What classes are right for me?
Online learning is a very new concept for many of us, so it's common for people to have lots of questions about how to get started in this unique approach to canine education. The most frequently asked questions tend to be technical in nature, which is why we've written a thorough FAQ section. But another equally important set of questions has to do with each team's personal needs, and finding the classes that fit those circumstances. If you're not sure where to start, read on! This page will help you narrow down the offerings.
Since the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is set up similar to a university, it may be helpful to think about your class selection in the same way. In the next sections, we'll discuss the various levels you might be at right now, and how to choose a class that suits those needs.
Freshman Orientation: Before You Get Your Puppy or New Dog
When you get a new performance puppy, the ideal situation is to start your education before he ever comes home. If you take a class on learning theory and a class on understanding dog body language, you'll be well ahead of the curve! Then, when your pupppy arrives, you can take our puppy class to get your new performance dog off to the right start.
If you get a new adult dog, or want to continue your pup's early learning, check out our Performance Fundamentals class!
General Education: Foundation Skills for All Sports
First stop: Performance Fundamentals! While you aren't required to take this course, it is a great starter class because it helps you learn how to teach your dog while your dog learns some basic skills. Drives and Control is a similar course targeted at higher drive dogs, so check out this option as well.
Next, take a look at your dog's current skill set. In general, all dog sports require that your dog be able to do six things. These six skill areas are listed below, along with some suggested courses.
- Want to work: Try a class on relationship and play, tricks, or shaping. All of these options are a fun way to develop your dog's enthusiasm for working.
- Demonstrate self-control: Our Control that Crazy Canine class is a great option for self-control; so are any of the classes on playing with toys.
- Be able to function in public: If your dog shuts down in public, check out Dealing with the Bogeyman.
- Perform specific skills: A very basic skill is focus; you can also look at a major course in your specific area of interest.
- Work without classic reinforcers: Try our Bridging the Gap class to learn about reducing reinforcers.
- Feel confident and happy in the trial atmosphere: This can be developed through our classes on confidence.
The order in which you tackle the various skills doesn't matter too much, so pick what catches your interest and go from there. Also, don't feel limited by what's listed here. If you see a class that would help you in one of these areas, go for it!
Choosing a Major: Skills for Your Sport!
Once you have some understanding of these basics, you'll want to get moving on the skills required for your specific sport! If you hover over the "Schools" tab in the top menu, you can choose the sport you're most interested in, whether that's Obedience or Rally or Agility - or one of our many other offerings!
Each School is generally organized by Core Courses, Skillbuilding, and Finishing. Core Courses tend to include the foundations specific to that sport. Skillbuilding courses are targeting towards specific exercises. Finishing classes help you put it all together and get in the ring!
Many of these classes can be taken simultaneously with our general ed or foundation classes, but you should always read the description carefully and check the prerequisites tab on a specific course to make sure the class will be appropriate for you. If you're still not sure, feel free to contact the instructor for that class through our "People" tab up top (or click here).
If you've gotten this far and you're still not sure what to take, that's okay! We can help! Some students come to FDSA with a dog who has some holes in their training, or who has been trained with a blend of compulsive and motivational methods. In these cases, the route is less clear.
Prioritize what your dog needs. If your dog cannot perform with close-to-perfect accuracy in a familiar training area, take a skill building class. You might also consider simply starting over. Throw away what you have and give you and your dog a fresh start. It’s very difficult to build a career on a shaky foundation. Indeed, a high percentage of our students have told us that after taking one or two classes, they realized how shaky their foundation skills were. That's okay! Training is not a race - just go back and set that foundation.
Still not sure? Contact Denise directly through our "People" tab up top (or click here).
Planning Your Route
Not all classes are offered each session, although we do try to post our upcoming class schedule in advance so that you can prepare a route that makes sense for you and your dog. Popular classes are typically offered at least twice a year, depending on instructor availability. In addition, leaving your primary school of interest and taking a beginning course from another school might really make sense.
Above all, remember that training is not a race. If you take classes for a while before competing, then you will go into your first events with a positive attitude and the sureness that comes with knowing that your dog is absolutely prepared to be there. Sometimes you just have to jump in - being exactly right isn't as important as making a commitment to start the journey - you'll find the way once you're on the road!