At last weekend's Columbia Agility Team general meeting, I checked out a few DVDs that I intend to watch both for the benefit of training my own dogs but the teaching I'm doing for foundation agility. One of those videos was a Clean Run Instructor Conference DVD with instructor Carolyn Barney. Her topic was Starting Off Right Foundation: Beginner Agility Classes. My first impression: not very well done. The video had no prelim, no lead-up, just jump right in. Then the lady was complaining about technical problems and how she had a migraine and, well, for first impressions, not so good.
But then she got into the meat of the matter. She discussed everything from handling maneuvers for teaching ground work on crosses to how she runs a class, what her expectations are for students and dogs going in, and how important the basics really are. This is where the material really started resonating with me. Perhaps it's the result of having obtained my masters degree in education or perhaps the intrigue in and drive to build properly from the ground up has always been there, but one thing I know I have really lacked and seen lacking in this area in training is true foundation. Everyone jumps into equipment. Very few people have dogs that learn to really work complex approaches and problem solve early. Instead we are much more reactionary and trying to solve problems.
All said and done, I watched the video straight through (with a few pauses to catch up on notes) and took about a half dozen pages of notes. I have a lot of ideas buzzing in my head - just little tips and tricks - but mostly, what Carolyn discussed completely reaffirms what I believe about training and wished I could implement. It's what I have tried to implement as much as possible in the foundation classes I have been teaching already within the structure of required curriculum of the club.
This DVD in particular is 95% discussion and lecture with just a couple of brief moments of actual demonstration with a dog. Carolyn is a clicker trainer and uses the clicker for shaping some behaviors. She talks about using the clicker or the clicker word to shape behaviors specifically, too, when dogs exhibit any amount of fear versus using a lure. She says that can foster a lack of trust and cause failure to lure in other instances.
There are at least several other DVDs for the same conference with other speakers. I've got two more of them right now, Shaping for Demand and Training the Extreme Dogs, that I'm looking forward to watching. And on that note, I'm looking forward to really applying the concepts too. An opportunity came up that I am excited to get to participate in. I will be teaching true foundation agility at a dog daycare center not too far from me with a friend who has been running agility for about eight years.