Friday Morning Session Descriptions

Working teams will each choose one morning and one afternoon lab during registration.

8:30AM – 9:00AM


Denise Fenzi
Experience Level: Lecture Only

Join us all in the main hall for a welcome talk from FDSA Founder Denise Fenzi!

9:15AM – 10:45AM

Ring Prep Without the Ring

Megan Foster
Experience Level: Lecture Only

“He does it perfectly at home, but I can’t replicate the trial environment!” If you’ve ever said that about your dog’s performance, you are in the right place. In this lecture, Megan will outline her process of preparing dogs for the competition ring without needing the actual ring, all of the equipment, people, or the busy environment.

It’s no secret that there is a big gap between training and trialing, which needs a bridge built between. Bridging that gap is all about fine-tuning your routines, reducing reinforcement, and layering in distractions and different levels of arousal.

Whether you’re a seasoned competitor or a beginner to dog sports, this presentation will help you see training from a new perspective and take your training to the next level. You have the power to prepare your team for competition even with limited resources.

Not an agility competitor? No problem! While the focus is on dog agility, the concepts are applicable to any dog sports competition. This lecture is highly recommended for those attending other Ring Prep without the Ring working labs during the conference and is suitable for all levels.

Zen Bowl

Laura Waudby
Experience Level: All

The goal of this session is to introduce your dog to the idea that rewards can be out of your hands, out of your pocket, and at a distance!

To do this we will be working with what is referred to as a “Zen bowl”- a small dish or lid on which a single reward (or small handful of rewards) is placed. The dogs will get started on being able to focus on you or “work” and willingly leave their reward of food (or a toy) they know they can grab at any time!

Agility Motivation Games

Loretta Mueller
Experience Level: All

In this session we will discuss some motivation issues, why it happens, and what you can do about it. We will go over several games to help unleash your dog’s inner feral beast.

Fun games = DRIVE!

Hocus Pocus! Attention and Focus!

Julie Flanery
Experience Level: All

The things we need the most are often the things we train the least. A large part of being successful in performance sports is our dogs’ ability to work in the presence of external stimuli – what we often call “distractions.”

Performance skills can quickly degrade when our dogs aren’t practiced at maintaining attention and focus in difficult environments or under difficult circumstances. Not having these skills can decrease confidence in both the dog and the handler. They are the cement that holds our performances together and can mean the difference between a rock-solid performance and just getting by.

In this session, we will isolate and practice games and exercises that increase your dog’s desire to maintain attention and focus, turn attractions in the environment into cues to look to you and teach our dogs that it’s all part of a fun game. It’s not magic, it’s training!

Tricks with a Purpose

Sara Brueske
Experience Level: Novice & Above

Tricks aren’t just for fun anymore! This lab will focus on training tricks that offer more than meets the eye. Each of the tricks taught is specially picked for improving body awareness, developing critical thinking skills or for strengthening specific muscle groups.

Sara will talk about looking deeper into behaviors traditionally taught for entertainment to see how they can help you reach your training goals. Join us and see what tricks are hidden up our sleeves, you won’t be disappointed!

An introduction to the ODE protocol: A 10-step system for building our dog’s skills for ignoring environmental distractions / ”triggers”

Sharon Carroll
Experience Level: All

In this “Introduction to ODE” session, Sharon will discuss the Offered Durational Engagement (ODE) pattern and the 10-step ODE protocol. There are no pre-requisite skills for teams in the working spots. For teams that have already established the initial ODE pattern and/or have worked through the higher steps of the protocol, consider joining Sharon’s other session – “Working through the higher levels of the ODE protocol: Adding in distractions / ‘triggers.’”

About Offered Durational Engagement (ODE)
When our dog perceives a stimulus that interests or concerns them, a portion of their attention shifts to that stimulus. At this point we may only see evidence of “split focus” (i.e. glancing away from us and the task, responding more slowly to our cues, missing cues, performing an “incorrect” behavior, etc.), or our dog may perform a large reaction that we perceive as inappropriate or extreme (e.g. lunging, barking, whining, squealing, leaping, leaving us and rushing to the stimulus, attempts to run away, unable to respond to our cues in the presence of the stimulus, etc.).

Our dog’s response to the stimulus may be driven by emotion (e.g. fear, excitement, frustration, etc.), it may be driven by instinct (e.g. prey drive, etc.), or it may occur due to prior learning (i.e. expectation of a specific outcome, or a previously formed habit).

Offered Durational Engagement (ODE) is a simple pattern that forms the foundations for a 10-step protocol. For dogs responding due to emotions, the protocol helps to reduce the intensity of their feelings and hence their response. For dogs responding due to instinct or habit, the protocol helps our dog to find time to think between the stimulus and their response, so instead of going from stimulus to the existing automatic response, our dog is able to think before responding. This allows them to choose an alternative behavior to the existing inappropriate or extreme response. We can then ensure that our dog perceives the new response as more rewarding than the original response.

ODE is useful as both a behavior modification protocol for reactivity, as well a protocol for helping our competition dogs build their skills for comfortably ignoring and dismissing people / dogs / movement / sounds in the competition environment.

11:00AM – 12:30PM

The Play Way Applied: how, why, and when we play

Amy Cook, PhD
Experience Level: Lecture Only

In this lecture session, I’ll be going over the Play Way system itself, beyond just the how-to of the play itself, and into why we want it to be a conversation, what doors that opens for both reducing stress and pressure and allowing you to know a lot more about whether you’re over threshold or not.

We’ll also look at the principles of Look and Dismiss (LAD), and the ways we practice it on simple things so dogs get fluency in the skill and have it as a strategy!

Come learn how to apply Play Way in setups to facilitate new learning!

Walking The Course (Agility)

Nancy Gagliardi Little
Experience Level: All

Do you walk courses and find that you don’t execute those handling decisions when you run your dog because you are not in
position or you mistimed a turning cue? Then this session is for you. Learn how to use those 8 minutes of your walk through
to develop a plan that you can successfully execute.

Teams will then have a chance to run the course with feedback.


Shade Whitesel
Experience Level: See Description

We love that “breakthrough” moment, when the dog figures out that their motions make us click. Trainers get reinforced because it’s so cool when our dogs do that! And… on and on, to shaping heaven, until you’re preparing to trial and there is a moment of stillness and suddenly the dog is offering all the things – legs and feet dancing around, head moving. – not exactly the steady position changes you were hoping for!

Join Shade as we teach our dogs the difference between verbal stimulus control sessions and offering/shaping sessions. We’ll teach them that stillness, (a stand by / stand and wait behavior), is a good thing, and how to add a cue to shaped behaviors without the frustration of waiting through an extinction burst of “all the things”.

Experience Level – some knowledge of shaping required.

TEAM Platforms, Cones & Targets

Heather Lawson
Experience Level: All

The Fenzi TEAM Titles program uses these items throughout its levels to teach basic foundation skills… but they needn’t be limited to just the foundations. Come and learn how to use these simple props to convey and create an understanding of distance work and holding positions.

Plus, learn how to inject FUN using the equipment and how to use Strategic Reward Placement for setups and maintaining rhythm to gain and create behavior loops for added consistency in your training.

Never Lose Your Dog Again: 5 Connection Games for Training & Trials

Nicole Wiebusch
Experience Level: All

Are you struggling to maintain your dog’s focus during training or trials?

Common reasons dogs disconnect include:

  • Dog isn’t mentally ready to work
  • Distractions are too much for the dog
  • The handler disconnects from the dog
  • The dog doesn’t understand generalization
  • The dog disconnects after a reward

Thankfully, there’s something we can do: we can play games that are fun and instill naturally focussed attention that will hold up in challenging environments—even the competition ring.

During this session, we’ll dive into why your dog disconnects. Then, you’ll learn a variety of games that prevent your dog from disconnecting and reduce the chance that your dog will disconnect in the future.

Finally, you will learn how to observe and listen to your dog through the different games. If your dog is telling you it’s too hard, you’ll know while playing the games, before you ever ask for behaviors!

Join Nicole to achieve better connection with your dog!

Leash Handling Spotlight: Choice Points and Pivot Points

Sarah Owings
Experience Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Leash handling is a skill. Matching the dog’s pace, anticipating changes of direction, avoiding leash tangles, managing the length of line, and anchoring at just the right moment are hallmarks of top nose work competitors. But these dance moves don’t come naturally. They have to be practiced.

In this session we are going to focus on leash skills, two in particular: anticipating choice points as the dog moves through the search area, and providing a pivot point when needed to set subtle boundaries to support the dog’s ability to work efficiently and effectively. Dogs should already be on odor, and familiar with multi-hide searches in novel environments.