Agility classes or train on own?

Running, catching, leaping; this is the forum to discuss dog sports and agility training with other active pups!

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Shadow- *CGC*CL2*CL3- *

Is it time for- agility yet?
Barked: Thu May 10, '12 5:23pm PST 
Shadow is in a beginner agility class right now, however he is already way ahead of the class. He is running full novice courses without any issues. He has his contacts and weaves completely down. He's taking direction and really following my body. Several people have said he needs to be in a higher class including one of the instructors, but they won't let him move on because they have a curriculum and dogs have to go through the classes the same way(this includes if someone is competing in excellent, they would have to start at beginner level because our agility director thinks that all dogs are the same and it's not possible to train them outside of a class setting.)There's another club in the area, but I've heard they're not that great either.

He is getting bored and is not listening well in class and has started to do his own thing include jumping over jumps and going to the weaves and tunnels when we're not even working at them(we only do one thing at a time, no sequencing). When we are not in class he has a blast. We run sequences and courses and dogs can be out there playing or people that he absolutely loves can be by the ring and he won't break his focus on me.

He is my first agility dog that I've trained, but I've been training dogs since I was little and teach obedience classes so I do know how to train. I can always get DVDs and books to help if need be. I just don't know if the classes will really be beneficial if he is losing focus and not really having that much fun.

I guess I just need opinions on this as I've never really run into this issue before.
Rio, CGC,- RL1, CL1, TD

You can't say- that i can't- play!
Barked: Thu May 10, '12 7:02pm PST 
If it were me, I would find another class--even if it was another beginning class. I think there is A LOT of value in building a ridiculously strong foundation of skills and one of the biggest ones is FOCUS--beginner classes are great for this because the other dogs are often crazy and out of control, it provides a great opportunity to work on focus and control with your own dog.

I would be more inclined to leave because of the instructor thinking all dogs have to come to agility the same way--though I wouldn't necessarily disagree with all dogs new to that club going through basic classes...there are many "owner trained" dogs who have big holes in their training. They may be able to do reverse flow pivots and blind crosses but their dogs can't do solid forward sends or know any type of circle work--they don't do the simple things well.

So, I'd probably look around for a different instructor. Before signing up, I'd request to sit in on a class and get a feel for it. If I found something better I'd check it out, if not, I'd stick with the classes.
Shadow- *CGC*CL2*CL3- *

Is it time for- agility yet?
Barked: Thu May 10, '12 8:50pm PST 
He took an 8 week foundation course and then 8 weeks of this class previously(mandatory for all dogs to go through 16 weeks even if they are excelling at everything), however I do a ton of work on my own. I am looking into a different club, but unfortunately that is the only other one in my area, so I'm pretty much stuck with one of them.

Shadow has excellent focus and when we are running a course he always pays attention to me and what I'm doing. He has been through a ton of obedience classes and I work with him on a daily basis which I know has helped us with agility. Many of the dogs do not have any kind of focus and I know I am very lucky that I have a dog that will focus on me. When he gets super bored(basically the entire class unless we're doing something that he finds really fun) he focuses elsewhere, which I know I do the same thing if I'm bored so I don't really expect much else.

He has a fairly good forward send, he's a little attached but he's always been a velcro dog, he is getting better as he gains confidence. We did a lot of circle work in the foundation training, and I do still practice that a lot as I know that is a huge part of agility.


The Monster
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 7:49am PST 
I would continue taking classes. Whether you continue to take THESE classes or not is up to you.

I always say, I can take a beginner obedience class with Cohen, learning sits, downs, and stays, and still get something out of it. Training around other dogs, learning stronger focus around distractions, and learning faster/more accurate behaviours can happen in just about any environment. If he's getting bored and wandering off then, to put it bluntly, you're not doing your job to keep him engaged and challenged. It can be tough when you're new to the sport. Maybe watch some videos online of more advanced dog training sessions to get an idea of how to push your dog to the next step. Your instructors should be able to help you challenge your dog as well. Add distance to behaviours, and ask for more speed, etc.

I'm a huge supporter of agility classes. I think a competent agility instructor is worth his or her weight in gold.
Shadow- *CGC*CL2*CL3- *

Is it time for- agility yet?
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 12:53pm PST 
Unfortunately they are not allowed to do anything other than what is outlined in the course so they can't help me with anything other than getting him to understand obstacles. They can't help me with any distance work because that is for the competition classes to teach. That would be a year or more from now. I think that is just too late to start with distance work. Speed is definitely not his problem, if anything it's my problem. He's super fast and I have a hard time keeping up. I keep wondering who's getting the most exercise, me or him.

I dig in mud- puddles!
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 2:08pm PST 
I completely agree with Cohen.

There is so much that you can do in class to keep his focus when you guys are not running.

As to whether you should stick with this class, for me it would depend on what the alternative is.

More Bored- Collies
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 4:34pm PST 
I'd keep with classes, as mentioned, not necessarily that particular class if you don't find it helpful, but definitely a class.

I fast tracked with Cobain. We were competing in less than a year (and Q'ed our first run too!).
But the thing is, even though Coby didn't necessarily miss out on totally vital information, but I most certainly did.
My handling is nowhere near what it theoretically *could* be. There are times where I entirely miss certain pick ups. And if Cobain wasn't what I assume to be a mind reader, I would likely have zero success in the agility world lol.

It's not something that's totally noticeable right away, all my starter class handling seemed spot on, but moving into the advanced trials I did struggle. I understand that the beginning class may be boring to you now (I know it was for me), but a solid foundation is extremely important regardless of how frivolous it may seem now.

Will Work For- Food
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 5:56pm PST 
I agree with everyone else - stick to classes. Although you may seem more advanced than others in your group, the beginner classes are there to set a solid foundation for the more challenging advanced classes. Although your dog may seem to know all of the equipment, agility is so much more than just putting your dog over the obstacles. It is really more about what happens In between the obstacles. Your instructors have their curriculum for a reason. From the sounds of your posts, your current class is learning the individual obstacles with no sequencing, right? Your instructors want to make sure that each obstacle is fully trained before sequencing them together and there is nothing wrong with that. Although this may seem boring to you, it is very important to have solid obstacle performance, especially on the contact obstacles and weave entrances. Building this value for the equipment is important - it will make learning the handling parts of agility much less frustrating.

I have been competing in agility for about 5 years (so a relatively short amount of time) and have advanced agility titles (masters/excellent) on my dogs. I also assist teaching in the beginner agility classes in our club. Yet, I would not train completely on my own. I value the input of others who are more experienced and it always helps to have someone tell you what you are doing right or wrong or you will end up not really going anywhere in your training. It is hard to improve if you don't have someone guiding you, especially if this is your first agility dog.
Augusta,- CGC, RN

Such a Good Dog!
Barked: Sun May 13, '12 9:09am PST 
Agree with others, maybe find a different club or class--it sounds like your instructors might not be that creative if they can't give you some tips for you beyond where the rest of the class is . . ..

But after taking 2 summers of classes, I would say---the biggest skill you are there to learn is handling--a confident dog can learn the basic taking of the obstacles fairly quickly---but the finer points of handling efficiently, (like not miscuing the dog with misleading body language, or learning how to run the course so you use the most efficient path for you) are hard to improve on without some experienced feedback watching you . . . . .

That said, if you're a disciplined self teacher, you can learn a lot from videos and books . . ..I thought "Agility Right from the Start" and "Control Unleashed" were very helpful . . . and going to trials and watching and asking questions . . . seeing handlers repeatedly mess up a certain tricky spot on a course and how others get it right can be very informative . . .
Star BN RN- RA

Barked: Sun May 13, '12 4:20pm PST 
If he is that advanced and keeps his focus on you, I would take him out of classes if they are unable to be flexible in their training structure. I, like you, have been training and showing dogs for years and have run into this problem with instructors before. I usually just find another class, but it sounds like their are no others available to you. As long as you are able to learn from the instructional videos and your dog does not start to lose focus on you, I would go off on my own. A great way to learn about agility and to get help is by going to competitions in your area (without your dog) just to observe, this way you can see how the people handle their dogs and you can make many contacts by going to shows and events specified toward the competition you want to learn. The contacts made at the shows can help you with specific training issues that you may have.
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