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With my winter goal of teaching Zora formal obedience heeling, during my research phase, I came across the Fenzi Team Titles Program.

This titling program is geared to progressively building skills required for formal competition obedience and is broken into 6 levels with 3 additional + levels, so really 9 levels total.  After reviewing the program, I thought it would really help me to stay on track and focus on foundation while giving Zora and I a variety of skills to practice.  If I decide to do the levels for scores, it is all done through video submissions and apparently the judges give various feed back and critiques, a practice I tend to find very helpful because I usually train alone.  There is also a really supportive Facebook group, where the people are very knowledgeable and great about giving caring constructive feedback.

So far we have been working on elements required primarily in level 1 and some exercises from levels 2 and 3.  It’s a lot of fun!

This morning I decided to do a complete run thru of the 10 exercises required for level 1 in order.  Up to this point we have been practicing elements separately and in pieces.  As we are getting more confidence with various pieces, I wanted to do a run thru to see where I need to focus our practice even more.

The run through showed me a lot and pointed out things we do indeed need to practice.  A big one I saw repeated in various parts was cue stimulus control.  For example when I cued “set up” at the pivot target she both times moved to the platform first.  When we did the vertical target first, then I 2 exercises later asked her to go around the cone, she tried to nose touch the cone instead as she had the vertical target.  Which ‘around’ the cone is a behavior she is regularly very consistent and strong on.  But I’d never before asked her to go do a ‘touch’ then a short while later asked her to do an ‘around.’  Cue stimulus control is something I tend to struggle with training for behaviors on verbal cue only, I simply don’t do it enough and in real life and in dog agility I don’t find it necessary.   I am good at it for hand signals and body language cues, but not verbals.  But in obedience competition verbal stimulus control is very necessary, so a skill for me to really practice and improve upon.

We also need to work more on her position cues, which I knew.  Her default is a down, and we haven’t had enough practice on sit cues in general.  She also doesn’t do a tuck sit.  Which I am at the moment on the fence about teaching her, as I’ve tried to teach it to her since she was a puppy and have been unsuccessful, hence why I basically stopped asking her to sit ever for the past 2+ years.  She of course still sits on her own, I just don’t ask her to move into that position.  I’ve tried various ways to teach it to her and none have made any sense to her.  So we shall see what I end up doing.

I was super pleased with her scent articles though.  Super super pleased!  Especially because this was only the 2nd time practicing them in the basement.  I taught her the scent game in our living room.  And her fronts.  Fronts are something I’ve struggled with teaching past dogs, and I’m really liking how Zora’s are coming out so far.  Her back up, we are still using a channel, but WOW!  Such an improvement from where she was.  I feel like the rear foot target has made such a positive difference in her understanding of back up.

Now back to training.