Early in 2016 my Schip pup Ace and I were able to start a Pre-Sport Puppy Foundation class at Synergy Dog Sports in Mt. Vernon. What a journey I found myself on! Instructor Diana Hoyem introduced our puppies to all things Fenzi: that is, the Denise Fenzi methods of training a dog utilizing her books from the Dog Sports Skills Series. These books discuss developing engagement and relationship, motivation, play, and focus. Wow. So sensible. I ask myself, How is it this kind of training is so new? Yet is is and it has transformed how I think about dogs on many levels.

Train the dog in front of you is what I now think about each and every time I work with my agility Schips Ace and Blitzen. Are they engaged with me? Are they ready to play/work? Or are they distracted? I now have the tools to respect how they feel and how to guide their attention back to me. I also have the knowledge that sometimes you have to walk away from a training session because it’s just not the right time for them to focus. What a novel concept, right? I see so many folks, whether in agility or some other sport or even just on a walk – trying to cajole their dog into focusing on them, or perhaps they are shouting at their dog, or even yanking them. I have even seen someone smack their dog. I have certainly been guilty of cajoling my previous Schips Bizzy and Juno when they were off in what I deemed “la la land” when I wanted them to focus at an agility trial or during class. Of course, with each and every dog (as those of us in multi-dog households know) we naturally (hopefully!) build on what we’ve learned with previous dogs, but the Fenzi method is exciting to me and has made me re-evaluate what success is when I work with my dogs. Success is now not just a qualifying score, or making the list for a National Agility Competition; it’s all about seeing the desire of “let’s do it!” in my Schips’ eyes.

Dog parents: Whether you compete or not, acquainting yourself with the books by Denise Fenzi can really guide you in the dog training process. Check out the websites www.fenzisportsacademy.com and www.k9infocus.com. Start off your 2017 with some new, fun goals with your four-legged partner.

Cheers, and have fun playing with your furry partner.