I'll admit, I am normally not a "group" person...I tend to do my own things. More introvert than anything, groups in the past have been a negative thing for me. OK...not DAM teams :) I like my DAM teammates! :)
But when I was invited to take part in an Action Day for dog agility blogs, I was excited! A day to say something that I might not normally talk about...
If I Knew Then What I Know Now:
I've been involved since 2003 with my first agility trial in 2004--so I'm still probably considered a newbie...so for what it's worth!
Since agility for many of us involves different facets...I'll talk about each area and what I wish I knew when I started this journey.
When I started, it was more about how to get the dog to perform a given task...that is how I was instructed and how I thought dog training was. If the dog didn't fit into the program of training, they were faulty or not made for the work. And I have been proven TIME and TIME and TIME again...dogs are individuals, dogs don't fit into ANYTHING. We as trainers need to change, adapt, constantly. There is no standard. There is only the path that each dog takes you on. The JOURNEY is very much more important. It's a team sport...always remember that. Dogs WILL put up with a lot to deal with the ones they love. Be someone to your dog, that you would love.
The nice thing about dogs....is if you are messing up in that regard...you just begin a new way today...they will begin that new way with you :)
I now no longer look at my dogs as having "issues"...just weaknesses and strengths...I use those strengths to train their weaknesses and my level of patience, and understanding of my dogs has grown.
Lower your expectations--reap the benefits.
Each dog teaching you something you didn't know about yourself--IF and only if, you take the time to listen.
Handling systems...they have such a bad connotation with many people, so--don't call it that :)...break it down to this: specific handling for collection, specific handling for extension---consistency is key. I don't care what you do for either, but as long as you do it the same way each time. I wish I knew this when I started...I would have been so much more consistent straight out!
Teach obstacle independence EARLY...much tougher when the dog was taught the other way and you have to go back...TRY NOT TO RETRAIN!!!!
I wish I knew all this when I started...I had to learn it like the rest of the dog training world...most of it comes with time and the dogs teaching us...but wouldn't it be nice if it was in a manual or something?
Every student will teach you something...just as every dog teaches you something. Students are as individuals as dogs...and more complex. You as the instructor have to no only listen to what they say, but WATCH them...body language is a huge key to understanding comfort levels, and other things your students might want to communicate but can't. I have learned that after the many years of teaching...most of the communication is actually non verbal.
There are students that want to come to you to be told their dog is amazing, there are students that come to you because you offer them something (popularity, the spot light---part of a group, access to things etc etc) there are students that argue, there are students that have no confidence in their abilities, there are students that know JUST enough to be dangerous...and then there are students who come to learn, who are open to suggestions, who want to come to you because they feel you can help them. Use THOSE students to help you teach all the others...their inspiration, their ability to put in the work, the time, the WANT to make the communication better with their dogs. You as an instructor need to teach all of them, and give your best to each person. Many of those students mentioned above do turn around with time, and patience on your part :)
It's important to listen and try your best to understand...and if you don't know an answer, then say so...and find someone that does.
For me...the thing I had to learn...the most, and it applies to agility, teaching, training, LIFE...is ego and pride need to stay out of it (thank you KK)...whenever one or the other enters into any part of a relationship...there is going to be trouble.
Ego and pride make you get frustrated.
Ego and pride make you judge others and look down upon what they are doing.
Ego and pride made you disappointed in your dog.
Ego and pride make you unforgiving.
Ego and pride make you pick your friends based on what they have to offer or where they are on social ladders.
Ego and pride many times are the downfall of your training---it limits your thinking...it limits your ability to adapt and cope.
If you can take ego and pride out of your training, you would be amazed at what you can get accomplished :)
Don't fear failure--embrace it! :) It IS after all...JUST A GAME WE PLAY WITH OUR DOGS! :)