Dog sports are team sports (and why that matters to train and compete in dog sports successfully)

It's easy to forget that dog sports really are team sports. Not a lot different to competing in the doubles kayak or pairs figure skating. It involves two individuals working towards a common sporting goal. Sometimes in dog sports we erroneously put too much emphasis on one member of the team—either we think the whole competition is about our dog's performance, or we put too much pressure on ourselves.

As the human in this partnership, it is often useful to divide our job into two distinct roles: one as team-mate and one as coach. Progress in training, and success in competition, can often be greatly improved if we look closely at specifically fulfilling the responsibilities of each of these roles.

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3825 Hits

E210: Heather, Nicole, and Chrissi - "Living With a Dog Athlete"

Life skills are easy to overlook with a potential competition dog — but investing the time and energy to get those things right can benefit your sports training, and the rest of your life with your dog.

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1935 Hits

How to Be Successful with Your Sporting Dog

The sporting dog group encompasses many beloved breeds, including some of the most popular. Whether you already own one of these wonderful dogs, or are considering a breed from this group, it's important to understand what these dogs were bred for so you know what to expect.

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2863 Hits

E209: Erin Lynes - "Pulling and Diving Dogs"

Today I talked with breeder and trainer Erin Lynes about dog sledding and dock diving, and what it's like to train and compete in them as sports!

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1868 Hits

3 Frequently Asked Questions About Intact Dogs — and the Answers

The first time I kept a dog intact it was for medical reasons. She had a health condition that made elective surgery of any type inadvisable until it was resolved.

At the time, the idea of living with an intact dog was both daunting and a bit scary. I mean, how was I going to keep her safe? Avoid unwanted puppies? Prevent health problems?

Fortunately, what seemed like a curse at the time ended up being a blessing in a Malinois disguise.

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  5689 Hits
5689 Hits

E208: Denise Fenzi - "The High Drive Dog"

Denise has a new project... and that means some changes for FDSA and some exciting plans for the future. We got on a call to talk about it.

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4395 Hits

The Real Reason Your Website Doesn’t Get You Clients

​This post originally appeared on The Dog Trainer's Umbrella.

Your website can be a highly effective and engaging tool in your sales process.

But all too often, it's… well, not.

When a website fails to lead to clients, many business owners decide it's the website's fault — they need a new one. The design is too busy; the content is too riddled with mistakes; they need better pictures; they need to give potential clients more information; they need to quit overwhelming clients with too much information… the list goes on (and on).

However, I'm here to let you in on a secret — for many of those businesses, it's not the website that's the problem.

It's a lack of traffic.

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1634 Hits

E207: Amy, Nancy, and Megan - "Does Size Matter (in a sports dog)?"

Today we chat about the little vs big debate when it comes to sports dogs with 3 trainers who have trained and worked with both and who offer their insights into the differences, pros and cons.

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2987 Hits

The Many Faces of Focus

A past discussion with my fellow FDSA instructors led me to explore the topic of focus for this week's blog post (thanks Shade for bringing up this topic). And thanks to all the instructors who joined the discussion. I've written about focus quite a bit, but somehow I always find more to say. Focus is a multi-faceted concept and the more I explore it the more I find to explore even further. This particular discussion had to do with defining focus and distinguishing focus from engagement. Denise Fenzi and I wrote about this in our last book "Dog Sport Skills: Focus & Engage!" It's a common question and I have some thoughts on all of this. Of course I do!

To start, let me provide a working definition of focus. Merriam Webster's definition, which I really like, defines focus as "a point of concentration". When we think about a dog's focus the question should be "focus on what?" I have identified four major subtypes of focus and will briefly expand on each.

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2955 Hits

E206: Sharon Carroll - "Talking About B-Mod"

Dealing with a behavior you'd really like to change? From leash reactivity to noise sensitivity, Sharon and I talk about it in this week's episode of the podcast.

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  4540 Hits
4540 Hits

E205: Loretta Mohler - "Agility in Small Spaces"

Struggling to train agility because of a lack of space or equipment? Loretta and I talk about options for training agility when your access to space or equipment is limited.

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2025 Hits

From TEAM to … Rally!! How Both Sports Complement Each Other

The TEAM titling program through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is a way to encourage good detail-oriented training to prepare you and your dog for obedience exercises. What I love about TEAM is that it breaks down every behavior, and because there are different levels that you have to progress through, you have to go through all the steps.

The problem I see most often with my students is a lack of foundation. I get students in my rally courses class who are heeling and doing all the signs, but never really broke down the skills. When those students run into problems, I can't help them without going back to some foundation behaviors. Few people who have earned advanced rally titles want to go back and teach the dog the pivot bowl, for examples, but that is often the answer if they would like to truly improve the dog's skills.

Foundations are important, and TEAM encourages foundations! And you even get rewarded at each step through the different level titles!

I get lots of people in my Rally Foundation class that have started TEAM, and even those that have just passed the first level are really successful in rally. There are a couple reasons for this. First, dogs that go through TEAM are familiar with props, which can be very helpful in teaching certain behaviors. Second, these dogs understand the pivot bowl and rear end movement, fronts, stays, and many more skills that are helpful for rally.

Let's look a bit more closely at the TEAM skills from Level One that set your dog up for a very successful rally career.

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2499 Hits

E204: Julie Daniels - Starting Puppies Out Right

Pandemic puppies abound! Join Julie and I for a conversation about creating optimistic puppies, ready for anything the world is gonna bring.

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2660 Hits

One Trainer's Journey: From "Building Drive" to Understanding Optimal Arousal Levels

When I first learned to train for competition obedience, all problems were solved with more "drive."

Drive was loosely defined as getting the dog as "high" (aroused) as possible. I.e. tugging, playing, chasing food, games..anything that increased a dog's arousal level.

...Which is pretty dangerous when you pair a dog with a genetic predisposition to becoming over adrenalized with a trainer that has no concept of what the words "drive" or "arousal" really mean, and what they do to a dog chemically and emotionally!

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3405 Hits

E203: Shade Whitesel - "Strike a Pose: Teaching Positions"

Clean, confident positions look deceptively simple — but a lot goes into teaching them in a way that will hold up in the ring! Shade and I chat about that and more in today's podcast episode.

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2037 Hits

Choice in Dog Training Part 2: Increasing choice to prevent and address behavioral issues

So, last week in Part 1, we discussed all the situations where we may consider limiting our dog's choices. Now let us look at some situations where increasing choice (or even offering unlimited choice) may be useful.

Offering choice and control remains a cornerstone of animal welfare. However, it is a harsh reality that many of our dogs have little control over their own lives. 

Like all captive animals, we mostly control what they eat, when they eat and how much they eat; they are mostly confined to a space that we dictate (our home, fenced yard, etc.); we control when they get to leave our property and for how long; and we mostly control where they go and what they do. In many homes they also have limited choice as to whether they are inside or outside; where they rest / sleep; and many even have no independent choice of when they toilet. These are adult creatures, independently capable of many tasks, with amazing cognitive skills, and we control their lives far more than even a captive zoo animal (who at least can toilet at any time and is only very rarely confined to a crate).

Much of this control is necessary for dogs to be safe and healthy, and for them to exist successfully within our society and especially within our homes. Fortunately for the most part dogs are amazingly adaptive and enjoy the life they are given. However sometimes it is worth objectively considering just how "unnatural" their lives are, and how little true control they really have. 

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2961 Hits

E202: Petra Ford -"Optimal States of Arousal for Training and Competition"

Arousal matters... in today's episode I talk to Petra Ford about how to find that perfect balance, where your dog is in the right state to train or compete at their best.

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4804 Hits

Choice in Dog Training Part 1: Reducing choice can be a good thing!

For many years we have understood that choice and control are imperative to the welfare of all living organisms. However, once this phenomenon was discovered, it was assumed that if choice is good, then more choice would be even better!

Many human studies have proven this to be incorrect. Indeed, too much choice may lead to ambivalence, frustration, confusion, anxiety, stress, drained psychological energy and reduction in self-regulation. Although this seems counter-intuitive, the phenomenon can be observed in even the most basic of marketing experiments.

When researchers open a mini-shop offering over 20 flavors of a particular product, and then close and re-open offering less than 10 flavors, the shop with less choice will sell far more product overall. Having greater choice, does not result in improved decision making; rather, reducing choice can be seen to facilitate the process of decision making and, in many studies, has been linked to a reduction in associated stress.

Some of the reasons for this are quite specific to humans, as we are able to feel ongoing regret for a perceived poor choice, and we have the capacity to continue to compare our selection to all of the choices we didn't select.

However, there are also some underlying principles that can easily be applied to our dogs. If we offer only a very limited number of choices in a given circumstance, then the decision process is less difficult, is likely to be made more quickly, with less frustration and/or ambivalence, and the "right" outcome is far more likely to be selected. We know this. We implement this in many of our training strategies. We set the dogs up for success. We limit the other options available (e.g., the item we want the dog to interact with is the only item in the training environment initially). Then of course in conjunction with this strategy we heavily reinforce the behavior we desire.

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4448 Hits

E201: Nicole Wiebusch - "Beyond the Backyard"

It can be frustrating when we've worked hard on a behavior, just to have it fall apart in a new location or in the face of distractions — so this week Nicole and I talk about what it takes to teach those skills too!

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  4406 Hits
4406 Hits

Small Dogs and Agility: Why It’s a Better Fit Than Many Realize!

When people think of agility, they often picture Border Collies or Australian Shepherds; not Chihuahuas or Havanese. Even when I was trialing with my Shepherd mix, Stark, I would always see the vast majority of dogs at trials jumping in the top jump height category and only one or two brave little dogs in the 4" group.

Small dogs can be just as speedy, smart, and eager to learn as bigger dogs! 

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5916 Hits

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