May 15, 2021

Episode 285: Private Lessons

In this episode (20:34)

In this episode, Jennifer, Sarah, and Esteban talk about private lessons in dog agility and how you can use them more effectively.

You Will Learn

  • Differences in private lessons between novice and advanced handlers.
  • Why setting expectations is important.
  • How to maximize your learning during a private lesson.
  • How private lessons can be used in a variety of ways.

- [Host] You're listening to Bad Dog Agility, bringing you training tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. (cheery piano) - I'm Jennifer. - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah and this is episode 285. - [Esteban] Today's podcast is brought to you by and the Teeter "Teach It!" an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter, so you can

introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to for the new Teeter "TeachIt!" and other training tools and toys. Use discount code BDA10 to get 10% off your order. That's - [Jennifer] Today, we're gonna dive a bit deeper into the topic of private lessons. So first I want to outline what I mean by this. So, when I think of private lessons, I differentiate that

different from a class setting or a seminar setting. So classes is what many people may be used to, usually they're an hour to 90 minutes long, one instructor, six to seven people. You know, you come in and you have that group setting but you're usually signing up for a six or eight week class, so the instructor gets to know you a little bit over the length of that

time. Seminars tend to be longer in length, similar group, maybe six to eight or eight to 10 if you're doing a full day seminar. Maybe half day, three and a half, four hours, full day, seven hours, or you'll see even camps, right? Camps being three or four days, two or three days where you'll rotate around. But private lessons, specifically what we're talking about today is one-on-one. I'm not

even gonna dive into semi-privates too much. But one instructor, one student, generally an hour in length but it could be longer, maybe you have multiple dogs. And I wanted to kind of talk to you guys about this because it came from a day where I had multiple private lessons. I do a fair amount of private lessons, multiple private lessons throughout the day and all of them were structured

so differently. And at the end of the day, I sat back and I said, "Well, what is, what is normal? What is the normal way that a private lesson works? What are other instructors doing? Or what are students expecting out of it?" So my question to you guys is, if you were to sign up for a private lesson, so say Sarah, you sign up for a private lesson,

what are your expectations? When you go to it, what are you expecting from that? - [Sarah] Yeah, I think that I've been in the situation of taking private lessons and I'm thinking back a lot to my early days in agility as well and there's kind of a pretty huge range of, and it all stems from like why I'm doing the private. And so I think that that's one

of the first things you have to look at is why people are doing the private. So I kind of viewed the extremes as, I'm booking a private because I want the space and the time and the facility and I don't need or maybe even want the instruction. So I've absolutely booked privates where I tell the instructor, like, you know, "You can bring a book, do whatever you want.

I just really want the... I'm willing to pay you to get access to the field. Is that okay?" Right? I know what I wanna work on. I want to do X, Y, and Z. I want to, you know, be my own coach, or more often it's usually Esteban and I together, right? So we're coaching each other, and we just need the space. But I've also been on the

far other extreme, and I do this actually with haircuts too, where I go and I say, "I don't know what I want, I don't know what I need, I don't know what to do, I'm paying you to tell me that." Right? And so, you know, I walk into a hair salon and that's what I tell them. "I don't, I don't know what I want, but I know I'm

not gonna blow dry it, you know, do something." And I do that with agility instructors too, or I did especially in the early days. And so then I would go and I didn't really have a plan, I didn't really have any expectations, and part of what I was paying for was direction. It was, it was almost less, or it was kind of half- and-half about the time with

the instructor as it was about the personalized direction from the instructor. So I kind of viewed that as the extremes. - [Jennifer] I think that important question of "why" is a big part of kind of the answer and thinking about all these students that I have over the day having different formats, it came aback a lot to the "why." So talking about the "why" and kind of going

into another, some other scenarios. I think the, "why" could be that some people find it better to do short sessions especially with puppies, right? Imagine going to a class, do you think either your puppies would make it through a one hour constant class? So a lot of young dogs, that's a lie. Yeah. A lot of young dogs, you know people have multiple dogs, so they'll come in they'll

do 15, 20 minutes with their puppy. Then they'll get their masters dog out, then they'll come back to the puppy or whatever. So sometimes it's just that the format of a class doesn't work, sometimes it's scheduling, right? A lot of clubs offer evening classes and maybe you work second, third shift and you need to do something in the morning. I have dogs that, especially young dogs who get

very worked up, very stimulated when they're in a group setting, so they have a hard time kind of keeping their head and keeping their focus. So, the "why" I think determines a lot of the content. Those would be why I might do a private versus a class, but even looking within one team, I think the "why" is important. Are you looking for simply equipment time that works convenient

to your schedule, or, and this is kind of what I wanted to talk a little bit about. Are you coming into it with a very specific weakness? So I think the "why" could also be, you know, "I'm going to classes, I'm at the will of the instructor." At least that's how I think of classes, you know, whatever the instructor has set up for the lesson plan that week,

that's what you're gonna work on. But maybe what your issue is isn't something that's going to be covered in class or isn't something that is covered frequently enough you know, say, for example, you need tunnel dog walk discriminations. You could go weeks into a class without there ever being a tunnel-under-a-dog walk. So, the "why" kind of going into, what are your expectations and what do you wanna get

out of it? Are you putting the responsibility on the instructor to come up with the content? Or are you communicating with the instructor ahead of time and saying, "Hey, I really need some isolated work on this particular skill, I'd like to book a lesson to get some, you know, specific homework or some more detailed information on how I can improve that." So, you know, what is the relationship

that you have with the instructor? Are you viewing them as a regular kind of coach or instructor? Or is it a scenario where it's a one-time thing? You know, somebody comes into your club from out of state and you signed up to do a private lesson with that instructor and your expectations going into it might be a little bit different. Have you had that scenario either of you

guys where you've kind of signed up for a private because somebody was coming in to a town that you don't normally work with? and how would you expect that to be different than somebody you maybe work with on a more regular basis? - [Esteban] Yeah, that's interesting, I'll take this one. So, I'm thinking back in the day, the first time I ever did private, this first dog, golden

retriever and we were getting her ready to show, this is back in the day, AKC Agility. I think she went to her first trial at around 14 months, you could show at 12 months. So, once I told the instructor, "My goal is to have her be the first dog show in her litter" I knew there were several other people who, and she was my very first agility dog.

- [Sarah] Competitive, huh? - [Esteban] Who were, yeah, yeah, yeah. They were, they were going to, you know these other people are getting ready to try, and I said, "I want her to be the first one to get to a trial." And she said, "Okay, you know, maybe weekly classes isn't gonna be enough." Right? So there we had a very specific goal is to get her out in

trialing, so we weren't gonna be able to cover everything that she needed to do. So, it was convenient to introduce the table, the tire things that we didn't see every week in class but now you can do it in the private, right? "Let's do a rear cross, make sure you can do a front cross, introduce her to the broad job, let's work a little bit on the weave

poles." And, so it, it was kind of set. So I think there was, I came with the goal and the instructor said, because, you know, I'm new to agility, I don't know anything. The instructor says, "This is everything you're going to see on your first novice run, you don't need all this other stuff if your goal is to get her out as quickly as possible, this is what

you need." Right? - [Sarah] Right. Six poles, - [Esteban] So I think knowing your, you know, that's an example of knowing what your, your goal is going to be. On the flip side, as an experienced competitor, one time we had, I think Greg Derek came to Texas. He rarely came to Texas and it was my first experience, did the seminar part, and then he also did private lessons.

So I took one, I think I was running the Rottweiler at the time and I had the young Border Collie. Right. And she ended up being like really undersized and small, really good Rook. And so, she's a EyeSpy Border Collie, litter mate to the Flash, for people who know the Flash. And, we did a private lesson. I don't remember anything about that private lesson, but I know that

I did not come to him and be like, you know, "I had this problem or that problem," because she was still like, learning. I don't, I don't think she was even trialing yet at that point, right? So we had some kind of lesson. So that's kind of a, what you said there, he came, they gave a seminar, and you're like, "Okay, well, this is my young up-and-comer, I'll

do a lesson." I don't even remember what the lesson was about, but I didn't have necessarily a weakness for him to work on. So I think something parallel to that is where maybe there's someone out of state and maybe they live in a place where the local instruction is okay but it's not great or world-class. I don't even wanna say that it's not great, okay? But it's not

maybe at the, at the level that they're thinking that they want, or they have an opportunity to say, "Come in and work with Jennifer," or, you know, a Sarah Baker comes into the seminar and she's also doing privates on the side. I think it's a lot harder for those people, if this is their first dog, to say, "This is what I want or this is what I need,"

and there I would expect a great Derrick or a Jennifer Crane or a Sarah Baker to have a lot more input into what's, what's going on with me and my young dog. - [Sarah] Right. Well, I think there, you're really looking at privates as access to the instructor, not just the instructor, but that instructor. It's really about the person. And so there, you know, you really are just,

you just want to be able to train with that person because you don't normally get that opportunity. And so you're going to, you know, be excited to have that time and whatever they have set up, whatever they wanna work with you on, you're happy to do. And so, you know, I think that that is an interesting and different scenario too, than, than booking privates with your instructor. You

know, the one that you go to every single week, there you're really paying for the additional instruction, rather than the person. You have access to that person all the time through the weekly classes. You're paying for the one-on-one, or like Jennifer said, the schedule. And so I think that, I think one of the things Jennifer said that I think is just key in all of this, is the

communication. So, what are you expecting? What do you want out of it? Because I think a lot of those examples that we gave for the whys and so some of those being, "My dog is a, a very like a high dog, and I, I feel better about having a private than a group," right? "I don't trust my dog around other dogs," for instance, right? Or "The weekly schedule

doesn't work with my schedule." So those two cases in particular, I would think that those people are very often going to be perfectly happy doing exactly what is done in the weekly class, but just in a private setting, right? They'd be happy doing the same exercises, the same drills, the same course that's set up, the same small spaces that are set up, because they're really just paying for

the perk of the private environment, whether that is time or, you know, presence of other dogs, right? - [Esteban] Right. - [Sarah] But if you have somebody who came to the weekly class and then they are also coming to a private later that week, they're not gonna wanna do the same thing. They're gonna wanna do something different. - [Esteban] Well, I think there it's important to be very

problem-focused, right? Like, "Oh, I'm having problems with soft side and she's on weave poles," or my, you know, "I've got these terrible contacts and, you know, in class I just wanna work on the handling," but Jen's like, "Hey maybe you need some private le-" I don't know, have you done this before? Like, "Hey maybe consider some extra contact work here on the side, I can't take 10 minutes

out of each one hour class to fix these contacts." - [Jennifer] Yeah, absolutely, that's, that's happened before and I think still happens. I don't teach as many classes now as I used to and most of the classes that I teach are with students who I have quite a standing relationship on and many of them do privates. So I think, you know, one of the things is talking about

kind of the frequency of privates, which really goes back to all the things that we talked about, but in this example, so the people that I see regularly, every week, in classes many of them, not all of them, but many of them also have a once a month private. And what this does is it gives us a chance to kind of jot down what problems they're having in

class that we can't take the time to do. Exactly as you mentioned, you know, so if you're working on start line stress, I'm using that as just an example, that's kind of a hard one to do in class. You know, you, you have to take the time to, you know to do some reinforcement, set up some different scenarios, and, if everybody else is there to work on master's

level handling, you know, you can't be giving one person in a class setting a whole bunch of extra time from someone else. So, if I am seeing them regularly in class, once a month might be enough for a private. But if somebody is not in class maybe they wanna do something more frequently. They wanna do every week, set up more of a a standing lesson. Or a lot

of what I have is people traveling in. So because they're traveling in and they're driving two, three, four hours, they're gonna do a longer lesson less frequently. So they're gonna book three hours once a month, versus driving a six hour round trip to do a one hour lesson every week. So, you know, frequency, I find, the frequency of a lesson also kind of dictates how I structure it

and what I do. You know, I might be, if I'm only gonna see somebody once a month, I'm trying to think, I would be inclined to give them a whole lot more homework knowing that they have a month to work on it, versus somebody who I'm going to see every week where I'm gonna say, "Okay, this week you only have you know, you only have six, seven days,

so I'm gonna see you again. You're gonna, you have other activities that might have days you don't train or weather, I'm gonna give you one thing this week. All right?" And then when we master that one thing, or one or two things, so I'm more inclined to, with somebody that I see regularly, kind of work through it live, where somebody I see less frequently I'm gonna give them

all the skills, I'm gonna give them steps A, B, C, D, and E and then have them go home and work on it in the next month, where if I'm gonna see somebody in a week, I'll say, "Okay, here's steps A and B, I'm not even gonna tell you what to do from there until you do that homework and you come back to me and you prove that

you've, you've done that homework." So, kind of the structure and not just the content but I mean, even kind of diving a step deeper in terms of like, okay, one hour, what am I doing in that one hour? I think for me, I tend to do like, short stuff. I always start a lesson reviewing what they did the last time. I have little books on everybody, it's like

a doctor's office. You know, you have your file, so in the beginning of the day I pull the files and I say, "Okay, here's what we did." So, maybe a little review on what we did last time, make sure that looked good, see if they have any questions, some shorter drills, you know, working up to some longer forces, potentially, depending on the level where if we're getting ready

for a big event maybe I'll work the mental game. And I'll say, "All right, nationals is in two weeks, you're gonna walk in, the course is set on time, in eight minutes run it." You know, and we work our way backwards. You know, we build the pressure and then we, we go down and I think that this to me is why everything is so fascinating is I think

there's a lot of people out there who maybe who've had different privates with different people, and you realize that everybody structures it different. And I'm actually as an instructor interested how instructors format their lessons. But if you've done private lessons with only one or two people or the same instructor for many years, are you aware that there's different options out there? You know, there's different ways to structure

it. Courses versus smaller sequences. And I think, you know, I, Sarah you kind of commented on this earlier that whole you don't know what you don't know when you're in the beginning, you come in and if the instructor says to you, "What do, what do you wanna work on?" And you, you're like, "Well, I don't know what I wanna work on because I don't know what I don't

know." You know? So, that format of, and I know Sarah you've done some traveling to teach, you know, what do you think of is different if somebody came to you? So answer this as the instructor instead of the student, and said, "Okay, I wanna do a lesson every Tuesday at 10:00 AM," all right? "I'm committing to six months, every Tuesday, 10:00 AM." How would you structure that different

than you traveled to Ohio and you came out to my place and I said, "Hey, would you teach a day of privates?" You know, when somebody is gonna come in and you get 60 minutes with them, you know, how are you gonna figure out in 60 minutes the best way to maximize both their time and your time? - [Sarah] Right. Yeah, I think it's interesting, I think also

like when you book a bunch of privates back to back, that also changes like what you can do, because you need to have some sort of base set up of equipment that you can easily work with multiple people on, and you can have some nesting and stuff like that, but it takes a lot more forethought as the instructor to have back-to-back-to-back lessons. So if I was coming in

for a half day of privates, I would have to put together some sort of layout where I felt like I could work on a lot of different skills at different levels. And that's really what I would be looking to do. I think one thing that I, I did, I did a seminar up in Ohio actually, and one thing that I did as kind of a I guess a

bonus for the people who did a working spot, is I asked them to send like a representative run like not your best run, right? Not like the wheels fell, fell off and everything went bad but kind of like a representative run, or to, to me ahead of time. And I did a coach's eye analysis of it and sent it back but it was actually very helpful to me

because then when I showed up at the seminar like, I knew that there were a couple of teams where they like, struggled with rear crosses. And so I spent a little bit of extra time like with them looking at their rear crosses. I knew kind of what to expect and then when it happened, I was like ready with what to give them. And so that was kind of

my own spin on it. Of course, you know, I'm very much a video analysis, coach's eye kind of person, so that also falls into my strengths as an instructor. But you know, I think that's one way that I handled it. - [Jennifer] I find the discussion of different formats of lessons and how people do it to be very fascinating. I've never sought to have people send me videos

in advance. What you did, Sarah, very clever. Maybe I'll have to take some notes and suggest that. So if any of you out there have had, you know a really great private lesson experience, something that you remember with someone a certain instructor did something that you really liked, or you really liked the format, or maybe, maybe you really don't like a certain format. I'd love to hear about

it. I'm always learning to improve as an instructor and learn what people are doing. Feel free to email us Let me know your thoughts. What you liked? What you didn't like? What you think of this kind of frequency, why you're doing it, you know has the instructor set up a really good format for you? And I would love to hear what your guys' thoughts are. - [Sarah]

And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor Happy training! (cheery piano)

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