February 6, 2024

Episode 332: Agility Seminars

In this episode (29:33)

In this episode, Sarah, Jennifer, and Esteban touch on the evolution of seminars in the agility world, while sharing essential tips on choosing the right seminars while maximizing value and minimizing cost.

You Will Learn

  • How to choose the right seminars based on your training stage and goals.
  • The advantages of learning from various instructors and the importance of a primary coach.
  • Strategies for financial planning and maximizing the value of seminars.
  • The evolving role of seminars in agility training.

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I'm Jennifer. I'm Estevan. And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 332. Today's podcast is brought to you by hit aboard.com and the new Teeter TeachIt, 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 HitItBoard dot com for the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys.

Use discount code BDA 10 to get 10% off your order. That's hit aboard.com. Today we're gonna be talking about agility seminars and seminars or opportunities where typically someone from outside of your area will offer some type of instruction. And so I happen to know that Jennifer hosts quite a large number of seminar presenters. You have hosted a large number of presenters over the years.

So for people especially new to the sport, what exactly are seminars and why should they possibly be doing them? So I try to bring in our goal at Inre Pauses is four instructors a year. So one a quarter into the area that is, as you mentioned, somebody that's not easily accessible based on geography. So somebody from the west coast or in Texas or several instructors come in from overseas.

And it's the opportunity for the students locally to work with somebody that they wouldn't normally get the opportunity or get the chance to do. Now, I know a lot of people structure 'em differently. Normally what we do is we do smaller groups for half day. I've done a lot of different formats over the years. I've done groups of 10 all day groups of four or five half day,

and I find that fewer numbers for half a day allows kind of the maximum brain power. You know, you get too long and people start to fade out. Dogs get tired. Your breaks between your turns are really long. So smaller groups for half a day seem to work best. And then I try to cover seminars on various topics. So even though we predominantly do agility,

I might bring in somebody looking at canine fitness or somebody who comes in working on the mental game and mental management. Weve had some evening stuff on handler fitness. So mostly agility, but anything related to the game of agility, even if it's not handling. Yeah, that's pretty interesting. We actually got an email and that's what is, is giving us the inspiration for this podcast.

And this person asked that, or or pointed out that they have access to local instruction, right? And they also have access to lots of great seminar presenters, like people who are well-known in the field and, and some of them are from other countries, but they point out that monies finance is a little bit of a concern. They mentioned averaging $225 for four hours for a small class or a whole day,

but the whole day you'd have more dogs and people. And they feel that the seminar presenters, they're, they're always learning something interesting from the presenters, but they are kind of wondering should they stick with maybe one instructor and le learn only from them? Or should they be learning from everyone who possibly comes into their area and presents? What do you feel like the best strategy might be for people who are,

who are having these thoughts in their head? You know, are they, are they gonna mess up their dog by learning different things from two different people? Right. Well, I think that I, I mean, I think looking at the pros and cons is a good idea because I think that there are pros and there are cons to doing seminars. And so I think the pro as,

as this person has pointed out is that you do take away something new from every instructor and it can sometimes push you to do things to try something new because there's almost like a, a peer pressure element of seminars where, you know, the instructor is there to teach you something and when they ask you to try it, like you're kind of almost obligated to try it,

even if it's like a style of handling or a particular maneuver that you might not normally do. And some percentage of the time you may discover that that works really well for your dog. So there's an advantage there. But I think that the pro that is, or sorry, the con that is hinted at here is that when you are learning from a lot of different people,

it's like having a lot of, you know, too, too many chefs in the kitchen, right? You have lots of different people giving you advice and it may, it may literally conflict. You may have people telling you things, you know, one instructor says to do something this way, another instructor tells you specifically to not do that thing. And so I think that it can be confusing for people.

And so I think that our answer of what should you do has to take into account the learner and their, first of all, their learning style, second of all their experience and, and how they view the sport and kind of what their, their basis in agility knowledge is. I think for me, the number one factor in answering this question, just as like a quick answer is kind of where you're at in your learning and where you're at with that dog in your agility journey.

So for example, if you are at a point where you are actively teaching skills, let's say you're needing to teach your dog a tunnel throttle, so your dog's 18 months old and it's time to teach a tunnel throttle, you are going to need kind of the step by step progression, the follow up the build, okay, you do this step, then this drill,

then progress here, then do the proofing. It's not something that's gonna be completed in a four hour period of time. So if somebody comes in and they teach you step one and they're like, great seminar today, see you guys next year. It's hard because where's the follow up? You know, where do I go from there? What if, as you said,

your local instructor teaches it differently. So when you're in a very, like, actively learning stage of things, and again, jump training, running contacts, teaching, you know, whatever, I think it's good to have the ability to work with from someone from beginning to end, but once you get to a point where your skills are pretty settled and you're now looking for,

if I say kinda like tweaks, not total adjustments, but you want somebody to come in and maybe they're gonna set up a different lesson plan than what your instructor does. You know, I know people at our place can always tell who did the lesson plan because we all have our own like flare, right? Our own design. So you want somebody to set up something different or maybe they'll even say the exact same thing as someone else,

but they'll say it in a different way that kind of triggers with you and it's like quick little tweaks or it's just a timing thing or a setup that they're not used to and they can give a suggestion on how to do it more from a handling standpoint. I think the opportunity to work with other people is really important, you know, and not to just get like tunnel vision on one person and,

and take the input. So, you know, it's like are you on the, the dog training learning side or are you on the handling and kind of the mastering and I think more with regard to the dog even than, than the handler. But as you said, handler and learner experience is definitely playing a role in there as well. Yeah, I think a lot depends on what exactly the seminar presenter is offering as well and how well that matches up with your own goals and your own dog and your own experience.

So really like so many things in, in dog agility, it depends on you and the dog and your goals. So for example, if you're in the United States and you're running say, NAC and CPE, that's, those are your main primary venues that you have access to in your area. And you have a presenter coming from another country and, and you probably need to know that they're going to probably set up big courses,

right? And they're gonna emphasize skills that perhaps are not frequently tested or is, or is useful in CPE and nadac. And if you are looking for that kind of change of pace and you're interested in that, that's great. Obviously go and do that seminar. You have the money, you have the time go out and, and, and do that.

But if you are going to necessarily be looking for ways that you can improve your standing or the level at which you competed, you know, at CPE nationals and and and that sort of thing, then maybe that's not the best use of your money, right? Especially if you're in a situation. And now I think we need to talk a little bit about financial reality for a lot of people.

If you're in a situation where you kind of a little bit have to pick and choose, right? So, you know of, of course there are people out there who can afford literally to go to whatever seminar they want to, right? And, and they may not be aware of your financial situation. They may say things like, Hey, this person is coming,

they're fantastic, it's amazing, you should go. But you really need to weigh that against the other options that are out there. I generally would not choose a seminar. This is, I guess just a rule of thumb for most people. I would not choose to go to a seminar if it meant keeping you out of class for a month or two.

I would probably take my eight one hour classes. In that situation, if you are getting good work done with private lessons with your local instructor, or even if you have to travel a little bit again, probably I would probably go with that option right? Over, over going to a seminar presenter. But if you are someone who in your local instruction,

let's say your local instructor is, let's say you're trying to break into like the national level scene, like you have a really fast dog and you're really into the sport, and now suddenly you, you've been to a nationals, but you didn't do very well and you realize that maybe you need a little more help, right? To kind of take your game to the next level.

And it's, and and your instructor is very frank with you. They're like, Hey, you know that you're, you're a little bit beyond me at this point. So that might make a lot of sense to attend some of these seminars, right? So I think it's gonna be so dependent on, you know, you, your dog and your goals.

And I think the other thing is some of the presenters today, as opposed to maybe 10 years ago, and, and I could be wrong on this, are much more you've paid to be here and you're gonna run these courses and I, you don't need to run them like me. We're gonna try and find what works for you. I, I think 10 or 20 years ago,

seminar presenters and, and maybe this was part of the market back then, they had to compete with other seminar presenters and, and you gotta be like, well this is why you should do things my way X, Y and Z change Everything about what you're Doing and thus ensure that they could come back to a particular club year after year after year or,

or be able to compete in the market. And now I think it's more like, these are the courses, these are the challenges, I'm gonna help you get through them and every team is going to have different challenges. Right? Right. What do you think, Jen? I I completely agree with that. As soon as you started talking, I was like,

yes, yes, yes. A hundred percent that it used to very much be like when you were brought in and, and I think back to when I was traveling to teach seminars, it was very much you were being brought in because of how you train or handle. Like you weren't being brought in because that's what you do for a living or because of your resume.

It was like, oh, she teaches this system or this way or trains the skill this way, bring her, and we wanna know exactly how to do it that way. So you were brought in more for your particular way of doing things. And so that's what people wanted and that's what people followed. And it was like, this is how we're gonna do it.

This is how I TeachIt. And I feel like now it is more, almost, almost kind of the opposite. Like now people are bringing presenters in because they want different perspectives. It's like, I know how we do it. I know how I teach something at Inre pause. I know how my instructors are directed to TeachIt. What I want is I want some other ideas.

Like I want outside presenters to be like, well, how do you guys do it? You know, maybe that's a good way to, to go. Or maybe that's good input. Or maybe there's gonna be dogs or students who like it. So where before it was like, oh, they don't teach, what do we teach? So don't bring them in.

Now it's more of like trying to find other, you know, ways. And I do, I think exactly what you said, I even, I teach this way for seminars. I do tend to, okay, here's the challenge, here's the skill, what can we do that makes sense? Now there is that balance of, yeah, no, there might be a little discussion from the dog training standpoint of like,

I do it this way and here's why, but if your dog doesn't know that for today, let's do it this way. And I feel like all of the seminars that I've attended recently, and I've attended a fair amount in the last year or two, we have a lot of options in our area. It is more of like, okay, here's the course,

here's the challenge and let's work with you on getting through. Maybe it's just a small little tweak. Maybe you should think about teaching this way. So your, your comment about kind of the shift in seminar presenters and how they're teaching, I have definitely, definitely seen, and I actually think it's, it's not even as far back as 20 years because Ethan is nine and I stopped teaching when he was born.

So even like how I was teaching or what I feel like I was being brought in to teach nine years ago is different than how I see things now. Right, Right. Yeah, that's, that's such a, that's such an interesting perspective to look at the, the changes over time. And so far we've been talking mostly focused on handling, but the other thing to keep in mind is there are many different types of seminars,

right? Right. Well I think that's a a great point. These seminar and what, what are other common ones, right? Contact specifically even running fitness contacts, handler fitness. I Think contact and weave pull seminars are less popular than they used to be. But I've seen con because again, there's so many steps. Like if I have four hour running dogwalk,

I can give you like steps one and two of the 80,000 step process and that's it. I see a lot of puppy stuff, puppy's always good handling contacts. I see weeps, weeps is sometimes more of like, here's a bunch of, we pull challenges, not necessarily here's how to teach weaves, but weave pull stuff games, we have games ones like,

you know, a snooker seminar or gambler seminar fitness, we've had canine fitness, we've had mental management. So kind of focusing more on the mental aspect of things. Trying to think what else we've had recently. I mean those, and then a lot of the international presenters coming in who, who do tend to focus on the ISC and international level challenges.

Right? And I think there a lot of times, I think there's a, a big draw specific that's kind of more specific to the international people because like you said, it is, it is so difficult to get access to those people when you live an entire ocean away. So I think that they have a pull of just like, oh, when else am I gonna get to work with,

you know, so and so, you know, over my dog's career, right? This is my one and only chance, right? And so I think there, there is an element of like fomo, fear of missing out kind of element. You know, I I I did say earlier, oh well it depends on your goals and things, right?

But you don't have to have international aspirations to say, I would like to go run these courses. I don't have access to these courses. It looks like it would be a lot of fun. I hear this person is really nice. Absolutely. It's per, that's a perfectly fine reason. There's a lot of really good reasons to go ahead and do the seminars.

Oh, Distance, that's another seminar that I've seen, right? Distance seminars. Yeah. Judging, yeah, Judging some Special, special ones done by judges for judges around course design and things like that. And I think this makes a nice transition when we talk about, Jen, you had mentioned the, the extensive number of steps and amount of time spent for weaving and contact specifically,

right? So maybe those seminars happen less often, but you have the opportunity, anyone who's looking at and working with someone live, you have the opportunity to work with those people oftentimes online, right? And so I think the rise in online education in all dog sports, but especially dog agility, has really revolutionized the way people present seminars and which seminar topics are given.

You often have the opportunity to meet and work with someone at a seminar and then continue to train with them in some way, shape, or form online for as long as you, you want to do that. And so I think, Jen, what do you, do you think that maybe the running contact format, for example, is like a little better suited to an online course or following with an instructor over six months or a year or multiple courses rather than trying to get it all done in a weekend,

which we all know is, is never going to happen. I could almost argue that any type of learning from an instructor, regardless of the topic is better. Kind of like divided up over long term then concentrated all in one weekend or all in one day. I think the big thing that I hear is, oh, well I'm a hands-on learner. I don't have the,

and I'm paraphrasing here, I don't have the discipline to go do it an online, you know, it's, it's maybe a little bit harder when you have it online because if you have a live seminar, and I'm gonna use me as an example from like a scheduling standpoint. If I have a live seminar like it is, it is nine to 1230 on that day,

I have have to be in that building. I have to be present, I have to be there. I'm going to be forced to listen to it in here online because sometimes it's like work at your own pace. You're like, oh shoot, okay, I was gonna do that now, but let me go to the grocery store now because the grocery store won't be busy and I'll,

I'll do it later. And then you get back and it's like, oh well this came up, this came up and then the day slipped by. So people don't tend to be as accountable or disciplined about the online learning. So I think in terms of options, if somebody said to me you could do $250 for three hours live or $250 for a six or eight week online course,

almost hands down, I'm gonna say the online course, but you have to think about the type of learner and how disciplined you'll be. And if you're not going to have the conversations and submit the video and do the back and forth and all you're gonna do is log on one time, submit one video, and then the course is over, then maybe it was better to do it live.

But I feel like the live is always that, well I'm a hands-on learner, which actually goes back to what I was gonna, one of the points I was gonna make earlier when we were talking about kind of cost efficiency is auditing. I think auditing a seminar is one of the most undervalued and underrated things that exist. You can learn so much for often so much better value than working spots.

But I constantly hear the people, well if I'm not out there doing it with my dog, if I'm not doing hands-on, I, I'm a hands-on learner and I'm like, well you'll be walking the sequences, you'll be hearing it, you'll be asking the questions, it's still hands-on, you can learn it all, you can absorb it, you can get a chance to work with that person and then go apply it with your dog.

So, so yeah, the online has really, I think kind of revolutionized seminar and because we just don't see that many people anymore that traveled to teach because of the accessibility for online. That's right. Yeah. You read my mind by transitioning right to the auditing versus working, which was the next thing that I wanted to get into. How do you know to do one or the other?

I think it is very much a personal preference a little bit. I'm much more of an auditor. I don't wanna be out there with my dog because for me, my dog, and again, depends on the skill level of the dog, but for me it's a distraction. Like I gotta go out there and and potty my dog and they gotta go to the bathroom.

Yeah, yeah. You gotta like make sure they're not too hot and too cold and then, you know, they start barking, you gotta go check out what they're doing and then you miss something that's being said. I think especially for instructors, it can be super helpful to listen and, and be there with that audit spot because you get to see how every person's problem is being addressed by this world class instructor,

right? And you, you can play that in your mind. You'll be like, okay, I have someone in my class who's kinda like this person with this problem and this is what they're suggesting. So you know, you kind of get to listen in on all of that. It's like when I was a doctor and you, you'd have these rounds,

everyone would sit around and present their patients. So even though you don't have that particular patient with liver failure or whatever, you learn a lot about liver failure by hearing someone else talk about all the issues that they're managing for that patient, right? And so I think there's a little bit of that kind of learning, but other people are like, Hey,

if it's not my turn, I'm not listening. Right? So I think a lot of what you get out of a seminar is kind of the mindset that you have going into it. You know, how you approach it, what your learning style is. So those are all things I think that people need to take into account when they make those decisions about whether or not I'm going to go and do a seminar.

Right? And, and I think that kind of brings us all the way back to like we've kind of backdoored our way into an answer to the question because the final question of this email was, is it better to stick with fewer instructors who can get to know me and my dog? Or is it better to get more exposure under different instructors who may only see me a few times?

And if we've come all the way to auditing and said, there's so much value in auditing, then what we're saying is there's so much value that is independent of the relationship that that instructor has to you and your dog. Right? It's like you, you are going to be able to learn a lot from instructors whether or not they have a relationship with you and your dog.

Now you can, you know, it's kind of next level if it's specific to you and your dog, but that's not the, the only value there. Yeah. I think in general, if you're a veteran, you're pretty experienced and I lean toward auditing in, in a lot of different spots. Whereas if I'm a beginner and I don't even know how to do it front cross without tripping over myself,

you probably need to get out there and then have them like put their, the show the put their hands on your shoulder and show you where to step and, you know, make it muscle memory. I think maybe you need a little more than auditing just, I think as a, as a general rule of thumb, the potentially last thing that I wanted to say was there's always a question of how do I choose which seminars to go to,

right? And I think most of us do it by word of mouth, right? Your peers, right? Your friend's gonna go, they want you to go, your instructor's hosting, they say, Hey guys, I have, I'm bringing in so and so. And of course you like your instructor because you're training with them. And so if they're bringing in that person then you know,

probably it's someone that you should go and check out. That's how a lot of people do it. I will add this advice. So what I did and, and what worked very well for me, there's, there's two approaches, but the, the first big main approach is find someone who runs like you because they will probably understand your issues. So if you're a distance handler and you're taking a seminar from someone who likes to run around everywhere and has like no distance ability in their own handling it,

it's a little less like, I mean, I'm not saying they can't help you or that they don't have experience working with handlers like you, but in general, I, I want to gravitate toward people who handle like me so that they can help me with my issues. So they can help you. We speak to family handle like you but better. Yeah,

that is, that's very, that's very well put. So I think finding someone who is similar to you or runs similar breeds to you, things like that. And, and then the second part of that is finding someone that you aspire to run like, right? So if they run a particular system that you're like, oh man, that looks really good and I think I could do that,

I just have no idea how to do that, then I think it makes a lot of sense to go and start learning from that person and just think of it rather than seminars in isolation. Just understand that they probably have an online presence. They probably have a lot of free content out there and go and consume that before you make your decisions, right?

So you kind of know what you're getting into and follow up afterwards, right? So it's not just a one and done and you've spent, you shelled out two, $300 for a weekend and, and really a month later you got nothing to show for it, right? So you want to give yourself, I think good value, especially if money is very much a concern,

You know, and if you have a seminar presenter who comes to your area regularly, you know, maybe they're not super far away, but they come in a couple times a year or annually. You could always audit the first year, see if you like their vibe, how they teach, what they're teaching, the things that they're doing. And then,

you know, going forward, like, I really like their teaching style that resonated with me. Or you know, maybe not as much. And then going forward you can look at working spots, you know, and, and switch from year to year what you're doing. Oh, and sometimes seminar presenters will have like a block of time where they offer private lessons.

Yeah. Right. Yes, you can. You might even be able to get a, a private lesson and then get your specific issue, whatever it is addressed. Yeah, we did that with our last seminar. She taught several days and then on the last day she offered private lessons. Yeah. And back to your point about instructors auditing. So I audited the private lesson day.

I didn't take them when I audited. And then yesterday I got to use what I had her try with somebody with one of my students. It was so cool. I was like, wait a minute, I saw this being used at the last seminar. I audited, let's try it. I haven't yet tried it because I didn't get to do it.

I was just auditing and it worked out wonderfully. It was really cool. It was just cool to be able to take that knowledge even though I wasn't doing it. I gotta to see it, I gotta see how it's explained, kind of the evolution of it and then work it in with the students. So that part was really nice too. So again,

back to the lot can be learned even through the auditing option. Yeah, that's so interesting. I think at the end of the day, seminars are really about the spread of information, right? So you got, you just gotta know what kind of information you're looking for, have some sense of that, what you want to get out of it. And I think you'll,

you're pretty much gonna make all the, all the right decisions, right? Right. Yeah. I think you, you have to kind of trust yourself, trust your gut. Like if, if you, you know, if you feel like you're, you come away confused, you know, when you go to too many seminars, like trust that feeling,

you don't have to do it. Right. It's not, I, I think that's where the FOMO comes in, right? It's not a requirement to do all of these seminars. It's not a requirement to, to do everything you can do fantastic with your dog without ever going to a seminar. But if you really enjoy it, if it's like the highlight of your month,

if it inspires you or gets you excited, like that's kind of an element that we didn't even discuss. But I think there is an element of kind of almost like a jumpstart. Something that really gets you excited about the sport and then you go out and you practice more and you do better because of that emotional Excitement. For sure. It's like people thinking about going to AKC nationals are another big event.

You're not even competing. Right, right, Right. Absolutely. So I think that there, right, I think there is absolutely a like emotional excitement side of things that if that speaks to you, go for it. Alright, well I think that does it and hopefully we have answered the question with A whole bunch of, it depends. Yeah, yeah,

yeah. I think that's the, that's oftentimes the the best answer. That's true. All right, well that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, hit aboard.com. Happy training.

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