Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What to look for in your agility trainer.....

The time has come for another Blog Action Day! 
The topic, "What makes a good coach/trainer" is one that is extremely appropriate in any kind of dog training. Today, there are many experts out there.  Seems to me if a person has one dog that they've trained and have watched a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer, they are experts and want to pass on that information.  For me, a dog professional, should have trained MANY dogs, many breeds, and have education in the area of their expertise.  An agility trainer is a person that understands the process of learning for both people and their dogs and is able to understand how to teach  safely and humanely with multiple different dog personalities. 

When I asked agility students what they thought, they all came back with similar traits:
  • An expert. (knowledge/experience)
  • Provides positive reinforcement to the students (not just the dogs).
  • Give clear instruction enabling the person to complete the exercise correctly.
  • Provides demonstrations with student dogs or dogs at the same level. 
  • Does not work their dogs during class.
  • Helps each person at their own level
  • Fun/Humor - students are coming out to enjoy themselves after all
  • Flexibility- being able to make training plans appropriate for different individuals and what those individuals goals might be.
  • An agility instructor knows that teaching people to train their dogs is what it is all about
  • Provide information about what the next steps are (e.g., where am I going with all this foundation?)
Some of the responsibility for agility trainer selection lays with the student.  Make sure you are a good champion for your dog and do the research to find a trainer that suits both of you.  Don't just assume that the person training down the street from you is someone that will work.  Some of the things students can do to ensure their experience will be one that meets their agility goals:
  • Interview the trainer over the phone.
  • Go out and observe a couple classes.
  • Shop around to select a class that works for you.
Learning should be fun. A GREAT agility trainer knows how to make a class fun for everyone as well as teach people to meet their goals!

Check out all the posts for this blog action day!


Kathy said...

THANKS!!!!GREAT POST ;-) lots of good things to consider looking for a great instructor!!11

Kelly Ely said...

I thought it was really cool that you asked your students their opinion! See that is what makes you a really great instructor! Oh and congrats on the new training facility! Kelly & Surf

Merinda said...

Yes, really cool you asked your students! Good instructors ask for feedback, and accept it (whether good or bad)!

Elf said...

Well, that's interesting that students think a good instructor doesn't work their dog during class. Personally I find it to be amazingly instructive to see how a really good handler works with their dog on a course where I can see their footwork, body language, and timing on the same course I'm running and get to ask questions and see demos of things that I'm wondering how they work. Maybe studendts mean not work their dog to excess in class? I'm very curious about that.

vici whisner said...

@ Ellen: I believe they meant work too much. This comment came from a class of beginner handlers that had worked with another trainer that would spend time with her own dog but not relate what she was doing to the other students.

I think “demos” are so important, and demos with your own dog can give students a perspective of how it should be (good example is Nancy/Jim will work their dog …I also find this beneficial). But sometimes instructors just use class time for their own purpose, rather than instructional.

It is also about setting expectations with students as well. Rather than an instructor “taking a turn” while students watch the clock go.