Instructor: Donna Hill
Most dogs go through life without ever having to learn that they have a back end; it just sort of follows along behind the front end. They also rarely need to learn that they can move other parts of their body independently. But when dogs compete in dog sports, knowing precisely where every part of their body is critical for precision, speed, alignment as well as safety.
This course will help you teach your dog body awareness through targeting. Starting with nose and front paw targeting, we also learn rear paw, and back end awareness that is key for precise behaviors in agility, formal obedience, rally, treibball, freestyle and other dog sports. Many of the behaviors can easily be turned into tricks unto themselves. In the process of teaching these behaviors, you will also learn which side your dog prefers to lead out on and if your dog has any muscle tightness or stiffness that is preventing him from being a well-balanced athlete.
- dogs that are klutzy or have no awareness of their size or strength
- dogs that crowd their humans or won't move out of their space
- dogs that lack self-control
- dogs that lack precision for placement on or near equipment or near their handler
- dogs that are fearful of being in another's personal space or having a human in their personal space
- dogs that have a medical condition that prevents repetitive jumping but need to build muscle (such as mild to moderate hip dysplasia, arthritis etc)
- dogs that are going to compete at a high level
This class is heavy with theory and many videos showing the process.
Here's my promotional video!
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 10:30am PDT.
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 10 students, Silver: 15 students, Bronze: unlimited.
SILVER LEVEL PILOT PROJECT - 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.
What is body awareness and why do dogs need it?
What is 'criteria' in training? distance, elevation
Adding verbal cues
nose target-hand, objects and a spot on the ground
paw target: ground
adding distance and elevation
Preferred lead out side (pawedness)
How to tell if your dog has underlining health issues that affect preferred direction
Criteria: degrees of a circle
front feet both on a low platform
teaching front foot pivot (back end moves)
360-degree pivots, both directions
Capturing behaviors without social pressure (walking into dog's space)
The benefits of training both sides at the same time
Adding hand signal and verbal cue
single back foot paw target object on the floor
other back foot target object on the floor
adding elevation to foot target
finding a moving elevated target
backing up 3 steps, onto stool, chairs etc
Shaping criteria: one foot, two feet, front feet, back feet, altogether now!
front foot placement on the rungs of a ladder flat on the ground
front foot placement on the rungs
rear foot placement on the rungs
all four feet on the rungs
walking with all four feet on ladder rungs
Dog can get a jump start on the class material if she has a solid closed-mouth nose touch to your palm
and a flat paw target.
Here is a video clip showing what each behavior should look like:
Nose target should be done with closed mouth, paw target should be flat on target with no scratching motion.
- treat pouch (ideally a belted one) or pockets on both sides of a jacket or hoodie
- plastic yogurt, margarine or ice cream lid with lip cut off (paw target)
- 8-10 books, wood pieces or containers that are about one inch thick and stackable (or half that thickness for smaller dogs)
- 2 snow shovels and/or 2 brooms with handles (wider diameter is more desirable, handles will be used to generalize to round rungs)
- 8 x 24 inch 2"x4" wood pieces, flattish pieces of firewood, or a ladder with at least 6 rungs (flat or round)
- long ladder with round rungs (optional)
- enough bricks or blocks of wood (to raise the ladder off the ground at least 3 inches and still be stable)
- ideally round container about 8 inches in diameter and 3 inches high strong enough to hold your dog's weight (slice of a tree, chunk of wood, brick, or 3 inch thick telephone book that you can tape closed)
- low stable stool large enough for your dog to stand on (child's plastic ones from second hand store or garage sale work great)
- stairs with at least 3 steps
Week 2 Practical Training Part A Paws on Platform
Dog paws target raised on another object
Have at least 2 books of increasing thickness and another platform of some sort. (slice of a tree, piece of wood, hard plastic container, upside down metal pot, low stool etc). Choose a platform that is at least 4 times as wide as the dog's front paws combined. This will help make it easy for the dog to make a correct choice.
Tape the back of the paw target so it doesn't slide off when the dog noses or steps on it. Green 'painter's tape' folded inside out in a loop to make it sticky works well.
Test out your platform to make sure it will not slide easily on the floor. If it does, try moving to another surface below the platform or placing a rubber backed mat under it. If it slides too easily, it may slide away when the dog pushes off it to go get a thrown treat.
treats counted out
Here are my two dogs eager for a training session to begin. I have just laid down the mat and they are asking to be the first one to get a turn. One of them gets to train with me while the other is rewarded for waiting on her bed or a couch. This eagerness what you want to see at the beginning of each session. If you are not, you need to change something about the training: higher value treats, shorter sessions, easier criteria, fewer sessions etc.
Dog places two front paws flat on the paw target at once.
Two paws on target
If your dog was not yet offering two front paws on the target, now is the time to start. Place the target on the ground and stand in front of it. Click if your dog paws it with one paw. If she puts a second paw on it, continue rewarding in place.
Here, I missed the opportunity to reinforce for both front paws on when I threw the treat away from the target. Fortunately, she keeps offering it and I catch it in the next session.
Dog places two front paws flat on a raised paw target
Let the dog watch as you place paw target in front of you on a raised platform (half to one-inch thick book).
If the book is thin enough, the dog may paw target it immediately. If it is too thick, you may need to play with the target by alternating between placing it on the ground, then on the platform. Or you may have to shape a full paw touch on the target on the platform from a partial one as you did before (nail, partial paw, full paw).
Start with a few paw targets on the ground first, then pick it up and place it on the platform.
This is also a good time to see which paw your dog prefers. Count the number of times she uses each paw. Lucy shows a preference for her left paw as she places her left paw on the target first 4 times out of 5.
Add another book one at a time until the dog is paw targeting at her wrist height. If your dog offers two paws on the books, mark and reward several treats while the dog is standing on the platform. Toss a treat a short distance away to reset the dog.
Lucy offers both front feet, a paw lift and offers a sit as well. She likes to test to see what is needed for each new behavior.
If the books are slipping apart when the dog pushes off to get the treat as they are in this video, you need to either tie them together like a package, tape them together or use one thicker book or chunk of wood.
When the dog is consistently offering two front paws on the target,
fade the paw target so the dog will paw target just the platform
In this training session, I replaced the two books with a single thicker book so it doesn't slide around as much. Jessie steps right up onto the new book, and only after stops to sniff it. This is a good sign that she is enthusiastic about the task.
If the dog is not yet stepping up on the platform every time, pick up the platform between after treating while she is standing on it and repeat until the dog is consistently placing a paw on it. This creates interest in it.
Also, try feeding one high-value treat while the dog is on the platform after the click and drop a second lower value one just far enough away so the dog has to get off.
Keep repeating until the dog is placing both front paws on the platform 4 times in a row. When your dog does 2 paws on the platform 4 times in a row, you are ready to add the next criteria - duration.
Dog will stand stationary with both front feet on platform or book when it is placed on the ground in front of her.
Criterion: time on platform (duration)
With the dog watching, place the platform on the ground in front of the dog. Click and treat if the dog looks at, sniffs, nose touches, or paw touches the platform. (this builds interest in it).
I reward Lucy multiple times in a row for stepping up on the new platform
If you feed the dog while she still has her paw on the platform you'll end up with a dog who is staying on the platform for short periods. It is now a reinforcing place to be so the dog will probably offer standing there longer before you click.
Repeat paw targeting both front paws with several different types of platforms and different heights. This helps the dog to truly understand the behavior.
Select your platform with care. If it is too light, it may be pushed away when the dog gets off it. Not sturdy enough and it may break while your dog stands on it. Too high and it might be too much of a change for the dog. Too scratchy on the floor or too slick on the dog's paws are all considerations. Also, make sure the platform doesn't slide easily on the floor surface. A mat may help hold it in place.
Tip: Make sure to pick up the platform between training sessions (sets of 10 c/t). If picked up, this keeps the dog's interest in it and she will not have any interactions with it that are unreinforced. If left down, the dog has constant access to it and will start to ignore it. We want the dog to come running over to it and eagerly wanting to interact with it.
Tip: At the beginning of each new training session (especially the first few), you will want to reinforce when both front feet are on the platform.
When your dog has two front paws on the platform, delay the click until after you feed the dog 4-5 individual treats in a row. This keeps the dog on the platform a little longer. This is called "feeding for position". The position the dog is fed in is more likely to be repeated.
As you do more repetitions, space out the time between treats, then decrease the number to fade them entirely between clicks.
Tip: If your dog can't hold still or gets on and off the platform, you can cue 'stay' as a prompt the first few times, then drop it to see if the dog will stand on it.
When your dog can step on a platform with both front feet and stay there for 10 seconds without feeding before clicking, she is ready for the next step.
If you want to give this 2 front pawed behavior a cue you can. I use "Paws up".
What other things can you manipulate to help your dog learn more about her paw placement and movement? (front paws-decrease size of platform, step into smaller and smaller containers etc)
A sampling of what prior students have said about this course ...
I thought Donna did a wonderful job with the targeting class. Her videos were well broken down into important small steps with tips for adapting them to individual dogs and handlers. It was educational to see each student adapt the exercises to their physical abilities and skill levels, as well as those of their dogs. I did work along with my dogs on several of the exercises and found I ran into the same problems the students often did. I am looking forward to taking many more courses from the Fenzi Academy. Well done! Barb B.
I was familiar with Donna Hill's public videos before hearing about Fenzi Academy and was thrilled to be able to take a course given by her. I was not disappointed. Thanks Donna and Fenzi Academy! Fay B.
Donna Hill's course in body awareness was absolutely amazing. I'm excited about the variety and caliber of the courses offered through Fenzi Academy. Tamra T,
I’m happy to report that my older dog has a solid hand target, front paw target, and rear paw target. I’m most happy about the last one….I never would have expected to get so far with her for the rear paw target. It took her several sessions to “get it,” but after the light bulb went off, it was awesome! Thank you so very much. Now, the clouds are the limit for shaping with her! I can’t wait to go through the rest of the course material with her. I will use concepts from this class in many other training scenarios. The possibilities are endless…so thank you for “training” me, so I can train her. I loved this class!
Each week I said, “We could never do that,” and then my dog would get it! Wow. The class gave us an overview of what was possible to accomplish using targeting. We came into class with a very basic pivot from other classes and were able to advance a bit. I was surprised and pleased to see that the exercises seem to focus our challenging dog, who is often anxious and distracted. Sandy H
As a bronze student without the ability to ask questions it was particularly important that the material be presented in a way that was complete. The level of detail was excellent and allowed me to really understand what I was aiming for and how to approach and trouble shoot.