This article is a part of Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day. To read more on this subject, please visit http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/continuing-education/
When I first became involved in the dog world in 1986, ideas about training and showing were very traditional. Newcomers of course had a lot to learn, but there wasn’t much expectation or opportunity for those with many years of involvement in dogs to improve or challenge their skills. To some extent, this mentality still exists today but mostly in the conformation and obedience worlds, rather than in younger sports like agility. For the most part though, I think there is a different expectation today. Dog training is definitely something that needs to be learned hands on, so a trainer with many years of experience likely has something to teach, but if they are still doing things the way they did in 1974, I would argue that they also have something to learn.
I am fortunate that dog training isn’t only my passion, but also my career. This means that I have more easy access to conferences and educational programs that some, but the wealth of information available is there for those who want to find it. Only a few short years ago, learning a new dog sport or training technique meant seeking out an experienced trainer and learning in person, whether through a local class or weekend seminar. There is a lot of value to this type of real time learning and feedback, but learning opportunities like this were often limited by geography and scheduling. Another complication I often encountered was that my hounds struggle more than more traditional agility breeds to learn new things and remain motivated in a distracting environment, like a group class or seminar. Even when I have been fortunate enough to work with instructors who have the patience to understand that not everyone progresses at the same rate, I have often found that I need to do most of the “real” training away from class. Training alone can have a lot of benefits, but its also easy to fall into a rut or lose track of whether (or not) progress is being made.
A game changer for me in recent years has been the concept of online training classes. Being able to work at my dogs’ pace without comparison to other breeds but still having the motivation and structure of a formal class gives us the best of both worlds. Many classes offer levels of participation that include video feedback, but I have found that this isn’t always necessary. Sure, this takes away some of the social aspect of dog training as a hobby, but as someone with a full time job and multiple dogs I can’t think of a more time efficient method of ensuring that everyone gets meaningful training time. Even if I select a class for a particular dog, I often do the class activities with all of the hounds, with each working at their own level. Learning online also allows access to a higher caliber of instruction than I would have easily available locally. I do still belong to my local training club and take advantage of group training to practice around distractions, but feel like online training opportunities are going to be a big part of my dog training future.