It has been quite the year for me and Dan. It was just about a year ago that we moved our agility program to its current home, Once In A Lifetime Farm in Smithfield, RI. Two months ago, we expanded our dog training business, Spring Forth Dog Academy, to Providence, RI and have been very busy there!
It’s time for us to make a change to our agility classes to better reflect what our goals were when we started teaching classes.
Making a Change
As a student, my biggest problem with agility training classes was the lack of feedback or instruction away from class. I paid for six hours of class and that was all I got. No one was there to answer my questions between lessons, or give me feedback on my runs at trials, or make sure I did my homework well.
I grew up riding horses, where lesson programs are much more “inclusive.” Your trainer doesn’t just teach your weekly lessons, she coaches you at shows and helps you find a horse to lease or buy. I wished for an agility training program that mimicked that, but nothing like this existed a decade ago when I got into the sport.
Times are changing in the dog training world – big time. The explosion of online classes, where instructors critique your at-home practice assignments, has started to fill this void particularly in the world of obedience and rally. Social media and online forums allow students to stay connected and learn from each other, not just from the instructor. The only drawback from an agility perspective is that many students don’t have all of the necessary pieces of equipment to practice these new-found training skills.
Our New Dog Agility Training Program
Our new agility training program is just that – a program, not a weekly group class. It’s designed to combine the best of online and in-person classes for students who are looking for a more complete, structured education in the sport and a stronger student-teacher relationship.
This monthly program includes unlimited attendance at our group training classes. We’ll still have four hours of class per week, but they are reduced to two types: Skills and Courses.
Skills Class is appropriate for all dogs, even puppies! This class focuses on individual obstacle performance and those “behind the scenes” behaviors, like tricks, body awareness, and start line stays, that make a huge difference in an agility dog’s performance but are often ignored in higher-level agility classes.
Courses Class is appropriate for dogs sequencing at least 3 jumps. A 10-15 obstacle course will be set, but less experienced teams will just work on smaller sequences within that course.
The classes are on a bi-weekly rotating schedule, which is a fancy way of saying they shift around to ensure everyone has a chance to participate, even if they can only come one hour a week, or one night a week. Check out our schedule to see it in action. (Select “January 2015″ since that’s when the new program starts.)
Other Program Benefits
We have always had an online student group on Facebook, and that will continue with the new program. This group is only open to current students and everyone is encouraged to post questions, homework video clips, brags, and video of competition runs for me to review.
Speaking of trials, Dan and I will provide support at those, too. Our agility training program includes coaching at trials, from choosing the best handling strategy to helping you warm up your dog to video taping your run for you.
Finally, our students will also get priority access to workshops and seminars. This is an area we really hope to expand into in 2015!
If this sounds like the right agility training program for you, check out our website to enroll now. The program starts in January! We are very strictly limiting the number of students to make sure everyone gets plenty of personalized instruction in and out of class, and there is an “early bird” registration special that ends December 1st. Check it out, and let me know what you think!