Learning Dog Agility Without an Instructor
There are many reasons why some dog owners cannot learn dog agility with an instructor such as living in a remote area, local instructors not using agreeable methods, time constraints, money constraints to name a few. And while learning how to teach and then teaching your dog without educated eyes to watch isn’t an easy route, it isn’t impossible either.
As a beginner it is important to lay solid foundation skills before even attempting one piece of dog agility equipment. The more body awareness, directional, shaping and focus you can get with your dog the easier it will be for them to learn the equipment. Things like clicker training, tricks, shadow handling, balance balls, rocker boards and ladders and even crate games will get your dog’s mind and body in shape for dog agility.
There are many great books and videos to get you started in the correct direction as well as a wealth of information online. A word of caution with internet videos is to be sure you only use information from trainers that focus on positive reinforcement and shaping in their training. Names like Susan Garrett, Jane Simmons-Moake, Lisa Frick, Jenny Damm and Greg Derrett are all great names to be acquainted with and whose teachings are great. We have some of the more popular books and videos here. Look for foundation work first.
If you are on a really tight budget you can watch youtube videos of these and other well known trainer’s videos, get signed up for their online programs and newsletters. You can also check out the wide selection of videos available at www.dogagilityvideos.com and do searches for trainers and training videos starting with the foundation work mentioned above.
Helping at trials is a super way to get a backside view of competitions, how they are run and judged. You can see different handling styles, teams and dogs. It is also a great place to make new friends, find local or at least reachable instructors and maybe even find interest to start a club. Be sure to ask questions as well. Most of us love to talk about our dogs, the sport and how we got where we are.
If you are dealing with a financial issue and there are reputable trainers in your area, you could try offering to do some in-kind trade. You could help with setup and breakdown of courses in trade for auditing clinics. They may need grounds, office or store help at larger facilities in trade for classes. It may be that you have a skill with internet services such as web design/maintenance, designing and/or printing handouts/lesson plans. You never know until you ask and you may be just what they are needing.
And while there is no trade for having experienced eyes watching you train and compete, videos of you working with your dog are indispensable. Sometimes you may think you are doing one thing and it’s the dogs fault when in actuality you are doing something completely different from their view. A free side-note – It is seldom the dog’s fault. And did we forget to say, “Do lots of foundation work before going to the equipment?”