Monday, March 22, 2010

Agility: Right from the Start

Clicker Expo is over. Very sad and very "wow!"

Today will be spent typing up my notes and reviewing everything I learned in attempt to remember as much as possible.

My most favorite part was the presentations by Emelie and Eva. I've been long-awaiting their book and it's already exceeding my expectations. It's HUGE! Over 400 pages of information and pictures to guide people through foundation training. This is now going to be THE resource I recommend when people ask about agility. It'll be recommended reading for my classes. It'll be something I need to read multiple times and will want to read multiple times. It uses Tag Teach and does tons of activities without dogs to help handlers be ready for the exercises and have their half of the exercise down. I've used a lot of this in teaching, but will now be doing a lot more.

It's all going really well with what what Cecilie Koste and Morton Egtvedt presented on obedience two years ago (prompting me to go out and get Griffin!). Cecilie was AT expo and I did get brave and talk to her a few minutes. Apparently, at some point my enthusiasm for her was known and I did get thrown at her one point to talk. In that setting it's sure hard to remember the questions you've been thinking about for years!

Three most important things I got out of Eva and Emelie's presentations:
1) Yay. I'm doing a lot of things 'right'. Teaching concepts is more important than exact skills. We need to keep our cues 'clean', and utilize placement/presentation of reinforcement as much as possible.
2) Use more TagTeach and non-dog activities. For students to be successful long-term and with immediate exercises we need to help them as much as possible, not just expect them to do things and figure it out on their own or after 50 reps. Lessons need to be set up to help them learn to be good at training their dog, as well as the specific "what we're teaching the dog" activities.
3) Transport! This is something I read on a Clicker Solutions article years and years ago. Probably before I even got Luna. At classes, people tend to sit/stand with their dog on leash. Then go and expect the dog to be super focused during the exercise, reinforce the dog, and then stand around again. The dog has associations that aren't "just working" and where he can make choices he probably shouldn't make. "Transports" are specific ways of keeping a dog busy from mat/crate to the start of the exercise and then right at the end of the exercise. The cool part is that I've been using variations of these but not necessarily in the same context. And I LOVE the idea. It'll be interesting to see how we can implement it in class and how that whole process goes.

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