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.
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!
Watched you vid before taking Mack to watch an agility competition. This reactive BC happily with alert eyes and ears walked with me calmly around the rings, passing many dogs, some barking and jumping with excitement. Mack watched with interest , confident and calmly walking with me. Awsome!!! Thank you so much!! So proud of him !!
Awesome article- very clear & concise!
Thank you, Susan!
Really got a lot out of video one. I am in a beginners agility class now at PUP’N Iron(who shared your link with all the students). I love the classes, it seems to focus on all the things you presented in the video. The best part was how my dog will feed off of my confidence level. I know this is what I need to work on the most as I realize how she picks up on everything I do and feel. Looking forward to the next video.
Susan: I’m new to the agility world. After listening to your 1st Agility Handling Master Class video, I need some clarity when you say that putting a dog in a Beginner Agility Class and having them introduced to the obstacles, such as A-Frame, Plank, etc
is not the way to start. Please advise since I want to have my yr old Aussie trained correctly. Thx
Was this question ever answered? I’m in same situation and do not want to make a mistake in my dogs training
Hi Susan, love reading all the tips and trucks thank you for the e-mails with video’s. My dog (a one year old AL) also grabs my/our leg like that, wy is that? Its painful sometimes 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of information. Your generosity of spirit impresses me almost as much as your knowledge of our beloved pets’ minds.
Thank you is always in order!
This is so intuitive. THANK YOU
How do you build confidence in a breeder rescue dog? I got my guy from a breeding kennel when he turned four. Never socialized. He’s learned to love walks. He has no idea how to play with toys. Refuses to get on a bed or furniture. Just lies on the floor. I would love to see joy in his life. I’m with him almost all the time. Suggestions? Thank you.
Are you in recallers?
If not I would encourage you to check it out. It’s fun and establishes confidence.
In my experience it takes time and quite a bit of energy on your part at first say the first three months but there is a lot to learn and this program will show you step by step how to do it with layered games.
And you will have a large community on line supporting you.
Congratulations to Momentum and Susan for getting this far so soon. All due to spSusan’s ability torespond to each dog’s individual needs. I also believe we grow with each dog we have. (If we are sensitive to each dog we own)
Nitro is very jumpy at new distractions and still scared of some old ones. I have done layers in order to get him over this but he still seems very anxious. Is there a tool I can use to get him to be more confident with old and new?
These are the tools I use when teaching college classes as well. Learning from your mistakes and repetition are the way that we all gain confidence and develop a willingness to try something new. Excellent reminder!
Je vous ai vu aux championnats du monde à la TV et quel dommage ces petites fautes car c’était très beau a voir.
Congrats on Momentum and her super rise to nationals already!! Susan, YOU are amazing!! Your teachings have laid the foundation in how I approach training since I first came to your camp 12 years ago!! Your puppy and tweener camps were a sea change for me! It was the best thing I ever did for my dogs!! Thank YOU Susan for continuing to remind us of what we need to do!!
The language you use for teaching the public about dog training has totally changed the way I talk to my clients about dog training and really helps me to help them to understand what training is all about. Thank you!
Congrats on Momentum and nationals at such a young age. WAHOO….I have learned much from you and this pyramid is amazing. I keep it on my wall at work FOR HUMANS!
I am excellent at developing great work teams at my job. I have learned much from you. this pyramid should be every managers guide!
Works for dogs too!