Denise Fenzi Seminar!

I respect anyone who can make obedience fun for their dogs.  And doing so while avoiding force guarantees that I love you!  I had the opportunity to go to a Denise Fenzi seminar this last weekend and even snagged a working spot.  I had been to her seminar here a year and half ago and was super excited to hear her stories again.

What was really pounded into my head is something I've been thinking continuously about since the last time I saw her; the dog needs to work for the love of interaction with you versus food/toys.  Denise never forces dogs to work for her but the goal is to make your training so much like Disneyland that the dog would be crazy to choose not to.  I've gotten a ton better in my training.  I'm a lot more thoughtful about what I choose to reward with food with Lance, I've worked on making the dumbbell, articles, and gloves little toys, and I've used a ton more personal play.  But I haven't yet made that leap into asking Lance if he will work for just ME- no extra toys, no food, and of course no physical corrections forcing him to participate.  I think part of the reason I haven't done is because I get stuck in sciency trainer mode and really want to reward the best responses.  Lance isn't perfect yet on behaviors and I feel like I have to reward those great ones and that morphs into reward every mostly correct response.  The problem is that Lance is never going to be perfect on everything :) but why can't that reward for those perfect responses be acknowledged through the reward of me?!

I admit I'm also a chicken about diving into that.  I will not be forcing Lance to come into Disneyland with me, so I'm going to have to work hard to keep the rides open and get used to rejection.  Denise brought up the fabulous observation that for many dogs, getting rid of the toys/treats is not just a neutral experience for the dog but is actually seen as a punisher.  It's not just the absence of the food but the LOSS of it and until the dog stops comparing the experience to his expectation of eating, it's going to be rough.

Since January is when Lance's obedience trials start up again and I know I can't go through this process in a month, I will be delaying the start of this big change.  In the meantime I'm going to vow to be even more thoughtful on what I reward with food and will at least commit myself to not having the food on my body anymore when in a ring environment.  Of course, Denise doesn't advocate using no food or toys in the learning phase, although the handler should always be a part of that package, so I will continue to use food for some things!

Lance did have a working spot in the seminar so I will continue my seminar thoughts in a few days!

Catalina  – ( December 7, 2012 at 1:46 PM )  

Yay! I was so excited when I saw you had written about the seminar! Can't wait to read your next post about it! The picture of you two playing is so cute!

Ximena  – ( December 7, 2012 at 5:14 PM )  

The paragraph on rejection is so powerful... I have so much trouble not taking rejection (from Elli) personally. She's also become increasingly over-sensitive to my over-excitement (she acts suspicious and overcompensates - it's clearly no fun for her), so I've since been trying to find more ways to interact with her than the ones Fenzi often recommends - the pushing (opp. reflex) and running away, etc. Looking forward to your post about the seminar! Lucky you to get a working spot!

I'll be auditing her seminar for the second time in the new year. :)

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( December 7, 2012 at 5:46 PM )  

Ximena- My toller used to love those pushing games but as his anxieties increased he also started responding dramatically different to them, more like your Elli. Games I now do with him are:
- jump up to touch my hand
- backing up quickly (versus running forwards away), and then either crouching down to him OR letting him jump on me
- butt scratches

I'm sure you'll find ways to play with her that actually works for her!

My corgi is a normal dog, so oppositional reflex games and chasing my hand games work well for him :)

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( December 7, 2012 at 5:48 PM )  

Catalina- that picture wasn't from the seminar but from an actual trial :) Not many people do it, but it is possible to be in a trial and do very quick 2 second play sessions in between exercises :)

Cynthia  – ( January 2, 2013 at 4:38 PM )  

I love Denise!!! I'm going to another of her seminars this March. Can't wait. :)

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