Instructor: Denise Fenzi
This course adds additional people, dogs, challenges and more complex exercises to the ones introduced in the Ring Confidence Course.
Each of these exercises is designed to target a specific aspect of the competition ring. We will consider the role of additional people, dogs and environmental distractions to our work. While most of the exercises will continue to focus on creating a super bright and positive attitude towards the ring, we will now add some work within the ring, so the dog can become comfortable either playing or working in a competition setting.
THIS CLASS ASSUMES AN ABSOLUTE MINIMUM OF TWO PEOPLE PER EXERCISE, and many require more! Each concept will offer a basic training version and then a series of challenge versions. There is no requirement or expectation that all working teams be able to perform every challenge exercise. As always, handlers will be encouraged to work at the right level for thier dog. There is no expectation of keeping up with the other dogs in this course or even within their group.
Each week you will be given a series of skill challenges to try out with your training friends! The lectures will help you set up exercises to maximize the chances of success and will also present options for addressing failure, when it occurs. Familiarity with the techniques offered in Ring Confidence Part 1 will be assumed and referenced, and will not be reviewed in this class.
When you and your dog have mastered the exercises in this course, your team should be ready for the realities of competition!
Want to see what you might be doing in this class? Check out this promotional video!:
This class is offered for "self-study"
This "self-study" class purchase will add the class's lecture materials to your library. There are no participation forums included with this purchase.
OB260 Self Study
This "self-study" class purchase will add the class's lecture materials to your library.
There are no participation forums included with this purchase.Number of slots: unlimited
For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Week 1 Skills:
The Basic Warmup
Basic Attractive Object Distraction Game
Basic Human with Food Distraction Game
Lecture: How to Use this Class
Environmental Distraction Games
Silence and Staring Games
Lecture: Options for Handling Errors
Dog Distractions Games
Crowded Ring Entrance Games
Noisy and Hyper Games
Lecture: Adding Work in the Ring and Easy/Hard work
Metronome Heeling Games
Judge with Recall Games
Lecture: Moving Rewards outside the Ring
Judge and Heeling Games
Stand for Exam Games
Figure eight Games
Lecture 5: Putting everything together
Review and "catch-up"
The following is the skills list for the first week of this class:
There is NO work inside the ring this week.
1. THE BASIC WARMUP
For this group class, I’d like EVERY class to begin with this exercise, but I only need to see it taped the first time. The way I do it....everyone lines up and goes through one at a time. Once in the ring, spend about 15 seconds playing with food/toys in the ring and then go to the end of the line. For each turn, one person will be the “judge” and will call each of the players into the ring. After five minutes, each dog should have been in the ring several times. At first, it doesn't matter too much if the dog is even paying attention (for example, a puppy). After that, expect attention entering the ring to the degree that your dog is ready (heeling to ring entrance from a few feet away; starting at the ring gates, etc.). Because all of your dogs should have taken the basic ring confidence class, I’ll assume that your dogs will understand the meaning of ring gates; namely, to get ready to play!
This exercise is the beginning of adding another person to the ring ( a judge). It is also the beginning of adding a judge to the exercises learned in the basic Ring Confidence class.
In my sample video below, we did not use a judge - we simply entered the ring in turn. The challenge is the other dogs! This video is long. The reason I am including the entire video is so you can see some of the things that were done when the dogs struggled, and also so you could see the improvement over the four minutes that we warmed up. When this drill ended, we moved into other ring preparation activities.
Evaluation of the above video:
0 sec - blue merle Collie was perfect.
15 sec - tri-color Collie was simply not ready. Skipped his turn.
23 sec - Lyra is thinking about visiting. I prevent this by reaching down and holding her chest back. She does not immediately reconnect so I skipped her turn.
30 sec - blue merle Aussie is perfect.
45 sec - blue merle Collie is perfect.
1:00 - Lyra decides she wants her turn and is perfect.
1:15 - blue merle Collie comes in a bit early but it works out ok.
1:23 - blue merle Collie interested in Aussie in the ring. Note that the trainer does a backup correction (see first class for more details on a backup correction or wait until next week's lecture)
1:30 - this time the Collie enters ring very nicely.
1:45 - Lyra enters nicely here.
2:00 - tri-color Collie is still not ready. As a result, his leash is handed to another person and the 1st trainer takes another dog in the ring while her Collie watches!
2:30 - the second trainer now takes the tri-color Collie in the ring - now he's ready! Normally I don't recommend switching handlers, but it works out here.
2:45 - Yorkie comes in the ring but the owner didn't understand the exercise so she did not play.
3:00 - Aussie is perfect.
3:10 - Lyra enters the ring and is perfect.
3:25 - tri color collie trying again. He is paying attention this time but his owner holds out for correct heeling, so she does a backup correction and then successfully enters the ring at 3:30.
3:40 - blue merle Collie performs well and the trainer adds a basic set-up to his work before his play time.
3:55 - blue merle Aussie does very well.
4:08 - Lyra performs well and we end this game.
Note the improvement in the dogs in only four minutes! Some of the owners hold out for better heeling because their dogs are more skilled and others simply want to get in the ring with attention. Towards the end, the Blue Merle Collie dog adds the criteria of a setup before playing (hold off on this step for now).
There are NO CHALLENGES to this game. This is always a light and fun way to introduce your dog to work. As your dog is closer to trial readiness, you would want to skip this test on occasion to make sure that your dog will manage in the real competition ring - the first time the dog enters the ring for real!
2. BASIC ATTRACTIVE OBJECT DISTRACTION GAMES
This is a review from the first Ring Confidence class, but now you will be playing it when there is more going on in the environment - namely, other people and dogs will be present now, and hopefully you are in a new space. This is a game I play often to keep it fresh in the dog's mind. I want my dog to be convinced that when distractions are present, the best thing to do is pay attention to your trainer! When you feel really good about the basic game, add in some of the variations below that require a helper. Mastery of this game will also set your dog up very nicely for the "Basic Human with Distraction Game" listed below, which does require a helper:
Here's the basic game. I'm using Brito so you can see what is looks like the first time I play it with a novice dog:
Note that while this is Brito's first time with this game, we train in a manner that constantly reinforces basic proofing work, so in this video Brito never goes for the treat bag. I was surprised by that (so much for holding my green dog for video of failure). Your dog might "suffer" more. Just be patient and wait; it will work itself out as your dog gains understanding. Here is the basic drill:
1. Put the bag of cookies (or toy) on the table.
2. Show the dog as you place the cookies but do not let them get to them. Sometimes it is easier to put the goodies or toy in a bag or container that the dog cannot access.
4. Eventually, the dog will look back at you. (remember, we've played this before)
5. Heel into the ring next to the proof - distance depends on the dog's skill level (a very young dog or puppy might "move" into the ring rather than heeling)
6. Grab treats/toys off the table and feed or play for at least 15 seconds. It is also fine if identical treats or toys are in your pocket and used for the reward.
7. Leave ring.
8. Repeat several times. You can line up a group of dogs for efficiency if you're in a group setting.
Challenges and Variations:
When your dog is comfortable with the basic exercise, it's time to get creative.
1. Significantly decrease the distance to the chair so your dog is closer to the proof, and ask your dog to heel past the chair to get into the ring. You may also wish to add a halt or a speed change as you pass the chair - a speed change to a slow pace is easier and a fast pace is more difficult for the dog; choose wisely. This is counterintuitive for most people! Here is Brito with the treats on the chair instead of on the table; again he is extremely cooperative:
2. Now change the angle of approach to the chair. Directly towards it with an about turn is very difficult! Note that the chair is opposite the entrance to the ring in this following video example; that is so that you can heel into the ring for your party after the about turn.
This video ends up showing much more than Raika heeling towards a chair with cookies and then into the ring, because Brito showed up as I was about start the exercise (he got out of the house). I decided to proceed, because it shows how Raika ignores him. It also shows that Brito is very much a baby - he steals the cookies off the chair, but since he cannot get into them I ignore it. This is actually good training for him to realize that stealing food won’t work without my help!:
Here is another video of Raika showing this exercise, this time without extra help from Brito:
When your dog can perform the above challenges, try placing the food/toys on the floor so that your dog moves past them to enter theLyra is walking over the open food bag here at a “slow” pace since that is the easiest option!
If you're feeling good about this exercise, it’s time to take the food or toys out of the bag. Start with non-edible items at first, such as styrofoam or paper towels - most dogs are easily fooled if they see these items come out of a bait bag! If you use food, then assign another person to cover the cookie with their foot just in case the dog goes for it, or work the dog on a leash when you areMake sure the dog sees the food or non-edible item going onto the floor!
In this video, note that I allow Lyra to look but I’m ready to step in if I need to. Near the end, I need to prevent her going for a cookie! I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I do intervene. Note that I have no “leave it” command. The reason is that she is in heel position; if she is in heel position then she isn’t allowed to dash out of it. But at the very end of the tape, you’ll see that I allow her to sniff in the area. That’s because I’m quite sure that I picked up all of the remaining pieces, and I knew that there was nothing to eat there. She had also been released from heel position:
The final video in this set is Brito. I used my son to protect the cookie. Due to a misunderstanding with my son, Brito gets the first cookie. That’s not good, but mistakes happen! The good news is that dogs do recover from errors. The bad news is that it will be a bit harder for Brito to forget that he won a forbidden cookie!:
If you succeeded with all of the above challenges, good for you! If not, no worries. This class runs for six weeks; plenty of time to see what you can accomplish with your teammates. This is not a race. You can add challenges each week as your dog is ready.
There are three goals to this specific type of proofing:
First is to convince your dog to pay attention in the face of interesting distractions. Second is to convince your dog that other people exist to help train your dog…that judges, stewards and spectators are all there to prevent your dog from self-reinforcing. And finally, we want your dog to understand that the pressure is released as soon as she gets into the ring. That makes the ring an even more desirable place to be!
3. BASIC HUMAN with FOOD DISTRACTION GAME
Please master this skill in all variations outside of the ring. Remember, we want the ring to be the release of pressure at this point.
To begin, master this “pre-work”: Do not have the dog in heel position or any formal position. Stand approximately one foot from the ring entrance. Have a person available as a baiter (cookie holder). This person may sit in a chair or stand next to the ring entrance. The dog will be allowed to approach either on or off leash. The baiter does not allow the dog to get the food and does not interact with the dog. The baiter does not make eye contact. If the dog ignores the food and goes for the baiter (some very social dogs will do this), then the baiter is to continue to ignore the dog. If the dog “mauls” the person, then the dog should be kept on leash to prevent the mauling. If the dog simply wanders away to find a distraction in the environment, then the baiter should put the food under the dog’s nose to try to keep the dog locked in on the food, and the dog should be kept on a short leash. Either the dog sniffs food or turns back to the handler - nothing else should happen. DO NOT allow the baiter to use personal interaction to keep the dog there - that is rewarding for the dog. If the dog moves away from the person and seems confused then the handler can say something to cause the dog to look at them (in the beginning - after awhile the dog should default to paying attention to the handler). As soon as the dog looks to the handler, the team should move into the ring and have a party!
Here is Brito playing this game. Note that I have to point out the person with a cookie for him, because he already defaults to me in a working environment. Most dogs will take longer the first time you play this game:
Soon, your dog should begin to see baiters holding food as a reason to check back with you so they can get into the ring.
Here is a similar exercise that will help your dog prepare for the basic Human with Food Distraction game:
This time, I have my baiter eating something near the dog. Here is Brito with my son eating a bowl of pasta on a chair next to the ring. If it is safe to work off leash and the dog won’t run off, then you may do so:
When your dog understands these types of warm up exercises, we move on to the Basic Human with Food Distraction game.
To begin: Make sure that your dog can accept a neutral person standing next to your dog on his left side while you are on the dog’s right ( a doggy sandwich). Next, have the baiter waft a cookie across the dog’s nose. Almost all dogs will follow the cookie with their nose; just wait. If the dog tries to get up and go to the person who is holding the cookie, use the leash to prevent the dog from leaving but do not use a leash correction and do not try to lure your dog back. When your dog realizes that staring at the stranger with the cookie is not going to work, dogs with attention heeling training tend to look back to their trainers. Handler must give a cookie quickly to reward the dog’s decision to ignore the baiter and look to the handler!
Both of you must use the same type of cookie. Very quickly your dog will figure out that they never get the cookie from the baiter and that they should stick with their handler.
If the dog is struggling, do not have the baiter “push hard.” Instead, have them start by just quietly standing there with a cookie in their right hand. The baiter can slowly add more cookie movement as the dog shows the ability to handle the pressure and to make the good decision to look back to the handler.
Note that when the dog does check back in with the owner, two things happen; the baiter moves away (taking the pressure off) and the handler gives the dog a cookie. It’s a good deal!
The baiter should not be making eye contact with your dog because that can be perceived as threatening by many dogs. Simply have them look at a spot on the floor or some such place.
Do not play this game for more than a minute or two. Otherwise it becomes very stressful for the dog. I’d suggest setting a timer for 90 seconds.
Once a dog understands that the baiter will not feed and that the handler will, the criteria is quickly raised so that the dog is not rewarded unless they resist looking towards the baiter at all.
In this video, Lyra is comfortable with this person, so we proceed fairly quickly to the exercise. Here is the video and my analysis. Note that while I had explained the exercise to my assistant in advance, there is still plenty of room for confusion, but we all get better as we proceed through the work. Your group will have some ups and downs too. That’s ok!
5 sec - I give the baiter my food right in front of Lyra.
22 sec - Lyra looks back at me so I give her a cookie. Baiter should have stepped out at the same time to release the pressure.
26 sec - Lyra is faster here.
31 sec - Lyra, baiter and I all performed correctly.
36 sec - again, we did this well. So time to raise criteria. I asked my baiter to put the cookie in front of her nose. What I should have said was “by the side of her head” since this step was really too difficult.
44 sec - I could have rewarded here since this was the first attempt and it was too hard.
Baiter performs exactly right but the work is too hard for Lyra.
1:00 - I reward Lyra even though she’s not perfect because I realize my mistake
1:00-1:05 - this is how I should have done it in the first place and Lyra succeeds.
Next two are close to perfect.
1:15 - I reward, which is correct.
1:20 - this one was perfect for all of us!
Final one was perfect and note that Lyra gets two rewards. She gets a cookie at heel and a chance to go in the ring for more cookies and play.
This next video shows a class of eight dogs working on this exercise - it is either the dog’s first time with this work, or they have not done this game in a very long time. Please recognize that this is also not “my” class - I’m a participant with this group and nothing more, and the handlers have agreed to play my game.That means you’ll see some tight leashes, choke chains and very mild leash corrections and other stuff like wandering dogs that I will choose to ignore. Here is my evaluation of the important things:
14 sec - This is a young dog so he gets a free cookie at the beginning to get his head in the game.
23 sec - note that I stop approaching if he looks at me and we start over.
55 sec - you can see him figuring it out here.
Blue Merle Collie
We pushed this dog harder right off the bat because he was ready for more pressure.
Note how not getting a cookie until he performs correctly at 1:58 pays off.
2:40 - that’s enough! Off to the ring to play and relieve stress
2:50 - 3:20
Oops, wrong dog lined up!
This Golden has done this exercise before, therefore he performs close to flawlessly, even with the Yorkie wandering around loose.
4:40 - he gets to go in ring after close to perfect work.
5:10 - 7:00
The Aussie struggles with this exercise, but most of the handling on my part (baiter) and the handler’s part is fairly good. We could have made it easier but this dog has done this exercise before so we “punished” him instead when he failed to perform correctly. At 6:50 you’ll see that I took his leash and returned him to his crate. (I’m the bad guy, rather than the handler). Sometimes dogs can learn as much by being wrong as by being right. This decision was appropriate because this dog has played this game enough in the past to know how to “win”. We weren’t willing to wait him out this time around. 90 seconds is enough!
7:15 - 8:40
The Dalmatian was very well handled by all parties and shows an excellent learning curve.
9:00 - 10:10
This dog was also very well handled by all parties and showed a good learning curve.
Portuguese Water Dog
10:30 - 11:30
My timing as the baiter wasn't always perfect here but not too bad and the dog figured it out.
The handler’s timing is a bit behind here. The handler is also rewarding the dog after he looks at me (the baiter) and then back at her. That’s fine for a very first step, but then it’s better to raise criteria, and expect the dog to learn to hold attention to the handler fairly early in the training of this game, as you see in the examples from the other dogs. However, the dog will still figure it out even this way, so I let it go. For a very first attempt it’s probably ok.
German Wire-haired Pointer
This dog chose not to play the game, and instead simply heeled past me and my cookies into the ring - that’s fine but a different game:).
Challenges and Variations:
- 1.“baiter” get moreJust remember, when the dog resists pressure and succeeds, take the baiter out of the picture and reward the dog. In this manner, the dog actually gets two rewards - the removal of pressure plus the cookie. In this video, you’ll see Lyra playing the game for the second time. You can see she is stronger at resisting the pressure. On her last attempt, I take her into the ring to play with her toy as the final reward:
This video shows Lyra’s third and final time playing this game on this day:
2.Add additional pressure - wiggle the food in front of the dog’s nose. You can work harder to pull the dog off the handler, but never more than three or so seconds of pressure or you’ll risk stressing the dog excessively and making them nervous or fearful aboutNote that at this point the dog cannot look back and forth - the dog must lock in on the handler. If the dog had failed, she would have backed up and tried again:
3.Throw or drop food on the floor in front of the dog but be absolutely certain the dog cannot get the food - either with a leash or by having your helper cover the food on theIt’s your choice to pick it up or not before running the dog - assess the dog in front of you!: In this longer video, you’ll see several repetitions. In the first one, you’ll notice that the handler helps the dog considerably; so much so that the handler seems “out of control” and the dog responds poorly The second attempt is slightly better, but the handler still has no faith her dog. By the third repetition, I send her out of the ring to try again; she must stop talking to him and doing his work for him! Note how much better he does at that point. It’s worth noting that this dog is a “crossover” dog in training and it’s very hard for his handler to relax and stop telling him what to do! If she learns to relax and allows her dog to make choices, the dog will be much more successful:
Try having another person eating at your dog’s face level:
When the dog is solid at a standstill, go ahead and add some movement to the basic distraction game. there are two ways to do this. The first is to have the dog heel and the baiter comes along with the dog, trying to pull the dog off (never for more than about three to five seconds at the most). The second way is to have the dog moving towards or past the baiter. In this video you'll see both. In one instance the dog is heeling towards me as I offer food. In another instance I walk with the dog and handler. Note that in either instance the pressure is removed after a short period if the dog is successful. In this video, you'll also see what happens when this dog fails - I perform a leash-holder correction (illustrated in this video and discussed in our next lecture; let's not discuss that aspect of this video until after the lecture):
With a more advanced dog, you can pressure the dog very close to the ring entrance and then have the dog heel away after resisting the pressure. This very advanced Golden is first subjected to having his lip lifted, a treat placed in his mouth, removed, and then he "earns" the chance to enter the ring and heel, earning his final reward after work. Note that ignoring me earns the chance to work, not a free cookie:
Have a gauntlet of people eating or offering food to your dog. In this video, I have the people sitting on the floor so the food is at Brito's level. You can see it takes a few tries for him to succeed. Note that I wait patiently for him; he's a baby and it's important for him to make choices on his own for long term success:
Working teams of a minimum of two people with an unlimited maximum. Five people or more is ideal.
Baby gates or a ring set up ( minimum entrance, ideally a partial ring)
toys/food for proofing games
unusual clothing (capes, trenchcoats, costumes, hats, ties, umbrellas, etc.)
Training area approximately 1/2 size of an AKC ring or larger
A sampling of what prior students have said about this course ...
Ring Confidence and Advanced Ring Confidence has taken us as a team from struggling and dismal to up and happy and just having a ball in the ring. I can not begin to express how thankful I am for these classes and this philosophy Ellen Lipps and Smooch
Beginning with the first Ring Confidence for the Obedience and Rally ring and then following up with the Advanced Ring Confidence course, I have learned ideas that I had not even thought of before these courses!!! From the smallest detail (taking off the leash) to teaching my young dog that the ring is the best place ever and then the beginning of the hardest part when competing.........getting the rewards off my body and keeping a good attitude!! We have made huge strides on our journey to the competition obedience ring!! These courses have given me the light at the end of the tunnel!!! Thanks for the opportunity, FDSA!! Sheryl E.
So many great ideas and techniques in this class. It is amazing to me that no one else teaches this stuff and it is so important. And of course, Denise is amazing!
I really loved the Ring Confidence series of courses. This course has helped me more than I can say. My main sport is agility and the difference in my dog's attitude towards the ring has been very noticeable. She went from a dog who wanted to run out of the ring to a dog ready to go at the start line. Although the course to directed towards the obedience ring the exercises were adaptable for agility purposes. The course lectures and videos are very extensive and presented in very understandable and logical fashion. Mary Ellen S.
I found it extremely useful to have a structured framework to work on building ring confidence with training partners. Although our dogs had very different skill levels we were able to adapt the sessions to suit them all and gain valuable feedback on both our own work and the issues presented by other participants. Thank you Denise for this Excellent course. Maggie H