I’ve been an enthusiastic attendee of (mostly) Agility seminars since 2003. As a member of CCPDT.org, I also attend the dog trainers’ version of professional development seminars. I wanted to share with you some tips for getting the most out of these fabulous opportunities for learning.
Attending Agility classes at your local club or training center are a great step in your training journey. As you progress, it's crucial to take your new skills on the road and experience new environments! Seminars provide the opportunity to gain fresh perspective from instructors, challenge your comfort levels, and think outside of the box in a supportive atmosphere. It’s fun to get to know your fellow dog addicts and agility enthusiasts at these events - my participation in the sport of Agility is especially enhanced by being part of this fun community.
Flop and I attending an Agility seminar,
Most Agility instructors and clubs will let you know when a special workshop is coming up (check those bulletin boards!). Read the posting carefully so that you can determine if a particular seminar will be the right level for you and your dog. As an example, I just got an announcement for an upcoming seminar in my area. The description read : “Advanced/Masters or by permission. Dog should be able to do courses of jumps and tunnels - we will not be looking at weaves or contacts.” This is not a workshop for puppies, though it will be good for a dog that’s been participating in Agility classes that involve sequencing.
Puppy Camp! Puppy Lilu and Nelci and fun on an elevated plank
Neno Pessoa runs IQ Agility in Bloomsbury, NJ and enjoys hosting and teaching Agility seminars at his own great facility and elsewhere. “My favorite thing about teaching is to see the people's faces as they are walking the course wondering how they can possibly do it! Then, they learn how to handle it by the end of the seminar.” How can attendees make the most of the event they attend? “People who go to a seminar to socialize or who refuse to try or learn anything new or different from what they think they or their dog can do can’t get much from seminars,” says Pessoa. Seminar presenters will help you through the learning stages of new-to-you techniques, most often by breaking that new behavior or handling move into small, workable steps.
I met Monique Plinck at a seminar that she taught in the summer of 2016 at Port Chester Obedience Club. Her training school, Criterion Agility, is located in Middlefield, CT. Her great joy in teaching seminars “...is working with handlers I don't regularly train with. Watching them settle in, grasp a new concept, learn it and grow.” That concentrated time has its’ limits, though : “Depending on the seminar time....4 hours, 1 day, 2 or 3 days - we are always limited in time with how much I want to cover and share while not overwhelming the group with content.”
“Novice” or “Starters” level dogs have seen some sequencing in their regular training class and have been introduced to all of the Agility equipment, though their performances of these obstacles might not yet be “perfect”. “Open / Advanced” generally means “Intermediate” level (and yes, this is worth an email to the host or presenter to determine if your dog is ready for this level!) Advanced, Masters and International level seminars are for those teams who are already competing in trials and/or have a thorough familiarity with Agility obstacles and handling.
Jambo's second seminar! She wasn’t ready for the handling moves taught here, so I audited and practiced focus, attention, and tugging with her on the sidelines.
Seminar presenter Tracy Sklenar explains a jump sequence as handlers and dogs get warmed up
More Agility Seminar Tips:
#1. Prepare! Pack a comfortable, portable chair and bring a notebook. Bug spray, sunscreen, and water are usually must-haves. Make sure your dog’s treats are prepared and your toy bag is packed!
#2. Is your dog comfortable in his crate? Practice this at home well before you go. You will get so much more out of your seminar if your dog can settle in a crate. Walking courses while your dog is upset and stressed in his crate will certainly make it harder for you to learn and get the most out of your time at your seminar.
#3. Charge your cell / camera batteries and ask your neighbor at the seminar to film your dog’s runs. Chances are they will ask you to do the same! *Some instructors do not allow filming of verbal feedback they give. Please ask first if you are not clear.
#4. Read the fine print! The guidelines that will be emailed to you should be detailed re: directions to the site, local hotel information if need be, and particulars about the site. For example, lunch arrangements for attendees have been handled differently at every seminar I’ve ever gone to. It is not uncommon for agility seminars to be held in horse barns and other out of the way places.
Agility U - provides online coaching for all aspects of Agility training, from foundations to trialing
Agility America - Facebook group for Agility U. Tons of info about training seminars, camps, etc!
Denise Fenzi Academy - for Agility, Obedience, super Foundation classes, and other competition dog sport skills
Susan Garrett’s online Dog Workshops - a Facebook group that is very active. Tons of resources available here and the occasional free trial for online classes!
One Mind Dogs - Facebook group and of course an extensive online academy, with news about instructors traveling to local clubs.
USDAA - the website for United States Dog Agility Association
NADAC - the website for the North American Dog Agility Council
Misa Martin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Years of attending agility seminars, workshops, seminars and camps with her first dog led to the beginning of her professional dog training career as a PetSmart Trainer in 2008. In addition to teaching in Port Chester Obedience Training Club's Family Manners and Agility programs, Misa has been a staff trainer at the Mount Vernon Humane Society, active with Pets Alive Westchester as a group class instructor and consultant for training and behavior issues, and a volunteer for the Walden Humane Society's education program. Misa owns Hudson Valley Dog Trainer, providing reward-based training to private clients. Through her knowledge, experience, and sense of humor, Misa encourages students to approach dog training as a team effort, where students learn as much from their dogs as dogs learn from their "parents," making training fun for humans and dogs alike! Misa can be reached at hudsonvalleydog @ gmail *dawt* com