I wasn't really sure what to write about this quarter's Dog Agility Blogger event on "continuing education". There are so many people teaching agility now - it really surprises me sometimes just how many of the people I run agility with on the weekends are also instructors.
So many of us are enrolled in weekly agility classes. At our facility, we have had some students consistently for years and years, with multiple dogs. We've watched them teach their dogs from puppy age, to their eventual retirement. If you hope to be successful at this sport, I think you NEED to continue your agility education with classes. It makes you accountable to someone with your training, gives you motivation to do some training away from class, and keeps you up-to-date with some of the latest challenges we see on the weekends.
It seems we constantly hear about seminar presenters coming in to the area, offering their expertise at a price - usually a steep price. This type of education can be great once in a while. You get a fresh set of eyes on you, and get the perspective of someone at the "top" of the sport. Every agility competitor can get something out of a seminar, but I think for the most part, they are geared toward the very competitive folks with the faster dogs.
I can't believe the explosive growth of "online" classes for agility now. Many of the "big name" people offer this, and lots of not-so-big names too. I think this can be a great option if you happen to live somewhere that is too far from a training center, and have to train on your own. You can at least get ideas on what to work on, and get some critiques on what you may be doing right or wrong. I do think though, that taking some online classes along with your regular weekly instructor lead classes could end with you confused and conflicted unless you are getting the exact same information from both sources. Ever hear the saying that the only thing two agility instructors can agree on is that the third instructor doesn't know what they are doing?
This leads me to another point - there are many people who take regular weekly classes from different instructors and facilities. To me, this has to be confusing to the handler, and ultimately the dog. On our local yahoo group, I also see many posts from people selling classes that they cannot attend. So I can just buy your class, show up with a dog the instructor doesn't know, with a handler they don't know, and I am supposed to just fit right into the class and not be a distraction? Just seems bizarre to me.
Our sport has been transforming over the years, with new and different challenges on course, and new handling moves or philosophies. To keep up, I believe you need to constantly educate yourself and decide if this new stuff is for you, or you would rather keep doing what you have always been doing. Ideally, when you do get out on course, the challenges you see are not going to be much different than what you practice every week and you will find yourself confident and prepared for whatever the judges can come up with!