Engagement, focus, and asking for work

Betsy and I are currently taking some private classes with Darcie Jennings, and one thing she pointed out to me was that although Betsy and I had a great connection when I asked her for it, Betsy never really offered it on her own. Darcie challenged me to start expecting Betsy to offer more without having me request her attention first.

Betsy is all ears when I ask for her attention

This was a great observation, and after she made it, I suddenly noticed how right she was. On a walk I would make a point to stop and just see how long it took for Betsy to check in with me without my prompting her: A VERY LONG TIME, as it turns out. I never noticed before because I always either asked for her attention when I stopped, or my body language indicated that I was in training mode, so I never had a chance to notice that she wouldn’t offer attention on her own.

Don’t get me wrong, Betsy is generally great, and we have a good communication system. And when she’s off leash, yes, she stays nearby and comes back often to check in. But on leash, and in general, she doesn’t offer ENOUGH.

Luckily, I’ve been wanting to take a class with the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy for awhile now, and registration for their next set of classes just opened up on Wednesday. Denise Fenzi is teaching a class on Engagement (her blog post on it here) which is basically exactly what I am looking to help Betsy with.

I think Betsy has a lot of potential to excel in engagement. That blog post I linked shows two videos of two different dogs, one displaying a high level of obedience but no engagement, and the other displaying both engagement and obedience. I highly recommend watching them; the difference is striking! Anyway, Betsy definitely does engage in personal play with me already, and is happy to interact with me without toys as an intermediary, so I think what I need is some classes to help me hone my handling skills in this regard, as well as some structure to push us both to do better.

This is one of the huge advantages of attending classes or booking private time with a trainer: They will notice things that you don’t notice, and they will push you to do better. Without that push, Betsy and I would likely hit a ceiling, where she’s, “Pretty good,” but not, “the best she could be.” Plus, all these classes help me with my own handling skills and techniques! I can’t believe how much I have improved as a dog trainer over the past two years, and I definitely want to keep improving.

I’m excited to keep you posted on how these engagement classes go! Hopefully well, so I don’t come crawling back with my tail between my legs 😬

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