Ep 51 // What Equestrians Can Learn From The Dog Training World
In this episode we talk to the amazing Denise Fenzi! All about the similarities in dog training and horse training, bridging the gap between training methodologies, bringing positive reinforcement into our interactions with human learners, keeping in mind all the parties involved (owner/caregiver, trainer, animal learner, and society), and so much more!
"Denise Fenzi (she/her) has titled dogs in obedience, tracking, schutzhund, mondioring, herding, conformation, and agility. She has two AKC obedience champions, perfect scores in both schutzhund and Mondio ringsport obedience, and is well known for her flashy and precise obedience work. While a successful competitor, Denise's real passion lies in training dogs and solving the problems that her own dogs and her students' dogs present. She is a recognized expert in developing drive, motivation, and focus in competition dogs, and is known internationally as an engaging speaker and an expert in no-force training for sport dogs. She has consistently demonstrated the ability to train and compete with dogs using motivational methods in sports where compulsion is the norm. In addition to training and speaking, Denise is a prolific writer. Denise thoughtfully and persistently works to break down the barriers that prevent people from obtaining a truly interactive and mutually enjoyable sport relationship with their dogs. Fenzi Academy is the culmination of her efforts as a forward step in providing progressive information to any trainer who wishes to learn." You can learn from Denise Fenzi through her many social media platforms or through her website(s)!
[00:00:00] Hey there. Welcome to the TWE Podcast, the podcast where we talk about all things related to horse training, horse keeping, and being better horse people for our horses.
[00:00:24] I hope you enjoy this episode today, and if you'd like to share your thoughts with me or have suggestions for future podcast. Please feel free to reach out to me through social media or the TWE website, the willing equine.com on my website. You can also find a ton of great information about horse training and keeping in general, as well as check out the TW services and just learn more about us. Also, we have courses and memberships that you could sign up for. Before you do that, though, I would love for you to listen to this episode and I hope it inspires you in a positive way today.
[00:01:03] Denise Fenzi. She/her has titled Dogs in Obedience, Tracking, ShutzHund, Mondeo Ring, Herding, Confirmation, and Agility. She has two AKC Obedience Champions Perfect Scores in both Shutz Hund and Mondeo Ring Sports, Obedience and is well known for her flashy and precise obedience work. While a successful competitor, Denise's real passion lies in training dogs and solving the problems that her own dogs and her students dogs present, she is a recognized expert in developing drive, motivation and focus in competition dogs, and is known internationally as an engaging speaker and an expert in no force training for sports dogs. She has consistently demonstrated the ability to train and compete with dogs using motivational methods in sports where compulsion is the norm. In addition to training and speaking, Denise is a prolific writer, Denise, thoughtfully and persistently works to break down the barriers that prevent people from obtaining a truly interactive and mutually enjoyable sport relationship with their dogs. Fenzi Academy is the cumulation of her efforts as a forward step in providing progressive information to any trainer who wishes to learn. All right, thank you, Denise, for joining us today. And thank you so much for just kind of reaching out to me and wanting to do this podcast episode today. Oh my gosh, I can't talk together. I'm really excited about getting to talk about just how our world's really cross paths and how much we have in in common when it comes to dog training and horse training. There is so much that's in common there, and I'm really excited to talk about that.
[00:02:42] Me too. I think you're right. I think there's quite a lot in common between our worlds.
[00:02:46] So I originally found you, I can't, I think it was on. Well, okay. So I had known about you and what you've done for a long time, and I do have dogs and I work with my dogs regularly. And I actually spent some time working towards being a certified dog trainer. And then I kinda switched worlds because I realized that while I love dogs, my true, like my passion, my obsession is horses. So I went back to the horse world and unfortunately I did not take the information that I had learned about working with dogs to the horse world. I very much went right back into my traditional, you know natural horsemanship, forced based kind of training methods. And it wasn't until many years later where I started to integrate all I had learned about clicker training and positive reinforcement and just operant conditioning, everything, all the science into working with horses. And then I spent quite a bit of time, you know, building up my experience there. And it wasn't until more recently, I would say probably in the last six months that I became even more aware of your work and I think particularly on TikTok. And when you started talking about, I can't remember the first one was, but I really got invested when you started asking people to talk about kind of defining the other camp. So how, what does other types of training look like and what does that mean? And then getting people to really talk with each other and express how they felt. And then also diving more into Lima and what that meant. And does it apply to just the animal learner or does it also apply to the human learner?
[00:04:25] And that was all just so fascinating to me, and I've just been obsessed with all of your work since. And so I'd love to talk about that more today. And I know you expressed interest.
[00:04:34] Yeah, that's actually one of my favorite topics on TikTok. What I asked people to do was to take the position of the other side. So if they were a force free trainer, they would say, I'm a balanced trainer and this is why I'm a balanced trainer. And to make a persuasive argument for the opposite position. And then I tweaked it a little and did it, I don't remember Instagram or Facebook. And I said, whatever side you are, I want you to argue. Why the other side, what it offers, what makes it fantastic. And in and of itself that was kind of interesting. But then when it was over, I asked people to say, did you feel fairly represented? So as a force free trainer, I looked at what the balance trainer said about what's wonderful about force Free. And I would say that when I was done reading, I did not feel that they understood why I was a force free trainer. And that for me was actually eye opening. And I think many balance trainers had a very similar feeling that they didn't feel like they were being understood. And while in and of itself, I did not go forward with that at that time. I just became aware of how deep the misunderstanding was across camps and yeah, I became pretty vested in getting people to recognize that human beings are human beings and there are good people and bad people and kind people and unkind people. All over the spectrum has nothing to do with the person's training method. Some force free trainers are quite good at applying their principles to all species, including humans. Others struggle. And I think a lot of the struggle is because of their frustration. They, they feel that dogs are being maybe abused and mistreated. And I found the same to be true in the balanced community, that some of them were exceptionally kind, kind people. I also learned how much range there is. When we say balanced, the, the words make no sense. The, there's no such thing as force free. It's just the word we use to try to represent that. We try not to use force or intimidation, but we all know that, you know, realistically in life, if you are defining that by the four quadrants it's an impossible situation because life constantly involves taking things away and it, it's complicated. And so balanced. If you use the words force free literally would cover everybody, or at least 99%. But then balance trainers say, no, no, no, I'm not balanced. I'm not trying to be balanced in the sense of the quadrants. I'm trying to be balanced in the sense of how I think about training so that I end up with a dog. That it's logical, it makes sense. And then I found myself getting a little frustrated because I don't appreciate that you took that word, because I consider myself very balanced in terms of how I address my, I'm constantly balancing my dogs drives control, desire to go, desire to stop. These are to me, dog training is all about the balance and finding, you know, what does your dog do well? How much time do you spend there? What, what does your dog, or I suppose, horse struggle with? How much time do you spend there? How are you getting to the middle of the balance point? And one side of me says it's so overwhelming and so big. That there's nowhere to go with it. But the other side of me is chronically difficult. And I suppose the reason I'm where I am in life is because I'm always pushing the bounds and trying to understand the edges. And so I keep finding myself coming back to it and trying to help people get along a little better. And I actually think I was reasonably successful on TikTok. You are always going to have extremes. And my personal suggestion to the balanced community is that they control their extremes. And my personal suggestion to the force free community is that we control our extremes. And in my opinion, our unwillingness to do that or our inability to do that is probably the biggest hold up to truly high quality conversations that really examine what is excellent because at this point, The extremes are controlling the conversation and it's fear of being censored by the extremes. I have quite a bit of trouble with the force free extremists in the dog world because I'm not extreme. I'm pretty balanced and that doesn't mean I use force my training, I go to some trouble not to. But my thinking is balanced in the sense of it's not all about the dog. Society does matter. People do matter, families do matter. And I find that in the force free community, it's often all about the dog. And in the balanced community, I find myself frustrated because it's often all about society and family and the dog gets sort of tossed to the side. As long as the family's getting their way, they don't care what happens with the dog. And I really feel like those extremists on both ends make it very difficult for the middle to talk openly about what are the myths. I mean, there's so much stuff. The one I keep going back to is the role of emotion in dog training and we think in terms of quadrants in the dog world. So you've got positives and negatives, and I don't think that way. I just think in terms of happy and unhappy, I think it's cleaner and easier, more logical. But in the balanced dog training world, they really downplay how emotions drive behavior and how if you don't address the dog's underlying distress, if you don't address the reason for the dog's problematic behavior, then you may solve the problem in terms of the expressed behavior, but you leave the animal awfully unhappy. And so that's the kind of thing I think we could talk more openly and honestly without people feeling slammed. If we could control our extremes and really focus on the education in the middle without sort of throwing barbs at each other nonstop, really we, we create a lot of harm in the name of what we believe and. You know, I'm kind of big on social psychology and it's pretty well understood that when you do that, you make it close to impossible to change the position of the one you are arguing with. You harden them so much against you that you, it would've been better if you never showed up. Then they might have naturally evolved, but we are not doing ourselves any favors in the dog world. Now, I don't know what's going on over on your side, but I suspect you're probably 10 years behind the dog world. So probably more. Yeah. Okay. So more tradition. And I would guess that you are struggling with some similar you probably have what I call evangelicals. So you've got your evangelical force free dog trainers who have lost, frankly, that it's okay. I mean, I get it, you just walked in the church, you're not, you're not seeing big picture yet. But they're very harmful in the way they take themselves into the world. And they, they don't show a lot of respect sometimes for people who have been exceptionally successful and really use minimal force in the dog world, the best balanced trainers use minimal force because they're good trainers, so they don't need it. They're clear, they're crisp, they don't do things I would do, but they get the point across very fast because they're good trainers and I respect good training. I just feel like my job is to help those individuals understand that they're such good trainers. If you just tried this and this and this, you probably wouldn't even need to do that. But it's hard for me to do that if they won't listen to me. And so I go to a lot of trouble to to be palatable so that they can listen to me and I listen to them because frankly I learn from them. I just take...
[00:11:53] That pretty much just explained the horse world as well. And, and you're spot on. As far as you know, we're, we're behind, we're behind the dog world, but it looks very similar. I would just say that the part that we're behind on is, or I don't even know if behind is the right word, but we're, we're very much heavily weighted to what is kind of referred to as traditional training. So I guess that would be more comparable to like balance training. So it'd be, we call it just traditional training or natural horsemanship is another word. And that's one of those words that I'm sad that they've really taken because I view what I do as a very natural approach. I look at their health and their environment and how they're feeling and their emotional state and what they're, you know, what they're eating every day, all that first before we ever go into the training aspect. And to me, that's the most natural approach possible. It's the least invasive and all of that. And so it's hard that, that's kind of the word that has been associated with very intense and a lot of times very punishment based training methods that really put the horses in between a rock and a hard place. And of, like you said, there are some really fantastic trainers out there that train that way. And I respect that. I respect the work, I respect their expertise, I respect how they respect the horse. But a lot of 'em are not that way. And just on the flip side of that, You've got what a lot of, kind of negatively referred to as like the pure R+, the purists, that are the extremes on our side where it's if you use any kind of pressure, if you're still using a bit or if you, which would be comparable to like a prong collar or something for the dog world if you're still using a bit or if you're still using actually probably the bit isn't the best comparison. It depends because there's varying degrees of bits. So maybe a regular leash caller or, anyway, there's all the nuances there, but if you're still using one, then you are a terrible trainer and they get just attacked by these people that are very extreme about and needs to be quote, force free or pure r plus a hundred percent of the time, or it's abuse and it's, it just matches up exactly with what you were talking about. And that's part of why it's been, or that's really a big part of why it's been so fascinating to watch you start these conversations between the different, you know, camps, the different communities of training. Because that's exactly what it's like here. And I like your reference to the evangelical people that they're, they have found this new thing. They're really excited about it, they wanna share, but they come in over the top and very aversive to the people that are trying to hear from them, to the point where it turns them off. And I can't tell you how many people have come to me and have said, Hey, we tried for a little bit, but honestly, like we just, we posted a video here, or we talked about this here and it wasn't good enough and we just got. Just attacked for how I was still doing this, I was still doing that and basically punished. And so they gave it up. They stopped trying to learn clicker training. They stopped trying to learn how to improve their training, and they went back to whatever was they were doing before because of the people and because of how they were being treated. And that's so unfortunate because they're trying, they're trying to learn and they're trying to explore a new way of working with horses. Yeah.
[00:15:11] Change is exceptionally hard. And when you know something and you're comfortable there, it takes a lot to reach out of your shell. And the easiest way to do that is to have people who are welcoming your efforts. So I am pretty hard on people who come into my personal spaces, whether TikTok or Instagram or Facebook and shame anyone. I, I am actually much harder on force free trainers who shame others. So if somebody puts up a picture in my sphere of a dog on a prong collar, I will talk about how beautiful the dog is, how bright the smile. I don't say a word about the collar. I, they'll figure it out on their own if and when they're ready. And even if they're never. If I take them from a nine to an eight on the compulsion scale, then I've done a good thing. So I, I get notes, I would say probably between five and 10 a week from people saying, I just want you to know that you have dramatically changed how I train my dog. Some of them say I've given up force altogether. Others say, I'm striving, I'm doing my best. Others say, I just want you to know I'm thinking. So I haven't even made changes, but I'm listening to you and I'm thinking. And that's, to me, that's a lot. Five or 10 is a lot. The willingness of people to explore and I, my response is always go you. Ask me if you have questions, I'm available. I'm, I'm available for that and I wish you the best. And, and that's true. That's just how I feel. I'm not trying to convert the world. I'm trying to get people to be aware and education to me is the route to making that happen. So I focus pretty heavily, especially when I do Instagram lives. I'll pick topics like arousal is not drive in the dog world, this is tremendously misunderstood. They say things like, oh, if I could only channel that drive cuz the dog is ballistically running all over the place. And my response is, well you can't because it's not drive. Drive always has a focal point. Things like that, I can talk about that for half an hour. And I know a lot of people are very hard to that conversation, but I know that if few are at least listening and then maybe I say something that reminds them of a dog they have and then they suddenly it clicks into place and they go, oh my God, that explains a lot. And I value those opportunities.
[00:17:19] Yeah. I. I do get quite a few messages as well and I'm always really excited about that opportunity. Just to see them, like you mentioned, they may even just be thinking about it. That's a seed planted, that's a thought process that started, that's where I started a long time ago when I was using all of the compulsion and punishment and pressure and all of that in the world with my horses, and I was feeding them so differently than I feed 'em now. I was keeping them in environments that were completely. Like, I wouldn't even consider putting a horse in that environment anymore. This all started off with thinking about trying something different, and if I had reached out to somebody and said, Hey, I'm thinking about doing this, and then they had said, well, you better get to it or else you're a terrible person. I would've been like, oh, excuse me, . Like, what do you mean I love my horse? I'm trying really hard
[00:18:07] Absolutely. And you're not a terrible person. And that's the thing is you're not, you're not a better or worse person than you were then. You're a person who knows different things and because you know different things, you're able to make educated choices that align with your values. I hope and to me that's really critical is to understand this isn't about good people and bad people. I've seen some pretty horrific behavior on both ends of the spectrum in terms of just amazing disrespect for other people. It concerns me more when I see it in the force free sphere, just because if they really do understand learning and if they really do understand how important it is to have a comfortable learner and that it has to be from the perspective of the learner, then I struggle more to understand why they refuse to see humans as learners. I know why, but it, it hurts me more. I think the fundamental reason is they are distressed at the fact that they believe dogs are being harmed. And they believe that human beings, even though on one side, they really know that a learner is a learner, the other side of them says, but they know better because I told them. And if you just walk that down the line, they also know that that's not actually how it works. But the cognitive dissonance really kicks in there that their belief, that abuse is taking place, that there's trauma, that there's torture and the words they use to describe these things are so extreme. I think some of these folks are just very fighting. I mean, I, I see threads that go for days and I'm like, my God, how do you do that for days? I mean, I, I would be a, and I did do that many years ago and I just remember it was literally wrecking me of all night thinking about what I should have said, could have said, you know, it goes on and on. And then realizing I needed some peace of my life and sort of, focusing my direction. And actually that's why I started the academy which I think is very funny because if the person who I was engaged with at that time in this conversation knew that it was a result of our conversation, that I started this unbelievably large and successful online school, specifically in response to my recognition that my behavior, all I was doing was taking both of us into the gutter for the entertainment of others. And I am never gonna do that again. I mean, I make myself look stupid. I make my beliefs look stupid. Why am I in the gutter? You can hang out there if you want to wallow, but I'm not going to join you. I'm going to do things. I'm going to do things that I believe change behavior. I know how to change behavior. I know how to change dog behavior. I know what it takes to create the basis of changing human behavior. At that point, the learner decides to opt in or not, because I do not control the environment of the learner. I refuse to use their worst case scenarios as examples. You know, see, there you go. Dog was being hung to death. Okay. Could we all just agree that anybody who hangs a dog that's, yeah, that's not dog training. Anybody who calls that out as dog training is being cruel to balanced trainers, because do you really think balance trainers identify with hanging a dog to death? That's just sick, right? So we really need to stop using the extremes, whether they're on the force free side or the traditional side as representation. And I was in a podcast, a dog podcast with balance trainers. And I was with another force free trainer being interviewed, and I just thought she handled this so brilliantly because they kept doing that. And she said, you know, we all need to just stop that. We need to look at the best examples of traditional or a more modern based approach. And that's where the conversation needs to take place. Because much of the conversation is not about effectiveness. There's lots of effectiveness. The question becomes one of ethics and bigger picture. So you mentioned for example, that you've changed how your animals live. And the first thing that occurs to me is the way your animals live now is probably more expensive. And so with that in mind, then I start thinking about the kid. Who has a horse and it's very important to her and she doesn't have the money. And so maybe her choices are also driven by circumstance. And in the dog world, this is a big factor. The way I feed my dogs is probably not the same as my neighbors. The amount of time I devote to my dogs is unreasonable of me. I would never ask it of a, a random person because they have so much else in their lives. And so that's the point where once we get well educated cuz we can just agree that many methods work, then we need to start talking about things like what's a reasonable amount of time? And if you can get something done more quickly and it brings huge joy to another player, Does that have value? Do we wanna give that weight? How much is the expense to the other learner? So if you start thinking in terms of stakeholders, which I talk about a lot, you start to realize that nothing is simple. And there are many stakeholders. Some of your I'll just talk about this. Some of your listeners probably know if they know me, they know I had a dog named Dice. I did send my dog back to my breeder. It was literally the hardest decision of my life. I love that dog so much. And he was unable to live in my family safely. Because he has, he has some issues, he has some behavior problems. I did not send him back for competition reasons whatsoever. I didn't send him back because of my relationship with the dog. But I stood back and I looked at the stakeholders and we all matter. My family does matter and society does matter. So if my dog got off my property, Or decided to go over my fence where my neighbors have dogs, they have rights. And I think a lot about this, you know, and, and sometimes it's, you know, somebody's, well, if you can't afford the vet care, you shouldn't have a dog. Well just stop and back that one up for a second. I mean, really just think about what you just said. There are homeless people where I live that have a dog and it looks to me like that dog is their world. So it is true that their dogs maybe not getting quite the same vet care, maybe not quite the same food, but I would be hard pressed to say that the dog doesn't necessarily have high quality of life. And these are conversations I think would be healing to our communities to be able to talk about it and to agree to disagree because how you feel about some of these things and how I feel may not be the same, but it's really not right and wrong. It's about where we sort of bring our core values and there's room for conversation there. Yeah.
[00:24:03] You bring up so many great, very nuanced conversations that I, I love and this is why I've been following your stuff. And A couple of thoughts I had as you were talking. One, people who have been listening to my podcast for a while know that I'm a huge advocate for keeping your horse, but I have talked about situations where it is appropriate to, for the horse's sake and for the human's sake to consider a new home. Taking that into considerate, well, I should put it this way. It's more about in general, our equestrian lifestyle. The, the culture of being an equestrian. There is a high turnover rate with horses. So when I was growing up, especially in the show world, it was very normal for people to, you get a horse, you have it for two years and you trade it on and you just keep going and you keep upgrading horses for every two years, automatically it didn't matter. And so that's where I am a big advocate against that. However, there are circumstances, like I have a horse, actually, I ended up adopting her where I was very, I, I advised the owner that this was an appropriate decision for her to decide that this horse needed to go to a different home, which was me. Thankfully it worked out that way for the horse and for the owner. But she, the personality and the temperament and the amount of time that would go in that would be necessary to train this horse to be safe for the owner to handle at her experience level and with her lifestyle was just not going to be reasonable to ask of anybody.
[00:25:34] And I like that you bring that up about the amount of time. Like there's a lot that I do with my horses. I spend hours and hours and hours every week working with each of them. That is not reasonable for me to ask of the average horse owner. And reminds me of another podcast I was listening to where the, I can't remember who it was. That seems to be a theme of tonight. I can't remember , but the she mentions that as trainers, one of the big things that we need to remember is. These, you know, she was talking about pet owners, so dog owners, but this also applies to horse owners too. The average horse owner, they are not trying to become certified force free, fear free, you know, clicker training, all of that trainers, they just want to live and coexist peacefully and joyfully with their animal. And I think that's a reasonable request and that's our job is to help them and help the dog or the horse in my. Be able to achieve that. And so that's just kind of that point you brought up. I thought that was a great point. Yeah.
[00:26:31] And I think as people bring in more positive methods I am a, a crossover trainer, so I was fairly, very traditional once upon a time. My relationship with my dogs was different then. And I would've been much more able and willing to give them up because I, I mean, for starters, I never asked the question, is the dog enjoying this? It actually never occurred to me. And it wasn't cuz I was a terrible person. It just didn't occur to me, you're the dog, I'm the human. It's just the way it is. And now it's one of my biggest, it's actually, it's the top of my head question is, is my dog happy? And I find that it changes my relationship with the dog so much that my willingness to place a dog is it's just in a. I'm in a different place because I appreciate them in a different way. And when they frustrate me, I see it as part of who they are as, and I, I could take a big picture of you, whereas that was not true. When I was traditional, and even to this day, I do find that if I am in a more punitive place, which in the greatest scheme of things is probably extremely minimal compared to most people, but when I'm in a more punitive place with my dogs, I feel that hardness creeping in that lack of appreciation and respect for them. And that sense of, dammit, I want my way, you know, that, that hardening comes through. And I find it with my family as well, even with my children, when I'm frustrated and I just want my way, I, I feel that hardening come in as opposed to when I do a more cooperative approach to getting my way. And I try to remember that. I try to keep that on the top of my head because my life is better when I'm in a softer place, you know? And I know, I think I have a pretty hard shell, but I'm pretty soft on the inside and I don't wanna lose that. I like that ability to empathize and feel for the other. And I don't like what happens when I'm in a more dominating sort of mindset. And it doesn't really matter who I'm interacting with, whether it's social media. Or the dogs or people.
[00:28:22] That reminds me of what caused me to make a shift and to start looking into other options, which is when I explored or first started exploring clicker training and all of that I got to a point with one of my horses where I had to ask my que myself a question of, am I willing to go to this next level of hardness? That, that's, I had never phrased it that way before, but that's essentially what happened was I could feel it. I was angry, and I know you're not supposed to be angry in any training. Obviously that's a counter to productive and effective training. But it was happening because I was very much thinking about what I wanted and what I needed. And it just kind of came along with the package and I was very it was me against the horse. And so for me to get this horse to do the thing that I needed her to do, It was going to require another level of me being hard with her and hard, you know, going to that hard emotional state for myself and I was basically not willing to do that. And it forced me to explore other options. And I think that's a really common story I hear, a really common journey that I hear from people that are exploring, changing their training methods and the way they're interacting with their animals is that they get to a point where to be able to keep going down the path they were going down, it was just miserable for them. It was miserable for the animal. They weren't willing to do it, and they, and they didn't like seeing their animal unhappy. And so what other options are out there? And that's when they start exploring. And I think that's a, a beautiful place to be, although a very, very challenging place to be emotionally and mentally for the human and also the animal. And that's where it's so important, tying us back to the beginning of our conversation. When people then come at them and, you know, essentially attack them for not being perfect or not using enough, you know, cooperative care or not using enough positive reinforcement, they're already at such a vulnerable and sensitive stage in the learning process. That's such the worst stage to implement all that punishment and. That type of interaction with them, right?
[00:30:34] Because that brings that hardness back to the fore because now they're hardening against society who's telling them that they're bad people? And so then they, they resist that. I actually really love that you brought up the issue of anger. Another thing I've sort of noticed in the dog world is that we talk about what should be rather than what is, and we do this a lot. So we talk about how we should raise our dogs, how we should spend time, how we should feel when we train them, how we should feel when their behavior is appalling and embarrassing us. And I think we need to spend a whole lot more time talking about what is, and I talk about this all the time because I don't think I'm an exceptionally angry person. As a matter of fact, I think I'm pretty mellow. And yet it's not at all unusual that in the middle of training, I feel those seeds of frustration starting. I've just learned. I have a lot of experience to listen to those seeds because I, I think I could say never has it actually served me well to push through, but we don't spend enough time talking about the fact that decent, good human beings have emotions and frustrations. And I can tell you my training session in the morning sets my entire day if I have a good training. I mean, that's ridiculous actually, that the 10 minutes I spend with a dog in the morning literally drives the quality. I'm on the top of the world or I'm like ready to stick my head in the bucket. And that says a lot. And I, I don't even think I'm all that unusual. So knowing that, I would love for us to talk more about how our emotions are impacting our relationships with dogs and with people. And I have noticed that in my in the more traditional dog community, they kind of pit the trainer and the human against the dog. So would you like to be able to watch your dog without him being a fool on the street? Kind of a, it's, it's, it's playing into the emotional reaction. Yeah, yeah, this person's on my team. But unfortunately, when you do that, then the team is against another, right? So, and in the force free world, sometimes they pick the trainer and the dog against the owner and the family. So it's all, how would you feel if you got left home alone for eight hours a day in a crate? And then the owner's like, well, but I have to work and I have 300 children. I, well, what are you gonna do about that? Right? So in all of these cases, we struggle to really look at the emotional wellbeing of all of us and to just be really honest about what I want to be able to do versus what I'm actually able to do on an emotional level. I definitely don't give my dogs the quality of life I would like to every day. I think I'm good enough and I'd love to talk more about the good enough, right? And acknowledging how my experience is when I give people permission to be good enough, they try to exceed that. So when I say look, If you could just once a day, give your dog a little enrichment thing here, just a bully stick, right? That's gonna make your dog happy for 25 minutes. When they have permission to do the minimum, I find that they're like, Hey, I did that. And guess what happens? Just like a clicker trained animal. They offer a little more. And then you say, well look at you. I see that you took your dog for a walk on the block today. That's excellent. I hope you enjoyed your exercise, and now you have a way to pull them towards more and more positive. So I'm actually pretty good with the bare minimum. Now, from there, what's one thing we could give? If they're willing, what are you willing to offer? And if nothing, that's fine. I just have a lot of faith that when people feel good about themselves, they have more to give. And I really try to bring that out in people, that sense of, you're good enough and I know you're trying really hard. What can I do to support your journey and accept that you'll never have to be me and I don't have to be you. And it's.
[00:34:03] Yeah, I, that makes a whole lot of sense. And I love hearing that, and we could definitely use a lot more of that in the horse world in general. It's, when you talk about the, the human and or the owner and the trainer pitting against the dog, I see this all the time where, oh, you know, your horses being a bully or a brat or whatever. And obviously we have all the issues with labels. Just that emotional factor. So the trainer will actually make the owner feel really bad because their horse is acting a certain way, which then makes, you know, puts them in a certain mental and emotional state and then they need to do this x you know, whatever thing to the horse to make them behave right, to show the trainer that their horse really isn't a fool or whatever. And it just creates such a kind of toxic little relationship there between all three of them. And then the same thing with on the other side where we're the trainer and the horse are then in that part of that relationship pitted against the owner. They're just never enough. They're not good enough, they're not doing enough, they're not perfect, whatever. And I talk a lot about the downside. I'm. I'm a recovering perfectionist at heart, and so I'm, I'm trying to get, move beyond the idea or not even move beyond, I'm just change my perspective on what is. Yeah, perfect. I used to try and always try get to this idea that I had in my head of this would be a perfect level of enrichment. This would be the perfect lifestyle for my horse. This would, whatever. And the longer I've been doing this, the more I realize that one, there's no such thing as a perfect environment, a perfect lifestyle. And every horse is different. And one of my favorite sayings recently is, it depends. It depends on the horse, it depends on the owner. It depends on all of the goals of the training. It depends on a lot of different factors. There is no black and white. This is perfect, this is not. And then also perfectionism, moving goalpost like it, it's just, there's no such thing. And you'll get six months down the road and you'll have reached what you thought six months ago was impossible. And then it just moves again and you just keep going. And so we drive ourselves nuts trying to get to perfection, and then it feels impossible. And then we give up or we just beat ourselves up about it really bad.
[00:36:18] Or we add a lot of pressure to the relationship. Yes. So I mean, I see that as when I was actively training students. My least favorite students to work with were the ones at the top, because chasing from a 1 98 to a 200. So if 200 is a perfect score, we're talking about degrees of precision and expectations of perfection in high stress environments, which take a lot and often that hyper focus on the tiniest detail. Boy, if you're doing that, you have to make an enormous effort to make sure it stays fun for everybody, for the coach, because I often would get that owner looking at me with that. Well, now what do I do? Look, and I didn't get that a lot from people who were just having a good time trying to get through. As a matter of fact, I would have to kind of pull them up and say, you know, we're gonna kind of, let's see what we can do about this, because if we let this path continue, I see some problems coming up, so let's fix this one now. And they're kind of, they're just so happy that they're progressing, you know? But personally, I prefer. To work with people who didn't have that super, super, super high expectations because, and in the dog world, the amount of, I call that perfection paralysis, the amount of perfection paralysis is enormous. And as a result, many excellent trainers with excellent dogs never progress because they stew and they stew, and they can't go forward until they get this step perfect. And I'm like, you know what? That's not really true. You can work on it from a different angle. You can start pushing forward a little bit and circle back around. But whenever you feel like you're just pounding something, if you are feeling it, I guarantee you your learner is feeling it. I don't, clicker training can be miserable for an animal. Just like virtue of staying in the more positive reinforcement quadrant doesn't mean the animals having a good time. If you are radiating pressure, I mean, I'm watching videos and I'm hyperventilating on some of these, this, you know, the, the silence, the pressure of silence is significant. So there's sort of this still silent waiting and I just, I feel myself over here breathing harder and harder. Like, could we just change something here? Could we move, could we lighten up? There's got to be something to change this pressure because I know your animal is feeling this. And people struggle because they're trying so hard. They're trying to remember their mechanics. They're trying to remember how many repetitions. I'm like, you know, so, That's why I often tell people, you know, don't worry about it. Just throw some food down. , like, could, could we just lighten the environment a little bit here? I think your learner will have a better time. And happy learners are easy learners as a general rule generally but that perfection thing is stopping some fantastic teams from moving. I talk a lot about spiral training, which means I rarely work on anything for more than a week or two. I'm just constantly rotating around. I focus here for a couple weeks. I focus there for a couple weeks, a few months later I realize I have four skills. Those four skills add up to this other skill. So, oh, I'll start working on the beginnings of this slightly more advanced skill. I do that for a while. I get bored. I come back down and I teach a few more base foundation skills, and then I realize, oh, now I have those two plus that one on that second level, I could start this third level skill. And it really does prevent me winding myself up into a, a little spring stressed because I, you know, I've seen people work on a retrieve for six months straight. I'm like, how can you stand it? I mean, how can you stand that pressure if you haven't gotten what you want in a week? You really need to try something else. You can come back to it. It'll, that dumbbell will still be there. And I really encourage that sort of lightning up the whole thing. Cuz otherwise I think we do lose the joy.
[00:39:35] I have definitely witnessed this in my own training and also in my students or clients. I will tell people within the actual training session themselves, I have them toss food all the time or into a bucket cuz horses are not nearly as good as dogs. And with scatter food, you can't really do that. Especially since we're training on like grass and stuff. But we have food pans everywhere, so I'm just like, if you ever get stuck or things get too tense or whatever, just toss a handful into the bucket. Let's start over and like, let's just take a little break. And then we also do like. Kind of pauses where the horse knows what to do during that pause. But we also, I tell them to shake out their shoulders, take a nice inhale and exhale, you know just relax their body a little bit, almost like a little mini meditation moment. And then we go back to training. And that helps a lot, takes the pressure off because they. I definitely see this and also in myself where I get so hyper focused on, we've gotta get this thing right now that it, the horse is like, oh my gosh, lady, just loosen up . And and then the other is, yes, the, I'll take breaks pretty often where we'll work on a behavior for, you know, maybe a, a week or two, a couple weeks at most. And then we'll kind of put its rest for a while. I'll work on some other stuff and then I'll come back to it. And honestly, most of the time I come back and it's better. Like they did some training on their own while I wasn't there. And I'm like, yes, it's great.
[00:40:54] It's amazing. We talk about that a lot in the dog world. Our informal term for that is latent learning. I don't think that's the correct term, whatever you wanna call it, but you know what, it amazes me. You just touch on it. And there was one time I was on the video and I was a little bit frustrated with my little dog, couldn't get him to retrieve. And so I put it on the ground and he was slightly behind me and I was talking to the camera. And he went and picked it up. Like I didn't see it cuz I was actually talking to people. But it was like he just needed that mental break and then he was able to figure it out on his own anyway. I mean, normally of course we have more time, but in this case, I just walked away from it and I guess he sat around and thought about it. I, it does make you wonder how much is actually going on between sessions if they really do start going, you know, I wonder if she didn't like this. She didn't like that. I mean, I don't know. It's very hard. I can't put myself that much in an animal's head, but it is a fascinating reality that a break can be. The best thing on the planet. I know in my training, I don't do a ton of food training. I do it for foundations, and then I tend to move to toys and play. And then what I do is I try to rotate between static precision behaviors and fun and play. So whenever I feel that, okay, there's too much pressures going on here. I can just take out a toy and play tug or I can play chase. And I remembered seeing a horse account. I don't remember which one, where the horse was running around barrels. So the owner was sort of, it was like a triangle and then the horse was sort of set around one barrel and then around the other. And it made me laugh cuz this is something we do in the dog world. I call that fly. So fly around this one, fly around that one. And I was looking at that thinking, oh, that's like the horse equivalent of play time, right? Like, we're gonna move our bodies and we're gonna do something active to free it up. And then we could, I don't know if that's how the person was using it, but that's what it made me think of. Look, a nice active behavior to let everybody free up their mind and then we can come back to another lesson that I really just, it resonated for me regardless of why the person was doing it.
[00:42:39] Yeah, we especially with certain, going from what I would consider more of like a stationary behavior precision, like more, you know, like you mentioned, it's it's closer, localized, slower precision type stuff. And then we will go into like a movement behavior. So we'll go trot off to the under other end of the pasture, like together. Or one of my horses loves what's called Spanish walk, where she basically just to put in simple terms, she lifts her front legs way out in front one after another. That's like her favorite thing to do. And so we'll alternate between that and doing something else like a cooperative care behavior, something that's a bit more challenging for her. And that helps a lot to break things up and to alternate with horses. The biggest struggle I have with that, and I think this is just a sign of, you know, the training skill level to begin with, but you just have to make sure that you don't just like randomly switch gears and there's not like established cues for the things. There's a lot of again, this is partially due to how we're still catching up with a lot of the skill levels of the trainers and compared to the dog world. I notice in the horse world we lack a lot of stimulus control and like finished behaviors and it's a lot of just kind of free form whatever. And horses in particular I find get really frustrated with that. Whereas with my dogs, I can just go run around the backyard with them and they do great. And obviously that's all there's learning happening there. But with my horses they're like, what are you doing human? Like we need to, we need cues. We need to know what we're doing. Cuz we don't really spend that kind of time with our horses, with our dogs, we live with them and they get to know us on a daily basis and we get to know them and throughout all the hours of the day. Whereas with my horses, as much as I'm with them quite a bit compared to the average horse person, maybe I'm still only with the them, maybe an hour or two individually per day compared to with my dogs, I'm with them almost all day. So it's a different dynamic relationship wise, and there's different levels of learning happening there. So we have to be careful with just the randomized, like, let's just go run . So that's a difference there.
[00:44:46] But also I do think about some of the safety things. If my dog sort of loses it and crashes into me, it's not that big a deal. If, if a horse loses it and crashes into you, I see many levels of complexity, not the least of which is if you become afraid of your horse, I suspect that causes all sorts of issues. And there's just straight up you can get hurt, right? So, I don't know how good horses are and making sure that sort of thing doesn't happen, how much they naturally are being careful. But I could see some some balancing act for sure. Some people are afraid of their dogs and nothing good comes from that. So then you have a dog who really is pushing them around because they're getting things right. So when I jump on you, you drop food and now the person's kind of fearful. So now the dog just starts to jump up and now you're dropping it even earlier and it's all learning. It's not a dog that's trying to take over the planet, but it is effective for the dog and it is frightening for the human. And looking at a horse, just visualizing that right now in my head, that's a big animal. I would rather not have that. And my natural response to such a large animal would be pressure. I know what I would do naturally would be to push into them to try to show them. I don't want you to do. And I know that's the kind of thing you're trying to move away from. So it's, it's just kind of an interesting thing for me to think about. I think that's a huge layer of complexity. I know safety is often used as a reason why you shouldn't use positive methods with both dogs and horses. I've heard horse people talk about it cuz I used to have students who would come for their positive reinforcement dog training lessons who happen to be horse people. And they had very clear lines in their heads, just like you said you did about why. And then they would talk about safety. And I, I don't know enough about horses to know what is or is not valid. I do know with powerful dogs, which are by far in way by preference. I really like working with powerful dogs. I find them the easiest ones to work with. Because they bring a lot of want to the table. I don't know where horses fall. You know, how their want relates to their power, their size. It seems like it could be somewhat irrelevant.
[00:46:38] Yeah, there is definitely some differences because of the species. They're just, the, the foraging seeking is a little bit different with horses because they're designed to eat 18 hours out of their day versus dogs don't eat quite like that. We also don't have a lot of play behaviors that we can use as far as like tug or fetch. I mean, you can teach a horse to fetch, but it's a little bit different. Dogs have much stronger like play drive. And so there's some definitely some differences there. But the safety is a huge issue, especially, you know, you've mentioned if your dog runs into you versus the horse. But not only that, you've got, if they kick out, cuz horses love to kick while they're running and we've got rearing and we've got, we got teeth, we've got all kinds of stuff. So safety is an issue, but. I used to have a huge fear that if I worked with food, that the horses would become really dangerous. And this is one of the biggest roadblocks to encouraging people to use food in their training. And, but they have to do it well, obviously. And that's been the problem, is people who have used food in the past, there's this image of the kids walking down the barn aisle and handing out carrots to the horse that's leaning out over their stall and exposing their teeth, trying to grab the very end of the carrot because the kids essentially teasing them on accident. And then this creates a horse that starts to bite and is really pushy to try and get their food because they got reinforced for that. So everybody has this image in their head of, if you use food, that's what it's gonna look like. And that's what's gonna, what's gonna be the result? Funny enough, and obviously now that I understand it, I understand why I saw the complete opposite happen. My horses are actually so much more safe and than they were when I trained. Traditionally, I have far fewer kick incidences or them stepping on people or use of teeth or pushing into me. I mean, my horses were relatively comparatively well behaved before we didn't have major behavioral issues except for with one horse and which is, she's the one that really pushed me to change. Whereas the rest of my guys were all great. They were all fine, just as they were. Which then led to me coming into this kind of, I see this quite often. Oh, that horse is the special horse that needs a special type of training while the other ones got the , the older training. And that eventually changed. But they were all great horses. But I still had more safety concerns back then with those. Great horses with great behaviors than I do now. And so it's just been a really fascinating thing and I just have to work really hard to express to people like, it's okay and it's gonna be okay. It will be safe. As long as you go into this educated with coaching, preferably it will be okay and it'll actually be better in my opinion and in my experience. You just gotta kind of trust the pro, trust the process and let yourself learn and let your horse learn. But that is a scary thing when you're dealing with such a large animal. That's a scary step.
[00:49:33] I wonder if, what I've noticed is when I use a lot of positive reinforcement and sort of relationship based work, I sensitized my dogs to me. And I find that they're simply. They're paying more attention to me, they're being more conscientious. Whereas when I was doing more compulsion based, I hardened them. So I think they developed their own callous against me and the work, and it made it harder for them to hear me. Whereas now a whisper tends to get through and frankly, if I do raise my voice, they listen. Cuz that doesn't happen very often. So when I do at any degree of punisher, the punisher ends up being so much less because it cuts through the noise. Because it's rare. Whereas some of the training I see around me is it's so consistently hard that there's sort of nowhere to go and. I can see how the dog is hardened and is basically just waiting for an opportunity to do their own thing. Not because they're being that and selfish, but because they're not team players. They've been raised in a way that does not create that interactive, cooperative spirit. I've taken care of my friend's puppy just to keep me occupied for a while, and he's being raised up for a bite sport mondeo or french ring, and in a fairly kind, but traditional fashion. And so, for example, you put the tug on a rope and you tease the dog, and then you let the dog play. And that's all fine, except that this particular puppy doesn't yet have a cooperative spirit. Some are just born with it and some are not. And he's not quite born with that. He's born with more of a possessive spirit, so he wants to own that toy. And what's happening is he can't, because the toy is on a long line and the owner is sort of basically directing the game like, this is how we're gonna play it because I have the toy on a line. It isn't this fun. And the dog's hanging off for dear life cause he loves, loves, loves this game, but he really wants to to win. And I watched the session and there was nothing in there that was unkind or anything. But my mental model as I watched it was that is hardening the dog to the cooperation that I wanna see. And so I just sent the owner. My video from today of playing with the puppy. There's no leashes. There's no leashes on the toys. I'm just using two and playing in a way that I'm trying to help the puppy understand. I'm not taking your things. You can take them away, but if you hang out with me, I can make it even better cause I got this plan and working with his possessiveness to over time soften him and make him recognize that cooperation is a win. And what I was explaining to the owner who's trying to, she's not a harsh trainer, but she is balanced. I'm trying to explain that all of this foundation, the kinds of things I'm gonna do now look slow and pointless. But what they do in a few months, when I actually get to the other skills, suddenly I'm gonna skyrocket past other people because I already have the cooperation. I don't have to spend the rest of my life fighting with the dog about these early. Things they got in their head about not having control over the game, not opting in, not choosing, even though they love the game, it's not being played the way they wanna play it. And we ignore that. We go right over the top of it and we say, but we're making it fun. Or if you take your dog somewhere and they're stressed, so use a lot of food. Well, the food is pulling the dog off the environment, especially if they're hungry. But they're not opting in. They're, they're really, they have no choice. You're keeping the food in front of their nose, you're pulling them to you. They're hungry. So you're really sort of battling rather than just changing the environment and letting the dog relax and now the dog opts in and now you can create a party. It's these little things that I think completely change the dynamic and that changes the long term relationship you have with the animal. And that changes what is possible. But obviously there's, there's not a lot of tradition. And so especially in some of the sports I'm doing now where there's exceptionally little tradition to work with, if you're more force free, you make it up as you go and you'll head down lots of bad alleys and you just have to say, yeah, no, that, that was not the right direction. And then you back out and, and unfortunately some people use that against you and they say, yeah, well see, she did this thing and it didn't work. Well. Yeah, because I don't have a hundred years of tradition. To rely on, to go back to when I'm struggling, I have to figure it out. But you know what, that's interesting for me. I've been training dogs for 40 years. I've been competing for 40 years. You know what? I have seen it all. I've done it all. At this point. What's the point of doing exactly what everybody else has done? I'm past that stage of my development and I'm totally okay with screwing it up. Just like, well mess that one up. Now what am I gonna do about it? And I'm pretty good. I'm not good about it in the moment, but I get there and then I look back and I'm sort of proud of the accomplishment. But I do think that positively raised, and maybe horses, all animals in general, develop an awareness of the trainer and a sensitivity to the trainer, which would help with this is coming back to the issue of safety. The horse may end up being much more aware of you and your relationship. And I don't know if they're saying, well, I don't step on her because I don't wanna hurt her, but on some level they may well be conscious of that. A little a little more concerned that this is working out, especially if you leave the training session because it hurt. You know, you may not have done it as an intentional punisher, but if the animal says, oh, well I, I stepped on her and she walked away, that's very different than I stepped on her and I got beaten. Cuz at least with humans, I have no idea about animals. But when we do that with humans, the mental model is now we're even, which is very different than if somebody mistreats you and you say, I'm sorry that did hurt my feelings. But sometimes it goes that way. Now they feel worse. But when you yell back, now you're all even, so you actually, I hope that was worth it cuz you just lost your opportunity to have them actually care about doing better next time with you.
[00:55:08] Yeah. There are very few horses at this point that have been raised with that more force free model, that more cooperative model. Happen to have one of them. Again, there's very few of them, but I'm really excited about that and it's a whole new adventure. We're trailblazing. I tell people all the time, we're trailblazing with this. And I will tell you from my experience, that's all I can speak from as far as horses go. Definitely this one horse that I have, her name is River and she's five now, and I've had her since she was four and a half months old, and she had never been handled prior to that. She is very sensitive to me, very sensitive and to the point where if my breathing is a little bit faster or if I'm, you know, a little bit agitated or whatever, she, she recognizes them and picks up on it and her behavior changes accordingly. And not always in a way that, I mean, I would like her to just kind of just chill there while I deal with my little nervous moment. But I do agree with you that there is a sensitization that happens to the the handler, the owner. And sometimes that's a problem though in the horse world again, because they're, we are so heavily weighted to, we're still very traditional. So all the vets and the farriers and the staff at the boarding facility, they all handle horses. Primarily with negative reinforcement, punishment and very forcefully. And so what can happen when you have a horse that has. Really been handled that way and gets into one of those situations is they get quite confused cuz they're like, why is this person yelling at me and so upset with me? If they had just asked me, I would kind of do it. And obviously that's me putting words in their mouth. But however, they are so fun to work with. My farrier tells me all the time that my, my my mare River is her favorite to work with because all she has to do is think about which foot she wants to pick up, which I can see what she's doing with her body, but from her interpretation, it's, she's thinking about it and the me picks up her foot, holds it there for her to, to hold onto and then she trims it and they have this whole rhythm and it's beautiful. It's like watching a dance. It's gorgeous. However, if somebody else came in and just started pulling on her leg like they would do with any other horse, she might get quite upset by that cuz it's not very fair treatment to her. But yeah, so that's been one of my experiences
[00:57:24] that reminds me of a story I had a dog years ago named Reka. And I was fairly positive with Reka, but that was a little bit before the cooperative care thing took off. And so Reka didn't like having her nails done, but her nails had to get done. So I just did her nails. I stuck her in a corner, squashed her there, picked up her feet, did her nails, did this for years. And then the cooperative care movement got bigger and bigger. And I kind of thought, well, I can try this. Right? And it took about, I don't know, 10 minutes to teach her to hand me her feet and get her nails done. And I marveled for the rest of her life for all the years after that about all the fuss I made for no reason whatsoever, squashing his dog in the corner when all I had to do was teach him what I wanted. It was, I mean, it was just absurdly simple. And I had done everything else that way. It just for, you know, it's that tradition thing. It didn't occur to me that there was no reason to make this complicated. And. Those little things, those little details have made a big difference for me. You know, now it's a priority for me with young dogs to work on all of their life skills and you know, you just keep finding new areas where you go, oh, look at this. This is kind of cool. Look how easy this was. Wow.
[00:58:31] Now I know. Well, that make, brings me to my other thought I had was you mentioned how the dog become sensitized to the, to the handler. But I think really the biggest changes, at least in the horses I see this all the time, is the humans become very sensitized to the dogs looking, or sorry, the horses are, are the horses happy? Like we, going back to the beginning of our conversation, or are they miserable and looking for that first opportunity to go do something else that they wanna do? Are they kind of. Worried about what's coming next, what are they gonna be asked to do next, and are they gonna get in trouble? I see a huge shift in people, the handlers and caregivers for horses. When they start to look for that in their horses, the dynamic and the relationship changes and it's such a huge shift. And sometimes it's, this has actually probably been the biggest area for me as a coach, a mentor trainer. Helping people through this transition period is, there is a big emotional thing that happens as they start to really see their horse and see what the horse is communicating to them. That comes with a whole lot of emotions and change. That is hard, like we mentioned. Do you see that a lot in the dog world? That big change?
[00:59:52] Yeah. Actually, as you're speaking, there are several things that are coming to my mind. One is that when I was teaching, I, I do some shaping, but I do a lot of luring. But when I would have a new client, I always make sure I did shaping in the first lesson because there's that moment when the animal is about to do the thing and they check with you to say, is that the right thing? And there's something in the expression of the animal that the owners recognize instantly as being intelligence. And I found that when I would start this way, it almost always changed all of our subsequent lessons because they often came in with a, well, I need him to learn this and I need to learn this, and he needs to do this. And all of a sudden they realized this being in front of them, actually, there's a lot going on in that little head.
[01:00:30] And that moment when you capture that, when you and the dog looks at them and you said, did you see that look? And they're like, yes. And I'm like, we'll, give your dog the cookie, but here's the thing, your dog is trying to work with you. And it's trying to understand. Dogs are very smart and I, I found that to be huge in terms of their willingness to, to want to cooperate.
[01:00:48] And then there's these points, these sticking points where we get, we don't even know we're stuck. So I saw one today, somebody, I was in a program and my, I, I did a, a recording of the puppy that's here and for the first two minutes he was chewing his toy with his back to me. And I was just sitting there and sometimes I put up unedited videos.
[01:01:05] So you got the full 15 minute session, started with me sitting on the rug with the dog, and the person said, well, when are you going to do something about that? And I said, well, if I have to do something about that, then I have failed in my training. That should take care of itself. When my learner figures out that when I'm sitting on that rug, that training has started.
[01:01:24] And if that does not happen, there's a problem with my training. So that way of thinking, when are you gonna stop that behavior? When are you gonna, when are you gonna make this thing happen? When is the animal gonna learn? It's not a choice. All of these questions I find to be a very natural part of the learning process. And when I first heard them, when I was well established, but not experienced, I was sort of surprised like, well, you're not getting it. But now I, I kind of like the questions because what they tell me, Those are epiphany moments for those people when I respond and they go, oh, that never occurred to me that that's, that's, this is not a good or a bad behavior. It's an informational behavior. It is telling me that this dog does not understand that it's in his best interest to bring that toy to me. I can make that more fun for him. That that's my job. That's not the dog's job. And if I fail in that job, I need to do a little bit of thinking. And there's lots of points like that where I, you know, or, well, how much time should the dog spend in the crate? So it wants to work for you. And I'm like, okay, well let's, let's talk about that. Do we have to set up conditions that make the dog uncomfortable so that they want to cooperate? Or is training itself supposed to be a pleasure? And that's little things like that really twist the minds of learners, human learners. Who are trying to evolve, but it takes time. And I know I asked many of these questions, I may not remember them clearly. I do remember for the longest time, thinking my dog had no choice but to perform. And while I was as kind as could be and nice about it, in my mind it was not optional. And then I realized that that was delusional because once you get in the ring, it is most certainly optional. There is no leash, there is no food. And many, many, many dogs fail in the competition ring regardless of how they are trained. We are all in there and the only thing we have left is the quality of the training we bring to the table. It does not matter if it's positive. It does not matter if it's traditional. How well did you do it? Did it hold up for you? Because in any given trial, my dog could opt out and I might not like that. And it's the kind of thing when you tell people that, they say, well, what are you gonna do in a trial? And I said the same thing as you. We're all gonna hope for the best. It's too late. The training is done. It is what it is. And that's another one of those moments where people have to stop and really, they don't like that one at all. Nobody likes to believe they don't control the outcome. But the fact is you do not control how another animal feels. You can say you're doing, I, if one more person tells me they're teaching their dog to be calm, I will vomit. You do not teach calm. You can teach an appearance of calm behavior in the same way that if somebody holds a gun to my head and says, sit in that chair, put your hands in front of your body and look at the table and don't move. I look calm. Am I calm? I am expressing calm because it is in my best interest. I am not calm. But we want to believe that we control other beings. Or when you send your child to their room and you tell them to think about what they did wrong, has any child on the planet ever gone to their room and thought about what they did wrong? I mean, that kind of belief that we control other beings is it's so prevalent in our sort of dominant punishment based society. And when you start thinking about training in a force free manner, when you really start thinking about what you really control and what you really don't control, you have to give up a lot because you don't control nearly as much as you think you do.
[01:04:57] I completely agree. I think. One of the reasons it's been even harder for horse people is you mentioned the competition ring. And I know I used to compete in agility and, you know, no collars, no leashes, no nothing. So you really were, it was like, well, if something went wrong, that was it. In the horse world though, the majority of competitions, pretty much all of them except for liberty competitions, you maintain what are comparable to leashes. We have bits, we have saddles and reins and whips are allowed, and spurs are allowed. And actually even within the competition arena, you are allowed to physically correct your horse and force them to do things. So use of whip, use of spurs, use of bit is very prevalent within the competition itself up to a certain point, at which point it's considered excessive. And then theoretically you're supposed to get punished or whatever, some sort of like reprimand or even banned from the competition. However, that's rarely followed up on as we've been seeing with recent events in the Olympics and stuff like that. As you can imagine, that has made it even harder to embrace the idea of a letting go of control because there are very few situations ever in the horse world where you do not have some sort of tactile control over the horse, whether it's with a rope or some bridal, something like that, or a whip. And so I remember I have a very strong memory of, there was a clinic I was teaching and I had a somebody was there at the clinic and I was working with one of my horses and she had just kind of decided she wasn't feeling super comfortable with how many people were around. And she walked off and she actually left the barn. We were in the barn area and I just remember having this person turn and look at me and was. You're just gonna let her walk off. And I'm like, well, yeah, she was. And I took, at the time, it didn't even dawn on me that that would be such an unusual thing, cuz it had been so long since I had forcibly stopped my horses from leaving me. But it was a good situation to happen. So it reminded me of how important that is to talk about. But I was, and she didn't understand. And I explained, just like you said if my horse is walking off and, you know, really I need to look at what I'm doing, what's happening with the training, what's happening with the environment, that's not a her problem. That's more of a me problem. And so I need to look at the training. I need to look at does my horse actually wanna stay here with me? Do they actually want to do the thing? And what can I do as a trainer to modify the environment or modify the training to encourage her to stay with me? So I, I never wanna stop her from leaving if she really needs to. I mean, that's a pretty. You know, flag for me. Like, she just left, she just exited the area. And that was just such a huge learning moment and so cool. But also very mind blowing for somebody who's never experienced that before.
[01:07:51] Yeah. And it also really does bring in the soul searching element of why do you do this? So what, why do you have a horse? Is it to compete? Is it to to have a relationship? Is it to trail ride? That's kind of an important set of questions. I certainly in the dog world, and I would assume in the horse world, most people are not going to compete and most people just wanna enjoy their pet. Now, with horses add to that, that many of them want to ride. But depending on how much pleasure you take from the fact that the horse is wanting to do it with you, that's going to be a winnowing process right there. Like, who would wanna do that? I generally train without leashes and collars in my with my dogs. I don't even really think about it. It just, I don't, I don't use them, so I don't usually put them on. And people commented, I don't even, it hadn't really occurred to me, but people who are training in more traditional ways, all of their videos tend to have tools of some sort, and they watch my videos and I hadn't really realized how much there's, I don't mean envy in the bad way. I mean it in the good way. They envy the fact that I'm getting the same picture. But there's nothing on my dog. They're just with me. They're just there. And it's not that they don't walk off on occasion. So then the question is, well, what are you willing to give to get there? And I am comfortable giving my dog that freedom because I have confidence in myself and I feel comfortable that I'm going to get where I wanna go. But that's a big leap for a lot of people because they know they can get there traditionally. And while they would like to have what I have, there's a great sense of insecurity about the learning process. And then what if, you know, what if I can never compete? What if I can never take my dog out? Well, I mean, these are all things to think about and their considerations. And you know what, when I go in public, just like everybody else, I put a leash and collar on my dog because one, it's the legal thing. And two, there are occasions when I need to be safe. So I do not walk down the street with my dogs loose and hope for the best. That's not responsible behavior. And it's not even that my dog prefers it, it's that sometimes we have to get along and we all have to do the thing. But when I think about dog sports, the competitive aspect of dog sports, I have zero interest in doing it with a dog that does not want to play my game. I have a dog here named Lira. I love her to bit, she's 10 years old. She is fully trained. She knows many a thing. She had zero interest in going beyond the learning, the skills phase to what I call trial readiness. Cause trial readiness is a whole different matter than teaching skills. It's way, way harder, way bigger. The way you go into public and teach your dog to focus no matter what else is happening without reinforcement for long periods of time. Most dogs take to that relatively seamlessly if they take to training, but this dog did not. And for her, as long as it's a game in our yard, she will play till the cows come. . And I do not doubt for one moment I could have made her do it cuz she's a fairly cooperative dog. She doesn't wanna displease me. But there was no, no, part of my brain or heart was saying, well, you could just do this thing. It just, it's not even vaguely interesting to me to do it. If the dog is not there as a willing partner, I just don't wanna do it. But that's where I'm at in my journey and I understand other people are at a different place in their journey. And I do not, I don't question that. I don't hold them responsible. I just say, well, let's look at the pieces we can do. We can always put the leash and collar back on your dog. That's not a problem. But we don't need to use it for this and for this and for this. But it's intriguing to consider. See, I love that you have a class, at least maybe at some shows where people can showcase their ability to work with their animal at Liberty. I think that's fantastic. And it does give you the sense of being able to compete without feeling the pressure of being behind what other people have, you know, that you don't feel like you're on the same playing field. That's something I would really be encouraging shows to be doing that even at the most entry level possibilities, you know, short, short class, simple skills, whatever your most simple skills are so people can start feeling that sense of accomplishment.
[01:11:44] Yeah, we're, we're getting there. Horse agility is one of the new things that's coming up that is positive reinforcement friendly and it allows you to work off lead and all of that. The actual liberty training in horses is often. Very much negative reinforcement, compulsion based whips are allowed, but no clickers type thing. Yeah, but I am seeing this is I've been talking to some other trainers and they are starting to brainstorm and create little mini shows for their students and local people and are planning on taking it virtual. And I know for my academy that I have going on, we are, we're doing our first virtual show, which is really exciting cuz I know a lot of my members and myself included, I enjoyed the competitiveness, the training to shows. And I particularly loved dressage which is very precise and reminds me a lot of like obedience and dog training. But that's not an option right now with how we train now. And cuz you have to, I mean, to the point. At the upper levels, you are absolutely required to use a double bridle and have spurs on. And I, I trying to remember if you have to have spurs on and the dressage whip, but they actually require you to use a certain level of tool, which is more, is stronger and more aversive. And they have all the reasonings, but we're just, we're working through some stuff right now in the horse world and so I'm hoping we start to really catch up and start making some modification or, or release just offering more options. I mean, that's really all I'm asking for, but I'm excited to see where things are going with that and I think it's going to open up a lot of opportunity to reach more people and to get people more interested.
[01:13:25] I think you're wise to be looking at the online space and you know what, when you have some time, go online and go to Fenzi team titles you might be interested in modeling something on what we did there. So it's like levels one through six and level one is all foundation skills. Can you put your front feet on a disc? Can you go around a cone? Like you have to do all these skills And then when you do it, you submit a video and you get your level one title and then level two builds on that level three. So by the time they get to level six, you got some fancy stuff going on. And the levels are specifically designed to take people into in-person competitions. So it's a different route to getting by a lot cuz we teach pieces and then we put them together, which is very different than traditional training. But what it does do, even if, I don't care if a person submits for the titles or anything, it allows them to think differently about how they train and be successful when they go to in-person competition. So you might wanna look at it and maybe pattern something on it because it's so, it's so fun for people to have skills to train and a feeling of there's a carrot out there for them. Mm-hmm. .
[01:14:23] Absolutely. And, and I talk a lot about on social media because there is a huge focus in the horse world on riding. If your horse isn't rideable, then they're essentially not worth anything. That's very much the prevalent frame of thought. Like they are, they're just pasture ornaments. That's the, the term that's often used. They're often sold, sent off to auction or slaughter, which we don't have horse slaughter in the US right now, but they're shipped out of the country into Canada and Mexico. And so we got a lot of issues on that side of things, but. They the idea that a horse should be, and this goes back to a comment you made earlier horses are still very much stuck in this combination of livestock slash sports equipment slash maybe a pet, but not really. And we're, it's, it's changing, but it's happening slowly. And that's okay. It's, everything happens slowly. Change takes time. But that is a big difference with dogs versus horses. And I know competitive dogs and working dogs, actually, I would say it's more comparable to the working dog area where you've got your military dogs and your police dogs and all that. That is more along the lines of what we're dealing with the horse world is if they are not serving a purpose or a job and that job could be competitive dressage or something like that, then they are, I don't know, they either become pasture ornaments or they're just not worth as much anymore. And I know with those military dogs and stuff, they can. I think, I believe become the go to live with their family. But that's something that is rarely happens or not enough. And so we're, we're seeing changes, but you can imagine when. We're taking people, we're trying to take, you know, talk to people that are in, and this is where I was just not too long ago. Unless a horse is rideable and serving you and competitive and all of that, why do you have it to, it's okay if your horse walks away in the middle of a training session and love them for who they are and all of that. That is such a huge jump, behaviorally and mentally and emotionally for people. That is a big conversation and a big gap to cover.
[01:16:34] Yeah, I I could, I I could totally see. So you're, you actually got the breakdown correct at the top, A dog like a military certain working applications. They really are a tool and they may be loved, but they're still a tool. Even if you go down a level to like competitive agility and such you know, it's a mixed bag. It's a mixed bag. Some people, The dog really is equipment, but they wouldn't say it because it would sound terrible. But their relationship with their dog is heavily weighted according to how it is doing at any given point in time. And I think, if I'm honest, I have traits, I have shades of that. I definitely have a different relationship with the dogs. I'm actively working at a given point in time. And it is different. And then there's the straight pet person who got their dog to be a pet. And I divide those into two categories. We have what I call my engaged pet people. Those are the ones who follow me on Instagram. They're, they love their dogs, right? They're having a good time. They wanna do best for their dog. They go hiking, they're great, you know, and then you have people who got a dog cause they were supposed to get a dog, they probably shouldn't have gotten a dog. And it just sort of exists and maybe doesn't really have any quality of life if it lives in a yard or is tight or it depends. But it, there's hugely varied approaches to what is a dog and what is its value. If it can do this but it can't do that or if it gets injured. That's, you know, a pretty big deal. Now, personally, I would rather see a person place a dog if they can't love it in the way that an engaged pet person could love it if it cannot be successful for them. So if you do agility at a high level and your dog is just not into it, I would rather see you place that dog than keep it as one more reject on the side and then you get a new dog. Cause I think that's really hard on the dog. I'd rather see it loved. The horse world is complicated because the number of great homes is probably not great. Like, I would just assume that, see to me, the selling your horse every two years, the trauma for me would be, where is my horse going to go? And then where's it gonna go in two years? That to me, The unknown of something you loved would be just, it's a horrible trauma. More than if you placed it in a great home and you know it's going to be okay. And I think some dogs in the right engaged pet home are better off than with an owner who's disappointed in them. And I'd like to see that the force free world be a little more accepting of that possibility, but it's definitely not. If there's a lot of split in the working dog world, and I spend a lot of time in the working dog world, they are much more comfortable with the idea of rehoming. Where I think they go wrong is they don't necess. See, my, my rule is the dog has to do it with the same or a better home, not a poorer home, that the dog should get an upgrade. And that's not necessarily true in the working dog world. Sometimes I think it's more just get rid of the dog and then that just seems so sad to me.
[01:19:19] Yeah. I, you know, and everybody's gonna have, you know, differing opinions on that. And I have my own. You know, kind of what I would encourage or agree with. But I'm not going to label somebody a bad person for doing one or the other. But I agree with you, it should be if you're going to re home it needs to be to a good or better home, then what you could have offered that seems like a reasonable kind of limit or a rule to set into place, versus we're just passing the dog off because we can't be bothered anymore. And that's, that's where it becomes really problematic. And I see this a lot in horses. And, and we, I, what I see happen a lot is that where you mentioned, okay, so they're supposed to go to this home. They're supposed to be there forever. I see this, they're going to their forever home. They're going to their, this place is gonna keep 'em forever. And actually had this happen to me where I actually sent. A horse back to, or I sent a, I sold a horse to the horse's original trainer. So like a horse had gone from a breeder to a trainer, then to a home, and then to another home, and then to me. So it had been through a lot of homes already. It went back to the original trainer. This was a long time ago, by the way. And they had promised the horse a forever home and not joking. Eight months later. She says she can't keep the horse anymore and needs to pass it on or whatever. And it was so upsetting and traumatizing and she wouldn't give, I don't know. It was just a whole thing. It was a huge deal. And that I see that happen a lot. The seller thinks that they're going, the horse is going to this great home, this forever home. And that doesn't actually happen. And so that's where I caution people like Rehoming is not a lighthearted decision. It's not just this, oh, it's gonna be great. And unicorn is fairy tales. Like, you gotta be really serious about this and you have to really vet the new home. But that, that's a whole nother can of worms. .
[01:21:12] Yeah, it's a tough one. It's a very emotionally draining.
[01:21:15] Yes, it is. Well, we have talked for quite a while and I'm sure we could keep going for just as long, if not longer. But I will let you go for this evening. I appreciate you so much coming on here and talking with me and covering all these wonderful topics. I would love to have you back on again later on and a while if you wouldn't mind rejoining us.
[01:21:36] Oh, this was, this was great. It's, it's really interesting for me to hear and think about the relationships between dogs and horses and how we raise our children. I mean, there's, there's so many parallels that are, are worth exploring. I've had a wonderful time. I really appreciate you having me.
[01:21:50] Yeah, we should definitely talk about. Child, children, parenting, all of that. Cuz we both, I mean, I have younger kids, but I have three and you have three older ones. That's, if I heard you right and we could probably talk forever on that and how parallels with raising animals and all of that. That would be wonderful conversation.
[01:22:09] Yeah. What, what I learned, I mean, interesting to think about and talk about. What did I learn from positive reinforcement with dogs that I applied to kids, what would I do differently? Cuz I would yeah, oh yeah, but let's not, let's just leave it there. There's a little carrot dangling
[01:22:25] That's, that's a little carrot cuz there's definitely, I branched into positive reinforcement and all that after I had my first kid and I'm already seeing like all the things I did differently by the time I got to my third and, oh, anyways, it's such a fascinating conversation. But yeah, little carrot for later
[01:22:42] Would you mind sharing with my listeners where they can learn more about you and contact you? Just kinda share about yourself in that way? Yeah.
[01:22:50] Well, I'm, I'm kind of everywhere, so I go by Denise Fenzi everywhere. So Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, I do most of my how to on Instagram. So lots of one minute clips.
[01:23:01] Like right now I have a new puppy, so how to teach a stand or a sit or whatever. I've written 10 books, so if you go to Amazon and you search my name, There might be something in there for you from pet training to competition, to developing relationship to all kinds of stuff. And I have a large online school of Enzi Dog Sports Academy.
[01:23:19] We teach about 40 classes every term. We have webinars, we have workshops, we have pet dog training, we have everything. . And then I have what I call my pet program, which is the high drive dog because I'm really interested in high drive dogs. So that's a subscription program which had been dice the Dog I placed and now I'm using my little borrowed puppy to show in a little bit more detail how I raise a puppy.
[01:23:41] I would love to see you in any of those places. Easiest place to catch me really is Messenger or through the Instagram, whatever you call that. I don't know, maybe it's messenger there too. But love to have you follow me. I do follow several horse people and I really enjoy those accounts
[01:23:53] as well. Well, thank you so much for sharing, Denise, and we loved having you on.
[01:23:57] And definitely we'll get back to having more conversations soon. Excellent.
[01:24:02] Thank you so much.
[01:24:08] Thanks so much for listening. If you'd like to find out more, head to my website, the willing equine.com. I'm also on a lot of different social media platforms, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, so check those out. And I'd love to hear from you, so don't hesitate to email or send me a message.