FE550: Unbroken

Instructor: Hannah Branigan

Course Details

For those of us with adult dogs, who didn't know what we were doing and/or took some bad advice, and made a total hash of training one or more exercises.

The idea for this class came along as I was pondering my evolution as a trainer. I started thinking about how, when I first started training my (now older) dogs, I had no intention of competing in obedience... or even being a dog trainer. As a result, I made quite a few decisions and set up some behavior patterns without even realizing it, mostly just because I didn't know any better. 

As time passed, I got into dog sports... and they seem to be addicting! So now I often find myself in situations where I have new goals, but my previous training (or lack of training) may be interfering. Bad training decisions early in the dog's life, come back to haunt me. Or maybe it was a decision that made complete sense, when all I wanted was a good pet companion, but now I want fronts, too. 10 years ago, I had no idea what a "tucked sit" was, so bottom on the ground was good enough. Rats!

I've also discovered that I can fairly easily "break" behaviors that had seemed to be working just fine. I can't even count the number of times I've broken (and fixed!) Gambit's scent discrimination exercise. This phenomenon frequently happens as we start to introduce complexity (and proofing) to an exercise. Sometimes it feels like we are playing behavioral jenga! Make one small tweak, and the whole thing comes crashing down.

In this class, we will break down the diagnostic process to figure out exactly what the dog needs or is missing to solve the current problem. Is it a mechanical problem? Emotional? Is a foundation piece missing or not strong enough? Or is it just a proofing problem?

Then we can break down the decision making process to determine what to prioritize, and how to make a plan to move forward. As usual, there will be a heavy focus on "emotional fluency" since we not only want an accurate performance, but a joyful one, too.


Gold teams should have one or two specific exercises to focus on as "projects" for this class. We will have a series of lectures and exercises for all teams to complete, regardless of what project exercise they chose. The projects/challenges will break down by themes, as we identify common threads that run between behaviors. 

So while the class will be strongly influenced by the needs and projects of the gold teams, there will also be sufficient structure and content for bronze and silver participants to extrapolate the concepts to their own dogs.

This class is geared mostly toward obedience/rally skills, but because it is often difficult to cleanly slice sport-specific skills from the rest of the dog's learning, life skills are on the table, too. Some problems will be more appropriate for this class than others, so feel free to drop me a note to see if this is a good fit.