“Continuing Education:” It still sounds like something you do at the community college

This blog is part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day. Please read more at http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/continuing-education/

So I didn’t really think I had anything to contribute to this Agility Bloggers day, because–a confession: I’m a seminar-avoider. It’s not that I don’t think that I can learn good and useful stuff in seminars. I can, and I have. My problem is that the nuggets of information I have learned have never seemed worth the amount of money I paid for the seminar.

Then I thought, well, it’s obviously not ALL about seminars. And for as long as I have been doing this Agility thing, I still take weekly classes, occasional privates, building rentals, etc. I DO try to improve. So I must be involved in continuing education in some way.

So many years ago, with my first Agility dogs...

So many years ago, with my first Agility dogs…

The thing is, I am a technical writer (I have a fancier-pants title than that, but a technical writer is what I am). So when I want to do something–fix something, make something, learn something–I have two ways of doing it.

1) Read the instructions. If instructions exist, I am all over that. I want to program the cable remote to control the new TV and the Blu-ray player? Locate instructions, follow instructions, voila!–sit down and watch American Horror Story. Done and done.

I can't help being awesome.

I can’t help being awesome.

“But you’re a technical writer!” you say, with horror (well, you do if you know what a technical writer is, I guess). “You WRITE instructions! What do you do if there are no instructions?”

2) Trial and error. I am not afraid to break things. I am not afraid to experiment, explore, take things apart and put them back together again, As long as I have an eye on what the end result ought to be, I am not afraid to keep trying, get frustrated, work through the frustration (or walk away for a little bit), and try again.

Approach #1, as I think we can all agree, does not work well for dogs (insert hoary cliche generally applied to children of the “does not come with manual” variety). Approach #2 does not work well at seminars. I cannot, as I recently did in class (much to my instructor’s, and the rest of the students’, amusement) lie on my back on the floor and shout “OH MY GOD I AM SO BAD AT THIS!” before getting up and trying again. I’m willing to try anything, but in order for it to be useful I have to do it enough times for it to sink in–and for the most part, this can’t happen in a seminar.

For me personally, continuing education is less about the shiny new move (usually a combination of several old moves that nobody thought to name before, but I digress) or the amazing new training technique, and more about absorbing and incorporating different ways of thinking about Agility in particular and dog training in general such that I can improve my own handling, give each dog what he or she needs, have a good time, and not feel like I would have had more of a sense of achievement on any particular weekend staying home and programming all the remotes. Or putting together IKEA furniture. I am REALLY good at that.


I am not this guy. I am better than this guy.

But there was one other point I wanted to make on this Action Day–I just wasn’t sure how to do it without sounding pretentious–and that is this; it’s the dogs that are teaching me.

I’ve heard a lot of people who go “to the dark side” as they say (hoary cliche #2!) say that their Border Collie has taught them so much about handling, Agility, dog training–and I want to say the same thing about this little thing right here:



I have had Shelties in my life since I was 13, and will always have Shelties, BUT–consistent with my worldview since I was a child (I am told my first word was “No”) I have not made the natural progression in Agility–instead, after nearly 20 years (I kid you not) of running Shelties, I am running an Italian Greyhound.

It’s dog training–it’s ALL dog training–but there is something so absolutely delightful about working with a sighthound, I completely don’t understand why more people don’t do it. They’re smart, and yes, they like to think things are their idea and they don’t take drilling well–but hey, neither do I! While each dog may be a learning experience, trying a different breed (and SUCH a different breed) from what I am used to is showing me how to adapt “instructions” to fit a different learning style–and it’s amazingly fun. In turn, I feel I am becoming a better handler for the Shelties as well.

"Don't let her fool you, she still kind of sucks."

“Don’t let her fool you, she still kind of sucks.”

So I suppose my idea of continuing education has less to do with learning more stuff about Agility, and more to do with understanding my dogs’ learning styles and how they mesh with (or differ from) mine.

And if you really want to continue your education? Try working with a type of dog you’ve never worked with before. Even if it doesn’t work out, you may gain some insight about how YOU learn. And you may find it just delightful!


One Response to ““Continuing Education:” It still sounds like something you do at the community college”

  1. “Continuing Education:” It still sounds like something you do at the community college | Dog Agility Blog Events Says:

    […] Read the full article […]

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