PODCAST E93: Julie Daniels - "Empowerment and Choosing Delayed Reinforcement"

Julie Daniels comes back on the podcast to talk about teaching the hard things to our dogs - things like choosing new things and learning to like waiting for a reward! 

Transcription 

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 we'll be talking to Julie Daniels.

Julie has worked with dogs her whole life. In fact, she learned to walk by holding on to a German Shepherd. Today she is one of the foremost names in the sport of dog agility in the United States. She was one of the early champions of the sport and helped many clubs throughout the country get up and running.

She owns and operates both Kool Kids Agility in Deerfield, New Hampshire, and White Mountain Agility in North Sandwich, New Hampshire.

Julie is well known as a premier teacher at all levels of play. She has competed, titled, and won with all sorts of dogs through the years, including two Rottweilers, a Springer Spaniel, a Cairn Terrier, two Corgis, and four Border Collies. She is the only person to make USDAA National Grand Prix finals with a Rottie or a Springer, and she did it two times each. She is also a two-time national champion and two-time international champion.

Hey Julie! Welcome back to the podcast.

Julie Daniels: Hi Melissa. So happy to be here.

Melissa Breau: I'm excited to have you. To start us out, can you remind listeners who the dogs are that you share your life with now and what you're working on with them?

Julie Daniels: I have four dogs in my life. Three of them are mine and one belongs to my best friend. He's a great mixed breed that we work with every single day, a lot of issues that are fun to work with. My friend's dog is actually one of the poster children most familiar in the classes that I teach.

The dogs of my own are three Border Collies, ages 13 and 10 and 3. My 3-year-old is Koolaid, and she's best known in my classes. She has gone through the classes we're going to talk about today. Koolaid has gone through from the very beginning. more than once pretty much now, in each class, and she's currently working with me and my students in Advanced Cookie Jar Games about the advanced advantages of choosing delayed gratification. So she's the one that most people know.

Sport is 10 years old. He's a pro. There's not much he hasn't accomplished, and there isn't much that he can't demonstrate. If I need a quick video of how to do it right in one take, that would be Sport, whereas Koolaid shows the ongoing process.

So that's what I work on with my dogs on a daily basis.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. When I think about the different things you teach at FDSA, I tend to think that a lot of them tackle problems that trainers tend to struggle with. Things like building confidence and helping dogs learn to wait for their reinforcers — those are hard things to teach and you do a great job of keeping things fun for everyone, for both the people and the dogs. What is it about those kinds of topics that draws you to them?

Julie Daniels: Yeah, I know. They're kind of the peripheral things that can make or break a training session in the moment and just make the difference between working between dog and handler being fun and being a chore. So I always go for turning things into fun, turning things around to be the dog's idea instead of the trainer's idea and that kind of thing.

I seem to do that naturally, and I bring out, I think, the best sense of humor and sense of confidence in dogs when I work like that in that casual way. I'm very specific in what I'm trying to accomplish and I do have a game plan always. Sometimes it doesn't look like I have been to the drawing board for long, but I have. I pound my head on the chalkboard just like everybody else and try to come up with a definitive step-by-step plan, but I'm very good at being open in the moment to what the dog is trying to tell me.

I'm always espousing to my students, "It's a two-way feedback system." All good training is a two-way feedback system. It's not just about the plan you have worked so hard on, as we all do, and then have to scrap because of what happens in the moment. But I'm pretty good about being willing to scrap my plan and go down the path that the dog needs me to go. So I try to share that ability with other people, and I try to share that openness to what the dog is trying to tell us and how useful that is. I take that as extremely important information.

As Bob Bailey always says, "Observe your learner." If we really are studying what's going on in the learner, we just learn so much about who that dog is, and therefore we learn how to reach him best, if we'll just pay attention and give it a shot.

Melissa Breau: I want to dive just a little bit more into each of those topics of the classes. First, I know the class is called "Empowerment," but it's basically about building confidence, right? Or do you see those as different things? Can you explain a little bit?

Julie Daniels: I would say, in a certain sense, empowerment is a subset of confidence. Confidence is a very, very big picture, and I think empowerment is a more perhaps specific picture of a dog taking initiative and feeling self-reliant as we're training, since we're talking about training situations. The dog who is empowered is the dog who expects to participate in an active way in his own learning.

Melissa Breau: What kind of dog can really benefit from that? Why is it important, especially for a sports dog?

Julie Daniels: Maybe all dogs, certainly, but I think it's especially important that a sports dog feel empowered towards working with his own handler, that he feel free to be part of the learning process. In other words, take a guess. I think that's what I'm trying to say. If a dog during the training process is reluctant to take a stab at it, then that's a problem that the dog is not feeling empowered toward the material, toward the lesson, toward the trainer. So I think it's very important to put the dog on the same page as the trainer.

Once the dog wants what we want, that's where I come in — how to put the trainer and the dog on the same page so that they both want the same thing. Then that openness to the two-way feedback system begins to snowball into "We're getting there, we're getting there." So the sports dog who feels empowered is an active participant in his training, and really trying to build teamwork with the handler in that compatible way. It's a powerful thing.

Melissa Breau: It's the difference between a kid who loves going to school and hates going to school, right? The love of learning.

Julie Daniels: Yeah, maybe. Yeah, maybe it's that simple, really. That complex plus that simple, yeah.

Melissa Breau: Can you share an example of some of the things you cover in the class, one of the games or one of the techniques you use to help dogs feel empowered or more confident?

Julie Daniels: Well, it's all fun and games with me, you know! I think some of the best games that we work with in Empowerment are that little first piece of the puzzle, where we're trying to encourage the tiniest bit of initiative from the … assuming that we're starting with an unempowered dog, although of course already confident dogs are welcome in this class and get a lot from it. They have a different start point, and they often have a different path to a different goal, but that's no problem.

But let's just talk about the dog who comes into class, who begins the class as a dog who feels reluctant about learning and feels insecure and unempowered toward daily life. I always think it's best to start with elements of daily life, and so the first thing that I want to do is introduce a little bit of novelty into every single day of the dog's life, and introduce that little bit of novelty in such a way that the dog becomes interested in it and can be reinforced for investigating it, see what I mean?

It almost doesn't matter what it is, so I tell people to start with a familiar object in an unfamiliar place around the house. It almost doesn't matter what the object is, but it's nothing that the dog would be afraid of. It's a familiar object. It's just that it's out of place, and that just sparks that little bit of curiosity, and that gets us started. That's the first little piece of the puzzle that gets us started toward reinforcement for the act of initiating. Without the initiation, we can't get to the self-reliance part, so that's where I begin.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned this in there, but it seems like a big part of building confidence is really helping dogs find that innate sense of curiosity and encouraging them to explore it. Is that right?

Julie Daniels: Yes, that's absolutely right, and you are also right to call it innate. It is innate. Every single puppy is born curious, and with some dogs we just want to keep it that way and strengthen that curiosity response. With other dogs we're trying to rekindle it, really. We don't have to build it from scratch. We have to find it in there and then start strengthening it. But it is there. It is in there.

So, for me, it doesn't matter where I start. I meet the dog where he is. I can find where that is, and I can find something, anything, in the daily environment that can cause that little flicker of curiosity and that's my toe in the door, and then I can start building on that and strengthening that response. But you're right — it's innate, all right. It's already there. We're just trying to rekindle it and then strengthen it.

Melissa Breau: I know another one of the things you talk about in the class is the difference between tolerance and empowerment. Can you explain how the two ARE different and share a little bit about why understanding that difference is really important?

Julie Daniels: They're very different, and I think it's very important to understand the difference. I also think that both are very useful. Some people think that I'm all about empowering and that I have no place for tolerance in training, and I will explain how that's not the case either.

The way I look at it, tolerance training, training for tolerance, is akin to enabling the dog to be calm and relaxed and self-confident, self-assured, amidst greater and greater distraction, you might say, or greater and greater imposition upon him. If we're training for tolerance, then we want the dog to remain unfazed by gradually more challenging events, whatever they be.

It can be animal husbandry. Incredible use of tolerance training there being done nowadays by the animal husbandry people. Just amazing work with animals remaining calm and relaxed while more and more work is being done for their general care. So very smart training going on nowadays in the world of tolerance training. So tolerance training is all well and good. I have nothing against it.

But empowerment training is a little bit different. Empowerment training invites the dog to become an active participant in the development of the game. So you can imagine if you turn that around to training tigers and training alligators to tolerate having their temperature taken, you don't really want an active participant there! I'm not making any case against training for tolerance by any means, but I'm trying to expand how we look upon training, so that when we're working with our dogs, our beloved pets and our sports companions, that we can actually develop an active sense of participation in the training from the dog, so that once we're on the same page and we both want the same thing, the dog now feels encouraged to try to offer to let us know how he feels and what he thinks.

That's a different product. That's a very different end product comes out of training that way. The dog has chosen the behavior himself, you might say. It takes shape as a three-way partnership between the trainer, the dog, and the desired behavior, so it's solidified between those two team members, and amongst those three elements the behavior takes shape in a stronger and more powerful and I would say more reliable way.

Melissa Breau: That plays into your approach when it comes to teaching dogs the concept of delayed reinforcement too, right? And for those who might not be familiar with the term, can you briefly explain what the term "delayed reinforcement" means?

Julie Daniels: Oh sure. That was a very clever segue, Melissa. Well done. The empowered dog — I'm going to expand upon your segue because I think it really works here — the empowered dog is self-assured enough to wait. The empowered dog has a measure of patience that the insecure dog does not have. For the dog to be able to maintain an optimism that reinforcement is coming, in other words, you could say he trusts the trainer is good for it, even though it's not there and he can't see it, that's delayed gratification.

We're not … nobody, not just dogs, but we are not hardwired to choose delayed gratification. This is not the innate measure that curiosity is. Delayed gratification doesn't really play that well in the wild, and it's not an attribute that our dogs are likely to take to naturally. There are dogs who stand back and watch. There are dogs who are more passive and not more active. But nobody chooses delayed gratification. It's learned.

The way I teach dogs to choose delayed gratification is to set up games, of course, because you're talking to me, but it's all fun and games, but I'm setting up situations that allow the dog to make choices that are going to show him via A-B comparison that the better deal for him is in delay. And it doesn't have anything to do with our telling him what to do. He chooses what to do.

It's very important to me that the dog himself say, "I'm just going to stand back and watch, and then I'm going to go on cue." That's very different from the handler saying, "Ah-ah, you can't go until I tell you." Do you see what I mean? Or "Yes, you can break your wait, but I'm going to cover the bowl full of cookies." I just don't do that. I think there's a better way, if I can just be that blunt. I don't play it that way, and I think, too, in a certain small way we're lying when we do that. "You want to go check out the cookies? Oh, can't have them yet!" I don't like that game.

I like the game where we start … for example, in my game Cookie Bowl, the dog is encouraged to investigate the bowl before we would cue the dog to wait and also even after I've cued the dog to wait. He's invited at any time to go and check the bowl. Nobody's going to mention it, nobody's going to say that he shouldn't do that, nobody's going to rush in and try to beat him to the bowl. There's just nothing like that going on. Well, why not? Because the bowl's empty. He can check it any time.

If he waits till I cue … I have such wonderful videos of this of my little baby Koolaid. I'm so glad that that dog was able to go through my Cookie Jar Games class as a very young dog, before she really was mature enough to learn all of the games. The games that she could play, which actually was most of them, taught her so much about the value of delayed gratification, and so she is pretty darn good. She's not a patient dog by any means naturally, but she knows the value of delay and she is apt to choose the more patient route simply because she has faith that it will pay better, and it does. That's how it is working with me. It's a good deal for the dog when it's a good deal for me. It's not a win-lose training situation. It's always a win-win.

I'm just going to expand a tiny bit on that game that I call Cookie Bowl that I love so much, and it's now going to take a big role in Advanced Cookie Jar Games as well, because I think it's that useful. When you use the dog's own food bowl as the cookie bowl, that's a powerful stimulus operating on the limbic system of the brain. You don't really need to fill that bowl with cookies in order to invite the dog to make a mistake, which is what I would say people are doing when they fill it up with cookies and then cover it if the dog moves. That's not necessary.

The very stimulus of using a stainless steel feeding bowl, if that's what you normally feed your dog in, or whatever bowl you would normally feed your dog in, or a dinner plate, if that has a very special meaning for your dog, whatever it be, the very stimulus of that bowl being placed on the floor is huge. It's challenge enough. It doesn't need cookies in it in order to strengthen the dog's resolve to wait.

So the way I do it, the dog is invited to check out the bowl at any time. However, if the dog chooses to hang back, then I'm going to give initially a short time, of course — obviously we start with short duration and then increase it; that goes without saying, and yet I should say it — if the dog chooses to hang back, I'm going to see that little flicker of self-control and I'm going to quickly, quickly give the cue that cookies will now be available in the bowl.

Keep in mind: the dog already knows there are no cookies in the bowl, the bowl is empty, and the bowl is empty when I cue the dog that cookies are in the bowl. Therefore the onus is on me, the trainer: that cookie had better hit that bowl before the dog gets there, or I'm lying again. So I really try hard to develop the order of events just so, and develop the timing and set up the situation so that everybody is successful, nobody is lying, everybody wins, and the dog gets trained to hold back in an empowered way as opposed to a coerced way.

Melissa Breau: I think for most people this next one may be an obvious question, but I wanted to ask it anyway because I think it's important to connect the dots. Why is having a dog who understands the concept of delayed gratification so critical if you want to do a competition sport?

Julie Daniels: I think all the competition sports that I know about require an element of hurry up and wait. I call it "hurry up and wait" because speed is usually a good thing while we're executing our drills and exercises in competition. Snappy responses are valued more than lethargic responses. Everything should look like a happy game and not look like a chore.

So we want that eagerness, and yet there's always an element of "not yet." That element of delay is critical to competition, and it, by itself, is not what the dog would choose to do. Again, not one of those innately easy things if you want the eagerness and yet you also want the patience part, the waiting part.

That dichotomy, I think, just develops beautifully in classes like Cookie Jar and Empowerment because the waiting is self-imposed. The way I train it, it's embraced by the dog as a good deal, and yet the eagerness pervades every single game that we play. So you get the whole picture, you get it all — the dog who just is so happy to have his turn and so eager that he's right there playing that game in the moment, and yet he's solid as a rock on his waiting.

I'd love to give you an example from my own life, a dog whom I adopted as an adult, and his name was Colt. I had him for about four years and then lost him to epileptic cluster seizures, so just a heartbreaking story I won't go into. But his training then began as a dog who was over a year old, and he was lovely and loved in his previous home but just not trained to do anything. He had no sport. Of course my favorite sport is agility, and he took to training. It wouldn't have mattered what I wanted to do with him, I think he could have excelled.

Within the first week or two that I had him, I was doing a seminar a few states away and I took him with me, particularly as a demo dog for the foundation group because I wanted to show them something, and that was especially that here was my brand-new, wonderful dog Colt just embarking as an adult on his agility training. He had no stay, and no concept of stay, and he really couldn't stay, but he had an unbelievable start line. He just had a fabulous concept of when to go — when to hold back and when to go. He was a big boy, so it was just so easy to see in him the eager self-restraint coupled with the shining bright confidence in his eyes.

If you can picture it, leaning forward, solid as a rock, trembling with anticipation, and going on cue, but couldn't hold a stay for anything. I hadn't had him long enough for him to have developed up to step four of mat work, so I had no stay on the mat. Yes, he loved his mat. He was just where anybody else might be after a couple of weeks of training on his mat work, so it was going to be fine, but already he had that concept of the advantages of holding back and the fun of exploding forward on cue. So there's my beginner sports dog story of the value of teaching the way I teach.

Melissa Breau: I know we got into this a fair amount already, but is there anything else you want to add about how you approach the topic, or maybe even another game you want to share with us?

Julie Daniels: Well, the classes blend so well together. Would you like an Empowerment game or a Cookie Jar game?

Melissa Breau: I will leave that one up to you, what comes to mind.

Julie Daniels: OK. Since Empowerment … when am I teaching Empowerment? Isn't that my February course?

Melissa Breau: It is.

Julie Daniels: OK, well, then let's talk about Empowerment and some of the other games that come into play. I like to introduce games that particularly develop the feel of odd things underfoot. I call it substrates, games for substrates, because neurologically the funny feeling underfoot of things like the nubbies in fitness equipment and weird plastic that crinkles and feels strange under foot, all kinds of various surfaces, is just so helpful to expand the minds of dogs who feel insecure.

So substrate work very early in Week 1. And we look at inclines, how to go up and how to come down. Sounds so obvious to us, but really not so much, so how to go up and how to come down. A little bit about surprises and a little bit about the novelty I was talking about earlier, so I won't go too much into that. Causing noise, causing pausing, and introducing the concept of being patient without losing confidence or without losing the trust that all will be well, I'm good for it, you're going to get paid, all that good stuff. Those are very important concepts for empowerment too.

Games where we go between, and we go over and under, and we learn to balance, and then we start combining things like noise with substrates. I have so many noise games. I could do a whole class on just games, how to have fun with noise and novelty.

A little bit on counter-conditioning and desensitization, but really not much about that. I don't need to. We have a whole class on that. We have people who know a whole lot more about it than I do and can systematically take people through their serious noise sensitivity issues and such as that.

Melissa Breau: So a little more preventative in your case.

Julie Daniels: Yeah, I would say completely so. It's not meant to solve those problems, but it certainly can help prevent them. Yeah, thanks, that's just right.

Games about space, so we learn to be crowded and we learn to have pressure from above and sideways too. We learn to go toward the thing that is novel. I don't know how to explain that too well, except I just call it the Find It Principal. We play location games, from, "Where did that sound come from? Let's go see," and then the treats start raining down.

Anyway, combining stimuli is different, finding and nurturing the dog's competitive spirit sort of pervades the later weeks of the class. So that's where I go with Empowerment and how I go through the steps. But I start with simple novelty, trying to pique the curiosity, like you said to me first thing, and then putting familiar things out of place, putting novel elements together a little bit with substrates and noises and things like that is how I start.

Melissa Breau: What the dog is really learning is this idea that new things or different things are good things, right? You're trying to get them to connect those two concepts.

Julie Daniels: Exactly, yeah, yeah! I want the dog, instead of saying, "Oh no, what is that?" I want the dog, in spite of himself at first, to start saying, "Oh boy, what is that?" So that there's an attraction where there used to be a feeling of dread there, now there's a feeling of optimism, "This will be good."

Melissa Breau: Kind of an optimistic view of the world.

Julie Daniels: Yes, exactly, an optimistic view of the world. Exactly.

Melissa Breau: Well, I've seen a number of cute videos now, so I couldn't let you go without asking you about this one last concept. I'm pretty sure you cover this in Empowerment, and I think you call it the Broccoli Principle. Can you share what that is and what kind of power it can have?

Julie Daniels: Yes, and you like broccoli? We love our broccoli. That's one of the most fun things in Empowerment class, and I do call it the Broccoli Principle, because when I start playing that game, which is around sometime in Week 2, hopefully — sometimes we don't get to it quite that early, but I start off as early as I can — with this tiny, tiny, tiny bit of broccoli, and it's basically a pushback game.

Usually we start Broccoli by dealing with a game that the dog already loves, so the dog has already developed confidence. Let's just say it's a substrate game, it often is a substrate game that we begin with. For example, let's say we filled a dog bed with plastic grocery bags, and our dog is rooting around in there for cookies and is stepping into the bed and coming forward. Let's say I get on the other side of that bed and I drop some cookies in, so the dog can see that there's a whole lot more to snuffle around inside the bed for. While he's doing that, as the dog comes forward, let's say I take two fingers and I just push against his chest, or I start laughing and I maybe push the dog's face just a little bit with a couple of fingers. Just a little bit. In other words, I'm not trying to push the dog away or out of the game. I want the dog to push me out of the way. That's what I want.

So I'm trying to set up a little bit opposition reflex, and it's a little bit just fun and games, because I've just shown him that there's really good stuff in there, and the dog is in the process of eating already, so he's already in a good place and in a strong place, he's playing a game he feels very confident about. So as I push the dog, so to speak, away from what he wants, the likelihood that the dog is going to push back, lean into my fingers, and actually try to push forward against the tiny pressure of my fingers, that likelihood is very, very, very high, and that's what I'm looking for. So that's pushback.

When the dog starts pushing into me more and more as I begin to play this game, and it's kind of played as you might say a joke, if that makes sense, I want the dog to get the sense of humor in it. I never want the dog to feel, "Oh, she wants me to back off the cookies." I want the opposite. The dog says, "Hey, I'm eating here," so the dog pushes me back. I call it "broccoli" because I tell people to say, "You don't like broccoli, you don't want any broccoli, don't worry, I'll eat your broccoli, you don't have to have the broccoli," and the dog goes, "Yes, I do like broccoli," so the dog starts pushing forward, "I'll have the broccoli." So we talk about "All broccoli, all the time" in Empowerment class.

Melissa Breau: Sort of metaphorical for the kid who doesn't want to eat their broccoli, right?

Julie Daniels: It absolutely is, and remember how good for you, broccoli is good for you. So yeah, it's all about the fun and games of learning to love what's good for you. I will say it's almost satirical because we take it pretty far. We end up with dogs that will just power right ahead, like, "Don't you be pushing me back. I'll push you back." So we create and we brag about the dogs that become pushy in Empowerment class. We're trying to create a monster. That's why they came to class! So we have a very, very high success rate with broccoli. Lots of our dogs love broccoli.

Melissa Breau: I think you've taken it so far as to use it to teach nails, right?

Julie Daniels: Oh yes, that's true! Not everybody would want their dog pummeling them with their paws to get their nails cut, but I do. That's how I do it.

Melissa Breau: For those listening who haven't studied the schedule quite as much as I have, you have Advanced Cookie Jar Games on the calendar for this session and Empowerment for February. Can you just share a little bit about who each class is for?

Julie Daniels: We're playing Advanced Cookie Jar Games in this December term, and it does require the prerequisite of the foundation class, Cookie Jar Games, which is available for purchase through December 15. I think if you're going to put Advanced Cookie Jar Games in your library, then you will also want to have the foundation class in your library, no doubt about that. We are picking up those concepts and running with them in the advanced version of the class.

We're having a lot of fun with this already. It's the first time I've offered this class, and what we're finding is that we are encouraging the dogs to take the principals and run with them, in that they're qualified now, shall we say, to make choices that they would not have been able to make before they took the foundation class. By that I mean all of my games of delay. It's all about the delay of reinforcement and by dog's choice, all of my games play by the rules of dog's choice. So all the cookie jar games are built, actually all my games, but let's just say cookie jar philosophy is all win-win strategy. That approach is necessary. It's central to the whole concept of delayed gratification by dog's choice as a good deal.

Cookie Jar Games, the foundation class, already helped so many dogs choose to work instead of choosing to go for the apparently available cookies on the sidelines. The Cookie Jar Games trained dog wants to work first, wants to earn it. Why? Because it's a better deal. The payoff is better if he chooses to work first. So by the time we finish Cookie Jar Games, the dogs don't even look at the jar anymore. They take note of it, no question. They help you load the jar, they know all about it, they're very excited about what's in the jar, it's always very high value stuff, but once you put that jar down and you start walking toward the training ring, guess what. The trained cookie jar dog who has freedom to choose whether to go to the training room or to stay with the cookie jar always wants to train. It's just such a better deal to train first and then come running back and be paid jackpot material from the cookie jar. That's just such a better deal for the dog that the work has become associated with the pleasure of enjoying the cookie jar. In Advanced Cookie Jar Games we help the dog develop even more patience and even stronger desire to work. For example, we're playing with things like, "Now you get to choose your treats. Do you want to put salmon in the cookie jar or do you want to put this in the cookie jar?" The dog will be able to choose.

For example, here's one advanced game. We'll have an ordinary, let's say, a biscuit treat, and that is available to the dog. This is a dog who's already been trained to choose his treats, so there's a biscuit option and there's, let's just say, a salmon treat option. There's the obvious choice — most dogs will choose the salmon. So therefore the biscuit treat, the dog has already chosen salmon, that's in one hand.

The other hand puts the biscuit open on — I call it a pedestal, but it could be any available surface, but it is available to the dog. I don't put it right under his nose, just because I'm not stupid! I put it off to the side, but it's readily available, any dog could go get it. But my other hand has the good stuff that the dog has already chosen, so he can make a choice. At any time the dog can go and get that cookie from the pedestal. Anytime.

If the dog says, "Mmm, no, I'll have what's behind Door Number 2. The salmon treat's in your hand, I'll have that instead," the dog already knows that that's going to require some work, so what the dog is doing is reporting for work, in spite of the cookies that are available at any time. This is why it's an advanced version. Nothing is hidden, the dog can have that cookie at any time, and the dog chooses to work. Whatever pieces of work are done which are going to earn the better reward, the handler announces when the salmon cookies are earned.

The way I like to do it is actually walk to the pedestal that's in effect the cookie jar now and feed those better treats — in our example it's the salmon treats — feed them sequentially right there beside the pedestal. I never feed the last treat in my hand. That's a subject for another day, so let's say all but one or two of those salmon treats are given to the dog. Then I pick up the biscuit from the pedestal and I feed him that too. That ends the session.

In this particular single game from Advanced Cookie Jar Games, that biscuit treat, the eating of the biscuit treat, signals the end of the session. And that can happen at any time, dog's choice. If the dog never goes for the biscuit treat, never takes it, then he's just going to get rich on the other stuff that he likes better. And then he's going to get that biscuit anyway and then all done and the session is over. Does that make sense? That's a very advanced concept, and that's a very advanced choice for a dog to make on his own. The handler never says, "Leave it." The cookie jar is no longer closed. The cookie jar is wide open. The dog can have that cookie at any time.

So if that sounds like a fun game, you better do Cookie Jar first and then come into Advanced Cookie Jar, and I think you'll enjoy games like that a lot. They're loads of fun to play, and yes, it does happen to me even with my best-trained dogs that every once in a while the dog will just say, "You know what, I'll just have a biscuit," and the session is over. He can have that biscuit and then I don't get to do what I wanted to do, but sometimes I don't get what I want.

Melissa Breau: Right, right.

Julie Daniels: So it can happen.

Melissa Breau: That's funny. What about Empowerment in February? Who should really look at that class or consider taking that class?

Julie Daniels: Even little puppies can take that class. I can't think of a game that we'll play in Empowerment that a young dog could not benefit from, and I think the people … so many young dogs have taken that class already and come back to say it just was such a great foundation for anything else they wanted to do after that. This sounds funny to say, "Everybody should take Empowerment," but I can't imagine a dog who wouldn't benefit.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough.

Julie Daniels: Certainly dogs who feel insecure and who are a little bit pessimistic about the world around them, Empowerment is a wonderful class for helping them decide that maybe the world is a fun place, and you can just see your dog's pessimism be overwritten with optimism as the class goes on. So I think certainly any dog who's a little bit insecure would benefit from Empowerment. But even the dogs who are just fine, we all seem to neglect one little tiny area, and this class is pretty much designed to expose any potential weak area your dog might have and get it taken care of before it even becomes a problem. So yes, preventative, as you said earlier. It's a wonderful preventative for dogs who are already optimistic in life, but it sure is a fabulous game-changer for dogs who maybe need just a little bit more confidence.

Melissa Breau: Alright Julie, my last question that I'm asking everyone when they come on now: What's a lesson you've learned or been reminded of recently when it comes to dog training?

Julie Daniels: Well, let's see. The current lesson for me, I think, has been in my 10-year-old dog, who has been deciding lately that impulse control is a waste of time. Some of the behaviors that were just so beautifully conditioned in him in the earlier years are kind of falling apart, and I think it's largely because I'm doing so much training with his younger sister, and his older sister is needing a lot special care these days. We also have a cat who has a lot of special care these days. So I think Sport is just feeling that little bit about he actually needs a maintenance dose of training, too, as we all do.

Behavior doesn't stay the same. Just when you choose to leave it alone, it tends to deteriorate and go in directions you didn't want it to go in. So I'm practicing what I preach, and I have just started, the other night, a canine fitness class with my 10-year-old, Sport, who's never had a fitness class in his life. He's always been incredibly active and fit, but he's learning a new skill.

So I think taking an older dog, or a well-established dog in his prime of life, and doing something different with him that you haven't done with that particular dog in the past is very, very, very good for you, and that's the lesson for me these days.

Melissa Breau: That's awesome. Thank you so much for coming back on the podcast Julie! This was great.

Julie Daniels: It was so my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

Melissa Breau: And thanks to our listeners for tuning in! We'll be back next week, this time with a slightly different format than usual. Hope you guys like it.

If you haven't already, I hope you 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.

Credits 

​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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