Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Moving Towards Mastery: Seek Many Paths

In sports, in particular agility, it's common to work at problem solving from the viewpoint of efficiency and progress. Working through a series of obstacles should be practiced from all angles and all paths, easy to hard and back and forth. Doing this pushes you and your dog out of your comfort zone and ensures that if things go wrong in the ring, you have alternatives that have already been practiced. Sometimes, taking another path ends up being the better, faster path then normal handling would anticipate.

Moving through environments and moving through life are not dissimilar. Taking the known path, the path that looks the easiest, or the path that others seem to have taken, is not and never will be the best path. If you work through all the paths, finding the most profitable and most efficient over the long term, all paths become easier and your experience in practicing all possible path opens up additional possibilities.

Mastery is built on the greatest knowledge and skill possible. If all you do is follow the known path, the path laid out by others or the path you planned based on minimal experience, mastery of the skills needed will never happen. Mastery means thinking outside the box, having courage to question and learn new things about your chosen skills and not hesitating because you've worked on all possible scenarios. Mastery means you can think with your subject and change in a split second based on the developing conditions that occur because you are moving forward.

Handling mastery is earned with this kind of knowledge and practice.

There are six keys to acheiving success in most endeavors:
  • Passion
  • Education
  • Practice
  • Understanding Reality
  • Intent
  • Pushing the envelop
Mastery is:
  • A process of creating the ability to think with and manipulate the subject in new ways
  • Long-term dedication to the journey - not the bottom line
  • Gaining mental discipline to travel further on your journey
  • Having a plan and simple goals
  • Becoming the process and realizing the self reinforcing nature of it
  • Creating deep roots in knowledge and skill
  • Your commitment to hone your skills
  • Being willing to move from peak to peak and not getting bogged down in the vallys
  • Being willing to practice, even when you seem to be getting nowhere
  • Appreciating and even enjoying the plateau, as much as you do the progress
  • Practicing for the sake of practice
  • Winning graciously, and losing with equal grace
  • Placing practice, discipline, conditioning and character development before winning
  • Being courageous
  • Being fully in the present moment
  • Realizing that the ultimate goal is not the medal, or the ribbon, but the journey itself
  • Maintaining flexibility in your strategy, and in your actions
  • Determination

Become a master in every part of your life remembering always that moving to a prize is momentary and fleeting and that the true rewards are the journey and the doing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Making Choices, Managing Prey Drive

Today is the last day of Part II of Making Choices, Managing Prey Drive at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.  Everyone is filling out their exit surveys, sending me their final videos and getting ready for two weeks off before the next semester of classes.

The meat world class here in Clearwater, Florida starts this coming Saturday at 6 pm and I can't wait to see a whole new group of dogs learn that their humans are more exciting then the squirrel in the tree.  If you wish to join us in this class, call me at 727-686-4246.

Here are some of the success stories from this class:

Just wanted to say thank you for everything! You have made a huge difference in my little dog. We will continue to work hard and start taking our games on the road. Hopefully we will take the distractions class at bronze in June. I will miss your feedback but we are excited for the new games! 

Thanks for a great class - got a lot out of it.. I will be taking the distractions class in June, not sure at what level yet. We still have work to do, but before these classes, we would not have stood a chance of being able to work in this situation 

Now it is a good thing the fence was there as she charged it , I called out Lexi!!!!! She whipped around and came back ...I nearly died. She came in and ate and turned away I said her name again and tossed a handful of treats in the air ...she stopped and proceeded to eat. Overall I am pleased -still a ways to go but very pleased. What I liked was she was relaxed and not on edge. I am looking at the distraction class ....thinking :)  Jamie thanks ever so much for the great class.

I just completed your managing prey drive 2 class with my youngster Gus. He is a squirrel, bunny and deer happy boy. I participated in the bronze level and still got so so so much out your class. Thank you! I've only had this pup for 11 months. He's a shelter rescue but he is pure joy and I'm loving where this class is taking us. Looking forward to more of your fenzi classes in the future. Thank you again. 

If you struggle with a dog who loses focus quickly, takes off with zoomies around the ring, distracted by smells and sounds, doesn’t listen, bolts out the door; Prey Drive class is for you! And besides building our relationship so those distractions aren't important we also got an awesome recall! 

I liked this course , its format is out of the box thinking . For those of us who applied ourselves and tried the games we saw changes in our dogs. 

My dog couldn't relax outside and was always obsessively searching for birds and squirrels. He was much more than a casual squirrel chaser, hunting prey was the only thing he could think about. He remained on a long line in his own back yard for several months because I was worried that he would jump the low part of our fence in pursuit of prey. We couldn't train off leash without him bolting into the bushes or charging the fence in hopes of finding prey. Prey did not even have to be visible for him to get over aroused, just their scent could send him over the top. In the past couple of weeks, he has ditched the long line. He thinks his mom is pretty cool now and he is so much more relaxed. His personal play and recalls have improved and we worked through so many fun games to improve his willingness to be with me. I also loved that Jamie provided us with ways to satisfy their prey drive, like games for scenting, shredding, etc. If you are committed to the training, it will be well worth your time. 

Thanks again for such an amazing class. We fell behind here and there but we will continue thru the break and hopefully snag a gold spot for the distractions class 

This was an amazing class. I thought I knew what Prey Drive was...not even close! Thank you to the Gold and Silver students for asking the questions and putting yourselves out there. Looking forward to Distractions! 

Donna Hill Jamie I love your classes! I've been spreading the work both locally and online. I think your class is hugely needed by many people! 

Loose dogs approaching us today.  Guess which game we played? GO (on cue)!!! Bodhi had a blast, didn’t care about those other dogs J

At the beginning of this course I had an unruly 21 month old whippet, Layla. Any time she would see a dog she was off over to it with not a glance back and turning deaf to my attempts to recall her. After completing the 2 part course I find myself on holiday with a 3 mile long beach and 1 mile wide with the tide out. Needless to say it's heaven for most dogs. I let Layla off the lead and there were a group of dogs 30 yards away she trotted 5 yards from me and then stopped and she turned round to look at me!!!! she actually turned round and asked if it was ok to go and play!! I said 'ok' and let her go play feeling triumphant! When I whistled her to call her back she 'whipped it' good and shot back over to my side with a huge smile on both our faces! I never thought this possible. Thank you so much Jamie Robinson for this amazing fun course, we have learnt so much and my gorgeous whippet has loads more self-control and even more love of life if that's possible. 

A great sequel to Managing Prey Drive 1. It helped me realize what kind of predator my dog is (i.e., which part of the prey sequence is most pronounced/satisfying to her) and what games would satisfy that part of her prey drive. Would highly recommend this class even for dogs that aren't super prey driven -- the games have helped her to make better choices in general, and the concepts and games are useful in other contexts. Once again Jamie showed her dedication to her students, gave prompt and pointed feedback, answered questions, joked around, and I felt like we were all a team. Thanks again, Jamie!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Calm In the Chaos

There are so many ways to help a dog live in a human world.  My journey has been focused on giving the dog a choice, creating a thinking dog who understands the rules of our world and can live within those rules and yet remain true to being a dog. Recently I put into an actual curriculum many of those exercises and games that help a dog in just this way.  The name of this class is Calm and Clarity in a Chaotic World – Handling Distractions.  Short name: Calm In Chaos.

Here is a comparison of a few of the ways that are in use that help dogs live in our world.  I’m not including flooding in this comparison.  I personally don’t think flooding is actually helping the dog handle the environment.  I think all that flooding does is teach a dog to slog their way through life despite fear, anxiety or the normal caution any creature should have in regards to unknown or dangerous situations.  I think flooding only creates learned helplessness.

Focus is static.  It puts the dog in a position and just asks the dog to hold that position.  That’s what I think it is to the dog.  The eye contact doesn’t mean that much to the dog in this instance.  I know eye contact becomes important to them in other circumstances (like waking me up in the morning), but for focus work, I think it’s just a stay in position like any other stay in position for the dog.  It’s also under the control of the human; the dog just does as asked.

Engagement and play as it is used in most cases is mindless movement. There is no purpose to the movement as you and the dog make the transition from training to trial and from ringside in inside the ring other than just the dog staying with the human and not really noticing the surroundings.  It’s a preplanned and trained series of movements.  No thinking involved for the dog.  With reactivity and with shy dogs, I do this all the time to get them from point A to point B without causing an emotional meltdown and eventually the dog learns that they don’t have to have that meltdown.  But it doesn’t actually handle the environment as triggers to emotional states.  Just keep the dog moving on a known path because they can’t multi task and this too is human control.

Gathering information is a third method of working with nervous dogs, reactive dogs, anxious and fearful dogs.  This gathering of information is called many things: LAT (look at that), DS (desensitization), and a few others.  What this method does is allows the dog to makes choices based on how much information it can gather before it gets overwhelmed and must withdraw.  With some methods of gathering information the human controls the reach and withdraw and in others, the dog is left to make those decisions. I actually like this way of handling triggers and emotional states in regards to circumstances and environments, but it takes many repetitions and in most cases, a lot of time; time which we don’t always have the luxury or energy to expend.

What Calm in Chaos (and nearly every other program I've created) does is teach the dog how to defuse triggers, how to gain information in new and novel situations; we teach the dog how to think for itself. Based on the dog’s potential and applied abilities, the dog chooses how to move through environments with the least amount of stress.  The human can help, but isn’t ultimately in control.  Both the human and the dog arrive at their destination calmly and in control of their emotional states and energy level and comfortable with the environment in a short space of time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Unexplored Territory

t takes courage to step away from what you know or what you know has worked in the past.  It takes courage to test out hypothesis and create theories in the face of what seems overwhelming group think to the contrary.

It was hard enough for me to abandon a methodology that used compulsion, force, fear and pain to control dogs and make them do what I wanted, not what they were doing.  It took a long time to overcome that, especially as the trainer friends I had at that time didn’t understand my journey, the reasons for it and that I saw so much potential with a different body of knowledge.  They were all into “but what we do works” and “the other ways takes too long” and “you’ll have to have cookies in your pocket forever” as well as many other not quite so nice explanations about how wrong I was being.
I knew that one day inevitably someone would commend me for that journey from force to reward, what I didn’t expect was that the journey didn’t stop there.  There was more to discover then just giving a dog a cookie for a job well done.  Other than seeing the new skill you have taught, what I was searching for was a way to truly create a dog that thinks. It takes courage to seek out new methods and be okay with what others may think….be it the positives or the negatives.
If you have the courage to step away from the accepted, the scientific, the traditional and customary;  If you have the courage to truly examine the basis for myths, old wives tales, rigid dogmatism and a need to control and try something new. If you have that courage, even when the end is unclear and even though you know what you have done in the past would work again and again, you will reap rewards so great it will blow you away.
In 2011 I started exploring.  I’ve known for long that giving control back to a human gave that human a better handle on life, why could not the same be done for a dog.  I was looking for a way to do that.  With Susan Garrett’s Recallers class and all the information she presented about how to create teaching games, I finally found the solution and combined with the structured games used in Montessori, Summerhill, and other progressive human schools Canine Game Theory was born.
Canine Game Theory is not just training a behavior in a new way but changing the entire training ethos in a world that only marginally supports it, and that support was in child education, not dogs. I knew in my heart it was the way forward and along the way I questioned myself if I'd made the right decision. As time goes on I get confirmation (from results) that I most definitely made the right choice. It still feels uncomfortable at times, especially those times when a potential client choses another trainer, but now I love creating new games, games that teach a dog how to solve problems; games that teach a dog and its human how to think, to reason, to explore and even be creative.
Canine Game Theory is still evolving.  It now covers not only basic obedience but foundation behaviors for dealing with a human world, behavior modification for shy dogs, aggressive and reactive dogs, snake avoidance, prey drive, and (my favorite) service, therapy and assistance dogs. 
Canine Game Theory is easy to teach to new clients, both the furry and the skin type.  The learning curve is nearly non-existent.  You just play games.  But the thing with teaching something new is that it takes COURAGE!  It takes the same courage that astronauts have, top athletes, innovators in all walks of life and the person who starts a corner cafĂ© in the middle of a war torn country.
So come walk this journey with me.  Come play with me.  And may you and your dog never be the same again!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Snake Avoidance Without Shock June 1st

Dogs instinctively react to sight, sound, and smell, but can also be conditioned or trained to react in a specific manner in specific situations.  Training a dog to respond to the sight, sound, and smell of snakes is not a difficult process. What's more, snakes are not the only animals that a dog can learn to avoid.  We’ve worked with rattle snakes, poisonous toads, centipedes, scorpions, and black widow spiders.  If you can get the scent for an animal, you can train your dog what to do (move away) when encountering that scent by using the games in this class.
This class uses your dog’s intelligence, his fantastic nose, and his ability to navigate the environment via that nose.  Your dog will learn self-control when investigating new or interesting things, impulse control when movement catches his attention and kicks in the need to chase, the understanding of what to do when encountering a specific scent, sight, and/or sound, and how to alert any humans to the presence of a dangerous animal.
Come join us for round 2 of the Snake Avoidance Without Shock class at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy on June 1st !!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Clarity and Calm In A Chaotic World, Handling Distractions

How often are you distracted during the day? It's a question that's almost laughable, right? Most of us are distracted several times, if not dozens of times, every day. We get emergency emails and phone calls. We take breaks to browse the Internet. Co-workers walk into our office for a quick chat, or send us amusing instant messages. The washer starts making loud noises; the refrigerator is leaking; the dog pee’d on the carpet; it’s never ending the amount of “extra” things we deal with in daily life then we planned for. Now imagine living in a world that wasn’t designed for a human. How many distractions would there be? Everything is strange and noisy and smelly. This is what our dogs contend with while living with us. There are cars and trucks, bicycles and skateboards, noises from toaster and microwave, the a/c or heater clanking into gear – a million sounds, smells, sights and even emotions that nature never intended for canines to endure. What's more (and depending on the complexity of the environment), regaining concentration after a distraction can take quite a few minutes. If a dog is distracted 10 times a day, it's easy to see why our dogs might end up with anxiety, stress, and even aggressive behaviors. They also have to deal with our stress over things that are incomprehensible to them. It doesn’t matter if you are a dog trainer, a sport trainer or just a pet owner. More often than not, your actions may be the trigger to your dog’s stress. Rather than minimize the distractions, train in a distraction free zone and gradually build up tolerance to what is basically a foreign environment, this class is going to teach you how to immunize your dog before you even start thinking about “proofing” behaviors or getting “fluency”. Imagine that upon entering a new space your dog has the skills to investigate and familiarize himself with all that is there with minimal stress. Imagine that your dog after having done this investigation turns to you and says “Let’s work!!!”. This class will teach your dog and YOU how to stay relatively stress free no matter what life throws at you; how to see similarities and differences in a new environment versus environments you already know and understand; how to investigate a new object and decide that it’s not dangerous and might be fun; and most importantly, how to play no matter where you and your dog are so that learning is enhanced and stress minimized.
June 1st at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy