The dog training and competition community has been all the buzz for the last year anticipating the first Fenzi Dog Sport Academy live conference - Ferretpalooza. As mentioned in the Modern Dog Trainer blog, this is one of the "Top 10 Dog Training Conferences for 2015" and "This is guaranteed to be the first of many Fenzi events and is a “must attend” for anyone interested in dog sport competition. 5 years from now you’re going to want to be able to say, 'I went to the very first conference!'"
The Fenzi Dog Sport Academy is an online school featuring some of the best courses available on topics across the realms of competition obedience, agility, nosework, conformation, health and performance, behavior, and more. The reason this conference is so exciting is that this is the first time many of it's top instructors, including the schools namesake Denise Fenzi, will be all together, teaching their students live!
Who will be in attendance?
Instructors include Denise Fenzi, Deb Jones, Hannah Branigan, Nancy Little, Sue Ailsby and Shade Whitesel.
To quote the website; "the reason for the name 'Ferretpalooza' is a nod to the intense, committed and ferret-like nature of your FDSA instructors."
What's in store for the attendees?
Lectures and labs include topics such as Heeling, Recalls, Foundation Skills, Rally, Personal Play, Ring Prep, Fading Reinforcers, and more.
For more information you can visit the official Ferretpalooza page here.
I will be in attendance with my New Guinea Singing Dog Journey. We will be updating you as much as possible with coverage of subjects, materials, fun, and the general conference experience.
Now for the live coverage! Below this line will be all the live coverage updates as they happen.
5/29/15: Day One!
6:31 AM: Packed and ready to go! Normally I stay at a hotel for these events but living only 45 minutes away from the event location, I didn't see the point in getting a room. Journey is a bit confused why we got up at 5 AM. Parking is supposed to be an issue so I'm heading out quite early. I need to make a quick stop at Yellow Dog Pet Supply on the way to get Journey some pacifiers to keep him busy when he's crates and then we are officially on our way!
8:20 AM: We've arrived, unpacked, checked in, and are getting settled. its fantastic seeing everyone, catching up with friends from afar and the excitement is palpable.
So many wonderful dog enthusiasts!
9:10 AM: Welcoming introductions with faculty and instructors.
Denise Fenzi' Welcome speech was lovely. So empowering, kind, warm, and supportive.
Highlights from Denise Fenzi's Welcome speech: (my notes don't do it justice)
"Think outside the box - in a childlike fashion. Don't ask what you did 10 years ago. It will only take you where you've been. I want you to have a great time. It's not just your dog. You need a good CER. I gave you little aluminum bottles. I don't care what you put in them. ;) I want you to be kind. If you're scared or nervous, its ok, we're here to support each other. Be kind to yourself. It's ok if I have to tell you 10 times. I'm not judging you. Learning takes time. "
The rest of today I will be writing about as much of the sessions as possible but it is impossible for me to attend everything. When I am working with my dog I will be unable to post and take pictures but I'll post highlights when we are in a break.
9:45 AM: Lab 1 - Secondary Reinforcers with Deb Jones
Mic issues have delayed the first 10 minutes or so of the program. The dogs are doing great with all the distractions and some occasional microphone feedback. I'm shocked Journey isn't singing along to the noises. I'm very proud of him.
Dealing with the problems of losing "some" reinforcers in the show ring.
Deb explained the difference between primary and secondary reinforcers. Then she talked about interactions that are allowed in the ring and when you can insert them. Then how to condition, reinforce, and chain it all together.
Some suggested behaviors covered:
- ready cue
- heeling setup chains
Best quote: "Heeling doesn't have to be a death march."
11:30 AM: Lab 2: Foundation Games with Hannah Branigan
All those little behaviors that make training for competition so much easier! Journey had a working spot in this lab. He did well but it was an excellent gauge of his stress.
We worked on:
- Cookie drop - to gauge response
- Zen bowl
- Reinforce Movement
- Chin Target
Technical mic issues make some of the experience challenging but the instructors work hard to make sure we understand the information. Hannah was so kind, engaging and had great responses to all questioned asked.
Photo Highlights below....
1:00 PM: lunch break!
2:01 PM: Play and Relationship with Denise Fenzi
- We are wired to like our boxes.
- The greater the external motivator - the slower the outcome.
- Internal motivation vs external motivation
- Satisfaction comes from the process & reaching your goal
- No shortcuts
- It takes time! It's a process.
- Play is a puzzle to solve.
- It will come from the process, not from the goals.
- The process of learning play will make you a better dog trainer!
- You have to learn this!
- Most people have no idea how their dogs feel. Get your dog happy, the rest will follow. Dogs who can play with you, absolutely can work.
- Start from the dogs point of view and then shift criteria.
- Where a dog can play, a dog can work.
- Play forces you to pay attention to your dog.
- No interest? Go out to your yard and start digging a hole!
The information shared in this lecture was amazing. I teared yup, I was so moved.
2:45 PM: Lab 3 - Toy Play with Shade
I'll be honest, Journey is fussing through this lab so I'm spending the majority of it looking after him in the crating area but I can hear about half of it.
A lot of this lab is lecture followed by individual working teams taking turns.
Fetch and Tug
"You add obedience to the game, not the game to obedience".
4:30 PM: Lab 4 - Personal Play with Denise Fenzi
All I can say Is what an amazing lab to end the day on. It started with a half hour lecture and videos. Then we each took turns learning how to play with our dogs. Denise got a huge kick out of each dog and owner team. I learned the most all day from this session.
I apologize for the delay in finishing today's updates. My battery died on my car and I didn't want to miss the pizza party. Getting the opportunity to know all these amazing people was a huge highlight of this event. Chatting with Denise about life, work, passion, and dogs will stay with me the rest of my life. And there is nothing like catching up with friends who live hundreds of miles away (looking at you Jennie).
Off to bed for another round tomorrow. This time with Saga. Stay times for more updates and highlights from Ferretpalooza.
5/30/15: DAY 2!
6:40 AM: I was able to get up a smidge later this morning as the building won't open till 8. Meanwhile Journey is still sacked out so Saga will be joining me. I did however wake up to some technical difficulties, so I will be blogging from my phone today. This isn't a huge problem as 80% yesterdays was from my phone anyway. That means more pictures and less text. Tomorrow things will hopefully be back to normal. PS - I am not trying to ignore my readers. I will reply to comments as soon as possible. Also there are now quick links to each days content at the top of the post to make scrolling easier. Remember, keep scrolling down for the latest updates and goings on.
8:30 AM: All set up and chillin
9:00 AM: Lecture - Clear Criteria with Hannah Branigan
- Definition of criteria
- One thing at a time
- Makes it easier for you and the dog
- One specific piece at a time (planted front feet for a stand, planted back feet, etc)
- Precision (Appearance of behavior, emotional signals)
- Fluency (distance, duration, distractions, speed, latency)
- Plan ahead before you bring the dog out (behavior, criteria,)
- Plan for next sessions - the behaviors you want to tweak or fix but don't work on that during current session
- Write it down!
- Raising criteria - tiny steps not jump plateau. Tiny tiny
- what is it exactly?
- be specific
- write it down!!!
- Dog breaks criteria - reset
- twice in a row - STOP!
- failure begets failure
9:45 AM: Lab 1 & 2 - Heeling
My instructor for morning heeling is with Hannah Branigan. Since I am participating I will post details when I'm done. :)
- marking feed position with tape
- lunges for little dogs
- jump for treats
- pivots on platforms
- Stand in heel position
- Driving to the platform.
Long lab but learning a lot. So much fine tuning and subtle nuances. My reinforcement schedule definitely needs work. I'm glad I brought Saga because she knows pivot platforms. Journey not so much.
- heads up heeling backwards then forward. For directional changes.
I I was very proud of Saga and her hard work. 3 hours of heeling instruction is a lot. Maybe too much. I may let her take the rest of the day off.
12:54 PM: Lunch break!
2:00 PM: Lecture - Focus - The Invisible Skill with Deb Jone
- focus is a construct
- Teach them - We're more fun than anything else.
- addicted to interacting and working with us.
- Very individual - why they are not focusing on you.
- offered focus - dog finds value.
- Rapid fire treats - RFT,
- if they can't take treats, they can't focus.
- RFT gauges stress
- Increase duration
- Acclamation cannot lead to focus - requires a break
Saga is did so well in the labs this morning and is just starting to feel done so I'm pulling her from our working spot and instead auditing Scent Articles.
Observations: We are only half way through day 2 and I find that every participant/auditor is exhausted. I can't put my finger on why exactly. It could be the amount of information. Each class feels like a single 6 week class by its self.
2:45 PM: Lab 3 - Scent Descrimination with Hannah Branigan
Hannah states she doesn't worry about cleaning or airing out scent articles. She also does not worry about food scent or other contaminating scents.
- Interact with the object
- Sniff / nose target
can be taught without retrieve. Scent is eventual cue to pick up. End behavior is retrieve. Head down teaches dog to focus and continue to search.
Reinforce just the sniffing to start. Can be lured or shaped.
Deliver treat behind the dogs head (on floor). Throw cookie from yesterday. You can move articles closer to make easier. Work for head down work. Try not to allow head to lift. When all else fails, click just for sniffing.
Then change location of treat.
Hunting - objects disappear when near other ones. Practice working next to other objects. Start with single article.
Handing off the article: feed for giving away article. Nervous dogs: Target - push hip when article is handed off.
Release to baited target
So tired!! Mind has melted. Saga is in good spirits though.
4:30 PM: Lab 4 - Retrieves with Shade Whitesel
- Retrieve is work. Not for fun. It's about getting the dumbbell back as fast as possible.
- Make sure fronts are already solid.
- Start training and work out mistakes with something other than a dumbbell.
Hold - grab and chin rest
On a dowel or magazine:
Shape nose touch, moving nose touch, open mouth nose touch. Take in mouth. Also tug.
Saturday is done. A lot of sleep will be needed tonight to be fresh for tomorrow. Looking forward to hearing from my readers in the comments. More posts and another quick link for day 3 tomorrow.
5/31/15: DAY 3!
After arriving home to the pleasure of wedding planning, I played a few rounds of Peggle Blast (beat level 135!) on my phone and then slept like the dead. With each morning I wake up a little later but my body is acclimating to it. I beat my alarm clock and thought in a moment of cold sweat that I had overslept. Day 3 should be interesting. The topics surround competition preparedness. Journey is joining me today, much to the chagrin of the other dogs. I fear I may have to spend a bit of the event babysitting Journey as I don't think he is going to tolerate being crated so much, but that's alright. I'm still so exhausted anyway, it will force me to pace myself. I will do my best to cover as much as possible of the event and hopefully some "back stage" photos too. Stay tuned and keep the comments coming. All of you - my readers - are the energy keeping me at this.
8:15 AM: We have arrived!
To quote Deb Jones in the parking lot "Let's do this!"
9:00 AM: Announcements
Where will Ferretpalooza be next year??? Purina Farms in June 2016!!!
9:07 AM: Getting into the ring with Denise Fenzi
Notes to come..
"I used to wake up sick before a dog show. Diarrhea for 3 days prior. The dog is aware. "
CER and operant experience is different.
The dog knows when you smell funny and look like a deer, you don't have reinforcement.
Back chain the ring and feed outside the ring.
If your dog can't do it 100% at home, they can't in the ring.
Does your dog agree with your plan?
What do you do if you don't have cookies? / What do you do if you don't have a leash? We are in the same boat.
9:45 AM: Lab 1 - Ring Prep with Denise Fenzi
Because of the nature of the labs and how individual the lessons were, I traveled around and took pictures of all the labs.
Then we checked in on the crate room.
Thoughts between labs:
Ferretpalooza is not your normal conference. It is more than you can ever know. It's every nuance, every interaction, every aspect of your relationship with your dog. All of it, improveable. Yet there is a level of excellence already present in all the working dogs. It really is remarkable.
11:30 AM: Lab 2 - Stimulus Control with Hannah Branigan
We work a working team for this lab.
Control behavior with cues
Getting the right cue / single cue
Fluency - reps per minute
As soon as the dog swallows they perform the behavior again.
We worked on reinforcing offered behaviors, then cue, the waiting, then the "pepper game".
2:00 PM: Lecture - The Judge's Perpective With Nancy Little
Quoted AKC Standard of Perfection
Each judge scores on a slightly different scale.
Principal features of exercises
Philosophy of scoring
What you can and can't do
2:30 PM: Reducing Reinforcement with Shade Whitesel
What is reinforcing that you can do in the ring.
Reinforcing sequences instead of one behavior / one treat.
Disengagement means you didn't pay enough.
4:30 PM: Lab 4 - Healing the Handler with Nancy Little
The entire lab was footwork and handling skills. Very helpful details from an actual AKC judge.
6:00 PM: Time to head home
6/1/15: Day 4!!!
7:32 AM: Last day, well half day actually. Today is filled with 15 minute private lessons with the event instructors. I will be working with Hannah Branigan. I am bringing Tracker today because I have more than enough to work on with my other dogs. Expect lots of photos today and only a little text as there will not be much note taking.
My take away:
Denise's pride and compassion for the student and dog.
Hannah encouragement and clarity.
Deb's warm joy
Sue's glowing and infectious grin and energy
Shades consistency and repetition strive for understanding
Nancy's straightforward and direct attention.
Thank you instructors!
Denise's vision "In ten to fifteen years, what we did today is the standard."
See you in 386 Days Fenzi friends!