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LauraV

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

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I'm the same as Cass. I haven't been doing agility for a long time, but done enough activities with an instructor/coach/professor to know that I like someone to talk while I'm doing the activities, and then a more detailed debriefing after. If the instructor knows me well enough to give me pertinent reminders while I'm in the middle of doing the course, I welcome them. For example, when learning the tunnel I often didn't follow through far enough (as in I turned before Aed was fully committed to going in) and I would much prefer the instructor say a quick "keep going follow through!" right before I potentially made the mistake than tell me about it after. Sometimes feedback from different parts of the course builds up and it's hard to keep all the different parts in your mind when you go to run the whole course again. But if someone consistently says "follow through on the tunnel" every time I get to the tunnel until I'm consistently doing it, then it's a lot easier to do.

Another example, when I dance all of my dance teachers call out corrections while we're doing exercises or routines. Because it's much easier to realize exactly how you were screwing up if someone is pointing in out AS you're screwing up, instead of trying to remember five minutes later what exactly you did with your right leg 3 minutes and 23 seconds into the piece. Agility? Less intricate, so easier to remember, but totally still applies. Easier to realize and correct in the present than incorporate the past and future. It just sticks in your head better.

Obviously it's different if someone is telling you you did something wrong AFTER you've already done it, but I can't think of any instructor I've had in anything who's done that.

 

Just because it works for me doesn't mean it works for everyone or that instructors don't need to adapt, but I think it's silly to say it never works. It's my learning style to a T. Everyone, canine or human, learns differently. Aed doesn't notice someone calling out instructions in real time, and I appreciate it. There's nothing inherently wrong with an instructor yelling while you do the course.

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I do call out instructions when people are running, not detailed ones like front cross now, but things like run, move, stop, turn, reward, throw when I know that timing is a problem and the person working is a consistent offender! This is not every run, just when the handler really needs to understand why the problem is happening.

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I was in ballet and gymnastics for years and being corrected during was par for the course for that and fine. It's not moving as fast, there is no dog to also be paying attention to. I also had no issue early on in agility when I was doing foundations exercises, because they were typically isolated things or short chains done at reasonable speeds.


Actually on course for several obstacles and going something like 4.5 yards per second? Not a chance in heck of me hearing much less responding. It's also never minutes behind me, it's less than thirty seconds back and that's for a full course. For a several obstacle sequence it's maybe 10 seconds ago, and honestly I usually know what I did wrong anyway.

 

THAT said, I'm not saying it never works for anyone. I'm just saying I am unaware of noise and outside everything while running so it isn't useful. The format that works FOR ME is basically "Do this thing like this" and then feedback on whether I did it right or not or what needs changed and then trying it again.

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Actually on course for several obstacles and going something like 4.5 yards per second? Not a chance in heck of me hearing much less responding. It's also never minutes behind me, it's less than thirty seconds back and that's for a full course. For a several obstacle sequence it's maybe 10 seconds ago, and honestly I usually know what I did wrong anyway.

Yes, instructions shouted while running the course depends on many variables - but for me, the prime variable is the speed of the dog. My dog will run at over 6 yps (since he is much larger than CptJack's dog). *I* barely have time to formulate a thought in my mind, and then verbalize it to my dog while I am running a course. Add a third party (the instructor) to the equation, and there is no way I can hear a comment from the instructor, process it, formulate how I will respond and then verbalize it. My neurons just don't fire that fast at my advanced age. ;)

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Ok I have an update! She was quiet when we ran and he ran the best he ever has. Hopefully this continues!

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Congrats. And hopefully SHE learns something from this. ;)

I think she has. Our communication has already improved and she is taking my suggestions more seriously. Woo!

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Excellent. It's always awesome when you can bring a problem to an instructor's attention and the instructor will work with you. Unfortunately, that didn't work at all in my case, but I am very, very glad it is looking good in yours!

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I'm glad communication has been improved in this case but as a general comment (not directed at the OP at all) it isn't always the instructor's fault. Some students think they know it all and they don't.

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No, it isn't always the instructors fault. However, a good instructor (of any kind) is willing work with students who are having difficulties so he or she can actively assist the student, if it is possible. Regardless of who the "fault" may belong to.

 

I say this even more as an instructor (professionally and in recreational settings) than as a student. I want to know when a student is struggling, and I want to try to work with the student to facilitate learning, when I can work together with the student to make that happen. If a student needs a different kind of feedback than that which I typically offer, I will accommodate if it is reasonable to do so, even if what I normally do works for most people.

 

If the instructor can't handle doing that, it becomes the responsibility of the student to be the advocate that his or her dog (or his or herself!) requires.

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I honestly still see this as variable.

 

The instructor should always be willing to listen and make adjustments for individuals. An unwillingness to that and rigid adherence to a method is bad.


But in a group class?


If what is being done is working for 90% of the students, accommodations beyond the very easy ones that basically take no time or effort to implement (and I think 'feedback after counts as one of those) absolutely shouldn't even be asked for, much less made.

 

You're sharing time with other people. If you want totally individualized treatment, go to private lessons.

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I always teach my dogs to weave at home even when I was in a position to go to agility classes. I get nice fast footwork and independent weaves the way I do it so I stick to it. I used to also take my weaves down to a local quiet park and practice.

 

My only experience with an instructor who yelled instructions was at a herding venue where I unintentionally found myself in a quasi lesson . I hated it and my dog hated it and the more she shouted the more things went to shit. My normally calm steady dog was over the top and all I could hear was this constant shrieking of instructions which completely disengaged me from my dog and the sheep.

 

I noticed the same thing with the other students. Not going down that track again. For me once is usually enough. I realised that in this case, as knowledgeable as the instructor was she wasn't for me. I have no intention of being yelled at, to old for that nonsense.

 

The best agility instructor I had would set up short sequences that we would walk and then each of us would run it maybe several times if we struggled with help from the instructor. We would watch each other and the instructor would critique us after we had run and ask for comments and then we might walk the course with the instructor and discuss the best way to handle it. It was quite fun really and definitely no yelling except for the instructor shouting run run run faster if we needed a boost! none of minded that, gave us a giggle. We would put our dogs in crates while waiting our turn or discussing the sequence. The instructor was very astute and if she noticed a dog starting to flag or become disengaged she would make some pretty good suggestions.

 

Mostly where I live the instructors are volunteers and do their best but they are not always particularly good. I was a volunteer at my local dog club and I am sure I wasn't either. If I pay money for lessons from one of several really top handlers I find they are pretty darn good. Generally calm, knowledgeable and very good at reading their students and their dogs.

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I honestly still see this as variable.

 

The instructor should always be willing to listen and make adjustments for individuals. An unwillingness to that and rigid adherence to a method is bad.

 

But in a group class?

 

If what is being done is working for 90% of the students, accommodations beyond the very easy ones that basically take no time or effort to implement (and I think 'feedback after counts as one of those) absolutely shouldn't even be asked for, much less made.

 

You're sharing time with other people. If you want totally individualized treatment, go to private lessons.

 

I would agree with you on some matters. Of course if a student wants some treatment that is out of the ordinary or burdensome or is going to negatively impact the other students in class. But yelling at someone who is running their dog? I still consider that inappropriate across the board, as well as very poor pedagogy. Personally, I would stop and request - politely but firmly - that the yelling stop immediately. Nobody is benefiting from that.

 

In all the Agility classes I have taken, with many instructors, I have never come across an instructor who yelled at me while I was running. I am grateful for that.

 

I am sharing time with other people, but I am not going to tolerate being yelled at during my time on the floor (which, group class or no, I paid for and have a right to use in a way that will be effective within the appropriate time that my dog and I are out there)

 

In the one and only instance where it was the instructor's way or the highway, I did leave the class. (While that was not yelling, it was just as detrimental of a situation and I did right to get my dog out of it)

 

But I have to say that I have an appreciation for the vast majority of instructors that I have worked with - all of whom have been willing to have a conversation when I need a modification for my dog, or for myself.

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I honestly still see this as variable.

 

The instructor should always be willing to listen and make adjustments for individuals. An unwillingness to that and rigid adherence to a method is bad.

 

But in a group class?

 

If what is being done is working for 90% of the students, accommodations beyond the very easy ones that basically take no time or effort to implement (and I think 'feedback after counts as one of those) absolutely shouldn't even be asked for, much less made.

 

You're sharing time with other people. If you want totally individualized treatment, go to private lessons.

In this situation I would have to disagree the OP was not asking for a different sequence, or different training opportunities, just that the instructor kept quiet during their time running the sequence. I teach a wide variety of different levels in our group classes, everyone gets a similar amount of time and I modify the exercises to suit what that team needs to work on, everyone gets a chance to train and progress at their own speeds, my favorite little jack russell learns very differently to the hugely talented border collie, most importantly everyone has fun and feels it was an evening well spent.

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I didn't say, nor mean to imply, that asking the instructor not to yell during her sequence was unreasonable. I tried very hard, and apparently failed, to be very clear that 'feedback after' counted as one of the easy to implement things that took no time away from other students and was not unreasonable.

 

I should have been more clear, but I wasn't saying OP was unreasonable.

 

I'm just saying you can't always get individualized attention if you're in a group class, and the instructor's responsibility in a group class is the class as a WHOLE.

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Actually, I have to disagree with this - to an extent - as well. As an advanced student, I very often let my instructor know that I need to work on something different from the group, and I have a reasonable expectation to be accommodated since I am trialing and I need to work on my own team's particular weaknesses, and challenges, and I need to work on what I need to work on.

 

I don't disrupt the class in any way to do this. But . . . if the instructor wants the class to work on rear crosses, but I need to focus on sending because I have a Jackpot run coming up, I would say that it is perfectly appropriate to let the instructor know that I intend to work on something different during my time in the ring.

 

I am not going to rearrange the course or anything, but I might not follow all the numbers as they are set out, or I might work behind an imaginary gamble line.

 

A good instructor needs to be flexible. Of course there are limits. But every team is different. A good instructor takes individuals into account. Again - within reason.

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Honestly, I think some degree of that is fine but to another degree - if you're not listening to the instructor, you're never participating in the same exercises in the class, and you're just using the class for equipment? Why are you there?

 

I don't know. Maybe if you don't have other avenues to access the equipment and can't get private lessons? I think everyone has to individualize work when you're more in an advanced class from time to time because the further you go the more variances there are between dogs. Modifying exercises for your dog's comfort and skill? Great, and happens all the time. Probably even necessary.

 

BUT:

If you are never working with the class and are consistently doing your own thing - and different exercises altogether.


It just strikes me as incredibly rude to the instructor - even dismissive. More over, my attitude here is likely influenced by the fact that classes in my area FILL so you taking that slot to work your own stuff is taking a slot away from someone who needs actual instruction instead of equipment or space.

 

So yeah, there we just fundamentally disagree.

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I think the key that you are missing is that my instructor and I have an understanding. We have communicated with one another and she is on board with the fact that sometimes I am on a bit of a different track from everyone else. (This is not all the time, nor in every class - just when I have a particular need to work on something specific).


This does not mean that she is not involved - she is. She still offers me valuable insight and assistance. I still involve her in the process. I tell her what I need to work on, what I have planned, and listen to her advice and ask for handling tips where I might need them.

 

This is not disrespectful because we communicate and work together. She wants me and my dog to gain the skills that we need to succeed. She would not know what our needs are if I did not communicate them.

 

And I consider the willingness to do that to be the mark of a top level instructor.

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If you want to work on specific skills or prepare for a show, why not book a private lesson?

Or practice the skills on your own?

 

Why not work on those skills with my own instructor during class? What is a higher level Agility class for if not to prepare teams to succeed in competition and to help teams improve the specific skills that they need to improve? (Again, let me be clear that this is something that I do from time to time, not every single week).

 

Honestly, I think it would bother my instructor a lot more if I went off to take private lessons from someone else because I want to work on a skill that we could bring into class.

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Why not work on those skills with my own instructor during class? What is a higher level Agility class for if not to prepare teams to succeed in competition and to help teams improve the specific skills that they need to improve?

 

I guess I assumed higher level classes are for handling, and that my instructor sets up challenges that we can expect to face in trials. If I wanted to work on specific skills, like gambles or an obstacle performance, I'd do it on my own time. For me, class is about trying the challenges your instructor has set up. I don't do anything different for the class the week before Cynosport than I do at class when my next trial is months away.

 

And re: the yelling, that is actually something I like. I don't think of it as yelling, per se. My dog is a barker, and my instructor does raise her voice to give me instruction (ex. cue and go! arm up! face your dog! your other left!). At seminars, it's not uncommon for some of the instructors (very high level ones) to run along side you, barking out instruction. I love it and my dog loves it because it makes me a better handler. YMMV.

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I guess I assumed higher level classes are for handling, and that my instructor sets up challenges that we can expect to face in trials. If I wanted to work on specific skills, like gambles or an obstacle performance, I'd do it on my own time. For me, class is about trying the challenges your instructor has set up. I don't do anything different for the class the week before Cynosport than I do at class when my next trial is months away.

 

This. I'm in an advanced handling class right now. The challenges are set up to help us learn skills we're going to face in trials - some that we haven't seen yet (because of changes in NADAC or new classes being offered by our club), some that we have and she knows people have struggled with/do struggle with as a whole.

 

When I want to work on a specific skill set - distance or a cleaner switch or better weave entries or whatever we are struggling with or trying to improve individually- ...I work at home, go to a show and go, or book a private lesson (with MY instructor)- usually all of the above, but sometimes not depending on availability. I'd do a ring rental if those were an option here, but so far as I know they are not. We do, however, have open club practices that I take advantage of, wherein everyone comes, uses the equipment, and does their own thing.

 

The exercises the class are working on are important, too, and I trust my instructor. I'm there to be *instructed* and to learn. Her experience is a large part of what I"m there for. That's what the CLASS is for.

 

And my instructor will, absolutely, let me work on what I want to work on, listen to me, adapt methods or whatever else to work better with my dog but that doesn't make it not disrespectful (in my eyes) to both the instructor and other students (those there and those who may not have gotten in because you're taking their spot) to be ignoring the class format. If you want to work on things privately with the instructor and be on a separate track -

 

Why are you in a class? Why not just do a private lesson?

 

THAT is the question I haven't seen an answer to and what is confusing me.

 

*ETA:* Though obviously and of course if your instructor doesn't mind and the other students don't mind and no one's losing a chance to take the class you're not actually participating in, it doesn't matter at all.

 

It just also doesn't make any sense to me.

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