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LauraV

Agility advice needed. I don't know what to do next.

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I think you've received some really good advice.

 

I've just started down the agility road, so I don't have much experience. My only remarks here are that my trainer never shouts during an exercise. She gives us the directions, I do the task, and we reflect. She also did warn me, though, that I may have to stick with her for a little while, even if an exercise doesn't make sense. She has had a fair bit of experience with students who want to do things a certain way, or want to do things at a much faster pace. There's nothing wrong with that! But don't put yourself, your trainer, and your dog through that experience. I'm not saying your situation is this case (ultimately only you know the true dynamics, the rest of us are just speculating), but I'd keep in mind that lessons are only really productive when you and the trainer are on the same page, or at least have a mutual understanding of some things.

 

I do have many, many years of experience with riding lessons and music lessons. I see time and time again the fact that not all great trainers are great teachers. Teaching is a whole different ball game! I'd really encourage you to not think of your trainer as a bad trainer, just a poor communicator and teacher. I have made a complete ass out of myself more times than I can count by criticizing a teacher's skills, only to be sticking my foot in my mouth when they're wildly successful. Your trainer may have fantastic methods, and it would benefit you to take heed of the advice you do get. You are only going to benefit by understanding her methods, even if they're not for you.

 

It's clear that you need a time out. You clearly have a very sour relationship with your trainer, and your dog is paying for it. You may be completely right, and this trainer is stressing you/your dog out. But either way, I thinks it's a teeny bit disrespectful to speak about your trainer so negatively. I'm quite sure that there are fault on both sides, I think you need to sit back, breathe, and collect your thoughts about the things you could change to make things better, and things your trainer could change to make things better. It's a team effort! You need different behavior from your trainer, but she also needs a level of flexibility and understanding from her students. I think you have very legitimate concerns about her yelling affecting you and your dog. But if you could eliminate this issue, do you think you have much more to learn with her? There has to be a pretty strong reason, I think, to leave a trainer. Root Beer gave a great example of where it was completely necessary. But I'd hate to see a bridge burned over a few small hiccups because trainer and student were too stubborn to come to an agreement.

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I was never going to flat out blame her, but speak my concerns with her. I want to continue, but at this rate, we are getting nowhere. I am not a very confrontational person, but we need to work on a resolution to the problem. If we cant? We will move on. Root beer, I sent you a pm.

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I was never going to flat out blame her, but speak my concerns with her. I want to continue, but at this rate, we are getting nowhere. I am not a very confrontational person, but we need to work on a resolution to the problem. If we cant? We will move on. Root beer, I sent you a pm.

 

Can you email her your concerns so you can get it out, revise, make sure you are calm and clear as opposed to feeling confrontational face-to-face. It would give her a chance to respond after reading and reflecting too.

 

Sometimes communication is hard!

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Rushdoggie, that is exactly what I am going to do. Thanks for your input. I was never going to go off on her or anything. I originally wrote my original post when I was pretty heated. But to make a relationship work, you need to be adult about it. Email is going to be best for this situation so I can read it a few times and make changes. I could never do this face to face. I'm not that kind of person. She is a strong personality as I've made that pretty clear. I just want my dog to have fun. That's what it's all about :)

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Rushdoggie, that is exactly what I am going to do. Thanks for your input. I was never going to go off on her or anything. I originally wrote my original post when I was pretty heated. But to make a relationship work, you need to be adult about it. Email is going to be best for this situation so I can read it a few times and make changes. I could never do this face to face. I'm not that kind of person. She is a strong personality as I've made that pretty clear. I just want my dog to have fun. That's what it's all about :)

 

Yep, I get it. I suck at confrontation and tend to get upset making any conversation harder and more heated than it has to be.

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I hope you can sort it out. From what you have written I would think the easiest approach would be to say "you" find it very distracting when she shouts out instructions when you are focused on running and could she explain what she expects of you before you try the sequence and then correct afterwards. My suspicion is your partner is distracted because you are tense with the way you are being taught, the earlier part of the class you are relaxed and so is he.

 

As an example I have a couple of German ladies that I teach whose dogs are a bit of a nightmare in class, unfocused, short attention span etc etc, yet both of these dogs know loads of tricks, are quick learning and just all round great dogs. The common factor is that both women are trying so hard to get it right, that they are unbelievable tense for what should be a fun outing with your dog, that their dogs are tense, at home or out on walks when they are relaxed and they can teach their dogs easily. My challenge is not training their dogs but getting them to have fun, relax and be silly, which is a much greater challenge than teaching agility!!!!!

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I agree with this above.

 

I wouldn't email as that would aka the issue more formal. By all means rehearse what you want to say but the personal approach that doesn't sound as if you are blaming the instructor is going to be less confrontational. Ask for her help rather than accuse.

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I've been down this road before...if it sounds like you are even remotely critical of her teaching methods, she won't take this well at all. You need to make this seem like this is your problem, not hers.

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I want to make sure everyone understands this. I was never going to accuse or flat out blame her. That is never ok. I was just going to mention that when I'm on the course and I'm already thinking about what I'm trying to accomplish I get thrown off when I hear her giving directions and throws off Pete, well something along those lines. Then as a result he stresses out. I sometimes think on here some people are quick to judge intentions. I just asked if I should talk to her or find another class. I never said should I approach her and blame her for the problem or switch classes. Talking to her in a way of solving the problem. She is not easily approachable which makes emailing better.

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Usually I would agree with emailing as it's a great way to ensure clear and thoughtful communication. But in this case I get where mum24dog is coming from. If you email it become this this that big formal thing you've clearly been thinking about and she has to be careful how to answer and it may make things awkward next time you see her and it's just bigger than it needs to be.

It might be easier and better for your relationship if instead, before you start running your dog next class you just quickly say something as if it just occurred to you. Something like, "Hey would it be possible to try this time with you giving me advice after instead of while I'm running the course? I think trying to focus on two things at once is throwing me off a bit." and then after you run just say "Thanks that was really helpful, would you mind doing it that way from now on?" And hopefully that's all it needs to be.

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Chene that's a great idea. I decided to hold off on the email unless it's necessary. Either way, everyone learns different and so do dogs. Agility is definitely not a one size fits all.

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Lots of good suggestions here, so lots of things to try differently during your classes to try and eliminate various things. A good instructor should also be able to acknowledge that not all dogs learn the same way and not all people learn the same way. That way there needs to be some give and take and trying different things with different dogs to get successful outcomes. I instruct at my local club and regularly have to change my approach depending on which dogs turn it is to attempt the sequence or activity - what works for one, doesn't necessarily work for all.

In terms of my own dogs, my 2yr old bc, extremely high drive, gives 110% for everything, however... His limit for training is about 15mins of work total in a training session I.e 1-2mins work, 5mins break (tied up, crated or in a down-stay), then another 1-2mins work and so on. Any more than this and as much as he wants to try, he is too tired and his brain cannot process what I am asking.

My 7yr old mixed breed also has a 10-15min training threshold. She is not high drive, but literally goes "I've done it once or twice, why should I do it again?". If I have to repeat the same thing again, she loses focus, sniffs, gets slower, wanders off etc. If I am in a class enviro, I either ask not to do repeat activities, or I simply stop after 15mins (of a 60min class). This keeps my girl happy and stops me getting frustrated (which makes us both stressed).

Does your club have a suggestion box or could you talk/email the committee asking about different training methods being trailed (I.e not just WAM for weave training)? Again, what works for one, doesn't work for all - a good club should to acknowledge this.

If in doubt and it's still not working for you and your dog..... Change clubs or get private instruction from someone who is patient and willing to work through a variety of methods to see which works best for your dog

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KJT thank you so much for sharing! I wanted to hear how other people handle situations and what limits different dogs can have. She does tend to have a one size fits all approach. I do think he has his limits and then when the stress over comes him he is done. I do think I need to speak up when I notice he is giving off signals that he is done with a particular set of obstacles. When he is asked to continue, it's not fair to him. Thanks again for your input. It helps a lot!

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LauraV, I don't think anyone was thinking you were being confrontational just trying to provide advice, from what you had written. How much agility experience do you have? Because if this is your first teacher I would consider going and watching other classes and see how others teach and if their styles would work better for you.

I am another who stuck with a trainer who was not for me in my case for geographical reasons, we had a couple of rather public arguments over my dog who she thought I should castrate and I did not. We kept going and managed to remain friendly despite our different goals, I snuck in private lessons with a great trainer who lived an hour and half away and I operated on a don't ask don't tell basis in group class so I could have regular access to equipment, I just played deaf when I did not like her handling advice!

It is often said on this board one of our roles is to be our dogs advocate and KJT is right this applies to agility class, I regularly tell people their dog is cooked and they have had enough for the day, and then catch them trying to sneak in one more go, dogs just don't learn anymore once they cross that line.

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Like Alligande, I too also have to tell people in my classes when their dog has had enough. Sometimes this might be 30mins into a 60min class. Some people take this well and then start to look for tired signs in their dog in subsequent lessons which is great. Others want to get their full money's worth and are not happy at being told their dog needs to stop with half the lesson still to go! I wish I had had an instructor in the early days that saw these signs in my old girl whilst I was still an agility newbie, as I believe I cooked her too many times in the early days, leading to frustration and me blaming the dog for something that she had was trying to tell me she had had enough. Another thing to consider from my point as an instructor having seen lots of dogs come through over the years, do you jump your dog at his full height (for your dogs size) for the whole lesson? A dog only has so many jumps in them each training session. The more full height jumps they do, the more tiring, which can lead to stress. Again when I teach, I often start at the lowest height to warm all dogs up (even the big ones), then put them up gradually. I also often lower them for the last 5mins as a cool down. I have a few dogs in my class that can only cope with 2-3 sequences at their competition height, the rest of the time we keep them low - keeps the dog happy, confident and don't tire so easily. Something else to consider?

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One thing to add here: you and your dog may need to learn how to tune out, or work with, an instructor or judge yelling things during a run. There are a couple of classes within CPE agility, where a judge will be barking out the number of points you are earning by doing each obstacle. I had to learn to sort of block that out. Although it also became a way of knowing without looking that my dog knocked a jump bar down. . .there was silence when I expected to hear "ONE!" Other CPE classes also have a horn which tells you to proceed to the final portion of a course. Hearing the judge blow her whistle is never a good sound, especially in Snooker! :unsure:

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There is a really big difference between having a judge yelling out points (and gate stewards yelling for people who are up soon, and handlers sometimes yelling at dogs off on the side) and having someone yelling directly AT you as you run.

 

I would not even expect my girl who is 10 Q's away from her C-ATCH, who has been in many rings with many judges calling points, horns and whistles blowing, dogs barking on the sidelines, and all the trial noise that ends up happening, to run in class with an instructor yelling directly at us. And she's not made of sugar - she could handle it. But I still wouldn't subject her (or myself) to that week after week.

 

The whole "energy" of what is happening is completely different.

 

Where I train we have sheep and horses and chickens and cats around. There are country sounds, even sometimes things popping off in the distance . . . and I still wouldn't tolerate an instructor yelling instructions as I run!!


Now, if the instructor were calling out points if we were practicing a game, that would be different.

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I'm not sure how a dog knows the difference between a judge yelling numbers and an instructor yelling instructions. As someone else pointed out, dogs that trial need to get used to these things.

 

I think that these things bother us more than dogs and then the dogs feed off of us. I did know a dog that could not run if there was a snooker whistle in an adjacent ring, but some of this may have been the dog stressing because the owner was stressing that the dog would stress over the whistle. This dog had physical problems and may have associated the whistle with pain.

 

I've worked with people who yelled during my runs and block it out. Although I can hear the noise while I am running, I have to ask the yeller to repeat themselves after the run because the words don't register while I am running.

 

I would think that the ultimate goal is for the dog-handler team to achieve a level of engagement with each other and the activity, that noise just fades into the background.

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I am pretty much oblivious when I'm on an agility course. Background noise, people yelling, cheering, the JUDGE, spectators, banging bleachers, whatever - They're just not factors for me, because I'm too focused on my dog.

 

HOWEVER, that also means I'm completely incapable of taking any kind of instruction while I'm in the act of running the course. So, while an instructor yelling instructions at me during an exercise or run would not stress me or even my fairly delicate little dog... it would be a terrible method of teaching me any danged thing. Before and after, great. During? Sorry, my head's on the dog and course to the degree that nothing else is getting in.

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I'm not sure how a dog knows the difference between a judge yelling numbers and an instructor yelling instructions. As someone else pointed out, dogs that trial need to get used to these things.

 

Our dogs are masters are reading context.

 

How does a dog know, in a room full of people using clickers, that only the click of his or her own handler is relevant? I don't know how, but I do know that they know.

 

I have observed, with great interest, that my own dogs understand when another is being spoken to - or when I am speaking to my husband, and not to one of them.

 

I have no doubt that my own dog would be aware if someone were shouting directly at us.

 

 

I would think that the ultimate goal is for the dog-handler team to achieve a level of engagement with each other and the activity, that noise just fades into the background.

 

I agree with this. But I would never expect a dog that is just learning to work toward that particular criteria while we are still working on the basics. The regular ambient noise in the room is certainly enough without an instructor yelling. People calling out points, or some such, can be added in once the dog has a good grasp of the game.

 

Really, that is just something that I would not put up with. I would be polite about it, but I would make it clear that I need to be able to focus on my dog while I am running, and my dog needs to be able to focus on the task at hand. Feedback can be given after a particular repetition.

 

I have only come across one instructor who did not reasonably honor that, and I am no longer working with that instructor.

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Of course dogs need to work up to running with distractions.

 

Although the instruction was awful at the last place where I trained, the place was so chaotic (2 rings [with a shared fence-line] going at once, poorly managed dogs, screaming humans), that it created a dog that could handle any trial atmosphere at a very young age (20 months or so). I did almost pull him from this class soon after we started because the noises from the other ring made him react, but I held on..... and wound up with a dog that could handle anything...single ring outdoors, adjacent rings outdoors; adjacent rings in covered arenas; adjacent rings in indoor horse facilities...he just doesn't care and did not care from day 1 of trialing.

 

As for the OP's situation, I suspect that the yelling of instructions during the run is symptomatic of a bigger problem with this instructor. It is a very reactive way of teaching...one should know where and how they are going before they walk to the start-line and that is what the instructor should cultivate.

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I have been 'blessed' with a dog, Torque, who is hyper-focused on the agility game. Pretty much from day one, it has been all about the game of agility. He has spoiled me for any dog that I might have in the future who is distracted. Even though he has many other faults, I can feel pretty smug about his focus and pity the poor handlers who have dogs that need focus improvement (but they can be much, much better in other skill areas). If any of my friends run their dog at a trial, it is a common understanding (and good practice) that anybody who the dog knows who may be a leash runner or ring crew, will clear out of the ring for that dog's run so as not to distract him/her. Torque could care less. After his run, he may party with people he knows, but when he walks into that ring, it is all about the obstacles - no matter who is leash running or ring crew or if anyone is wearing a bright yellow poncho (which really freaked out a lot of dogs). One run, he streaked within a foot of the judge on his way to an obstacle, never slowing, because the judge had failed to move out of the way fast enough. [i am glad he didn't clip him off at the knees. :D )

 

On the other hand, I am highly distractable - and that certainly affects how Torque runs. If I am not committed to him, he will disconnect. Like others have said above, I certainly could not respond to any spoken/shouted instructions while I am running my dog. If an instructor did yell instructions, I might hear them, but if so, that would cause me to disconnect with my dog.

 

Usually, my instructor(s) have discussed before and/or after a run, how to handle or what mistakes I made or whatever - but there was one time when the instructor did yell at me during my dog's run - and to a positive outcome.

 

When I began training in agility, I repeatedly made the common beginner's mistake of watching my dog run the first 2-3 obstacles without moving my feet and only when he caught up to me - and flew past - did I then move. [i was in awe of my really fast dog. He was doing just what I saw the more advanced dogs do. Yippee. So cool.] I can't remember how many times an instructor told me to move my feet, my arse, just MOVE. They would tell me before my run AND after my run - repeatedly/for months. It just wasn't getting into my dense brain. Then one time, as I set my dog up at the start line, did a 2-3 jump lead out, then released my dog - the instructor had silently walked up behind me. When I released my dog, I was still standing and waiting (as usual), and the instructor yelled "move your A$$'.

 

Boy, did that get the point across. ;):P

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I think we need clarification on what instructions are being yelled. My trainer will yell at me if I've repeatedly ignored something I've been told to do. Like if I'm babysitting the weeve entry she will yell at me to get moving, or if I stop at the table and don't move she yells at me, or even if I'm lining my dog up wrong. These to me are helpful instructions that I'm ok with, but it would be different if the instructor was yelling out what and where each obstical was.

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Honestly I don't think there's a *thing* my instructor could 'yell' at me on a course I would find useful. After I've screwed it up and before she has me do it again is plenty soon enough to tell me.


Then again, I wouldn't hear her anyway, so maybe she has and I've just failed to notice. Mostly though it's 'Yeah, that was the wrong cross' or 'you need to get away from the weaves faster' or whatever - AFTER we are done.

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