What’s It About?
Most dog owners can successfully manage to teach their dogs the basic, albeit in a controlled situation at home. The trouble comes when we expect our dogs to perform all important behaviours such as a reliable recall away from home, beyond the back yard.
In this book, Denise Fenzi, author of the award winning Dog Sport Skills Series, starts where most training books ends. Instead of focusing on the basic behaviours such as sit, down and stay, she shows us how to control our dog away from home, off leash and in front of distractions. This is finally a training book that helps us to deal with real life situations, without always having the luxury of a treat in hand.
Split into three parts, focusing on theory, practical and problem solving, this book provides a systematic and comprehensive plan for creating a reliable companion who cooperates fully off leash and in all sorts of distracting environments.
Part one of the book provides information about the theory and philosophy of training.
Chapter one looks at how dogs learn, and Fenzi explains what operant and classical conditioning is, and how to apply them to dog training.
Chapter two explores what motivates your dog, providing a system to help you distinguish what your dog’s biggest motivators are. Fenzi then asks us to make a second list of our dog’s distractions, explaining that the two lists are likely to be fairly similar. She also provides advice on how we can best use motivators in training.
Chapter three moves on to what your dog knows. Fenzi explains that this is actually contextual, as dogs do not generalise behaviour, explaining what we need to do to make sure a behaviour is well and truly learned.
Chapter four looks at when it is appropriate to start raising criteria, giving us some guiding principles to follow, and how to realise if the dog is stressed and we are moving too quickly. Fenzi then details the three primary ways to change the challenge levels; intensity, proximity and duration.
In chapter five, Fenzi focuses on understanding distractions. She explains the difference between controlled distractions and uncontrolled distractions, giving us examples of both.
Part two is the practical section of the book.
Chapter six concentrates on introducing distractions. Fenzi first shows us how to test if our dog is ready for distraction training, and then how to choose a suitable distraction. She categorises distractions into low level, mid level and high level.
In chapter seven, Fenzi details the lesson plan. She gives us some general guidelines to follow for each lesson, and then gives us a procedure for each of the following lessons:
- Easy distraction, easy behaviour
- Easy distraction, different behaviour
- New distractions’
- Moving dog, stationary distraction
- Stationary dog, moving distraction
- A little bit closer
- Uncontrolled distraction, controlled dog
- Uncontrolled distraction, uncontrolled dog
- Putting it all together
Chapter eight looks at changing locations, Fenzi once again provides us with a simple test to see if our dog is ready for this. She then explains how to introduce new places, before adding that the goal is to be able to run through all the exercises in chapter seven, but in different locations.
Chapter nine focuses on losing the treats in your hand while you train. Fenzi explains why this is important and takes us through the process of how to achieve it.
Chapter ten continues with reducing the number of treats we use in training, and replacing them with non -food rewards. Fenzi looks at the three main types of rewards we can offer our dogs, these being; food, toys and life rewards.
In chapter eleven, Fenzi shows us how to introduce behaviour chains, which means we do not have to give a treat after every behaviour.
Chapter twelve gives us advice on dealing with distractions that aren’t food, whilst chapter thirteen focuses on off leash reliability.
Part three deals with problem solving.
Chapter fourteen looks at how to handle mistakes. Fenzi shows us what to do for the times when withholding a reward is not successful, in cases when your dog has no idea what you like him to do. She also shows us how to deal with human error, and some tips on preventing errors from occurring outside of formal training.
Chapter fifteen focuses on how to recognise when fear gets in the way of training, along with how to overcome with.
Chapter sixteen introduces us to the habit of cooperation. Fenzi explains that dogs generally want to do what they are told, and with the right training, making the right choices can become a habit.
Finally, in chapter seventeen, Fenzi gives us some information about competition dog sports, for those that want to continue to do more, detailing agility, rally obedience, nosework, flyball, tracking, obedience, disc dog, canine freestyle, treibball and rally free.
Ian Dunbar, founder of the APDT, says “I am delighted Denise has taken the time to apply her professional experience and expertise to the training of pet dogs and their human companions. Ultimately, your dog will be welcome in far more places as a result. Both you and your dog are going to be happy that you have read this book.”
About the Author
Denise is a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. Her personal passions are Competitive Obedience, Schutzhund, and no force (motivational) dog training. She teaches private lessons in Northern California and travels throughout North America teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation.
Published 2015 The Dog Athlete