what I love about Control Unleash and the patterns is that you can take those patterns and really kind of do anything you want with them and help. Like anything that you're coming across with an agility to kind of find a way to make it easier and more successful and clearer for your dog.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Well thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Thanks so much for having me. Absolutely. And thanks 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.


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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