The first group of people we had last September seemed to be really good instantly, and looking back, its probably because as we were new to teaching, we tried to teach them everything all at once, but it must have worked as this group stood out in our minds for a long time afterwards. Not many of them stayed - they said they enjoyed it but had just come along to 'have a go'. We did get some lovely regulars who have stayed with us and stood out in that field getting snowed on, rained on and battered about by gale force winds all winter and they are lovely to teach and we have so much fun with them.
At times over winter there seemed to be a bit of a lull, with quite a few newcomers who didn't seem to stay for long, so Julie and I were constantly training new dogs and at times found it hard especially with dogs that just weren't interested or owners who thought that agility could sort out all their dogs problem. I think we gave our hearts and souls to some of these dogs, becoming exhausted ourselves, before realising that we just can't help some dogs unless they had their problems sorted out elsewhere first. We were there to teach agility and we had to remember that.
Then as spring came and we got more enquiries we decided to start a puppy class. We had loads of ideas - still to make it as fun as possible of course, but instead of giving just a general introduction to agility like we probably did initially, we took our time teaching all the basics as thoroughly as possible, in tiny stages. All the turns and wing wraps and chasing and playing, which arm to use, where to stand, when to move, etc. We knew it would work from all the years of training our own dogs to competition level, and by now we were believing in our own ability to be able to teach the same to others. We could see it in the improvement of the handlers and dogs, and from the lovely encouraging comments and also from the fact that they all kept coming back!!!!
People seemed to believe in what we were telling them, we could see them trying really hard, going away and practising their turns and contacts, running and playing with their dogs at home and starting to use really good value treats, and before we knew it, this group of puppies seemed to be almost as advanced as our more experienced group. Instead of having to set up easier sequences for the puppies, slightly harder for the next group, and even harder for the next etc. they were all doing vitually the same things - although obviously with poles on the ground, no weaves etc.
We just thought we had a marvellous group of dogs and people (which we did and still do of course!)
Then, over the last few months, we've had several intakes of young dogs, who quickly seemed to be all at the same level and only 3 weeks ago we've had our latest intake of puppies and young dogs, and not only is this group already doing quite technical things they are basically doing the same sequences as the now, much-older puppies, who in turn are doing exactly the same as our most experienced handlers. For quite a few weeks if not months, I've heard myself telling these handlers that they can easily do it because the puppies already have!
So that's when I started thinking. How can all these young dogs be getting better so much quicker, and that's when I realised that training others, is actually training us to become better trainers.
Can't wait to learn more!!