Wednesday, September 05, 2012

One size doesn't fit all...

Today is the Dog Agility Blog Event Day, a day when dog agility bloggers share posts about certain topics. Today's topic is '"What makes a good coach/instructor?"

Being a dog, I've been lucky to have only one coach and instructor my whole life, and that's my Mum - my best friend, my biggest supporter, and the trusted guardian of my life.

Mum didn't know much about dogs when she adopted me - I'm her first dog ever, her entire life. So when she adopted me she had a lot to learn about dogs. And being my trusted guardian, I trusted her to find whatever was, and is, best for me.

The neat thing about Mum is she knew when she got me that no matter what she'd do what ever it takes to make my life with her the best life possible. And that she has!

She didn't know how to handle a wacky pup like me, so the first thing she did was seek out advice and help.  She researched and found some amazing trainers and instructors that helped her understand me and the fact that I 'needed a job.". After my first obedience class at a year old, we found that 'job.' It was and is agility, so we started agility training straight away.

We went through several trainers in that few months, looking for one that fit with us. I wasn't good in a class environment, because I got too wacky. I wasn't good in a closed in, smaller room because I couldn't get a good run on. Waiting my turn in a class just about flipped me to the bad side. And on top of all that, I was a super fast learner, so going slower in a class frustrated me.

But after some misses and a couple of months of trying out different folks, we found the perfect fit. A person that understood me, with a place to train with wide open spaces to run. We did private sessions so I could concentrate more effectively, and we got good individual and 'just right for me' progressive instruction, so I could know what I needed to do quickly and easily.

A good move I think, because it led me to competing in my first trial just after about six months of training, and getting lots of blue ribbons that first day out on the course. What fun!!!

When Gracie came along our training life changed, a lot. Gracie didn't come out of the womb good at agility like I did. We had to find a different way for Gracie to learn. Coming from a hoarder she came with some baggage; baggage that a lot of the trainers Mum and Gracie went to really didn't understand and couldn't help them with.


Despite what some folks told Mum, she knew Gracie liked agility, but had a hard time with the training and trialing environments, and with some of the methods that some of the trainers recommended for them. So Mum stopped training her with trainers and decided to train her herself, taking all the information that she had learned, using what she believe would work for Gracie, and creating an amazing positive environment for Gracie to really understand and 'get' agility.

And it's paid off! Gracie is starting to Q and got her first title ever in Snooker not too long ago. And the best part is those runs that Gracie has Q'd, she's received first place in every one!

Mum, Grace and I have trained with a wide variety of trainers over the years. In the early years, we attended classes with instructors that held small classes and progressed to attending seminars with top US and World competitors. We have enjoyed most all of the experiences, a few not so much.

One thing we found in training with all these folks over the years is that for us one size, just doesn't fit all. One training method just doesn't work for every dog or for Mum.

One way of running a course may not work for Gracie, the way it works for me. Gracie loves shaping. Me? Can't stand it, it drives me up the wall with frustration.

Dogs are different, just like humans are different. We all have different motivations, personalities, likes and dislikes! When we worked with trainers that didn't get that, we weren't successful and we didn't have fun at all. Yet, when we worked with those instructors that did get it, we learned faster, more easily and had tons of fun.

So what are the traits that make a good trainer/instructor for us? Someone who is honest and open to an exchange of new and old ideas, is super positive and supportive and holds a lot of respect Mum, me and Gracie, just the way we are. We also like someone who isn't afraid to be wrong or not have an answer; but is willing to help us seek out what we need. And we want to work with someone who is willing to listen to our concerns, and is open to trying new things.

But above all we only want to train with someone who wants to have fun. Life is much too short to have it any other way!

For those of you who are visiting my blog for the first time, I'm Johann, the dog, an eight year old rescue and accomplished agility dog. My Mum, Leslie May, is my agility handler and trainer, pet business marketing consultant, co-host of my other blog Raise A Green Dog, best friend, constant companion, and has my heart through and through. If you'd like to read about this subject from other dog agility bloggers point of view visit the main group blog.

1 comment:

Cara n Crew said...

great post, Johann! my mom tried a couple of different "regular" training classes for me before she found one she like and would work for us. Still, she would modify things when we would do our homework based on my learning style.

woofs,
Wriggley