Lisa Schmit, PhD
In The Zone Agility

The core of my training philosophy is based on solid foundation skills and consistent handling/cueing to motivate my dogs in a fun and positive way. I use a positive reward-based system of training and err on the side of rewarding too often than not enough. I train with a toy in my hand and break skills down into small increments so I can reward frequently. I start off targeting my dog, then lure them and then reward them for the correct sequence. I take the responsibility to maintain my cues in a clear, crisp, calm and confident manner for my dogs. This gives my dogs confidence that they can trust my cues which builds our relationships, speed, drive, and distance. 

The goal of every one of my training sessions is to teach, reinforce and reward my dog for understanding my cues. The goal of training is not to just run sequences or courses-- not to just go from number to number but to train my dog to understand my cues and reward my dog often I train skills so that my dog is confident in their ability to understand and trust my cues to perform sequences efficiently, at speed and at a distance.

Training obstacles is the easy part. Training our dogs to understand the path from obstacle to obstacle is the hard part! Should they go straight? Turn? Turn Away? Etc. This is where our cueing system comes into play. 
For the dog to get from obstacle to obstacle- to run the intended sequence or course-the dog must understand what I want him to do. Training is about teaching my dog my cueing system so that he can read my cues and act accordingly. Training is also about reinforcing already trained behaviors and rewarding the heck out of great outcomes!!!

As a skill trainer, I focus on developing, refining, and rewarding obstacle performance and handling moves when I train. I believe groundwork and foundation skills are the building blocks to success. Most of my training sessions are short fun sequences so I can train various handling options, push for distance and reward often often. I train skills and obstacles so that my dogs are confident in their ability to understand my cues and to perform obstacles efficiently, at speed and at a distance. 

Let me reiterate this- I TRAIN IN SHORT SEQUENCES!! While I will occasionally run a full course, it is rare. By primarily running full courses , you miss so many opportunities to reward your dog for awesome stuff. You also miss the opportunity to train in different locations, push your distance, etc because your dog will be tired!! By training in short sequences, you have the opportunity to train your dog more, move to different locations, try different moves and REWARD YOUR DOG MORE!!

What To Do When a Mistake is Made

❓What to do When a Mistake is Made ⁉️

When I am training, if a mistake is made, I do not stop and turn the dog around to send them to the correct obstacle. Most of the time, I will let my dog finish driving on the line they are on and end it as soon as I can without demotivating my dog. If it is an advanced, driven dog, then I will try to sequence again. If we are successful at the point where we messed up, I will REWARD the dog for the correct response. I do not continue with the sequence. I reward my dog for reading my cues correctly. If it is a new skill or particularly difficult skill, I will repeat this another time rewarding at the point where the original mistake was made. If my dog is not too tired, then I will try the whole sequence, but, honestly, this does not happen often as I do not want to run my dogs when they are tired. (Remember that mental activity is just as exhausting as physical activity).

If we were not successful after the 2nd or 3rd try, then I will break it down. I DO NOT TRY THE SEQUENCE AGAIN but I break it down to work that specific skill. I don’t worry about doing the whole sequence but work on the issue that I am having. I will change something; I will get closer, start the dog an obstacle before the problem area (backchain), use a target, or lure through the sequence. I will try again, getting closer to where I was the first time I tried the sequence. I will not run the whole sequence because, by this point, my dog is both mentally and physically tired.

Try this sequence again another day !!