Posted Date: February 15, 2017
Helpful tips on how to decide if an agility seminar is a good investment for you.
by Stephanie Morgan
When you start getting serious about your agility
performance, training opportunities will pop up from all directions. Online
classes, private lessons, seminars, workshops, camps and more! All your agility
friends want to go and you start catching that contagious feeling of
excitement. You wistfully imagine this event provides the elusive magic wand
that fixes all your agility troubles. Or, if you are more realistic, you at
least hope to gain some more tools in your toolbox. Dreaming of that perfect
performance in the ring because of instruction you received from an
internationally known trainer, can be a very powerful motivator.
You check your
schedule, you arrange your finances, embark on a new learning adventure.
But somehow you come home disappointed. What went
wrong? Were you unhappy with the instructor, or the host? Maybe you just
needed more preparation in the decision making phase to pick the right
seminar for you. How do you increase your probability of success
details to make an informed choice
Thorough research ahead of time will greatly reduce the
chances of feeling disillusioned. Having realistic expectations can make a big
difference in how you approach your next training opportunity.
Is this trainer someone you can relate to in the way they
train and handle their dog. If they practice something very different from your
own methodology, you must be prepared to be open-minded, willing to try something
outside of your comfort zone. Be sure to do some research via YouTube and
Google. Check out their own personal website. If you know someone that's
attended some of their seminars, they will be a valuable resource.
Whether or not the seminar is costly is relative to your
available agility funds. If money is generally tight, any cost for a seminar
can seem high. If your luxury budget is open-ended, then you obviously will not
have as big a problem here. Most times how you feel about the money ends up
being relative to how you felt about the information you gained during the
seminar. Even if you don't agree with 100% of what was taught, if you walk away
with a new understanding or new approach to a problem, that can make it
worthwhile to YOU.
Time spent learning
The range in how long these seminars are is quite variable.
There are multi-day camps, all day workshops, half day and some an hour or two.
You will want to find out how many hours it will last. Sometimes the seminars
are heavy on the individual training and sometimes they are heavy in the
lecture. Usually, there's a mix of the two. This is an important factor. If you
are paying for an auditing spot, you'll enjoy more emphasis on the discourse.
If you are paying for a working spot, you'll appreciate a more
individualized presentation. Also, regarding working time, how is it counted?
Do they time it? or is it an estimate by the trainer? How many breaks and if
there are lunch breaks. Many times you will get valuable information during
the discussion that you implement during the working portion.
Attendees play a
How many people are expected to register for working
spots? Some trainers have a set time per person, no matter how many show up and
some will train for the full amount of time, dividing evenly between however
many participants. Ask the host what is the max limit on registration. If they
are a very popular, in-demand trainer, spots will likely fill up quickly.
Auditing can be a good way to learn the same principles without the cost of a
working spot. But keep in mind that if the trainer is spending most of the time
with individuals and their personal goals, you may not be able to observe as
well as a lecture. Also, there is another factor at seminars that can detract
from the auditing aspect. Sometimes the other attendees like to chat among
themselves while waiting for their turn. This can make it very difficult to
hear and concentrate on what the instructor is saying.
Handler and Dog skill
Seriously one of the biggest things you can do for yourself
is understanding where you are personally in your own training. If you are
still competing or training at Beginners level courses, it would be a pretty
accurate assumption that the class on "International Handling" is way out of your
league. Signing up for a class that's over your head will be extremely
frustrating. You cannot expect the host or trainer to assess this factor
either. Unfortunately, occasionally you will find a host that is more
concerned about filling their spots than making sure everyone has a good
experience. They may say whatever it takes to get you to sign up. Use your best
honest self-evaluation of where you are now. Frankly, just the language
barrier can be difficult when entering a class above your skill set. As you
move up in skills so does your "Agility Vocabulary". Of course, you want to be
challenged, but a class that's way above your current
ability will not only make it frustrating for you and your dog
but can also be trying for the instructor and other students. If you are
in doubt, if you have one, ask your regular instructor to help you assess which
class would be appropriate for you and your dog.
Travel time, cost and
other variables to consider
Do you have added cost associated with attending? Obviously,
those things have to be figured into the value to cost ratio. Gasoline,
airfare, hotel, food. To get an accurate assessment, you really need to have
all the expenses considered. Some seminars provide a meal, snacks, and drinks,
which is nice.
Additional factors to
take into consideration:
- How skilled is the instructor and how much are
they in demand? Typically their level of competition will have a
large impact on their demand, but not necessarily on their teaching
- Where will you be training? An outside arena can
be subject to harsh weather. Hot or cold extremes is no guarantee that it will
be canceled and you get your money back. Likely the opposite, because the
expense has already been incurred by the host. They will need to carry on
regardless. An indoor arena may be a better bet, but likely more expensive due
to the added cost of maintaining a building.
- Lighting, footing, and accessibility are factors
that may play a role in your decision-making process and the cost that has to
be passed along by the host.
Estimating the value of a specific seminar will require
consideration of all the aspects mentioned, but also some things that only you
can determine. How much do you respect this particular trainer? How often do
you have training opportunities like
this become available? Also, where you are in your abilities in comparison with
what this trainer has to offer you to benefit your performance? Do consider all
these aspects, but be sure to check your expectations against what's remotely
possible. I'll show you how to reduce each cost/time figure to something you
can compare evenly. Check tomorrow's Evaluating Agility Seminars - Equation
for Cost to Value Ratio - Part II.
This article reprinted with kind permission by Stephanie Morgan. First published at http://thatsmysuperdog.com/evaluating-seminars/
Morgan created the blog That's My Super Dog.com to help
those new to competing in dog agility find their way. Topics range
from technical how-to type articles to general observations. Every
new training and trial experience becomes the topic for the next article. With
animal training as a timeless passion, Stephanie enjoys sharing what comes
next on this fun and challenging path to agility excellence.