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How can I find a good agility trainer?


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I don't think we are going to compete unless she shows a LOT of potential. I've seen the competition out there for agility, it's fierce.

Nelly works with sheep but I'd like to do agility with her so that I can build a course in my back yard and work with her on it once the instructor has taught me the basics.

I live in the greater Sacramento area of California. How do I go about finding a good agility instructor in my area?

Thanks!

 

Adri

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Good question on how to find a good agility instructor. IMHO, as a beginner, one of the most important qualities to look for is an instructor that keeps things positive and fun. It is a game after all, and you and your dog should enjoy it.

 

Ask how many dogs will be in the class. The more dogs, the less time you spend training on the obstacles. The best beginner class I took had ~ 12 dogs, but 3 instructors. They divided us into groups of 4, and each instructor helped their group learn one obstacle for about 15-20 minutes, then we would rotate instructors. We got to work on 3 obstacles in one hour. Around here, most classes have 6-8 dogs.

 

I have also come to believe that I like an instructor that keeps an open mind with respect to how to train. There are some instructors that believe in and train their students in a certain 'system' -- Mecklenberg, Derrett/Garrett, etc. And their way (i.e. the system's way) is the best way!! (I ran into this and THE WAY just wasn't working for me.) I prefer an instructor that can tailor their instruction to each individual team since one dog may be slower/more cautious/prefers working close/etc. and may best be served by a different handling technique than a dog that has the opposite characteristics. IMHO, there usually is no single best way to train an obstacle or handle a specific sequence. Every team is different. (once you are a more advanced team, you may actually want to seek out a particular system.)

 

And this is a good segue into: Don't be intimidated by the dogs you see doing agility on TV. I was amazed by them too, but then one goes to an agility trial and sees all level of dogs. And guess what - the fastest & flashiest dogs are not always the dogs that Q (qualify). In order to move up levels and to achieve a MACH (for AKC. Title names change between venues.), you must Q. It doesn't usually matter if you come in 1st, 2nd or 8th. The Q is the most important (at least to me). Your dog doesn't have to show a LOT of potential (if you mean being fast) to compete successfully at agility. The fun is most important, IMHO.

 

Just as an example: In my agility classe, there is a woman (older, not very fast) who runs an adorable Pom (also not very fast). Because he will follow her wherever she goes and points, if she runs the correct course, they will Q. She is running at the Excellent level. My dog is all about speed. He often runs a course in 1/2 the Standard Course time - but he HARDLY EVER Qs. (Twice now, he has run a course in 14 seconds when the SCT was 38-39 seconds.) Flashy -yes, accurate - no. It is mostly my fault because I am still trying to get my timing to correlate with his speed, but sometimes he also gets it in his head that he is going to run HIS course, not mine. :P We are still piddling around in Novice Standard. At least, we have moved up to Open Jumpers.

 

I am not complaining, because I would rather work with the speed (it has helped me become a better handler, although I am not yet good enough.) than have a really slow dog.

 

So don't think your dog has to have a LOT of potential (what do you mean by that?) for agility. Most dogs can do quite well. IMHO, if both you and your dog are having fun, that's what it is about.

 

Jovi

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Jovi put a lot of great points in her post. I will add go watch a class or two without your dog and get a feel for how they are run, how dogs are manged in class, how much time each dog gets to work (ex: a class of 6 with one instructor in a small space might spend less time working than a class of 12 with 2 helpers and stations). Also, how does the instructor treat the students?

 

Something to keep in mind about US agility is: it doesn't have to be all about winning.

 

Yes, you can be competitive and want to be a World Team member or win Nationals or whatever, but you can also just go out and have fun with your dogs. Because in the US you don't have to win to move up, you just have to meet the minimum requirements (qualifying) you can do well and not win and still move through levels. I know many people on this board poo-poo titles but it is kind of fun and satisfying to work as a team with your dog and meet a goal and earn a title together.

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Great points everyone :) I'm actually looking to do private agility instruction, at least to begin with. If Nelly sees another dog, she starts herding and that's that. I can get her attention back on me but she always tries to go back to the other dogs....ugh.

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I love private or semi-private lessons since it is much more efficient than waiting around for your turn in a group class. Having said that, if you wish to enter a trial, Nelly will have to be focused on you, not the other dogs. All the training you have done at home will be for naught once in a public trial atmosphere. (Although one of the things I have noticed about many BCs is that they can become so focused on running the agility course that they tune out distractions.) I think that at some point a group lesson would be a good idea to find out if your dog can work in a trial environment.

 

Getting back to how to find an agility instructor: go to an agility trial and ask people who they train with. Check online for dog clubs that offer agility courses and contact the instructors. Sometimes they may offer private lessons too, or know someone who does.

 

Jovi

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You are in Sac? Kathi Leggett is awesome! I used to train with her when I lived in the area.

 

http://touchngoagility.com/classes.html

 

The Sac area has lots of great folks and different trials to check out (AKC, NADAC, USDAA)

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Something to keep in mind about US agility is: it doesn't have to be all about winning.

 

Yes, you can be competitive and want to be a World Team member or win Nationals or whatever, but you can also just go out and have fun with your dogs. Because in the US you don't have to win to move up, you just have to meet the minimum requirements (qualifying) you can do well and not win and still move through levels. I know many people on this board poo-poo titles but it is kind of fun and satisfying to work as a team with your dog and meet a goal and earn a title together.

 

Yup! :)

 

As for her not focusing on you and going after the other dogs, that is something that a good instructor will help you with. Obviously border collies do very well in agility, so it is doable. ;) Playing with you just becomes more fun that chasing after other dogs. Just something to think about if you ever do decide to trial or do a group class. Agility, like many things, can become addictive...

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