Sunday Afternoon Session Descriptions

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

1:40PM – 3:30PM

Location and Arousal Specific Marker Cues – BEHAVIORS

Shade Whitesel
Experience Level: All

Why use different marker cues? What is the point and how does it affect behavior skills?

Join Shade for some quick lecture as she covers more advanced marker cues and why you might use different marker cues to teach different behaviors. (dogs in crates in crating area for this part!)

Then, we’ll get the dogs out, practice a simple behavior they already know. Second time, come with a behavior skill you want to teach and based on the lecture before hand, we’ll explore what marker cue you should use.

Beginning of Run Routines: Ring Entry, Leash Removal, and Setup

Megan Foster
Experience Level: All

How your dog enters the ring can tell you a lot about how the run will go. The rewards are gone, the distractions are front and center, and you’re feeling nervous about how this will all play out. Without a well-rehearsed routine, it can feel like you’re never sure what dog you’re going to have upon entering the ring. Will they be fast? Will they hold their startline? Will they stay with me on the course? These are all questions we can find lingering in our heads when we don’t have a way to directly ask the dog!

Building a predictable routine that you and your dog can rely on is the same as asking them those questions, and will produce more consistent behaviors and give you reliable information about your dog’s mindset.

In this session, teams will work on:

  • Teaching a choice-based ring entry
  • Attaching anticipatory feelings (increased arousal) to the leash removal
  • Changing the reinforcement contingency of the startline setup from food to work
  • Chaining the pieces together for use in competition contexts

All agility teams will benefit from learning how to give our dogs a choice with regard to competing and how to reduce reinforcement effectively with the use of routines and sequences of behaviors.

Working participants should feel comfortable taking their dog’s leash off in the working space and have a trained setup behavior. A lead-out is not necessary for this session but is recommended (can be just a few steps).

Advanced Heeling – Polishing and Problem Solving

Denise Fenzi
Experience Level: All

Yep. You’ve got the heeling basics AND…you need help! Maybe removing pocket hand or simply fixing a pesky little heeling issue. Need some attention to your heeling challenge? This is your lab!

Note: If you’re brand new to heeling, the Pocket Hand Heeling Lab is the place for you!

Drop It Like It’s Hot: The Reverse Retrieve

Barbara Lloyd
Experience Level: Novice & Above

We spend a lot of time teaching our dogs to retrieve items to us and to hold onto items, and then when we want them to take an object away from us and drop it in the middle of nowhere our dogs are understandably confused.

In this Drop It Like It’s Hot hands-on workshop I will teach you how to train your dog that taking an object away from you and dropping it on cue is just as rewarding as giving you an object.

It is a step by step process that will teach your dog on cue:

  • “Drop it Like It’s Hot”
  • With the handler at a distance
  • And then return to the handler having left the object behind

Prerequisites: your dog must be able to pick up an object off the floor


  1. Small floor target (a fit paws silicon paw target is a good example; we we likely have a few available if you do not have one with you)
  2. Food your dog will do backflips for
  3. Clicker or other marker, a whistle or a duck caller
  4. 5 or 6 objects your dog likes to put in their mouth

Pay to Play: Teaching Toy Play through Food Reinforcement

Sara Brueske
Experience Level: Novice & Above

In this lab, we talk about how to build reliable toy play through the use of food reinforcement. If your dog loves to play but struggles in new spaces, plays keep away once they get the toy or doesn’t show interest in playing, this is a beneficial lab to take.

We will be using food as reinforcement, so dogs who have medium to high food drive will do best in this lab.

Effective Competition Preparation – Not for our Dogs, for US!!!

Sharon Carroll
Experience Level: Lecture Only

We spend a lot of time preparing our dog for competitions, but mostly we don’t match that with our own personal preparation.

All dog sports require at least some participation from the human. In some sports our primary role is as our dog’s coach and support crew, but in many sports we are also their teammate, performing alongside them throughout.

When we prepare our dog for competition, we help them to develop the technical skills needed, the mental stamina needed, the ability to remain focused in potentially stimulating environments, the ability to remain confident and accurate under “pressure,” and the ability to maintain their arousal in the optimal zone for the duration of each performance. However, it can be easy to forget that we need this exact same skillset in order to be both successful and to be a productive teammate.

Our skills for managing our own thoughts, emotions, and behavior become even more critical if our dog is less robust, less experienced, has had previous negative competition experiences, or is prone to non-beneficial arousal shifts.

It is very easy to inadvertently send our team into a downward spiral of unsuccessful and unenjoyable performances in instances where either end of the leash has not been adequately prepared, or when gaps in preparation have not been rapidly identified or have not been adequately resolved.

In this session we will look at the human end of the leash and the role we can play in preventing unenjoyable competition experiences for us and our dog, as well as the steps we can take to turn around a downward trajectory of unsuccessful and unenjoyable competition performances.

This isn’t about winning, it is about having an enjoyable competition experience ourselves, and providing an enjoyable competition experience for our dog. This is where winning starts. Successful performances (winning, placing, fast times, high scores, titles, etc.) aren’t achieved by focusing on those end results, they are a bi-product of both teammates being adequately prepared, confident, and in control of their own thoughts, emotions, and actions throughout the competition performance.

This session is a lecture only (no practical) but please bring a pen a paper to get the most out of the session.

3:50PM – 5:30PM

Dealing with Judge Pressure!

Amy Cook, PhD
Experience Level: All

You’ve trained hard, have your heeling all set, your dog is engaged … uh oh. Where’d that judge come from? Why is she following us? Lots of dogs are proximity sensitive and aren’t comfortable with being directly approached, followed or crowded by strangers (especially strangers with clipboards and hats!). Some dogs want to rush to greet anyone within a 10 foot radius!

In this lab, we’ll go over things you can do to help your dog be comfortable with these “strange” judge behaviors and not feel the need to keep an eye on them, and help those greeters learn that judges are boring, and you are best!

Agility Distraction Work Lab

Loretta Mueller
Experience Level: Novice & Above

Does your dog get easily distracted during agility? Are you not exactly sure how to train distractions without overwhelming your dog? This session is for you!

We will work on layering challenges, how to work on thresholds, and what to do in different scenarios.

Great Expectations: How Messing With Your Dog’s Mind Can Increase Clarity About Source

Sarah Owings
Experience Level: Novice & Above

In both training and trialing, dogs frequently encounter hides in boxes, on chairs, or under tables. Dogs also quickly learn to focus on objects that look like training aids, such as tins or tubes, and smells associated with training aids, such as putty. If too regimented, even your movements or positioning can inadvertently pull your dog’s focus away from the all important odor cue. Over time, repetition of these set patterns can create expectations about where to look for odor, resulting in, at best, inefficient searching, and at worst, fringe or false alerts.

In this session we’ll be using fun, mind-bending hide placements to help clarify for the dogs that only following odor to source matters—no matter what the picture is. Dogs should already be on odor.

Clean Handling: Making Sense of it All

Julie Flanery
Experience Level: All

We’ve all heard the term! And many of us strive to apply it. So why is it so hard? And is it really all that important? When you see the lightbulb go on for your dog and it suddenly makes sense to them, you start to realize just how important a skill it is.

Clean handling is more than just separating your marker from your reward or making sure you have enough treats. It is a communication system that can reduce confusion, alleviate frustration and lead to a more enjoyable and productive training experience. In this session you will learn how to create changes in your training that will increase trust and overall success in your sessions. It’s up to us to make sure it all makes sense to our dogs!

Event Markers for Duration Behaviors – When and How to Use Them

Nancy Gagliardi Little
Experience Level: Novice & Above

There are many different strategies for training duration behaviors.

In this session, you will learn the situations where event markers can be used and the circumstances when you should avoid them. You will also learn to train and use several event markers effective for duration behaviors.

5:40PM – 6:00PM

Closing Session

Denise Fenzi
Experience Level: Lecture Only

Join our FDSA team of presenters and staff for one final conference-wise session reviewing camp, announcing the details for next year, and bringing the conference full circle!