Monday, May 16, 2011

Traveling, Teaching, Training

On Saturday I did a morning training clinic at Jefferson County Fairgrounds and then a fun show for 4-H'ers in the area. Most came with slip collars, a few with head halters, all were pulling on their dogs. Our obedience sessions focused on getting movement together, seeing precise behaviors, and starting our stays. Our showmanship was on the basics of handling. The fun show had to be modified to acommodate the very beginners in their own class.

And yesterday, we went down to Warren County to do another 4-H clinic. This one was much easier (3 people teaching 10 kids instead of 1 person:10 kids), and we had a better teaching outline. The area has a very successful dog program, it was interesting to see how the kids interacted with each other and their dogs. We worked on super precise behaviors, teamwork, and breaking things down into super tiny pieces.

I took the advanced kids off to work on the retrieves... taking items (...we had to resort to "bad training" to get this...treats in a paper towel, clicking for teeth on the paper towel. One dog progressed to regular paper), sticky touches, moving towards items (dowel sticks). Griffin helped with a demo on what the next stage would be....I think I scared some of the kids and advisors with his enthusiasm....their dogs were calm and controlled and effort was made to keep the dogs that way. Griffin was literally bouncing off the walls. But he worked well. And then we talked about the lagging problem these kids were facing in the off leash heeling portions. We problem solved, came up with a few solutions, and it came down to that the kids were chattering at the dogs during heeling in training. We practiced 2-3 steps of silent heeling, then reinforcing.

I left half an hour early to help with a leash reactivity class (one dog making SUPER progress and the others progressing on great-average), flyball with Griffin (great stays, tugging, and some box turns...he had refused to last week).

And then home for dinner and sleeping.

It's great to do the traveling for the clinics and to help out all of the kids, advisors, and parents. We also learn a ton about what works (and doesn't) in dog programs. It's really quite something and a great way to gather information about how we can improve our clinics and our work with our club. It helps with programming at the state level. What I took away from this weekend: While there are state level contacts available to advisors/instructors, they don't all know it/use it. There could be a benefit to a state-available curriculum...there was one in the past but it's not currently being used/distributed. We need to start the "advanced" skills earlier on. We need more teaching and training tutorials for the higher level skills. We need more support for the advisors and instructors, especially on the kid-adult interaction portions.

The thing that really stands out about 4-H and how it's different than many/most youth programs, is that you have a variety of ages in the same group. 8-18yo kids... in some cases, younger members. And yet, you can have older kids with less experience, younger kids who are far more experienced, and your instructors and advisors need the capability to interact and teach appropriate wtih this wide age range.

Now off to prepare for our two 4 day dog camps, just a month away, and a day that I'm teaching at an animal day camp.....

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