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About me

I have competed in a wide range of dog sports – titling dogs in obedience (AKC and UKC), tracking (AKC and schutzhund), schutzhund (USA), mondioring (MRSA), herding (AKC), conformation (AKC), and agility (AKC). I am best known for my dog’s flashy and precise obedience work – as demonstrated by two AKC OTCH dogs and perfect scores in both schutzhund and Mondio ringsport obedience.

While a successful competitor, my real passion lies in training dogs and solving the problems that my own dogs and my student’s dogs present. I am a recognized expert in developing drive, motivation, and focus in competition dogs, and am known internationally as a presenter and an expert in no force training for sport dogs. I have consistently demonstrated the ability to train and compete with dogs using motivational methods in sports where compulsion is the norm.

In addition to training and speaking, I am a prolific writer.  You can find me here and also on Facebook; follow me there to learn more about my range of interests in addition to dog training. Working with Deb Jones, we have recently finished a four-book series, “Dog Sports Skills” which has received widespread acclaim in the dog sports community.  In addition, I have written additional books on my own, including “Train the Dog in Front of You”, “Beyond the Back Yard; Train Your Dog to Listen Anytime, Anywhere!” and, for the younger audience, “Blogger Dog, Brito!”  Several of these books have won Maxwell awards for Best Training and Behavior book from the Dog Writers of America.

I work persistently to break down the barriers that prevent people from obtaining a truly interactive and mutually enjoyable sport relationship with their dogs.  Fenzi Academy is the culmination of my efforts as a forward step in providing progressive information to any trainer who wishes to learn.


I also own an online store, The Dog Athlete, where you can buy my books, or just pick up a bunch of free downloads.  For the freebies, go to the above website, select “free downloads” from the left-hand menu, and help yourself!


36 responses »

  1. I’d say you are off to a good start. I had no idea that you were getting a new puppy. Looking forward to hearing more.

  2. Would you mind if I shared your article on emotion and training with my classmates? That piece deserves a wide audience.. very nice work.

  3. I need to contact you about setting up a seminar. What is the best way to do that?

    Suzanne Belger

  4. I would like to read the article on emotion and trainiing. Where do I find this?

  5. I was disappointed to see how many seminars you are giving near me in Norco, CA. Are you local to there? How can I find out about upcoming seminars there in time to register for one? My email has changed since my fb account was created. It is now Thank you for any information. I love your approach to training with play. I have a funny little Toy Fox Terrier that is sensitive to correction, but when she does obedience work she is right on the spot. I believe I can get a CD on her and do it without crushing her enthusiasm for life!

    • Hi Nancy, The group in Norco always fills with the same people so there are no openings available – I keep it on my seminar calendar as a “placeholder” so no one tries to schedule another seminar with me on that weekend. There is a group that meets in San Diego a few times a year; that group often has openings for auditors and occasionally for workers – you may wish to keep an eye out for that over the next couple of months as we get a schedule set. I’m in the San Francisco area.

  6. I’m confused. Is the issue that she doesn’t understand the exercise, or that she understands it but can’t perform it in a heightened state of arousal? If you thought the issue was solely the latter, I’d be interested in how your approach would change, if at all. Thanks.

    • I have been looking for a good dog training seminar to attend when I travel to CA, so I am really happy to have found this site! I am bookmarking this for future.

  7. Hi Denise,
    I’ve got a deaf 2 y.o. Akita — I knew she was deaf when I adopted her, and have had her since she was 8 weeks old. Do you have experience working with deaf dogs? Very interested in attending a seminar (NC in Dec, perhaps).
    Ithaca, NY

  8. We’re signing up for your ‘Building Relationship Through Play’ course. Looking forward to it.

  9. Hello I have been reading your articles and wow amazing… I would like to order some of your books, do you deliver to Canada?

  10. margie laughlin

    Hi, I’ve heard of a new course for trainers working with distractions. Can you direct me to that information, please?

    • I think you might be referring to a book I wrote – it’s in the editing process, and will be designed for owners who wish to take their basic training to a higher level of reliability. I’m also creating an instructor’s guide to go with it. Hopefully, both will be available later this year.

      However, it is also possible that you are referring to classes at Fenzi academy. Registration starts in a few days for the April 1st term; you can look here:

  11. Richard Berkoff

    I recently moved to Arroyo Grande. I love dog sports, in particular IPO. I want to continue with my interest in dog sports. Can you help me find a sporting dog training club between Morro Bay and Santa Maria?

  12. Competition Dog Sports Etiquette – Could I reprint this blog in my dog club’s newsletter?

  13. Hi Denise! I really love your blog. Sometimes I do training things that I’m kind of embarrassed of and then I read your blog and feel so validated that you do the same thing I do, such as rewarding a dog for making an error. Now, I have a request for a blog entry from you. “How do you go about transitioning a dog to the off-leash levels of rally (or other competition)?”

    I just went to my first Rally dog show over the weekend. My dog was only 11 months but we have done a lot of the Fenzi Academy online courses (Precision Heeling, Engagement, Rally 101 etc) at the bronze level and I truly felt that she was ready. She *was* ready — she totally rocked the rally course as well as the general dog show environment (which was the real reason I had entered her — to show her the environment stuff.) The first day was kind of a wash in that we missed four exercises and NQ’d but all the other competitors were so congratulatory and wistful about how much engagement and happiness, sparkliness, we had. The second day she did all the exercises perfectly but *I* got turned around in the course so the judge apologetically said she couldn’t qualify us because of my errors (“but your dog was absolutely with you, absolutely on, did everything.”) And again, all the other handlers just looked so wistful and longing to see our post-run engagement/praise routine! Like that was what they all wanted deep-down but didn’t know how to get. Once I get to know my fellow competitors a little better I will absolutely turn them on to the Fenzi Academy so they can get the same results! But because of the Fenzi classes even though we did not receive a qualifying score it was really obvious because of the engagement and precision that we were the best of all the teams.

    Anyway, so my gut feeling is that I should not attempt to introduce the off-leash classes (Rally Advanced) until she is 2-3 years old but I wonder if there is a preparation that I should be thinking of mentally. I think she will get her Rally Novice degree within the next 2 months and then I will have to start thinking about Advanced which is off-leash. At the dog show there were two dogs who just ran amuck when the leashes were removed. One dog actually ran amuck two days in a row. How do you start preparing to avoid that? Do you just take off the leash and hope for the best? Do you use like a drag line or something to be able to stop the dog if it does something bad? Is it just a gut feeling like “When the time is right, you’ll know” ? Is it a step-by-step process? I asked about a ring prep class locally which is the only one I know of and the facility in Vancouver WA uses all your methods and even hosts you at seminars but the class and the seminars are always full. Of all the online Fenzi courses there don’t seem to be any that address this particular question so I am hoping that you could unpack it in your blog. Like I said my gut feeling is not to do it until my dog is older — but I would sure appreciate it if you could just talk a little about the process and what to expect!

    Thank you so much!

    • Are you on the Fenzi dog Sports Academy Alumni list on Facebook? I don’t train the transition from on leash to off leash because I don’t really use the leash in training – it’s just there. But that topic is easier to discuss at length of FB rather than here.

      • Hello Denise, I don’t know how else to contact you so I am replying with a message that has nothing to do with the above entry. I would like to ask you a question if possible…get advice…what do I need to do? Thx,Barb

      • Unfortunately I’m no longer available for private consults…there are only so many hours in the day! Now I teach through my online school, Fenzi Dog Sports Academy or through seminars. To discuss class selection, go to and use the “people” link. To see my seminar schedule, select the “seminar” link on the top of this blog.

      • Hello again Denise. Totally understand RE private consultations. I went to your Academy site and don’t mind joining any of the seminars/classes…I just don’t know which one would be the appropriate one for my issue. I read your article on “behavior chains” in agility and that’s what my dog and I do ( I think). We start, she does part of it and then runs off to visit dog or person, goes submissive (roll on side, belly up), I go get her..bla, bla, bla..So, no need for advice just which one of your classes would address this issue? Thx,Barb

      • Could you send me a note through the “people” link?:

  14. Susan O'Driscoll

    Hi Denise,

    I am interested in taking the Fitness Trainer Certificate Program.
    When does the next one start?

    Thank you,
    Susan O’Driscoll

  15. Pingback: The great surprise about teaching online | Play Way Dogs

  16. Pingback: Att se sin egen roll i hundens prestation

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