Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prepping To Teach First Class

In preparation to teach my first agility class (a Beginners class) starting January 3, I've been working these past few days on my Lesson Plan, making a comprehensive list of Handling Skills, trying to prioritize them, visiting websites of other agility instructors, gathering their suggestions, studying their diagrams, watching training videos.

The 3 students Nedra assigned to me are all familiar to me so I know approximately where to begin.  2 were in Kay's Beginners class last session (where I assisted) and 1 has been in Sandy's Advanced Beginners for several sessions but needs some foundation work.  I may need to convince her that she hasn't been "demoted" back to Beginners, that everything I will present needs to be practiced for the life of the dog, anyway.

Beginners, I'm told, is supposed to bring every team up to confident performance on full height contact equipment, then, I'm guessing (in the absence of a syllabus),
introducing wings,  closed weave poles, and training the most basic handling maneuvers from both sides.  Definitely some flat work.  I will also present the concept that agility is a "sport", and handlers should do some warm up exercises before every session to avoid injury.  Not only have I personally suffered from falls, twists and a pinched siatic nerve that still bothers me after 2 years, but I am amazed how many agility handlers wear knee braces or complain of back pain, weak ankles, etc.  No one has ever told me to warm up.

My warm ups will some cardio (a brisk pottie walk around the field should do it), followed by ankle rotations, forward and side lunges, toe touches, waist rotations, and neck rotations.  Nothing complicated.  Less than a minute.
I will arrive half an hour early, and if they want to get the most out of classes, they should take advantage of that extra field access time to run their D's over the dog walk, aframe, see saw, tire, and table.  Repetition, repetition, repetition so their D's are completely comfortable on the equipment.  They can't learn much in only 1 hour a week.

Being as it will be very cold, I want to keep everyone moving.  Lots of short turns rather than one team trying something 6 times while everyone else stands around.  No turn longer than 1 minute.  Maybe less.  Another turn every few minutes.  Maybe less.  Sometimes everyone  will spread out and work on the flat simultaneously.

Points to stress:
It's not all about the dog.  It's a team. Handlers need as much training as their dogs.
Repetitive practice makes for better handlers as well as better agility dogs.
Learn by watching. 
If you're not in place for your turn, you forfeit your turn.
Don't worry about making mistakes, just move on.

Nedra says I can bring Lucky as a demo dog.  4 dogs will make a well-rounded class, and she needs all the practice she can get.

Speaking of Lucky, yesterday I started clicker training with her, and was so impressed with her attentiveness and increased performance, I want to give everyone in the whole world a clicker. I want our club to get some LCCOC imprinted clickers and give them out with our Membership. I want to give one to each of my students with a string so they can hang it around their necks. I've always objected to clickers because it's just one more darn thing to remember to bring along and have to fiddle with. I always thought "Yes" or "Good" were plenty sufficient markers. But something about that sharp click makes them snap to attention, excites their interest. I'm sold!

2 days til Christmas!  Yikes!  Gotta get busy wrapping the few gifts I have, grocery shopping, and filling my "magic injector" with something special to let my loved ones know I care about them.  With all the attention I pay my dogs, I'm sure they get confused as to who is really top on my list.

Upwards and onward!

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