Opinions re: class expectations? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-12-2014, 01:56 PM Thread Starter
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Opinions re: class expectations?

Hello- I rescued a female GSD just over six months ago and was very excited to start both of us in agility. She is 2.5 years old, super athletic, and treat/toy motivated. We've worked hard on her obedience and social skills and I'm thrilled with the results. Her obedience is perfect off-leash at parks with high distractions. We've taken a trick course and scent detection course and she was a superstar in both.

So, we're into our 20th week of agility classes and I am not happy with the lack of hands-on instruction or our progress. Wondering if my class is typical and I need to be more patient?

Two classes are being taught by the same instructor at the same time and in the same huge room, separated by low, flimsy, see-through barriers. It is quite chaotic as the dogs keep changing and always appear to be at different levels. Dogs are barking, running sequences, and escaping from owners etc on both sides. Each side has 2-3 dogs.

I was confused and developed bad handling habits as the instructor rarely saw me and my dog do a sequence. I raised this, and now I'm getting more instruction, but still no observation/feedback. My dog is not consistent and at times will just start racing around out of what appears to be frustration. She also can be too interested in the other dogs. I asked the instructor if I could rent the space to practice without distractions, but was told no. The instructor keeps telling me I have to work on my dog's focus because trials are a lot more chaotic. However, my dog has no problems focusing outside of this class. Also, we are nowhere near trial level and I always prefer to teach with minimal distraction and build up.

My dog came into agility already knowing off-leash obedience, nose-touch and foot targets. After 20 weeks, we've only done sequences with tunnels, a table and short jumps - and we're very inconsistent. This is a great facility, prof equipment and the instructor has a great reputation/record.

Would appreciate hearing if this class approach is okay for beginners and I should keep trying to work through - or if I should be having a better experience? I think I would prefer 100% instruction and having one team run at a time so we could all learn from each team's run.

Thanks for any feedback!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-12-2014, 04:47 PM
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welllll, everyone has a different way of teaching but

When I taught beginner agility, it was a low number of students per class in order to have that more one on one , I wanted to make sure the students got a good workout and good feedback from me , because THAT is what they pay for!

I've taken alot of classes, and yes, it can be chaotic at times, again BUT, I've never had a trainer go back and forth and teach two classes at the same time.

When you pay for a class, you should expect , advice, suggestions, critiquing(sp)/etc ..Your trainer should be focusing on YOU as your doing your sequencing.

I don't know where your training, what area (you don't have to say), but you should be getting more individual instruction when your working your dog.

Again, its what you pay for..Any other places in your area you can check out?

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-12-2014, 08:09 PM
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I take no more than six students per class. Typically I have one dog working at a time, but occasionally have two or three dogs working stations so they can get more obstacle time. It is important to observe each student and help with any issues they have.

I don't have an issue with running multiple students at one time, as long as the instructor is able to give attention to each student. I do think more time should be spent with only one student running though, to maximize the individual attention and benefit all the students from watching each other.

Does your instructor have a reputation for being a great instructor, or a great handler? A great handler isn't always a great instructor.

20 weeks (so about 5 months?) isn't really that much time in agility training. It typically takes about a year of regular training to be ready for trials at the novice levels. Have you done any work on the contacts and weaves? Or are you working them but not sequencing them yet?

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-12-2014, 09:46 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the feedback.

The instructor knows her stuff, but just tends to spend most of her time on the other side - where there is a high turnover of younger dogs. (don't know if these young dogs get assigned to other classes or owners give up.)

My half of the room hasn't started anything for weaves yet in the 5 months. We have been doing stationary contact work all this time, but haven't yet crossed a walk, frame or teeter. (Gotta say I'm soooo bored with that standing contact exercise, especially as we can, and do, work on it at home.).

The other owner on my half of the room just approached me this weekend to say she doesn't think we're getting our money's worth. Not sure if the school just hasn't had enough students for 2 separate classes? I'm thinking about suggesting that the school put us on a waiting list until it can offer a class where we can get more attention (if it's possible) - and explain that I just don't think it's fair to have the instructor ask newbie students how their runs went...
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-12-2014, 10:19 PM
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She is teaching two groups at the same time? That is impossible to be effective. I would talk to her and tell her your concerns. I had max. 6 students in one group and it was the max. amount of people and dogs to be effective.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-13-2014, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by TwoBigEars View Post
Does your instructor have a reputation for being a great instructor, or a great handler? A great handler isn't always a great instructor.
This is so, so true. One of my very best obedience teachers never put anything higher than a CDX on any of her own dogs -- but she was (and is) a brilliant observer of dogs and people, and could always pinpoint exactly where an exercise was going awry and what needed to be done to fix it.

Meanwhile I've had instructors who were absolutely brilliant at running their own dogs but were, for one reason or another, not good teachers. It's just a completely different skillset.

Anyway, I think that it's crucial to get a lot of feedback and personalized guidance especially when you're new to something. Proper foundations are so important in any sport. I'm just starting to take classes in agility and it's a big class, because it's a very popular sport around here and lots of people enroll in the beginner levels, but our instructors have compensated for that by having two instructors teaching the big (12-person) classes and making sure that each student gets one-on-one attention the first time we go through a new exercise (then you get to practice it on your own, especially if you have prior experience in other areas and can figure it out from there).

If you're not learning what you want to learn, I'd say it's time to look at a different school with another instructor. You don't have to enroll -- any good class should be willing to let you just sit in for a session -- but IMO what you're describing is more than reason enough to start looking at alternatives. I wouldn't be happy in that situation either.

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-14-2014, 08:17 AM
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Sounds like too many dogs/handlers for one instructor. The equipment ends up being the easy part of agility. I'm still in classes for over 15 years because of the human HANDLING I need to do, and I don't know what I don't know so I need a teacher.

Are there other classes/teachers available? Have you spoken to the instructor about your concerns? Maybe you are in the 'fun' side of the room and the people who want to trial on the other so she just lets you all play ????

My classes are usually not more than 6 dogs/handlers either so think you can do better..

Good luck!


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2014, 03:09 AM
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In the classes I took at an agility club, they had 2 sides of a big room running, but it was separated by size, so they could work dogs on the correct sized equipment and not have to keep changing heights. So smaller dogs on one side, larger dogs on the other. It was a larger class, but this was intermediate, not beginners. They also had more than one instructor though.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2014, 08:59 AM
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gsdrex, is there a website for the classes/instructor? Can you post the link so we can see what's going on?


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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2014, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Well, now I feel really stupid.... I just checked the website and clearly we have not met the objectives described for each 6-week session! E.g. We should have started on weaves and the teeter during weeks 6 to 12 - and have not started going into week 20....

I also see from the posted calendar that she teaches 7 hours of agility classes every Saturday - with 3 classes devoted to puppies.

The instructor did say many weeks ago that she's not hung up on class levels (neither was I), but rather tailors classes according to returning dogs' progress/needs. So, I will definitely question why every new session for us has included new younger dogs that get most of her time - and why the dogs on my side of the room are way behind given the time we have been at it.

I don't feel comfortable posting the website - at least before giving the instructor the opportunity to respond to my concerns this Saturday. However, MaggieRoseLee, I will send you a PM .

Thanks - and good luck to me this Sat!
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