Friday, August 19, 2011

"Should I continue with class? Should I come back if there's a problem?"

By then end of a class session, half  the students have typically met their goals and are happy with the progress made.   The other half asks, "what's next?"

What are your goals?  If we haven't met your goals, we should probably keep working.   We can talk about class options to see if there's something else that would be a better fit for your goals.   For example, people wanting off leash control are often recommended to go into agility class, even if they don't aim to do agility. 
Will you practice if you aren't in class?   Some people need the weekly classes to motivate practice at home, others are diligent no matter what.  Those who have more experience problem solving or "just trying things" are more comfortable with time off and without the support of a class.  Others benefit from the problem solving, class environment, and new behaviors.  
It's easier to prevent than problem solve.   Those with younger dogs or who are newer to being dog owners can benefit from more class time and more guidance.  A little experience goes a long way and can add skill and confidence to the human.
Always come back if you're experiencing a challenge.  You're not on your own after class is over.  Sometimes a few weeks in class can help with problem solving or sometimes it's a quick answer on the phone.
How reliable are your behaviors now? How reliable do they need to be?  More class time results in more reliability.   The increased practice, increased challenges, increased skill level all go together to help reach the skill level needed.
What are you getting out of class?  This varies depending on the family. Some people aren't there to just solve problems. They are getting time away from family or time with their family. They are "doing things" with their dog. Sometimes out of the cold winter weather or out of the ridiculous heat and storms in the summer.  The dog is reliably getting this piece of physical and mental exercise and quality time every week.  

There are dogs that I recommend should continue in class. These are typically young, active dogs that are making steady progress every week, but I don't feel they've reached the ideal self control and reliability needed for long term results.   Dogs who are -not- making measurable progress should not continue in class and the situation needs to be re-evaluated...either the dog referred to a more appropriate professional or a change in the teaching style (privates or in homes rather than group class).  

It also makes me sad to hear -so- many people wishfully comment that they really hope and would like to do agility class some day.  As if they're not sure their dog is "good enough" or "smart enough" to do it.  I try hard to change the perception of agility to something that is very attainable and that everyone should consider agility class.   While I understand why some classes require and recommend basic training prior to the agility class.... it could be built into the class format (...which is what I do).  Agility is a great way to the reliability, basic training, self control and relationship building that are fundamental to so many parts of dog training.  

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