Imagine a dog or puppy so overwhelmed by everything they see, hear or feel that it causes anxiety and crushes their confidence. Before transforming into a world agility champion, this was my Jack Russell Terrier mix, DeCaff. In part one of this two-part series I’m sharing six lessons DeCaff taught me as well as reflections on how I uniquely approached some of my toughest dog training challenges. DeCaff ultimately blossomed into a brilliant agility dog– as well as a loving, calm family pet – who inspired many of the renowned Recallers online dog training games being played worldwide today.

In the episode you'll hear:

  • DeCaff’s Story: From anxious, over-aroused Jack Russell Terrier mix to world champion agility dog.
  • Six lessons, reflections and a few regrets when training DeCaff.
  • How DeCaff came into my life by accident.
  • When DeCaff first attacked another puppy at 9 weeks old.
  • DeCaff’s sensitivity to tactile stimulation and new textures could be overwhelming for agility training.
  • Lesson 1: Puppy selection for sport dogs.
  • About a dog training seminar trip gone awry.
  • How DeCaff’s breed mix made her physiology perfect for canine sports.
  • Lesson 2: Importance of arousal state when training dogs.
  • About The Yerkes-Dodson arousal curve for peak performance dog training.
  • Why to increase your dog’s joy for training in distracting environments.
  • Lesson 3: Create a positive environment for yourself and your dog.
  • How I discovered my dog’s best reinforcer - the fly swatter.
  • Lesson 4: Be sure never to force what you think is important on the dog when you’re picking their best reinforcer.
  • Lesson 5: Transfer of value in dog training.
  • How DeCaff and I won the ESPN Great Outdoor Games - and $10K.
  • Lesson 6: Take the challenge out of your training.
  • Reflections on my 3 toughest dogs to train.


  1. Podcast Episode 168: Creating Confidence For Anxious, Stressed Or Reactive Dogs Part 1
  2. Podcast Episode 95: How Playing with Your Dog Like a Puppy Can Reduce Fear
  3. Podcast Episode 159: Help! My Puppy Is A Bully And Plays Too Rough
  4. Podcast Episode 180: Taking Your Puppy To A Café Or Restaurant: Socialization Success
  5. Podcast Episode 16: The Thing Before Your Dog’s Thing
  6. Podcast Episode 36: Puppy Selection: How I Do It and Why I Didn’t This! Time
  7. Book: Shaping Success by Susan Garrett
  8. Podcast Episode 13: Naming Your Puppy or Dog
  9. Podcast Episode 78: How to Train a Rescue Dog with Behavior Problems
  10. Podcast Episode 221: Mindshifting Dog Behavior Problems To Overcome Extreme Training Challenges
  11. Podcast Episode 197: Outsmarting Distractions: How To Use Environmental Reinforcement in Dog Training
  12. Podcast Episode 86: How to Train Unmotivated or Overexcited Dogs
  13. Podcast Episode 206: First Dog Agility Competition: Creating Joy For This! By Maximizing Reinforcement
  14. Podcast Episode 228: Navigating Failure In Dog Training: What’s Your Plan B?
  15. Podcast Episode 220: Help Humping, Barking, Destructive, Reactive Dogs Overcome Dysregulation: 4 Case Studies
  16. Podcast Episode 208: Brilliance, Resilience And Gratitude: Inspiration And Motivation With Elliott Connie
  17. Podcast Episode 25: Why All Dogs Can Bite and How to Reduce the Risk with R.E.A.D.
  18. Podcast Episode 205: The Hidden World Of Reinforcement For Dogs And Why You Need To Know
  19. Podcast Episode 226: Safe Toys For Dogs And Why To Avoid Tennis Balls And Sticks
  20. Podcast Episode 31: 5 Simple Hacks to Help Your Dog Learn Faster (Reinforcement Process)
  21. Podcast Episode 177: Dog Training Outside The Box: Transfer Of Value Case Study
  22. Podcast Episode 203: Reactive, Unmotivated and Fearful: Finding Resiliency For This! Beyond Dog Training Part 1
  23. Podcast Episode 150: Adding Mindset To Your Dog Training Tools: Who Do You Become?
  24. Podcast Episode 34: Time Outs for Dogs: Does Your Dog Need One?
  25. Watch this Episode of Shaped by Dog on YouTube