Meet Fred

Hello Everyone.  Meet my special dog, Fred.

Fred is not an ordinary dog.  Fred is a truly fantastic guy.  He is highly driven to work, motivated by just about everything (including imaginary food), never quits, never falls to temptation or distraction, and will work at all hours of the day or night, regardless of the environment.  The best part of Fred is that you can have him too - he works for all handlers, regardless of your abilities or inclinations.

You see, Fred is not a real dog.  He is the imaginary dog who has a very real presence in the life of my dogs and my student dogs.

Your dog is distracted by another person ?  No problem - work Fred. He's begging to work.

Your dog is lagging in heeling?  NO problem - feed Fred instead. He's in perfect position.

Your dog wants the cookie held by your friend?  That's ok too - train Fred until your dog figures out he's not going to get your friend's cookie, and indeed, he's been missing out on YOUR cookies.

Got a sniffing problem?  Fred never sniffs.  Give all of your cookies to Fred, every time your real dog stops for a good sniff.

And it should go without mention - praise Fred!  He appreciates that.  And your real dog will notice.

Now, there are a lot of caveats in the use of Fred.  First, understand that if you overuse Fred then your dog will simply give up trying.  If Fred gets all of the cookies, then your real dog will finally decide he might as well head back to his crate.

If your dog leaves training because he's stressed, scared, or finds you a misery, then Fred won't help much.  Your dog will be happy to watch fred work if it means he doesn't have to.

Fred is not appropriate if your dog is not trained to succeed - if your dog has no idea how to earn the cookie, then increasing motivation through Fred will not work - your dog must know how to win.

So when is the best time to use Fred?  Fred works beautifully when your dog has decided that he has something better to do.  When he has made a choice to leave work - which he understands fully - to multitask.  To sniff the ground and then run back to heel position when he thinks he can have a cookie.

Fred really works best when your dog falls to a temptation - which you have set up for him.

Fred works beautifully when your dog thinks the reward schedule has fallen too low to make an effort - Fred will suddenly be eating those cookies.

Here's a video of an excellent use of Fred. Note the single incident learning.  This young collie is set up to succeed several times and then he is set up to fail.  On purpose.  And then he's tested - on purpose.  He passes the test - the pressure comes off - and he is allowed a few easy repetitions to keep his confidence intact.

Single incidence learning in proofing - that's cool.  And useful.  Because if you're a positive trainer, you must take  moment to think about how you have communicated to your dog what is WRONG.  And Fred... he's amazing for that.

Writing this post is a conflict for me, because lots of people will read this and will approach it completely wrong.  Dogs that are not property trained will be subjected to Fred.  Dogs that are scared and stressed will be subjected to Fred.  Dogs that cannot win - they will meet Fred too.  That makes me sad.

I decided to go forward with this subject anyway, simply because I am seeing too many lovely dogs, trained positively, who multitask about work - with no consequences.  Consequences must be  part of all dog training, but a good dog training program is so well structured and systematic in it's approach that it's less than 10% of training time, if that.

I will warn you now; if Fred does not work, then you do have a problem but it is probably not a distraction problem.  Most likely it is a motivation, stress or general understanding problem - each huge topics individually.

I cannot answer your questions about your dog, because your dog might as well be an imaginary dog for me.

On an unrelated note, if you're interested in Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, sign up here to receive the class schedule every other month.  New classes start June 1st with registration opening next week!  Some classes will be popular, so you'll want to sign up when they open.


rachael para

I like this idea of Fred. but I can see, and you comment on, that Fred is not a tool for training a stressed or scared dog nor one who is not sure of what his job is. Its for the dog that wants to do something else for a moment or two instead of what you are engaged in with him. Just a good tool to use every now and then.

Connie Kaplan

Nice, loved the video. I am mostly using Fred for when she checks out and starts to sniff with mixed results, with Kellie and Molly putting her away it’s more effective….

Mufaasa's Mum

Ah, this is wonderful! I have a dog who occasionally likes to go see the ring crew mid-agility course (it’s not a motivation issue, he’s shifted off of a line at the end of a run because someone was standing on the rail next to the last jump and he decided to introduce himself. He’s got motivation to spare these days and part of it is me being late, but it doesn’t help me when he runs off when I’ve sent him down a line!). He recalls right away but once we get into advanced this is going to start costing me some faults. I may have to introduce him to Fred at our next training match!


Thank you so much for my new dog! My girl Mae will kill herself to work for a tug toy. But there are times I want to use food in my training, and she thinks it’s a big yawn. Typically she’ll work for her first cookie, realize she’s getting meatloaf instead of tugging, and she’ll run off to find a toy or to bark at the fence. Ending her session for lack of participation is easy indoors, but it’s not so easy in my big backyard. I’ll test out my new dog, Fred, and see how he works for us.

Thank you so much for posting a perfect new tool for me to try at exactly the time when I need it.

P.S. I cannot WAIT to sign up for IPO Fundamentals with Shade. I’m going to observe this session and hope to get in as a participant in the IPO Fundamentals II Just one more week before registration….

nancy vonKoehnen

my goodness how appropriate for today! My 10 month old Golden is having distraction problems & I believe this will help tremendously! I could cry as I was just worrying about what to do & how to do it!

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