Words of Wisdom

Words to train by:
  • St. Francis of Assisi: “Seek first to understand; then to be understood.”
  • Susan Garret:When you correct a dog, you are actually punishing him for your poor training.”  
  • Denise Fenzi: “…dogs that anticipate correction for errors are more reluctant students.  It’s not much fun to be told you’re wrong, so the dog’s willingness to engage goes down.  And since full engagement is the most important factor for ease of learning, that will not help your long term training at all.  Give me a dog that lives to work with me, and training will be a breeze. There’s no need to add a punisher at all.  Not in the teaching phase, not in the behavior chain phase, and not in the proofing phase. (From blog post:Is avoiding correction withholding half of the information?” Posted on
  • Denise Fenzi: “Sadly, I screw up more than I’d like to admit, because screwing up covers a lot of territory in the world of dog training. I may have asked for a behavior that my dog cannot manage in a challenging situation.  I may have miscued my dog.  I may have put her in a frame of mind that is conducive for routine work but not for learning new skills.  I may have gotten distracted and disconnected.  There are a lot of ways to screw up, and professional trainers are not immune.

    Your dog should not pay the price for your learning curve; if you make a mistake or “bobble” in training then reward your dog.   If you follow this rule while you are learning to be a better trainer, then your dog’s attitude will remain intact, even if you’re making a bit of a mess of the process.  Teaching behaviors is relatively easy once you master the mechanical skills, but recovering a dog with a bad attitude is actually rather difficult, and since dogs often revert to early learning under stress it can rears its ugly head when we get to competition. Rewarding a dog each time we screw up helps us get around that.” (From a blog post, Behavior Chains, Part 7, 4/21/14)

  • Denise Fenzi, (from a blog written in 2011 but not published until May 23, 2018. Ahead of her time, and a visionary!)“So, the change has begun.  Most sophisticated trainers today do take a fair amount of responsibility for communicating with the dog about what is expected.  Exercises are broken down into small pieces and expectations are raised incrementally.  Most dog and handler teams now enjoy the learning process, and it is rare to see a dog being trained to do something it does not understand with compulsion (with the glaring exception of the dumbbell retrieve, which is a story in and of itself).

    30 years ago, the dog was responsible for all phases of learning; the handler simply showed up and applied pressure in the appropriate directions until the dog figured it out.

    And now? Trainers take responsibility for communicating what is desired, and the dog’s responsibility begins at a later stage. But make no mistake; at some point, many trainers feel they need to communicate that work is not an option.

    I’d like to suggest that this is a mistake.  By making the dog successful continuously with food and toys, and not allowing the dog to experience the option of choice IN THE LEARNING PHASE, we create passive learners – we lure with food and the dog simply follows.  And by training in this way, with continuous lures and not encouraging choice from the beginning, we set the dog’s up to fail long term – to work only in the presence of those special motivators or when the handler is being highly active and entertaining.  

    If we do not allow the dog to experience choice – the choice to work – from the very beginning, then we are guaranteed to have a problem down the road when those motivators disappear.”

  • “Every single time you teach your dog what to do, you are teaching him how to feel”Amy Cook, PhD,  2016 Fenzi Dog Sport Academy Camp
  • “Add Obedience to the Game…” Shade Whitesel, faculty, Fenzi Dog Sport Academy
  • “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…”  great American lyricist,  Johnny Mercer
  • Dr. Ian Dunbar:“Teaching a dog what TO DO is quicker than teaching a dog what NOT to do, because … there is only one right way compared to the infinite number of wrong ways. Reward-training is simply far more time-efficient and effective than punishment–training”   
  • “I would rather have cookies in my jacket pockets than a chain around my dog’s neck.”  The Power of Positive Dog Training , by Pat Miller, behaviorist, trainer, author
  • “In dog training, jerk is a noun, not a verb.”- Dr. Dennis Fetko
  • Roger Abrantes: “Your dog already gives you a great deal and the two of you can be perfectly happy together, even if your dog is not particularly good at anything. It’s amazing how dog owners say they love their dogs and yet they spend most of the time trying to change their behavior. Focus on what you do have, not on what you don’t, appreciate it and be grateful for it.” trainer/behaviorist. 
  • Roger Abrantes:Change what you want to change and can change; and don’t waste time and energy thinking about what you don’t want to, don’t need to or can’t change….do whatever you and your dog enjoy, however you like, so that both you and your dog are happy. It’s as simple as that! ” 
  • The difference between “trained OK” and “trained perfectly” doesn’t really matter all that much to me. I once did a film with Lassie. When that dog got excited he jumped all over Rudd Weatherwax [Lassie’s trainer]. Now that’s the smartest dog in the world. If the world’s best-trained dog can jump around to show he’s happy then my dogs should be allowed to do the same. Great American actor, Jimmy Stewart (It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, etc.)
  • When the Man waked up he said,
    “What is Wild Dog doing here?”
    And the Woman said,
    “His name is not Wild Dog any more,
    but the First Friend,
    because he will be our friend
    for always and always and always.Rudyard Kipling

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