Instructor: Julie Flanery
Have you ever watched a freestyle performance that mesmerized you? Not because the dog was performing a lot of difficult or fancy tricks or because the handler had a great costume and danced well, but because as a team, the dog and handler moved in a way that made the performance appear effortless, fluid and polished. It was pleasing to the eye and provided a sense of naturalness.
And we have all seen routines that in spite of having the same behaviors, and the same level of skill in performing those behaviors, the routine appears somewhat awkward or choppy, maybe even forced, and flow of movement doesn’t come easily.
In this course you’ll learn the difference in these two types of routines and how to create sequences within a routine that provide ease of movement for both dog and handler, that is pleasing to the eye and can increase your score, no matter what venue or what level you are competing in.
We will not be choreographing full routines, but if you have a sequence or two in a current routine that needs some polish we will work that into the exercises.
There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.
Registration will begin at 10:30 AM Pacific Time.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 12 students, Bronze: unlimited.
Silver level for this class is offered as "Working Silver". In addition to asking GENERAL clarification questions about the class lecture materials, silver students will now have the opportunity to submit two short videos, one minute each, for critique and review. You may submit two questions. Each question MUST have a one minute video attached so the instructor can actually answer a question that they can see. The question must relate to a topic in the class and the video must be a demo of the question. Please see the discussion forum for a detailed explanation - feel free to sign up at bronze, read the explanation, and then come back here to upgrade to silver if that interests you, and if space is available.
If you are interested in a bronze level subscription, you can sign up at any time during the registration period.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Week 1: Transitions and Flow
What are they and why do I need them?
How they affect Scoring
How transitions and positions work together
Review of primary transition behaviors
Week 1: “Look Ma, No Hands!”
Eliminating obvious hand cues and creating value in verbal cues
Week 2: Turning the Corner
Transitions for left, right and U turns
What a nice view! How to keep your dog in the judge’s line of sight
Week 2: Momentum and Fluidity of Movement
The Domino Effect: Not just any transition will do!
Week 3: Transitions and Ring Coverage
What!? The ring is bigger than my dining room!?
Maintaining direction and line of travel through transitions
And how not to get stuck in the middle of the ring
Week 3: Now that’s Interesting!
Combining transitions to create interest and flow
Week 4: Transitions as “Crisis Intervention” and Eliminating Trouble Spots Within Your Choreography
Transitions as “Plan B”
Individual routine sequences reviewed
Week 4: Number Crunching
Timing your transitions to phrasing in the music
Week 5: Back Chaining
Your ticket to delayed reinforcement and stronger sequences (Including crate to gate!)
Week 6: Choreography Cues
Speaking your dog’s language and adding handler interpretation
Use of markers or clickers will be prevalent in this course. Handlers should already be using markers in their training and dogs should have understanding of the meaning of the marker.
It is recommended that you have taken one of the “Foundation Skills for Rally-FrEe and Musical Freestyle” course RA500, RA501 or RA502.
Gold students should have behaviors of spins, circles, and passing thru the legs on verbal cue or in the process of placing them on verbal cue.
Dogs should be able to move in left and right heel for several steps with attention on the handler. Having other Rally-FrEe or freestyle behaviors in your dog’ repertoire a plus. Rally-FrEe and freestyle behaviors can be viewed on the Rally Freestyle Elements website at www.rallyfree.com or
Timing of Cues within a Sequence
As you are already very aware, the timing of your cues matters. If you don’t give the dog enough time to hear, process and perform the behavior you have cued, there will be slight pauses, places where the dog literally is waiting for the information.
This latency affects the handler as well. You will pause waiting for the dog to respond and in those slight losses of time, the music has continued on without you and your dog. You will start to feel some anxiety in the need to catch up to the music, start to rush your cues. Your emotions will be all over your face, possibly causing worry in your dog.
Yep, timing of cues matters. You'll want to cue much earlier than you think you should. Allow your dog to process that cue before you present the opportunity for him to perform it - that opportunity might be stepping forward and pausing for a leg weave, or slowing and pausing for the spin. Your dog needs to hear your cues before these things occur.
The video below was made to show you how late cues affect your dog. The bigger value though is in how late cues affect the handler as well. Note how I start to revert to hand cues, and my voice changes when I see my dog struggle a little. Watch the vid a couple of times, to really compare the differences and how late cues can affect not only the quality of the performance but your and your dogs emotional state as well.
When we add music and cues not only need to be given early enough for the dog to perform without a pause within the sequence, but also given early enough in the phrasing of the music for the dog to start the sequence of behaviors with the start of the phrase of music.
That doesn’t always happen exactly. There are variables in performance (like adding a dog) that we don’t have precise control over. But by knowing your music and having strong transition behaviors you can minimize the timing errors. By using transition behaviors to either “pad” your sequence (oops! I got here too early, add a second rep of that transition) or fill in (I got here too late, add a transition sequence instead of what I had planned so I stay on time for the next sequence) the audience/judge won't be witness to your errors.
One of my biggest disappointments as a new freestyler was that I wouldn’t be able to sing along with the music as I be-bop around the floor! Freestylers are too busy thinking ahead. Instead of singing along, you are either cuing, or concentrating on when to give your next cue. There’s just no time to sing along (though I have caught myself doing it anyway!).
What you will find though and what all freestylers strive for, are those moments when you and the dog are truly moving as one, in a way that is almost indescribably joyful, doing and feeling something that few people will feel. The feeling that you have created something special and unique to you and your dog. A performance that creates an emotional response in you, your dog and your audience. It's priceless. And it's something that only those that perservere will experience.
Transitions as “Plan B”
Anyone that has ever performed a freestyle routine, has experienced when things don’t go as planned. How you respond to that in the ring determines whether the routine is ultimately successful or falls apart at that point. How you respond either allows you to recover in a way that puts you back on track without anyone noticing the mis-step, or the missed cue or the wrong behavior or ending up on the wrong side or in the wrong place, all of which puts our heads in an entirely different place then we were 10 seconds ago when everything was going splendidly. And that “new place” is somewhere that emotes on our face, in our movement, in the way we breathe, how our cues come out, the freezes of indecision and this all impacts your dog who’s jaw now closes and his head drops and there is a suppression of behavior that is hard to miss. In turn, your dog’s response to you has now increased your already anxious state…. It’s a scary spiral that I never like to go down. So if there is a way for me to avoid that I will.
Transitions are your “escape route” your “plan B”, your “crisis intervention”. Whatever you choose to call them, they will truly benefit you in this scenario if your dog’s execution of the transition, and responsiveness to the verbal cue, are strong and predictable.
If you have that strength and predictability (along with a little flexibility from the handler) you can get through any rough patches or unexpected turns in your routine and no one will be the wiser, by simply cuing a transition that gets the dog back to where he should be, or allows you to fill some time because the dog can’t possibly be cued to complete the behavior you had planned from where he is now. Or a dozen other scenarios that make it impossible for you or your dog to perform what you had planned at that moment in time. Transitions and your ability to use them when something goes awry, can turn an impending disaster into a slight change of plans.
So how do you get there? First, make primary transitions (spins, circles, thru) a priority in your training. These behaviors should start and end in a clear, precise position or they are of little used to you as crisis intervention. Make sure that you not only train them to fluency, but maintain them. And that the cues are strong indicators of reinforcement for your dog. Make them fun! Create transition games that produce lots of reinforcement! Transitions produce the best treat, the most fun toy tosses, surprise rewards (I can’t believe my mom did/gave me that!). Toss a treat, recall to a thru to toss another treat. Treat your transitions as you would difficult or complex behaviors that you feel you need to provide a strong reward history for.
Second, know your cues. In most all of your transitions there are 2 directions. Don’t get mixed up! Know which cue goes with which direction. Don’t make the dog think about which direction you really meant.
Third, maintain your criteria. Once the behavior is learned and fairly strong, try not to reward for “less than”. Yes, in the training and maintenance you may have some weakness from time to time, but address it, rather than rewarding a lessor execution and moving on to the next behavior or move. Don’t reward a transition that doesn’t finish in a precise position. Without the predictability of the transition ending in a positon, you don’t have the reliability of being able to use it as “crisis intervention”. You’ve only created another crisis of trying to figure out how to get your dog back where you need him.
Play with different combinations of transition behaviors. This gives your dog the experience that transitions may come in any combination, at any time. I like to do this as a warm up with a high rate of reward. Or as “easy” behaviors that I sandwich my harder or more complex behaviors in a training session.
A SAMPLING OF WHAT PRIOR STUDENTS HAVE SAID ABOUT THIS COURSE ...
Awesome course, Julie is such a helpful & experienced instructor and I really learned a lot in all three of Julie's classes. It has been great to have an opportunity to do courses about Freestyle & Rally FrEe Melita R
Julie Flanery's class on Transitions and Flow - Creating Effective Sequences for Musical Freestyle Routines was excellent! She gives lectures supplemented by her videos which are clear, interesting and easy to follow. The feedback she gives to Gold members is very, very helpful. She clearly pays attention to every detail in the videos and questions submitted to her and she responds quickly and with thoughtful comments and suggestions for improvement while always being encouraging. She is an AWESOME instructor as well as an excellent trainer. Ellen S.
Julie is a terrific instructor. She is able to find a way of helping you to help your dog no matter what the roadblock or what skill you have. Thanks Julie
Julie is a rare and talented trainer who can help people too--such a delight to have a creative and supportive teacher help me work on my skills! Cynthia M.
Julie Flanery presents a wealth of material both in the lectures and also in the class forums. If you take a class with Julie, be sure to take part in reading the comments in the forums even if you are not a Gold member. You will find yourself laughing and learning along with others--Julie's classes are GREAT!
Julie is wonderful. Each dog/handler has used different methods of training in the past. Converting our comfort level to new training style has helped me grow as a trainer.
Julie's videos are fantastic for demonstration of her lectures. Her lectures are very clear and easy to follow which makes it easy to understand the material and begin the training with my own dog.
Julie clearly cares about the success of her students by responding quickly and giving suggestions on how to improve while always being encouraging. Her enthusiasm comes through loud and clear.