E364 - Sharon Carroll - Training & Competing with "Differently Motivated" Dogs

In this episode Sharon and I talk about what engagement looks like for those "differently motivated" dogs and how to handle it when our dog appears to be ignoring our cues. 


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 Sharon Carroll here with me to talk about what engagement looks like for those differently motivated dogs and how to handle when our dog appears to be ignoring our cues. Hi, Sharon. Welcome back to the podcast.

Sharon Carroll: Hi Melissa. It's great to be back chatting with you again.

Melissa Breau: Likewise. To start us out, do you want to just remind listeners a little bit about you and your current canine crew? Sure. So I live a few hours from Sydney on the east coast of Australia. I've been a professional animal trainer now for over 30 years. I've also got a few related academic credentials, including a master's in animal science.

I'm a certified professional dog trainer, and I'm also a certified dog behaviour consultant with the IAABC. I'm an avid competitor in a range of dog sports, including rally obedience, scent work tricks, musical freestyle, and heel work to music. My current crew are all standard poodles. I have Jericho, he's just turned seven. I have Vincent, who's just turned five, and Kane, who's just turned three. And people often ask me if poodles have always been my breed.

But it's actually a fairly recent change to poodles, just in the last ten years. And this past couple of years has also been the first time in my life that I have only had the one breed in my home. I've always had a multi dog home, sometimes having up to seven dogs at a time. I've had a whole range of different breeds, mixes, and sizes over the years.

My previous competition dogs were border collies, but I've also trained a number of shepherds and collie ruffs and Dalmatians and showed and trained a large number of toys and small terriers. So this transition to just three dogs of the same breed is quite new to me. But anyway, right now, that's my crew. Three standard poodle boys. I can't believe he's already three.

Melissa Breau: I know, and he's starting to grow up.

Sharon Carroll: I know. And he's actually starting to show that little bit of maturity at times. And then, of course, he sometimes doesn't, but, yeah, he's growing up. He's very cute.

Melissa Breau: All right, so I want to talk about kind of the second topic that I mentioned in the intro first. So when dogs ignore our cues, start with basics like what are some of the reasons that might happen.

Sharon Carroll: Okay. I think the first reason that comes to mind for most people would be lack of understanding.

Our dog just genuinely sees the cue and has no idea what we're talking about. And that certainly is a valid reason for them ignoring our cue or not responding the way we expect them to. But I think we sometimes hear people say, well, if our dog understood what we were asking, they would do it. So it's always to do with lack of understanding. Of course, that's not true entirely either.

We can get intentional choice. We can get our dog actually recognising what our cue is. They know what we mean and they choose not to respond. And when people hear that they're a little bit surprised. But it can just be that they're enjoying what they're currently doing more than what we're asking them to do. So maybe they're at the dog park, they're having fun, they're playing with another dog and we're recalling them.

The reason they're not coming is not because they don't know what it means, it's because they're really enjoying what they're doing. Or maybe they're on the sofa and we're asking them to hop off the sofa and they sort of look at us and go, but I'm quite warm and comfortable here. It's not that they don't understand what we're asking, it's just that what they're doing right now is sort of more preferable.

And similarly with a bite sports dog, a dog that's biting and we're asking them to out. It's not that they may not. They don't understand what the out cue means, it's just that they're quite enjoying the biting part in preference to performing the behaviour that we're cueing, which might be the out at that time. And so straight away when we hear that a lot of people were, well, my dog's blowing me off, then, like, you know, that's not okay.

But that's an emotional response on our part. To think like that, really what we need to look at is at things like the lack of motivation, like maybe we haven't given them a reason to really want to respond to our cue. Maybe the behavior is perceived high effort. So maybe we're asking for a second or third or fourth retrieve from a dog that's a very low energy dog with no innate drive to retrieve and they're going, wow, this looks like a lot of effort.

It could be that there's mental or physical fatigue happening. Not that they're distressed, but just that enough that it's outweighing the motivation to perform the behaviour. And then, of course, it could be that it's less of a choice. So those were sort of things that we might consider when our dog's really choosing to not respond to our cue. But it could be that there's less of a choice, more that maybe the desire to remain safe and comfortable is outweighing the potential of the reward that we've got on offer.

So maybe we're asking our dog to perform a down in a trial setting and the judge is standing right near them, staring at them, or maybe there's another dog right near them, just outside the ring, and they're feeling uncomfortable about putting themselves in that vulnerable position of lying down in that situation. So their desire to remain safe and comfortable might be outweighing the potential of the reward. Or maybe there's some physical discomfort or pain.

Either, you know, something that's currently happening to them or maybe just anticipated. So maybe we're cueing them to jump, but the last time they jumped they landed and their shoulder hurt. So now we're asking them to jump and they do understand what we're asking, but they're going, oh, I don't know that I want to do that because I might land and it might be uncomfortable or for some dogs, honestly.

And, you know, a couple of mine would fall in this category, we're asking them to down on wet grass or on cold grass. That's a discomfort thing. They're going, well, I know what the down cue means, but if I do that, my belly is going to get a bit cold and wet and I might not enjoy that, or it could admit that there's a previous fright that's occurred.

So maybe we're cueing them to get onto an unstable object and the last time they did that they got a bit of a fright. So again, they know what we're asking for, but their desire to remain safe and comfortable sort of outweighing that motivation to perform the behaviour. Or it could even be that they've got concerns about aspects of the environment, so maybe they're a bit concerned about the people or the dogs that are around them, or it could even be that they're experiencing fear or anxiety and that their response isn't even a choice.

It's not even under their conscious control. It might be that their defence system has kicked in and they're performing escape behaviours or avoidance behaviours, or maybe they're freezing their movements being inhibited because of that defence response that isn't even under their control. And also included in that, we could say our dog might also be performing appeasement behaviours as an innate response. So we're cueing them to stay standing and they lie down, or maybe they roll over, or they're crawling towards us, or maybe we cue them to do something and they're a little bit uncomfortable and they start jumping up on us, or they're leaning on us.

Those sorts of things, again, may not really be in their control, because even though they know what we're asking for, they're feeling uncomfortable or confused or frustrated or concerned, and that's actually driving the response.

Melissa Breau: So is the answer just more training?

Sharon Carroll: Yes and no.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough, yeah. The no part is because just undertaking more repetitions of the sequence of cue behavior reward is only going to resolve the issue if it's just a lack of understanding.

But I'd still say yes, it is going to involve more training because not so much just that, like just more repetitions, but the training might include undertaking more extensive desensitisation training, or working on aspects associated with motivation, or making the exercises easier temporarily, or making changes to the reinforcement schedule and so forth. So the answer is always going to rely on accurately identifying the true cause first, and then addressing that underlying reason.

Melissa Breau: The actual reason why our dog is ignoring our cue are there, you know, kind of certain types of dogs that we're maybe more likely to struggle with when trying to get reliable behaviors?

Sharon Carroll: That's an interesting question. I've never thought of it that way before, so it's making me think. There definitely are dogs whose innate traits lend themselves to wanting to work, and those dogs will put in huge efforts to try to understand what the human is asking, even if the human isn't being super, you know, talented or super skillful in how they're asking.

Those dogs really want to work out what the human wants, and mostly those types of dogs really just want to be with the human and are enthusiastic about doing whatever the human wants to do. Not to say that that group of dogs is easy to train. And of course, there's still going to be communication problems at times when training specific behaviours, and there can be issues with arousal and focus.

But with those types of more typical sport dogs, there's an innate motivation and a level of persistence when it comes to trying to push through some training challenges or environmental challenges. But then there are dogs whose genetic package comes from a different place. Maybe they're carrying genetics for increased independence, or maybe lower levels of physical activity, or maybe. Maybe their ancestors just weren't selectively bred to work with humans in human directed activities.

I wouldn't say, though, that it is less likely that these types of dogs will be reliable in terms of responding to our cues accurately on the first cue. But I would say that if our goal is to develop reliable competition dogs with these dogs, then we'll need to have a deep understanding about what motivates these individual dogs, and we need to be very clever with our reinforcement during the training phase of each behaviour, because these types of dogs rarely consider just the opportunity to work as innately rewarding, which is a bit of a contrast to sort of the more typical sport dogs and purpose bred working line dogs.

Melissa Breau: Is that then what you're kind of talking about when you talk about kind of differently motivated dogs?

Sharon Carroll: Kind of.

Melissa Breau: There's working motivated dogs in this other group?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah. Yeah. So most successful sport dogs and working line dogs find at least one aspect of their sport or activity or job intrinsically motivating. It's in them, they just love doing it. And this results in that innate drive and intensity for the activity.

It results in a greater ability to focus on the task, which makes it easier to push through the impact of distractions. Not that they don't get distracted, but their desire to do the task will help as we build their skills for pushing through distractions and sort of a reduction in the relative impact of adversity. Again, because they're so keen to do the task that it kind of makes it possible for them to push through emotional, mental and physical challenges, and also a reduced impact from the absence of the externally provided rewards, like our treats and toys, once the behaviour is trained, because, again, they actually love doing the behaviour itself and the ability to perform the behaviour in a wider range of arousal states as well.

Because if they really love doing that, they can often do that at a much higher arousal state and still be successful than a dog that's doing it purely for the externally provided rewards, where we have to be much more clever with how we manage that arousal state because their optimal arousal state will be much narrower. So really, when we talk about the difference, when we talk about these differently motivated dogs, what we're really talking about is that key difference between whether the behaviors are maintained due to intrinsic or extrinsic reinforcement.

So our sport dogs, a lot of them, the behaviours are intrinsically reinforcing, they are innately motivated to perform the behaviors and they find it intrinsically reinforcing as they perform the behaviours but with our differently motivated dogs, it's very likely they're not going to find just doing the task intrinsically motivating. And so it's forever going to rely, the maintenance of that behavior is forever going to rely on our externally provided rewards.

And I mean, obviously I think most people listening would have an idea what I'm talking about there with intrinsic versus extrinsic. But if we looked at a human example, if we looked at a swimmer, competitive swimmer, maybe that person has just always loved swimming. They knew they loved swimming as soon as they got in the water. They just felt at home. They just loved doing laps. You know, it's an intrinsic.

Just doing the act of swimming is intrinsically motivating, intrinsically reinforcing. Or, you know, maybe they didn't really realize that, but as soon as they were introduced to it. So at some point during their life they were introduced to swimming and they went, wow, you know, I didn't realize I love this, but I do. I just love doing laps. I'll do it whether if nobody's watching, I'll do it whether there's no rewards for it.

I just love swimming. And then you'll get people where they'll also put in the work, they'll also be successful at swimming, but they're doing it for externally provided rewards. So maybe they've taken up swimming, then they find they're really good at it, they're winning competitions, they're getting put on national teams. All these things are happening. And yes, they're still going to put in the work, they're still going to be good swimmers.

It's not like they dislike swimming, but if you took all of that away, they're not going to go and just do the laps every day because they just enjoy swimming. And that's the difference we're looking at with our dogs, those dogs that actually have an innate hunt drive, for example, or an innate desire to work with the human, or an innate desire to retrieve. Obviously for those dogs it's intrinsic, they just enjoy it.

And we're not having to externally provide external rewards all the time to maintain those behaviours. But if the dog quite enjoys it, doesn't really love it, it's not intrinsically motivating, but they don't dislike it. We can still get really reliable behaviors, but we have to be really clever with our externally provided rewards.

Melissa Breau: Okay, so probably the biggest question I guess I could ask on this, right? Is it then really possible? So if somebody wants to compete with a dog who is differently motivated, is it possible to actually get to a point where you can compete successfully?

Sharon Carroll: Yes. Yeah, absolutely it is. But we'll usually need to tweak many of the more standard training strategies because we won't necessarily have that innate buy in or any innate desire to push on through training challenges, or push on when things get tough, or when they get a bit frustrated, or push on through environmental challenges.

So we need to recognise that the process will require much more of us when we're working with these type of dogs. So we will need to work hard to ensure that our dog perceives that it is worth their while to work with us. And we'll need to undertake a lot of extra steps to ensure that our dog perceives the activities as being low effort. And we do this through our training strategies and our careful building of physical and mental stamina.

Now, some people choose not to work with these types of dogs because it can be hard work. And I fully appreciate and respect the perspective of people who choose to only work with dogs that bring a lot to the table. And for people wanting to have huge competition success, it makes sense. Like, where possible, to start with a dog that has a long list of traits that will make the training and trialing process much smoother and much easier.

However, when we're working with a dog that has no innate desire to do the activity, then instead of our dog bringing a lot to the table, we need to bring a lot to the partnership. And that might mean that we need to have greater observation skills. We might need greater skills for generating motivation. We might need greater skills for using external rewards and reinforcement in a really thoughtful and clever way.

We might need greater feel for when to stop. So when to stop repeating an exercise, or when to stop a training session, or when to stop and leave the ring or the class if we realise we've asked too much at that moment. And ideally, of course, we always do that before our dog loses enthusiasm or interest or focus or engagement. Like, we really want to be very good with our observation skills and really stop before our dog gets to the point where they're not really enjoying the activity.

And we also need to be able to really focus on that partnership, like that relationship, because that's where the cooperation's going to come from, that give and take. We really need that when we have this relationship with these dogs that are sort of differently motivated.

Melissa Breau: So what factors do we then need to kind of look at if we want to break things down and build the kind of engagement skills that we need to do all this stuff, right?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah. It starts away from the training session. So I think a lot of the time when we're really target oriented ourselves, we're really targeted on getting those competition performances or training those skills. We're always thinking about how can we change the training session? But I think with these dogs, it's a much bigger picture. We need to build a strong relationship with these types of dogs if we want them to work with us on tasks that they don't find innately rewarding.

So it really needs to be a partnership, and this allows both parties to then compromise and cooperate. There needs to be a lot of give and take. We need to think about, like, is our dog getting their needs met? So for typical sport dogs, once a skill's trained, then there's no. Then it's sort of no longer considered high effort by that dog because physical work is usually innately rewarding and working with the human is innately rewarding, but for maybe a lower energy dog or a more independent dog or a less biddable dog, whilst we can strategize to ensure that they find the work as low effort as possible, it's likely that it still remains sort of work technically.

So we need to ensure that they get a lot of other opportunities to do the things that they love to do do in their life outside of those training sessions. We also really rely on habit. So we need to set ourselves up to achieve many successful reps. So we need to make sure that our settings are right and that our setups are right so that we get these really consistently successful reps.

And we want to make sure that we're not rehearsing poor responses or, you know, the dog ignoring our cue or any unenthusiastic work or work that sort of lacks focus and engagement. We don't want to build the habit of or, you know, have them rehearsing those things that we don't want. And look, as a bit of a story, my middle dog, Vincent, couldn't meet a nicer dog. Loves everybody.

Loves all dogs, loves all people. Super nice dog. But he's a low energy dog. He's genuinely low energy. It's not because he's stressed or shut down, he's just low energy about life. He walks everywhere. He doesn't run places. Even when he's playing with other dogs. He's the one standing in the middle, taking a little step here and a little step there while they're sort of doing laps of the place.

He's got a happy, relaxed face, nice soft, swishy tail, happy body language, he's having a ball, but he's low energy, he's also low drive, has no toy drive plays with toys because he was trained to play with toys, but he has no innate toy drive, has no innate desire to retrieve again. He does great retrieves, but it was taught to him. He doesn't. You know, if I tried to do it four times in a row, he'd start to look at me like I probably shouldn't throw it again.

He has no innate hunt drive. You know, he literally doesn't have. Just doesn't feel a huge desire to track odour. Like, yeah, he pays some attention to odour out there and certainly he loves the environment and he sniffs a few things, but he doesn't have a burning desire to track down the source. And he loves food, but he's not going to do anything. High effort to access the food.

He likes food, he'll spend time at a scatter. There's no franticness, there's just very methodical individual picking up of the pieces. But if I said to him, you've got to climb this giant thing, I don't love food that much. Like, I love food, but, you know, if you hand it to me, I'm very happy to eat it, but if I have to put in a huge amount of effort, I could take it or leave it.

Yet this dog is hugely successful. You know, he's a rally champion. He's doing excellent master scent work. He's in heel to music, advanced, very good competitor. Not only successful, he's reliable. Like that dog is reliable. He goes out and competes consistently. Just consistent, reliable performer. But why does he do it? He does it to humour me. He does not find any of it innately rewarding, but he's like, you know what?

Bit of give and take. You do lots of nice things for me. I'll humor you with this. I don't not enjoy it. I don't find it horrible. You know, I make sure that he finds it physically easy. I make sure that he finds it mentally easy. We do every little incremental step, so he absolutely knows how to do it. He knows how to go about it. There's never a moment when he has to feel flustered or confused or frustrated, like, I put all those pieces in place for him.

So you go, sure, if you want to put on a weird outfit and you want me to do advanced music for four minutes, that's fine. I'm more than happy to do that because I fully understand the pieces you're going to give me lots of rewards afterward, and my life's pretty good. So it's not that we can't get these dogs to cooperate, but it really does require a very different mindset to get to this point.

He also knows that he always has the choice to walk away. He has a lot of choice. He chooses to do something that is not innately rewarding for him because he wants to cooperate, primarily that because he's always had the choice to walk away, he doesn't feel like I'm insisting on him doing it. And so it is important to differentiate here, though, between a dog that doesn't like an activity or finds the activity too hard or too stressful or in some way finds it unpleasant.

That's very different. That's not what we're talking about here. We're just talking about a dog that goes, well, I wouldn't retrieve by choice. Like, I don't personally love retrieving, but sure, you know, if you want me to retrieve something and there's something in it for me, eventually I'm happy to go about doing it. So that's, you know, a very different thing. And, you know, with Vincent, how have I gone about it?

Habit, you know, I've just used a lot of habit. Never asking him to work when it was too much for him, never asking him to work when he was tired. Never asking him to work, you know, beyond his skill set, building those skills very slowly, very strategic use of reinforcement in the learning phase, always maintaining him on a continuous rate of reinforcement until the habit formation occurred and then still maintaining on a very high rate of reinforcement because remembering that none of these skills are intrinsically motivating and none of them are intrinsically rewarding for him.

So that's how we sort of go about it. There's a lot there. So if somebody kind of listening to this and they feel like their dog kind of falls in this bucket, right. They fall in this category. Is there anything you could recommend that maybe they could start playing with today that would kind of have them begin, right? Just have them start the process or has a piece that they can look at or think about?

Yeah, absolutely. Work on relationship. Work on relationship first as your priority. Don't think about training as your priority. Think about your relationship as a priority. Find things your dog enjoys doing and do those things with your dog. So build a relationship with lots of activities that your dog enjoys and ensure that the training is only a small component of that overall relationship. Be very mindful of keeping training fun.

So short sessions, high rate of reinforcement. Focus on motivation, reward participation, and increase the skills incrementally to avoid frustration or negative feelings. Because these dogs are not going to push through. They're not going to go, well, I'm a little bit frustrated, but I'm so desperate to, you know, work. I just want to work so badly that I'm going to push through. They're not going to do that, they're going to go, you know, this is a little frustrating.

I'm out of here. I just. I'm not that interested. And so we have to be really incremental and very clever with how we do our training. Be very mindful of not asking too much at any point in time, whether that's, you know, don't ask for too many sessions in a week, don't ask for too many minutes in a session. Don't ask to build skills too quickly, increase agency.

Anything you can do to increase our dog's perception of choice, that they actually have a choice as to whether to participate or not and be smart about when we ask for a behaviour. So don't ask our dog to make a tough choice, don't ask them to, you know, leave their comfortable sofa to come and work, you know, if the work's going to be hard, don't recall them off something really fun and interesting, like, don't ask them to make a tough choice.

Always, you know, ask for those cued behaviors when they're likely to do them in a happy way and enthusiastic and engaged way. Don't rehearse those poor performances. They're things you don't want. But I think your question was really asking about practical early steps for improving engagement with these types of dogs. The first thing I'd say is, don't stand around waiting for offered focus as a first step. Now, I know there's going to be a few people out there going, what?

What do you mean? Isn't that what we do? We wait for our dogs, offer focus? I think it's important to note that that concept sometimes gets a little bit stretched away from reality. The reality is that in all situations, the dog has to have a reason to offer the focus in the first place. The difference is that often we have those sort of sport bred dogs just have an innate desire to focus on the human and so we have that buy in from the start.

But, you know, so offered focus is a fantastic. It's fantastic and it's absolutely our end goal. But these types of dogs don't necessarily have a reason to offer their focus to us. So first we have to work on that part. We have to ensure that they have a reason to want to check in. Like a reason to want to look to us, a reason to want to work with us. So that's where we have to start. We have to build that reason to want to do that.

Melissa Breau: So if we are going to look at maybe those baby steps of like, what do we do?

Sharon Carroll: We take our dog out to a space and our dog's not offering focus. We'll start with an adequate acclimation time and make sure that's in an appropriately sized environment, meaning fairly small, and an environment with an appropriate level of stimulation, meaning not much.

We want to give them the most chance that they're likely to check in with us and that they're likely to offer focus to us. And then we have to make sure that we reward all engagement with huge rewards. Don't expect a specific behaviour other than just noticing us. Like, don't sort of ask for another cue. So, oh, our dog checked in with us. Now I'm going to ask them to pivot to heel, then I'm going to reward.

No, no, not with these dogs. To start with, we just go, wow, you looked at me. That's the greatest thing you could ever have done. Food, food. Or play. Play, play, or whatever the dog would like. We need to go straight from that, that checking in to rewarding. And then once we have buy in and our dog is reliably looking to us for work and then starting to push us for work and wanting work, then we can think about, you know, that sort of more sort of traditional, like just offered focus, just waiting there and assuming our dog is going to want to push for work and we need to remember that that work comes after that buy in.

So more typical sport dogs don't need a lot of convincing that it'll be fun to work with us because they either innately are handler focused or they very quickly realize that they can access things that they really want through paying attention to us. But the things that they really want may be just the opportunity to run or chase or grab or bite, or just respond to cues. Like some working dogs.

Like they really, really just want to work. They just want to be given a cue and respond to it. So we've got to make sure that we're not doing that with our dogs that are less inclined naturally to engage. So instead of they look to us and we're straight away asking for work. No, they look to us and we're just rewarding that. And then once we've got that buy in, then we can maybe ask for very small pieces of work.

Melissa Breau: Excellent. All right, so you've got a couple new things on the calendar that kind of tie into what we're talking about. So first, you've got a webinar coming up on July 11 titled why is my dog ignoring my cue? So let's talk about that one first. Do you want to share a little bit more about kind of what you'll cover in that and maybe who should join us?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah. Yeah, sure. This comes back to that first part of our chat today about all those reasons why dogs might, you know, ignore, and I've got air quotes, ignore our queue. So in that webinar, we go through all the potential reasons why a dog may not respond to our first cue. And also we look at the strategies we can use to address each of those reasons. We also look specifically at one of the common trial related issues that we see, which is a situation where our dog, you know, performs the behaviour really well on the first cue in the warm up area.

We take them into the trial, we give the cue, our dog just looks at us like they've never seen that cue before in their life. They just stand there staring at us and we're asking for the distance down or something. And then we leave the ring, and immediately outside the ring, we ask for the cue and they just do it straight away. We ask for the behavior and we get it straight away.

And I think people often find that incredibly frustrating, and it is a very common thing and there is a whole range of reasons why that might occur. So also in that webinar, we talk about all the different reasons that can lead to that sort of set of responses. And again, we talk about strategies for resolving each of those, those reasons, looking at that particular issue.

Melissa Breau: And then you've also got a new class on the schedule for August, so Go Ahead, Motivate Me. Engagement for the differently motivated dog. So talk to me a little bit about kind of that piece. What will that cover? And maybe who should consider joining you?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah, so that one's going to cover, I'm still developing it. So I don't know exactly what's in there, but it's going to cover all of the different things that I work on with people that are working with these differently motivated dogs.

So all the way from just building that relationship, finding out what our dog really does enjoy, looking specifically at the reinforcement aspect. So we have to be really clever with that reinforcement. We have to be able to get to the stage where our dog can work for long periods in the ring without access to treats and toys. And we work, and in that class we talk about exactly how we do that.

How do we take advantage of a dog who is only doing it for the treats and still get to the stage where we can get really happy, enthusiastic, reliable behaviors in the ring for an extended period of time where we don't have access to those treats. So we're looking at all of those things and just all of the pieces that you need to build that cooperative relationship with these sort of differently motivated dogs, these dogs that are not necessarily work oriented.

And in terms of who are the people that should maybe consider joining this class, I would say if any of the following sort of describes your dog, then the class might interest you. So if you're working with a dog that's naturally quite independent, or not innately biddable, or not innately driven to work or train, or maybe they appear unenthusiastic about training, or they seem to lose interest in work very quickly, or they display limited ability to persist in training challenges, or they rarely work in a fast or intense way in training or when competing, or they get easily distracted by anything.

So other sights, smells, sounds, etcetera. So maybe they're just more innately environmentally focused rather than handler focused. And those dogs that display those poorer performances when the treats and toys are not available. And that's because those dogs are relying on that extrinsic motivation and reinforcement rather than finding aspects of the work itself intrinsically rewarding. So in those cases, we just have to be much more clever about our strategies for reducing reinforcement and also for increasing the duration of work before they require reinforcement for behaviors, which is slightly different thing.

And the class is really suited to anyone, anyone interested in building a stronger training relationship with their dog, regardless of whether the team's training for fun or they're aiming to compete in dog sports. I do expect that we're probably going to see some obedience, rally tricks, musical freestyle, agility, people in the class, because all of those sports sort of require them to work without access to treats and toys.

But I think we may also find some nose work people looking for increased motivation, increased enthusiasm in those slower working dogs. But yep, any team that's not competing or not even interested in competing in a sport is also very welcome. This is just about building that relationship and building that training or working relationship. It's not, you know, just about building competition skills.

Melissa Breau: Any, you know, kind of final thoughts on the topic, or maybe key points that you really want to leave listeners with?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah, I think, look, not every person who wants to train and compete is living with a high drive sport dog. But this doesn't mean that we need to accept that our dog will be disengaged or unenthusiastic about the work. There's nothing better than being in a training session or in a trial ring with a dog that's happy, enthusiastic, focused, and engaged. And this feeling is absolutely possible with the less drivey, less energetic, and all sorts of more independent dogs.

But it often requires a slightly different approach to the training process. The end result is so rewarding, though I personally have grown to love the process of working with these less work oriented dogs, and I hope to share that you know what I've learned about working with these types of dogs with other teams in my new class.

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

Sharon Carroll: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. And thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with a discussion on play from several of our presenters in the upcoming play one day conference. 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. 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! 

E365: Dr. Amy Cook, Crystal Wing, and Erin Lynes -...
E363: Hélène Lawler - Reliable Distance Downs

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