Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Denise Fenzi Seminar: Introduction
This past weekend, I had the extreme pleasure of going to a seminar presented by Denise Fenzi. I'll be honest; I didn't know who she was until a few months ago, when she put an OTCh on one of her dogs using positive training. In a happy coincidence, shortly after I learned who she was, I heard about the seminar (and it was local), so I signed up.
The seminar was actually more like two in one. Saturday and Sunday was about drives and motivation in obedience, while Monday was devoted specifically to problem-solving. I audited the first two days, and had a working spot on the final day. Although I'd been hesitant about signing up- I really wasn't sure if Maisy would be up to eight full hours of seminar-ing- I am so glad I did. (And Maisy was awesome, so I needn't have worried.)
I came away from the weekened with a great deal of respect and admiration for Denise. It's clear that she's a very skilled trainer. I was incredibly impressed with her ability to quickly read both people and dogs, and then tailor her advice to that team. I really enjoyed her message that methods don't matter if they don't work- and that not every approach will work for every dog. That's not to say that she advocates compulsion-based training, because she doesn't, but rather that she thinks there are many, many ways to approach any given exercise. Luring, shaping, physically prompting- it all has a place with the right dog and the right handler.
Unfortunately, this strength of Denise's is also a bit frustrating for me as blog writer: since so much of her advice was directly related to any given working team, taken as a whole, it could seem contradictory. After all, what worked for one team won't work for another. Another frustration was the fact that I know next to nothing about AKC obedience, so many of the finer points went right over my head. As a result, I've decided that while Denise offered lots and lots and lots of advice for particular obedience exercises, I won't be writing about that. (If you're disappointed by this, I highly recommend you go check out her youtube channel. She has tons of great videos over there.) Instead, I'll post more of the general stuff: about drives, and relationships, and rewards. And, of course, I'll write about our working spot on Monday.
I was also incredibly impressed by Denise's attitude. Sometimes, positive trainers can seem holier-than-thou, myself included. But Denise doesn't lecture people on why positive training is superior. Instead, she simply shows people how to do it successfully. She helps identify their training issues, and then gives suggestions on how to approach them. Often, you could see immediate improvement in the working teams. It wasn't uncommon to hear someone exclaim, "You fixed it!" I left the seminar feeling that Denise made a real difference, not only in terms of performance, but also in the relationships between dogs and handlers.
As a result, I cannot recommend her enough. Although her primary focus is obedience, I really think that anyone, in any sport, could benefit from working with her. If you ever get a chance to attend a seminar with her, take it. And while the auditors in attendance all agreed that they learned a ton, I would highly encourage you to snag a working spot if you can. Not only can she assess you and your dog specifically, but getting a chance to practice what you've learned with immediate feedback is invaluable. Even though I tried to apply what I'd learned during the first two days in my session with her on the third day, her coaching really helped me incorporate those lessons into my work and relationship with Maisy.
The best part of the seminar, though, was that it left me feeling totally invigorated. She helped me figure out how to take my training to the next level, and as a result, I had an amazing heeling session with Maisy this evening. I am so, so very excited. Watch out, Minnesota: Maisy and I are going to blow you away!