You know, people think I’ve been really lucky with the dogs that I’ve owned, and the success each of those dogs has achieved, but the truth is I’ve worked really hard for a lot of years and over the course of time I’ve found that by creating systems for myself, it’s allowed me to consistently bring out the best in my dogs and protect their confidence.

Today I want to share one of those key systems with you. I put it in the form of a pyramid with our consciousness on the ground level.

Although it’s all about training dogs, it begins with us becoming aware of where we are and what we want. It lends itself to anything at all we want to do with our dogs and is a system that has had a big impact on many of my students in our online programs.

Susan Garrett's 5C Formula for Success

Layer 1: Awaken Consciousness

Be conscious of where you are in your training and what it is you want your dog to do. What you are really doing is becoming consciously aware of your current starting place. Take stock of the skills that you and your dog have right now in order to move forward.

Layer 2: Create Clarity

Give your dog clarity for what it is you want him to do through fun planned layered training. Reinforcement based training grows new skills, new habits, and a new way of being connected with our dogs as a teammate. It all begins with a strategic plan for me. That’s code for a fun game to play with my dog. We break things down into small pieces to create understanding.

Layer 3: Build Confidence

Build your dog’s confidence and joy through the understanding created with strong foundations. When we teach the small pieces of our lessons, once our dog has clarity, we repeat the game a few more times without changing anything in order to build confidence. With confidence comes a lot more joy. I’m pretty sure everyone with a dog recognizes a dog who lacks confidence is a dog that has little joy. Let’s create clarity to build confidence resulting in more joy for your dog and for you.

Layer 4: Introduce Challenges

Introduce challenges with planned distractions to boost your dog’s clarity and confidence. We introduce low level challenges at first, and this can then grow to any distraction you can dream of. Every time your dog overcomes a new challenge, you’ve actually created more clarity, thus more confidence for him on how to perform a desired task or to make a great choice. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog walk contact, a start line performance, how to respond to your handling cues, or how to ignore the big distractions like deer on your walks.

Layer 5: Grow Capability

Grow your dog’s capability with layered learning and strategic challenges, building in joy with every step.

Consciousness creates clarity which builds confidence, allowing for more challenges which grow our dog’s capabilities.

The “5C Pyramid” is a very effective model that allows you to layer the learning for your dog in a way that builds in joy in every step, and it works in reverse as well. If your dog suddenly shows a lack of capability in a skill he previously could nail, take a step back and introduce mild new challenges to grow his confidence. If your dog consistently fails at a challenge, he’s telling you he needs more confidence. If you see your dog’s confidence has plummeted, he’s crying out for more clarity from you. Refer to our pyramid often as you and your dog grow competently together as a team.

This can be used for dog agility and all dog sports or activities …. in fact, for anything at all that you want to do with your dog, including him being an awesome family pet. Once you are conscious of where you are in your training and what it is you want your dog to do, you can use this formula to get you from where you are, to where you want to be.

Effective training happens in layers. Each new skill adds a unique layer of understanding for your dog. Understanding grows confidence. Confidence blossoms into a deep connection between you and the dog you love.

The photo at the top of this blog is Twister and me at a world agility event in Spain many years ago. Today I’m grateful to be part of Team Canada in Sweden for the FCI 2018 World Championships with my youngest dog, Momentum, and for the confidence she is displaying at her first world agility adventure.

WORK=PLAY=WORK with Momentum playing here in Sweden as hard as she does at home.
It’s never a surprise why my leg is always so bruised after training!