Last week we looked at how understanding your dog’s Reinforcement Zone will set you up for success with walking on lead. But knowing and understanding RZ is for so much more. It is one of the KEYS to success in dog sports. Our dogs having value for the Reinforcement Zone is going to be a reinforcer in its own right for the competition ring!
I’ll start with the use of value for Reinforcement Zone in dog agility. Below is a clip from my Handling360 program that explains.
RZ for Dog Agility
Your dog hanging out in your Reinforcement Zone is going to be a massive help to you in agility. If your dog has value for RZ, when you send your dog over a jump and you do a post turn, your dog is going to want to seek out position at your side, and that’s going to help make your turns nice and tight. When you do a front cross, even if you’re late and the dog’s heading towards the tunnel, the moment the dogs sees the change of arms, he goes “Reinforcement Zone! Gotta Drive There!” because of the value you have built.
Now, you might be thinking “but Susan, I want to do distance work” or “I don’t want my dog running next to me in agility!”. My answer is that you can most certainly have distance work, drive away from you, the ability to send and leave, AND you can have your dog valuing RZ.
Below is a short clip of Momentum threadling when I was layering the Dog Walk. I was running with a strained hamstring … if I had done more than strain it, I would have not run. The point of sharing this clip is that Momentum has MASSIVE value for RZ. She also massive value for all the other elements that go into bringing our agility dogs clarity, confidence and trust in our handling, and that go into creating phenomenal obstacle skills.
RZ for All Dog Sports
Your dog valuing RZ is obviously going to be massively beneficial for the sports of Obedience, Rally, Canine Freestyle, IPO, Heelwork to Music. And if you do these sports, I am sure you can see how having your dog being by your side because he wants to be there is going to exponentially increase your joy and performance in the sport as a team.
The next video I’m sharing is a blast from the past! It’s of Feature and I during our annual agility break many years ago. Feature had not had any training specifically for obedience, yet this is what we got from our RZ foundations, and we were just goofing around here.
But what about things like Dock Diving, Field Work, Nosework, Lure Coursing? In all of these sports you are going to need to transition from Point A to Point B with your dog. You are going to have to get to the starting point with your dog. Transition using RZ to keep the engagement and connection with your dog! Think of any dog sport at all, and there are going to be times when your dog valuing RZ by your side will be of immense benefit to you as a team.
Also, remember that RZ may change depending upon who your dog is with or what environment he is in. As astute dog trainers, we can create any Reinforcement Zone to suit any purpose for any dog sport, to bring our dog value and joy in his performance.
Now, I know a few of you might be thinking “it’s okay for you Susan, with your Border Collies” … and I can tell you that my Terriers loved RZ. And my students live with and train nearly every type of dog imaginable, from puppies, to rescue dogs, to ‘new to them’ adult dogs, pure breeds and mixed breeds … and they and their dogs have just as much success with RZ as I do!
Let me know in the comments what dog sport you do with your dog and where can you see the uses for RZ in that sport. And if you and your dog are not currently in a sport, what one do you think you would like to try? There’s a dog sport to suit everyone, and it’s a great way to spend time with your dog.
Today I am grateful to have been able to get back home from Texas in time for hosting a few handling seminars here at Say Yes this past weekend.
We do Obedience, Rally, and Nose Work. Hot Zone a valuable tool
In Gundog training being beside you in the RZ without a lead is so important!!!
I can see that RZ would be useful in getting a dog to and from the line in lure coursing, or standing/moving to inspection at a trial or meet. It would come in handy walking up to and loading your hound in the box for racing.
RZ is super useful for Obedience and Rally O, but I also use it in herding and Endurance Trial. It is so nice walking into a paddock with sheep or cows knowing that my dog wants to stay with me until he is released.
WOW! That was spectacular layering with the IN-IN!
Chuckling – Momentum was so cute in the background of the first clip – head held high – look how good i am and good looking too. Sorry Susan – was very had to focus on you with that high level distraction behind you.
Superb, I do obediance here in India and does train the dog for heeling on left side but concept of RZ is now clear to me, I have two Malinois puppies and thinking of training them for Agility and was in two minds whether to teach heeling ? But after watching you it is clear now [email protected]!
Thank you so much
Way before we knew who Susan Garrett was, we’ve been doing RZ work with our four year old American Labrador Bud since we got him three years ago and know how powerful it is.
That said, in the last video with Susan and Feature, it looks like she’s luring him, but at the same time, I know how emphatic she is about NOT luring. What am I missing?
Hi Greg, the heeling is all from RZ … the other behaviours you will see are Feature hand targeting with Susan’s hand in various presentations (including higher up, so Feature jumps up), and also stationing on Susan’s hand. They are all shaped behaviours.
I do this a little, I need to spend more time on it though. Great examples!
I have done RZ in Recallers & now in Handling 360. Like Terry’s comment above, I have the same problem. Food gone,dog gone: as long as my Lab is getting a cookie every few steps, the RZ has value. Once I stop feeding him or the cookies are too infrequent, he leaves me to go off sniffing.
In competition obedience, after 2 exercises without a cookie, he’s not interested in doing more and it’s a struggle to get him through the rest of the exercises.
The RZ is very important in Agility with my Border Collie. She was very nervous when I got her but she learned that the RZ was a place of comfort. She goes there when noisy children or other dogs are worrying her.
I have a Lab that I walk with for about 2-3 miles per day (on leash). She is 8 years old this month and i have always been giving her a treat every time she is walking next to me. she will take the treat and immediately start to move ahead in search of “road food” unless I have another treat ready for her. I know I am doing something wrong but don’t know what.
I am a Handling 360 student and I have found RZ a brilliant tool in agility
Good information on the RZ.
Thank You Susan!
This is helpful to me in getting my dog from the holding blind to the line in a retriever field trial.
Excellent Susan ! Starting my 6 mos old on this right away 🙂
Not Susan, but if you have to get a dog from point A to point B, then RZ is the way you are not pulled off your feet by an excited dog wanting to go at a different pace than you want to go.
interesting, but I don’t see an application for competitive sled dog racing – I’d be interested if you had a different take on that
Re: dog sledding … I don’t do competitive sled dog racing, but I have run dogs with a sled (and cart and sacco and scooter and winter camp) for almost 40 years, and I find attention/RZ very useful. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you had a tangle to be able to unhook and just call a dog to your side without having to hang onto them? Or if you fell off the sled, to be able to do a “come-haw” and have the team return to your side? (I have done that). Not to mention how nice to be able to walk a dog up to the line for a race or run without them dragging you there? I agree that the actual racing doesn’t have much to do with RZ, but in terms of just living with dogs or dealing with unexpected situations on a run, it’s a nice thing to have. 🙂
If you look on this website under Online Training –> Next level, you’ll see a video of sled dogs doing all sort of things not typically done by sled dogs — things we’ve learned here (the video is called IC Pups) … the training is such a fantastic way to build a better bond with your dog, regardless of your chosen sport!
Awesome notes Syl … you and your dogs have great RZ and you rock the sled too!