April 2021 Newsletter and Training Tips
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Welcome to the March 2021 newsletter for TEAM!
In this Newsletter:

Video: Tips and Tricks to Complete Your TEAM Obedience Level One
Article:  The Chin Rest for Cooperative Care
Updates to Level 1 & 2 Video Submissions for the TEAM Obedience Program
Updates to Upper Level Prerequisites for the TEAM Obedience Program

New TEAM Nosework Titling Program  Honors Level debuts this week
Article:  Nosework Virtual Titling Tips & Tricks
Denise Fenzi offers Tips and Tricks for TEAM 1 Obedience!
Chin Up!  Teaching the Chin Rest
TEAM Cooperative Care Program
by Deb Jones

When I was designing the TEAM Cooperative Care Certificate (CCC) one of the things I wanted to make sure I did was cover all the foundations and then build up complexity on those through the three levels (soon to be five!)  I chose the ten essential exercises with much thought.  The number 1 exercise is the chin rest, and that’s intentional.  To me, the chin rest is an excellent entry exercise that allows us to build up to more challenging procedures.  

The term chin rest is fairly descriptive; your dog rests his chin somewhere.  We start with the palm of one hand, then move to both hands, then other objects in your lap (like a towel or pillow), and then off your body (like a chair or stool).  Once we add duration and steadiness to the chin rest we have a very strong foundation for other husbandry work such as ear and eye drops.

Photo of dog with chin in human hand facing toward human about to put in eye drops for the dog.

The true value of the chin rest is that it is a voluntary way to stabilize the dog.  By building great value for this behavior our dogs choose to stay in position even as we present additional challenges. Once a dog is still and stable, then we can begin introducing additional handling and procedures.  While in cooperative care work we are concerned mainly with physical care related to grooming and veterinary procedures, the chin rest’s usefulness extends well beyond this application.  I find it incredibly helpful for teaching dogs to hold objects in their mouths.  I’ve also used it as a nice clear target for straight front positioning.  In addition, it allows me to quickly orient my dog towards me and also seems to have a nice calming effect.  So there are plenty of reasons to spend some time teaching this behavior!

As with teaching many behaviors, the most difficult part is the beginning.  We need to find a way to communicate to our dogs that chin in hand (or on object) is the desired behavior.  Once we do that then adding in the variations and additional challenges tends to flow along pretty smoothly.  I begin with the single-handed chin rest.  I’m simply building up the behavior of my dog placing his chin into the open palm of one hand when I offer it.


I typically begin by placing my hand under my dog’s chin, using my behavior marker, and then feeding so my dog’s head remains stretched across my hand.  I’m causing the contact, then reinforcing my dog in a position that encourages the positioning I want.   

Once that is going well I start presenting my hand just about an inch below my dog’s chin and an inch forward.  At this point my dog needs to make the effort to make contact with my hand.  If he makes any effort at all by moving towards my hand I mark and reinforce that.  This is a critical point.  It’s not necessary to wait for actual contact, in fact that might be counterproductive.  Effort matters at this point!  I will continue to feed my dog in the desired position with his head stretched across my hand (doesn’t necessarily need to be touching, just stretched across).  With this approach I’m likely to start getting some incidental touches of my hand, and can reinforce those even more highly (jackpot!) with more treats in position.  At this point I’m likely to be able to transition into shaping towards the desired behavior. 

Take a look at some early training here: 

Of course this is just the first small step in the right direction.  There is much more to do!  So much in fact that I’m in the process of developing an FDSA Workshop on just this topic.  The one week workshop begins June 13, 2021 (registration opens May 22) and will lead you step by step through the process of first establishing the chin rest behavior, then strengthening it and adding a number of useful variations.
TEAM Obedience Program Updates

Further to changes we made in December to allow TWO videos, edited together after the fifth exercise, we have extended that to include TEAM 1 & 2 Plus Levels.   We have also removed the requirement to have a Level 3 Plus or Honors to move onto the upper levels.   The Obedience program levels 4-6 are when the foundations become magical fun exercises and we look forward to seeing more handlers in these levels!
Be sure to check out the updates on the TEAM Obedience Website.

Don't forget to join our friendly, supportive Facebook TEAM Players Group!
TEAM Nosework Program Updates

Thanks for the wonderful support and enthusiasm since the debut of the TEAM Nosework program in December 2020.  We have now launched our new Honors Levels 1-3!   Our newest NW HONORS Level (starting April 1st) will test the same base skills with the handler encountering blind hides. This will require a knowledgeable helper for setting blind hides per the regulations.  

Stay tuned for Levels 4-6 coming later this year!
Be sure to check out the updates on the TEAM  Nosework Website.

Don't forget to join our friendly, supportive Facebook TEAM NW Players Group!
Virtual Nosework Titling - It CAN be done!

Julie Symons, Stacy Barnett, Melissa Chandler


In December of 2020, FDSA rolled out a new TEAM titling program for Nosework. People might have thought it couldn’t be done but it can and WE DID IT! Success in Nosework is about excellence in training. Each tier of the titling program covers specific skills and challenges. The Base series is searching for known hide placements in familiar places. The Plus series requires the base skills to be completed in novel locations. Our newest NW HONORS Level (starting April 1st) will test the same base skills with the handler encountering blind hides. This will require a knowledgeable helper for setting blind hides per the regulations.  

Teams are scored on their ability to set up search areas, using appropriate hide placements and being good handlers! The titles are not a gimme! They require specific skills to earn a passing score. Teams should feel very proud of the work and training put into earning these titles! 

A few unique aspects of the program are allowing ANY target odor/scent that is not food or handler scent. If you have a service dog or a professional detection dog, you can use your dog’s trained target odor! We make other accommodations for service/professional dogs as well as handler accessibility.

You can progress through the program in many ways! If you are at the beginning of your Nosework journey, you may want to focus on the Level 1 titles which include the base NW-TEAM1, NW-TEAM1+ (Plus) and NW-TEAMh (Honors). If you aren’t able to get to new places right now and have advanced skills, you could finish all your base titles up to NW-TEAM3 and then work on the Honors path next.  Teams may complete each Honors level in conjunction with the original level or may choose to complete them after successfully finishing Levels 1-3, or Levels 1+-3+.  After the base level, teams may opt to go directly to the Honors level instead of the Plus level if they choose. 

Some of the critical skills needed for this program are an independent searcher and a neutral handler! Too often handlers take the dog to the known hide location or influence the area or hide to the dog. Sometimes this is completely unconscious! By being aware of handler influence on the dog, the handler is better able to understand how they are unintentionally helping the dog.  Through this program, handlers are gaining awareness of how over-influencing can erode a dog’s independence, and ultimately their confidence. Teams are finding they are better prepared for live competition when the dog searches independently and the handler can’t influence the dog in finding the hide location. 

Here are some helpful tips in working through the program … 

  • If you are using start line markers (cones, bottles, etc.) make sure both are visible to the judge in the video.

  • Exhibit good leash handling skills and keep your leash off the ground while your dog is working and sourcing the hide

  • Use good handling skills and allow the dog to drive the search and do not influence their path due to known hides.  Some examples: do not narrow your dog into an area, do not use body pressure, no leash restrictions near the hide, and do not dismiss a cold area if your dog is checking it out. Stand up straight and let your dog drive the search.

  • Use barriers (xpens, gates) to block off areas so that your dog stays in view of the camera.

  • A stationary camera, if set up to capture the whole area, often works best for keeping both dog and handler in view.  If you use a videographer, make sure they know both you and the dog need to remain in the frame and to leave the video running until you show the hide or food if required for that search.

  • Call alert before moving in to reward your dog, and make sure your alert call is audible on the video.  Raising a hand versus calling alert is also acceptable. 

  • Make sure you don’t call alert too fast before the judge can see a change of behavior. We want you to call alert when you see a change in behavior and not just because you know where it is.

  • Ensure your scent aids are not visible and cannot be easily dislodged

  • When you show the hide to the camera (judge) be sure where the hide was located is visible.  Sometimes the dog will block the view and we need to see where the hide was located. 

  • For the 1-3 distance search, make sure to call “alert” before stepping over the line.

  • For multi-hide search 2-4 and all level 3, don’t forget those finish calls!!

  • Be sure to read all the rules, including the general rules and overview for each level, to ensure your search areas and hide placements meet criteria.  Some exercises are inside or outside specific, some require a leash, some have specific size or setup, vehicles must have visible 3’ clearance around them.  It is important to review all of these before setting up your search areas.

  • Be sure to show the hide or food as required for each search.  The video should continue to run until after the hide or food is shown.  Make sure it is visible to the camera.  Many times the handler will hold it up above the camera and we only see their arm. 

  • If using a phone to video, be sure it is in horizontal/landscape mode when videoing the search.  This provides more depth and a larger viewing area in your video.

  • Keep safety in mind ALWAYS.  No gas cans or chemicals in the search area, check and make sure the area is free of anything that could bring harm to you or your dog.  This also includes preventing your dog from going under the vehicles as well as good leash handling to prevent tripping of dog or handler.

To learn more about the program, join the Fenzi NW Team Players FB page. Announcements, tips, and other topics are posted there as well as active members offer assistance in answering questions. You can also share a search video for input from other teams before you submit.

In summary, the value of this program is many!

  • Teams are practicing!

  • Training in novel places!

  • Preparing for skills you will need at a live trial.

  • Fun way to proof and showcase your NW skills.

  • Videoing allows for self-review of your handling and your dog’s skills.

  • Awesome for young or green dogs that are preparing for live competition!

  • Gaining experience with setting hides and how they may impact challenge level.

  • Handling known hides and learning to observe without aiding your dog on hide location.

Copyright © 2021 Fenzi TEAM Titles, All rights reserved.

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