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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.