Despite this week being a stressful one as a mummy i have had some time to ponder on a few deep and meaningfuls. Lots of events in the last few months have 'concerned' me about the agility community and whilst i am always happy to discuss my beliefs and ethos about agility to anyone who asks, i have decided to comment in a public, wider way. Maybe thats because i am starting to get in to reading lots of peoples blogs.....so thats where i will start!
Reading other agility blogs ( and i have read a wide variety!) i am always struck by the simplicity of mine - i aim to record our daily ups and downs as a family, triumphs of friends and members, and other relevant news. Lots of blogs are full of photos and videos, hurrahs and exciting news.....some people seem to be very fortunate in how exciting their lives are and the lack of boring stuff - maybe its being a family unit but i always want to be telling people about how 'we' ALL are. Maybe thats not an agility blog.......but its my blog ;-)
Similarly lots of blogs and websites are very specific about systems and methods of how to train agility and dogs in general - more videos follow. So i re-read our website - hmmmm quite lacking in specifics. So what should i add? ....lots of thinking to come up with.........nothing. I can not be specific and say that we train weaves, contacts, puppies etc in any given way because we are very much led by the partnership that stands in front of us. Obviously i do have a plan, and i have a preferred way of doing things BUT i am very happy to have my methods challenged and questioned as it makes me continue to think about what i do. ALL dogs need different things, just because i love teaching fast, secure contacts with food in a way that works for my dogs ( I will post a video of Raqs dog walk ;-) ) it doesn't mean i teach everyone in the same way. You can be a SWAT member and do things differently to the majority and i will help you!
Something i do however feel quite strongly about is Trainer credentials. I honestly believe that to train competitively you need to be competing reguarly at a high standard - Grade 6/7 - and having had different types of dogs is an added bonus. How can Grade 3 handlers expect to teach the skills necessary to motivate / control a dog to compete at Champ? I am not saying that all grade 3 handlers are poor trainers - i just think the BEST trainers are usually higher grade handlers. Just to really stick my neck out - is a great trainer some one who has had 1 grade 7 dog 20years ago and not got any further than g4 since - or someone whose dogs always reach 6/7? Sorry don't mean to be contentious - i just feel there are too many people out there running clubs and setting themselves up as trainers who don't have the agility, people or teaching skills to do it properly. At SWAT you get who you pay for - Me!! ;-)
Lots of clubs run very valuable winter workshops which help to progress agility as a sport. When i look at all that is on offer i wonder what else i should be doing? But i just don't have time. I don't want to teach any more hours than i do because of Lily - and Dairin and the dogs of course! ;-) So should i change my workshops? Again lots of thought ( i said i like to be challenged and to question myself!) The answer is no. First and foremost agility is fun and a hobby. I am one of the fortunate few who can earn their living from it but to most it is a hobby (and an expensive one at that!) so it is important to focus on what i believe are the foundations - contacts, motivation, handling, striding - working and having fun with your own dog - learning together. The theory stuff can be taught during lessons, course walking happens every session, goals are set and achievements cheered during the course of the everyday lessons.
Training should be fun - look at clubs at ringside - are the members having an enjoyable day out? Are club members competing in the top grades against their trainers or does there seem to a glass ceiling at a certain grade? I train my members as i train my own dogs - i want them to achieve and beat me!
That all said, there are some really great trainers and clubs out there who are very successful. I hope they (and us) continue to grow and keep agility fun whilst being competitive.
And i will continue to question myself and others in the hope that i may add more training techniques to my repertoire in order to help the partnerships that appear at SWAT over the coming years.
Kye - My dog of a life time - the reason i do agility xxx