Instructor: Laura Waudby
Starting April 2017 this course is being officially expanded to include agility as well as obedience and rally!
Most handlers spend months or even years teaching their dogs the specific exercises and obstacle performance found in the obedience and agility ring. We heel for months, and then we spend several more months making sure our dogs can perform their heeling with a wide variety of distractions. We teach retrieves, exams, recalls, and stays. We make sure our weave pole entrances and our contact performances are independent and fast. Yet we often fail to teach our dog what to actually expect at a trial. They are thrown into this new, chaotic environment with a stressed handler. It is the first time they see a stranger approaching to take their leash, another person who seems to be in charge other than mom is giving orders, and there is so much novel stuff to look at! Most dogs experience a great deal of stress as they are plunked in this new world and many of them do not just get better with repeated exposure.
The solution is simple but rarely practiced: you must teach your dog to understand the positive value of the competition ring. A dog who is well prepared to enter a competition ring with emotional comfort and sharp focus has a significant advantage over dogs who do not receive this systematic ring preparation experience. This class will help prepare you and your dog to enter an obedience, rally, and agility ring with confidence. We will do this by training the dog to understand her job at the ring entrance, reducing ring stress, and systematically preparing for the distractions which could crop up along the way!
What type of teams should take this class?:
- Young dogs who have not yet started trialing. Give these dogs a great foundation for the future!
- Dogs who are fine in the general show environment but stress and worry once in the ring itself.
- Dogs who disconnect and lose focus once in the ring.
*If your dog shuts down at the entire dog show scene, check out Dr. Amy Cook's Class "Dealing with the Bogeyman" first.
Gold students can choose to focus on either obedience or agility (or a bit of both!).
Check out this short informational video:
and here's a compilation video made by one of Denise's Ring Confidence students:
Next session starts: April 1, 2019Registration starts: March 22, 2019Registration ends: April 15, 2019
Registration will begin at 12:00 Noon Pacific Time.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited.
Gold Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to post questions and videos to the course forums. Students will receive instructor feedback on written and video assignments.
Silver Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to participate in the discussion forum. Students may ask GENERAL questions about course materials and may submit two, one-minute videos for instructor feedback. Any questions specific to your dog MUST be accompanied by a video.
Bronze Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to read all questions and answers posted in the class forums. Students will not post questions or submit written or video assignments.
For more details, refund policies, and answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Most of the material will relate to any dog sport where you enter a ring area to be judged. Differences between the sport of obedience, rally, and agility will be specifically mentioned in each lecture and there will be a small amount of lectures specific just to obedience/rally or just to agility.
O=Obedience, R=Rally, A=agility
1. Creating a Read to Work Cue- Squishing: O/R/A
2. Teach a Simple Ring Entrance: O/R/A
3. Exploding Tree: O/R
4. Leash Removal: O/R/A
5. Adding Distance to Ring Entrance: O/R/A
6. Acclimation & Teaching a Ready Button: O/R/A
7. Conditioning a "ready" cue: O/R/A
8. Adding a Simple Distraction: O/R/A
9. Delays in Obedience and Teaching a Nose Bridge- O
10. Increasing Distractions- O/R/A
11. Squish to Ring Entrance: O/R/A
12.: Drive For Setups and Startlines: O/R/A
13. Leash Handoffs: O/R/A
14. What to do at Fun Matches
15. Introducing Human Distractions: O/R/A
16. Setting Up Inside the Ring: O/R
17. Startline Routines in Agility: A
18. Formality in Obedience: O/R
19. Transitions: O
20. Startline Delays: A
21. Interaction with the Judge: O/R
22. The Table Count: & Performing With Human Distractions: A
23. Warming Up Your Dog: O/R/A
24. Emotional Comfort: O/R/A
At least two ring gates OR two poles with yellow tape (select according to the typical trial in YOUR area – what would a ring entrance normally look like for you?). Other options include lattice fencing, snow fencing, baby gates. Any thing that can create a visual threshold for the dog to enter through. Here is an example made by Kate Cowles:
Working area of approximately half the size of an AKC obedience ring, or larger. Many exercises can be started in the living room, but you will want room enough to do a few feet of walking before getting to a "ring" and room enough to comfortably play inside.
A few household items including folding chairs, and a card table (or large cardboard box to make a pretend table).
A jump or tunnel for those relating this to agility.
A recording of the "Go" button is also useful for agility.
For obedience/rally students a few cones, rally signs, or obedience jumps could be added later in the process but is not required.
A second person will be suggested for some activities. so to get full benefit out of the class, you may wish to have a helper available to you, for some of the more advanced exercises.
A few feet of attention walking or heeling without a visible cookie/toy. This does not need to be a precision based behavior, but the dog should understand how to focus on their handler for short periods of a time with mild distractions.
An understanding of personal/social play (play or engagement without the use of food or toys) will be beneficial but it is not a requirement.
Dogs do not need to be trialing or even close to being ready to enter a trial! Working on these exercises well before your dog starts trialing is ideal, but it's not too late to start fixing trial issues either!
The removal of the leash is the very first activity when entering the ring in agility and once you're past the novice level in obedience and rally. This activity also involves the pressure of ring stewards approaching you and your dog to either directly take the leash from your hand or from the ground if you do agility. Allowing the dog to check out during the hand off can be difficult for some dogs to refocus once that connection is broke. Our goal is to train the dog that you playing with the leash is just another cue for attention.
If you do agility you have a few options of the type of leash and collar combo you use. All in one martingale-leashes or slip leashes are very commonly used (note: these are not legal for use in obedience/rally trials). However while they are very easy for the dog to be trained to shove their head through and put on at the end of the run, they are not easy to take off and still have the dog keep focus. As you pull the collar off it will cover the dog's eyes and create a natural response for the dog to want to back up.
If you have a high drive dog with great natural focus on you this may not be a big deal. You will still want to train your dog to keep focus as you reach for the leash but you may be able to let the dog do this back out of the collar as long as you then train your dog to immediately offer focus again. I've underlined the word train as you should not take your dog's natural tendency in practice for granted that it will automatically transfer to a trial! If your dog already has issues with focus in a trial then I recommend ditching the martingale leash for now and using a traditional snap collar with leash separate. This will allow you to do the below steps as is, or if your dog runs without a collar you will focus on being able to unsnap the collar and leave the leash attached to it.
Many dogs are so conditioned to look away when a hand reaches towards their collar that we're going to break this exercise down into several small steps. Your dog must maintain attention for each step! At any time your dog looks away, stop what you're doing and straighten up or at least pause your hand motion. Do not give your dog any type of Watch command as you will want focus to happen automatically and without you having to beg for it. Be patient. While I list only 6 steps here, in reality, each step may need to be broken down even smaller.
- Reward dog for being in heel position.
- Pull leash up and slide your hand down the leash a few inches. (Pulling up on the leash makes it easier to find the clip, especially with fluffy dogs.)
- Pull leash up and slide your hand down the leash until you can touch the clip
- Pull leash up and play with the clip
- Pull leash up and unclip the leash
- Unclip the leash and move your leash hand around
Some of you may want to start this task while you are kneeling, or your dog is sitting on a surface to raise them up in height. This will take away the leaning over aspect while your dog is getting used to their new focus criteria!
If your dog looks down almost immediately, you may have to add even smaller steps. Maybe simply leaning forwards or beginning to reach for the collar. Perhaps kneeling so you don't have to bend at all. Some dogs are so conditioned to look away when we reach for the collar that you'll spend a couple of days just working through that most basic step. No hurry! Take your time, until your dog can maintain attention throughout the leash removal. Any time your dog fails to maintain attention (including in the ring) stop what you are doing, stand up straight, and try again when your dog looks back up. Giving eye contact to you can be a consent cue that they are ready to begin again, they can handle the environment!
Here is Nala's first lesson in keeping focus. I begin by kneeling just to rule out any leaning over issues. She is a bit distracted at the start so I hold my food hand out to remind Nala of the doggy zen games.
At 24sec Nala nuzzled my food hand. I could have chosen to restart by removing my hand and then trying again once she kept eye contact. But in Nala's case, I thought keeping my hand still and waiting for Nala to figure out that A)I didn't have food there, and B)doggy zen rules tell her to ignore a closed fist anyway. ("Doggy zen" is the class impulse control game of teaching a dog that mobbing food i nthe hand doesn't get the cookies to their mouth. They only get the food when they leave the hand alone and make eye contact with you)
At 33sec when it took her longer to look back at me I decided to present my treat hand held out as a visual reminder to keep focus on my eyes, don't mob for cookies.
This is Nala's 2nd session on leash removal. I am able to play more with the clip:
What hand you use doesn't matter. I find it easiest to use my left hand and slide it down. If you use your right hand that's ok too!
The smaller a dog the more bending you have to do in order to reach the clip. Since this is pressure into the dog's space, progress in even smaller steps to make sure your dog is comfortable. Some handlers will find that bending their knees works easier to prevent looming over the dog. With my Corgi I usually leaned more forwards than over my side.
Chin rest leash removal:
For dogs who need a little extra structure or connection, I LOVE how a chin rest can be used to help in the leash removal process! While this usually works easier from in front of the dog, you can also try asking for a chin rest when the dog is in heel position.
Anne and Daisy demonstrate this technique to remove the leash (and collar). This is after a few weeks of practice, at this point she's also building in some excitement and bounce into position!
*Note in AKC obedience/rally a snap leash is no longer required for any class done off leash. (Still required for beg novice, novice, novice group stays, and awards.) You have the option of threading a leash or even a string such as a shoelace through the dog's collar so that you are holding their "leash" in a U shape through the collar. This allows you to simply drop one end and thread the leash up. No bending down and grasping for the clip involved!
If you do decide to use a slip or martingale leash for agility I recommend first making sure that you are able to create a big enough hole that the dog does not feel pressure around her ears as the leash slides off. The tightness will make it even more likely for your dog to look away and even back up to help the collar be removed. Otherwise the steps are similar.
Here I start kneeling on the floor with my dogs so that I can easily reach the collar and not have to bend over them. Notice that Lance finds it very easy to generalize from all his normal snap leash practice. Vito does not think it's the same game(!) and I use my doggy zen hand to help him focus as he has a strong history of knowing to give me eye contact when he sees me present cookies in my hand. He would need further lessons with this martingale leash:
A SAMPLING OF WHAT PRIOR STUDENTS HAVE SAID ABOUT THIS COURSE ...
This is The. Best. Fenzi course I have ever done (sincere apologies to the other instructors!). The class content was exactly what we needed after my girl earlier in the year had a huge scare at a show and froze in the ring (in the middle of doing our heel work routine) when she saw the dog that had attacked her, arrive at the show. This course helped us more than I can say, and I think we are well on our way to having the happy, confident dog again who has won obedience classes in the past. I'm battling to find enough superlatives - all I can say is THANK YOU LAURA for making a huge difference. The course content was perfect; loved the way it was delivered; loved the comments in the forums - simply loved it, full stop. This course IMHO should be compulsory for anyone intending to compete.
There is still hope for us to get that last CDX leg! I just need to keep it fun for both of us! We will keep practicing and applying what we've learned in our training sessions. I think Mack's favorite thing we learned was "squishing!" Thank you Laura you did a great job! Looking forward to another online class! Robyn M. & Mack
My dog is very stressed by the pressure of the judge and ring stewards. I have had incidents of him bolting and running around barking at the judge. After completing the Ring Confidence Course, I finally feel I have some tools to work with to help him deal with his stress. It's such a wonderful feeling to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I have pretty much stopped training skills with him for now and started working with the elements Laura taught in the course. We still have a long way to go but I was able to use some of the things I learned in this course at a trail this weekend and we got our first leg in Open B! Best of all, I feel the stress slipping away in my training and my dog and I are having fun.
Laura was able to extrapolate the course content to my needs in areas of competition other than obedience (as well as obedience), and at least one other member wrote that the course content carried over to other areas. That made the course all the more helpful. It was challenging to keep up with the class but the library ensures I can go back to the material and move at my own pace. If anything I learned about tailoring what do to my dogs' needs.
I'd recommend this course to anyone who is struggling with their confidence in the ring. The exercises and video clips are pitched just right and make so much sense. You feel the instructor has genuinely dealt with these issues herself which is a huge help. You will be inspired! Clare W
This class isn't just about the dog's ring confidence. It's very much about the human side of this team too (I'm speaking about myself of course), and Laura has great empathy for both. Her critiques are not only detailed, but they also reflect the thought and care she puts into her feedback to suit that specific team
Laura was great! She was always encouraging and supportive but at the same time able to provide constructive criticism. Loved her calm, practical attitude and her willingness to talk about some of the struggles she has with her own dogs.
Thank you so much, Laura for a fantastic class! I learned a lot, even though I only took the class at bronze. Going forward, I will definitely be able to make good use of all the information supplied in this class. Already we are squishing, practicing ring entrances, implementing exploding tree and drives to set up. As our heeling improves we will work through the rest. I am so happy to have this class in my library now, as I will be referring back to the materials often.
Thanks-- very helpful! This class along with Sarah Stremel's made possible (even though I haven't quite finished the lectures yet) a perfect (100) performance in Rally Advanced in a match 2 weeks ago-- we'll see what happens in the only show I'll be able to go to this summer-- but it gave me and my dog what we needed to get going in the ring with focus and joy-- the rest has been in place, but if you can't get in there ready to go, that doesn't help much-- so again, thanks!