Sunday, November 4, 2012


It's 5:30 am the Sunday morning of Daylight Savings time...apparently the pups don't get bothered by that stuff...and are all fast asleep. So...what a perfect time for a blog post!!! :)

This is a great article on pressure and release...Thank you Denise for writing such a great article with videos!!!!

We all know what pressure is...sadly, it has really gotten a bad has been used improperly, it has been misunderstood and smeared through the mud so to speak. 

Me...being pressured to throw the damn ball :)
Those of you that read my blog know I use pressure in some cases. I have never hidden that fact and feel strongly about it. I feel it is a good tool IF USED PROPERLY. Having come from a background that includes's a huge way to communicate with your dog. It's a case by case basis...but I do use it. Mainly trainers won't admit to using some pressure even though many do. It has become very "evil"...I don't think it is evil at all.

All of my dogs understand pressure, pressure is not evil to them, pressure doesn't make them shut down, it shows them a way to the rewards they want.  I use rewards (toys, treats, play, affection) as my base for behavioral teaching. But I do use pressure in certain situations.

For example...with my puppies...I work recalls from the day I get them home. On leash, off leash, in crazy environments...I get that recall down and get so many rewards (I try for 60-80 recall a day....YES A DAY)...and we go on for MONTHS like this. Happy puppy, happy Loretta. Then...they hit around, 7 months normally...and suddenly the "rule testing" phase hits. Recalls are the utmost important single command. Life saving. If I call my pup, and they do not come to me, I will walk towards them (pressure) then they will notice me (and stop the behavior) I will IMMEDIATELY turn away from them and call and walk away (release of pressure)...this gives them a choice. Correct choice is rewarded HIGHLY. If they choose to go back to whatever (sniffing something dead for example)...I will repeat the situation again until the dog makes the right choice. AGAIN REWARDING HIGHLY. There is no anger, just the pressure of my body coming towards them. I have yet to actually have to get close to a dog before they feel my pressure. The dogs understand what is going on (as they know pressure, YES ALL BREEDS) and I have accomplished what I need to happen. 

It works well for my dogs understanding...I have worked with pressure and release for many years now. And I know the moments that things need to happen to make the understanding happen. This might have to happen twice to a young dog before they realize the recall isn't optional. Again, paired with lots of HIGH VALUE REWARDS.
Zip and her daughter Even :) Awwwww

I would love for everyone who trains dogs to go to a herding clinic...with trainers that understand how to PROPERLY use these methods.  Dogs GET works with their understanding of expectations.  Those that work with herding breeds on stock (successfully!!) have a wonderful grasp of how to apply pressure and how to release it. It's truly amazing to see pressure used in a "non-evil" way...why this blog I linked for you to read impressed me so much!!!

Where is the dog in this picture in relation to the sheep?? Can you tell me?
It's not about getting quick results, it's about the communication between the dog and the handler. I don't ear pinch my dogs, I clicker train retrieves, I don't use choke need to for me personally...most of the time it isn't used...but it is a tool. Just like all things in training. We don't use a hammer to paint a wall, or a paint brush to drive in a nail. Tools have specific uses. Think of it as just another tool.

The hardest part about pressure, is teaching people to use it correctly...without emotion, and to notice the changes in their dogs when they are getting it. As a very well know person in the herding circle says "It's not the pressure that is important, but what happens AFTER the pressure is applied"...aka the release of pressure. The reward for appropriate behavior. If you watch Denise's video, she is unemotional, she just applies pressure and releases when appropriate. THAT IS KEY. It requires a LOT of observation on your part, knowing your dog and if used correctly really can be a great tool.

I personally need to be told not just what I am doing right, but what I am doing wrong. Not screamed at, not threatened, but just as a factual statement. yes or no. It really is that simple. No shouldn't mean the end of the world, just a statement, like the hot and cold game (you guys remember that game right??). I don't want silence when I do something wrong, I want FEEDBACK. I believe our dogs want that as well.

As far as I am concerned, pressure is a communication tool, if we as humans learn to finesse and become solid at, can be a break in the language barrier between dogs and people.

As Denise stated, the dog needs to know their job. Applying pressure during the  initial learning phase isn't really the best idea. But it can be used when the dog knows their job.

In herding, pressure is used to actually show the dog their job, however, with stock work, there is a HUGE HUGE HUGE reward base. SHEEEEEEP. Dogs that are bred to work sheep (and show solid interest) want that reward of working more than ANYTHING. It works out as a wonderful means of communication. I will mark good points (aka a nice bend off the sheep for example) with a yes, but the reward is the sheep...if that is not met, pressure is applied until the dog  bends off the pressure...and THEN the dog is allowed the sheep. 

I am a firm believer there is NEVER a "one size fits all dogs" approach to dog training. Probably why I work with so many breeds of dogs other than the normal agility breeds. When we choose to completely limit the options we have to help us communicate with our dogs, we are possibly losing out on that piece that completes the puzzle.

Understanding pressure in dogs is ALSO the key to helping dogs with stress issues!! Many people I work with don't get why their dogs are stressed on start lines...PRESSURE. Leash runners, people watching, dogs barking...ALL BEHIND THEM. They know it's there, they feel that pressure and YOU, their source of confidence, is walking away from them. Leaving your dog to deal with that pressure.  Many dogs will break, to get away from the pressure. And then their human gets angry...or anxious or stressed. When in reality building confidence and supporting the dog through this situation is KEY to the building of the behavior. Understanding of pressure and how it works really helps dog trainers. So if you don't USE it, at minimum UNDERSTAND IT.

Pressure happens, pressure is everywhere...

In regards to using it in training...Do all dogs need it? No. Not all dogs do. But is it a tool that can be used? Very much so. A tool that, if used correctly doesn't cause dogs to get worried, or stressed, it's just another means of that both humans and dogs instinctively know.

If you have questions, PLEASE comment...or need more examples of what all this is about. If you choose not to use any pressure in training, that is FINE. I have no issues with this and I have many students that do not...but if you are curious, or just want to ask questions, feel free!!!

How is this picture different from the previous picture of the sheep?
I am off to North Carolina this next week for 4 days of teaching, very excited to head back to the people that gave me the VERY FIRST opportunity to start doing this seminar stuff :) I am grateful for this awesome group "taking a chance" on me...It really gave me the motivation to help people communicate with their dogs all over the US.

It's been a crazy year, and I am excited about all the opportunities I have to teach in 2013!! 

Healthwise, all is good :) Results were great, and life goes on :)

With Thanksgiving approaching...being thankful for all the amazing things in my life is key. My husband (who supports my craziness!!) my dogs, my students, my family, my blog readers, my friends...thank you.


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I love Denise Fenzi! I think a lot of people use pressure in training even if they don't know that's what they're doing. I actually didn't even realize that certain people didn't like the use of it! It seems so simple for all dogs to understand.

Debbie said...

In the sheep pictures, is the dog far off to the right? I see some ears pointing that way, but they also appear to be coming toward the camera... if they were mine, they'd be hitting me up for food. :)