One Piece of Advice

Another gem from Denise Fenzi. “At the end of the day, there are no “right” training techniques or “right” ways to do things. There is only what works for you and your dog to create mutual happiness and whatever team you can create with each other. Find what works for both of you by asking those same questions over and over, because one thing that should be non-negotiable in your training with your dog is mutual joy. ” Read on-

Denise Fenzi

I was recently asked an interesting question.  “If you could give a beginner to dog sports one piece of advice, what would that be?”

I had to think about this for a bit, because interesting questions deserve well thought out answers.

So…here’s my one piece of advice:

Keep your dog in the game.

That must be your number one priority, regardless of your dog sport or what you might be working on.

As you start each training session you may want to ask yourself, “Am I having fun?  Is my dog having fun?” “Are we enjoying this sport that we are doing together?” Continue to ask yourself these questions throughout your training session, until it becomes second nature to check in on your mutual enthusiasm for the training process.  

All experienced trainers will tell you that working with an excited and engaged partner makes training incredibly easy, whereas working…

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First annual Treibball Play Day Event in Virginia-Aug. 15, 2015

In addition to our regular class session starting on May16th, we will also be hosting our first annual Treibball Play Day event on August 15th. This is the first treibball event of this kind in Virginia, with something for all levels! If you have been training on your own or taken classes anywhere else, here is your chance to meet other treibball enthisiasts and play some of the organized games. OR maybe you are new to the sport and want to get started-well here is your chance to do that too!

There will be a beginner workshop in the morning from 9:00-12:00, with intermediate to advanced activities in the afternoon from 1:00-5:30. The afternoon will include NATE and Wag IT Dog Ball games with other training challenges and troubleshooting. You can check out the links here for rules, and start practicing! Beginners from the morning workshop will be encouraged to stay and spend some more time learning about treibball by observing the afternoon activities and visiting with others.

Instructor and organizer for this event is NATE charter member and trainer, Char Turner, see bio here.

This will be held in the air conditioned building at Love on a Leash in Harrisonburg VA. Registration details are coming soon, but in the mean time if you have other questions please email Char:

We hope you can join us for a fun time of all things Treibball, learning and playing with our dogs!

Thoughts on Punishment

“Two in a row suggests a training problem; your dog does not know how to win. And since training problems are your responsibility…” YES!!! Loved this, spot on. Thank you Denise. Char Turner

Denise Fenzi

Punishment is used in training to change behavior.  It is a consequence the dog wishes to avoid.

Let’s use crooked sits as an example.  If your dog performs a crooked sit in heel position, you’ll want to make that behavior less likely next time. How might you use punishment?

You can with-hold (-) something that the dog wants like cookies, toys or praise when your dog sits crooked. You are using -P.

Or you can add (+) some sort of physical discomfort technique for the same purpose (collar correction or other physical manipulation).  Your dog won’t want you to do that in the future so straight sits become more likely (+P).  Or you can verbally harass the dog (mental force) to make him uncomfortable, so next time he will try to avoid that by sitting straight (also +P),

If it makes you feel better you can actually straighten the dog (maybe give a…

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Rewarding Errors

In training for sports I believe that we must always be mindful and prioritize that “want to” factor and positive emotional response in our dogs. First and foremost, this is fundamental to our relationship. And secondly, if we have not nurtured that feeling in training, sooner or later it will show up in the performance. This is especially true with soft and sensitive dogs, the mold in which all 3 of my current dogs fit. An ounce of prevention may well be worth a pound of cure, and definitely worth consideration as written here by the always insightful Denise Fenzi. Rewarding errors, at least to a limited degree, may well be a key to keeping  our dogs in the game and enhance learning! Read on…

Denise Fenzi

Obedience and agility require different behaviors, but both sports share some basic challenges that create grief for handlers.

Both sports require focus and impulse control without a leash and with significant distractions present.  Agility competitors struggle to maintain connection when the dog is working at a distance under speed, often with a good deal of excitement going on in the rings around them.  Obedience competitors struggle to maintain connection when the dog is working under the pressure of silence and formality for long stretches of time.  And both sports require a balance between handler connection and exercise (or object) focus.

Yet, the culture of the two sports is quite different in a fundamental way.  Agility handlers are trained to take responsibility for their dog’s failures (they are directed to change THEIR behavior), and obedience handlers generally hold the dog responsible (they are directed to change THE DOG’s behavior).  Which is not…

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New Treibball sesssion starts up in February!

The next 6 week session of classes will begin in Feb. 2015, meeting twice a month on Saturdays at Love on a Leash in Harrisonburg, VA, indoors and heated.

Dates (all Saturdays) are:  2/14, 2/28, 3/14, 3/28, 4/11, 4/25. There will be one make up class offered if anyone has a conflict with some of these dates.

Cost for each 6 week session is $90.00 for non-members, $75.00 for LOAL members. One make up class is allowed for a missed absence. After successful completion of 2 six week sessions you may elect to attend on a drop-in basis, pay per class.

Time:  10:00-11:00 AM.

Prerequisites: Completion of 6 weeks of advanced basic obedience or OR CGC OR equivalent. Recall, stay, sit and down are necessary. Most work is off leash but a long line is acceptable as long as you have control around other dogs and people. I allow plenty of space and will also put up ring gate barriers when needed.

Trials and Titling: Live trials are few and far between at the moment, but Treibball is alive and well worldwide via video and the Internet. While titling is certainly not required to enjoy this sport, there are a couple of video titling options at this time for those who wish to pursue it. Titling by video is now available through Wag-It Games Dog Ball , World Treibball League, and  later in 2015 by NATE , National Association of Treibball Enthusiasts  – each with their own unique version of the sport, but the fundamentals are the same.  I will be happy to facilitate video titling events for anyone in the class that has interest, and we can prepare for these options in class. Group events will be made available.

 To register for class, please contact Char, email to:

“My dog won’t work without food…”

Every time I hear someone say this-as I did again just the other day-a couple of things jump out at me: The handler doesn’t understand how to use food properly, and foundation in training is lacking.

Building reliable behaviors takes time and a solid working relationship. And before you can expect reliability without food, a strong reinforcement history with food is essential. Maintenance is also essential and is often overlooked until behaviors begin to fall apart. Realizing a performance without food is all part of training and preparation-a process over time. Lots of time. So if your dog “won’t work without food”, here are questions to consider:

1. Are the behaviors  fluent? And by that I mean are the behaviors perfected with strong reinforcement history, generalized to a variety of locations under appropriately varied conditions?

2. Have you gone through a process of  randomizing reinforcement for individual behaviors?

3. Have you conditioned secondary reinforcers , i.e. paired food with  praise, petting and/or play? Have you invested yourself in the reward?

4. Have you taught your dog that food is not always on your body but might otherwise still be available? Examples here would be food targets or jackpot rewards placed elsewhere, working with them in sight and then out of sight.

5. Have you systematically built longer chains of behaviors?

6. If you have you done all of the above, was it carried out at the appropriate stages of learning?

7. Are you  continuing to maintain finished behaviors with periodic food reinforcement?

8. Are your expectations realistic and fair to both you and your dog? Have you put the time into training, been clear and consistent with your criteria, timing and reinforcement?

So give it some thought if you have to ask why your dog won’t work without food-you just might be missing some the basic essentials here which are often overlooked.

Meanwhile, train happy and keep smiling-your dogs will love you for it!

Beginning training for treibball with “Flash” the whippet-it’s all about distance and direction!

My youngest dog, Flash, is a 2 yr old race bred whippet. Among other things, I am just beginning his treibball training. Since he is so very prey driven and easily distracted by all moving things, my plan is to lay a solid foundation of distance control before he ever pushes a ball. Here is some video of a beginning training session after introducing him to one barrel, then 2, then 3. I also added in the hoops after familiarizing him with those separately. Introducing various targets (obstacles) with direction and distance builds confidence and the variety adds more fun! He is starting to get the hang of it and I can start adding in more distance any time now.