Thursday, January 20, 2011

Teaching First Agility Class

I taught my first Beginners Agility Class last night, taking a different approach to the way I was taught. My first assumption is that an Intro graduate dog can go over all the jumps without fear, go thru tunnels, get on and off the table, go over a low see-saw, baby dog walk, and low A-frame. They are trained to seek out a target at the bottom of the contacts.

In Beginners, they are to brought up to functionality on full-height equipment.  Besides that, the next logical step, IMHO, is that handlers need training in steering their dogs around the courses, and they must learn to do it correctly before much Sequencing of Obstacles is introduced. So I call my class:

Handling Fundamentals

This will include a lot of flatwork in preparation for some basic handling maneuvers (crosses and turns), good posture, etc. After the 6 weeks ends, I'll post a breakdown of what we covered, what I learned, and how I think things progressed.

Musing (new symbol I just added):
Our club is run entirely by volunteers, including our year-round, 3 nights a week agility classes -- a feat of dedication which constantly amazes me.  Instructors have to be club members who have "put a title on a dog" (which now that I've done that, I realize isnt enough of a criteria).  Even a poor performing team can earn a novice title.  If it were me, I would change the criteria to "put an Excellent title on a dog".  You have to get some real experience under your belt to get an Excellent title. Will that make teachers too scarce to come by?  Well, not if we get crackin and start producing more competition teams.  Excellent is only 9 Q's and only the last 3 of those need to be fault-free.

By my calculations, in the last 3 years (since I've been in the club), we've only generated 3 new competitors on the agility scene (me, Lisa, Sheryl Mc).  A dismal record.  We run quite a few students thru Intro, but few continue on.  Those few who continue stay stuck in Beginners and Advanced Beginners, don't seem to advance to competition.  (I'm saying this, guessing actually, because nobody I know of is keeping track.  One thing this club doesn't do is keep statistical records.  We have no real idea how we're doing.  I'm basing my claims on who I see advancing thru the classes and at trials, and it's mostly the same people year after year.)

I ask myself, WHY IS THIS?  What isn't happening?  What could we do differently, or better?  Is it the same in every club?  That's the business woman in me, always trying to improve the bottom line, offer a better product.  And the teacher in me, always trying to encourage people.  And the student in me, always trying to learn as I travel life's road. 

I have some ideas, and now I get to try a few of them out.  Time will tell.

Upwards and onward!

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