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