About This Blog

While plenty of training information is available these days for the agility competitor from Clean Run magazine to dozens of DVDs, much of this information is geared to the advanced competitor.  You’ll find intricate discussions about handling systems, running contacts, motion cues, pre-cues–sophisticated discussions that I follow and relish–but which contain an abundance of assumptions that the novice handler may not recognize.  These materials are often aimed at showing the agility competitor ways to shave time off their runs in the hopes of finishing that advanced title, getting to finals rounds at regional or national competitions, maybe, even (an aspiration often kept close to the chest) making it to World Team tryouts or getting on the World Team itself.

These are fine aspirations and there is a hunger for this valuable information, but the material can drill down to a level of detail that passes stratospherically over the heads of the novice handler–to mix metaphors. 

Local agility classes are often the primary source of education about the sport and dog trainers for most novice handlers, but the level of knowledge, skill and teaching expertise varies widely, and like our human education system, the instructional material usually targets the most common denominator and little time is available to identify and rectify the gaps of any given novice agility student.  And even those novice handlers with access to good training resources may find the time, work and cost considerations limit their ability to take full advantage of available training opportunities.

And their are other impediments to learning.  In the usual one-hour class format many students don’t get the individual attention they need to address a particular problem, especially when that problem is not shared by the rest of the class.  Some students are too shy to ask probing questions, or ask again if they still don’t quite grasp the concept on the first explanation.  Sometimes students don’t connect with a particular instructor or style of instruction no matter how accomplished the instructor may be.  And, with as much as there is to learn about agility, dog training, handling, venue rules, and the like, we are not always ready to absorb all we need to know in those early stages, and must come back and fill in the gaps when our understanding has broadened.

This is why I recognized a need for The Novice Handler blog.  Initially my intent was to supplement my student’s weekly training sessions, but then I realized that other new agility handlers might appreciate the information also. 

I plan to focus on the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts that we instructors may breeze by, taking time to talk about the pieces that the experienced handler or dog trainer find obvious or take for granted.  Things like:

  •  how to hold a leash, a treat, a clicker and a dog at the same time, for instance. 
  • training foundation skills
  • reading a course map
  • planning a handling strategy
  • dealing with ring nerves and thwarted expectations
  • keeping your dog healthy and fit
  • understanding the physics of the sport

  My ambition is to use video, graphics and other visuals as much as my preparation time and technological skills will allow. From time to time, I’ll talk with other trainers or specialists to bring you other perspectives as well.

I plan to have several regular, reappearing features, such as one with Dr. Julie Mayer, DVM, an experienced performance rehabilitation veterinarian.  The Ask Dr. Julie feature will show you how to condition your dog for agility to prevent injuries and keep our dogs healthy and sound.

This attempt at online agility learning is an experiment.  I am certain it will change and evolve as I learn what works and doesn’t work, what you want and need.  My hope, too, is that you the reader will shape and mold this learning tool to fill those gaps that you’ve struggled with, but either weren’t sure where to turn, were too self-conscious to ask, or ask again, for what you needed to break through those invisible barriers keeping you from achieving the pleasure and satisfaction you’d hoped for when you first took up the notion of participating in this greatly addicting sport of dog agility. 

Please feel to comment on my posts or write directly to me at thenovicehandler@gmail.com.

I’m looking forward to this escapade.  I hope you enjoy it and find it worthwhile as well.

And I absolutely must express my HUGE gratitude to Phil Clark, who builds websites and writes code for a living.  Just like agility,what you see on the outside, looks pretty easy…until you try it yourself.  I have no more knowledge of programming and code than the average driver has of auto mechanics.  If this blogsite had been a car, I would have known better than to decide to try to build my own carbuerator, but that’s exactly what I tried to do here.  More than once, Phil came to my rescue and bailed me out of the html jungle.  Phil, thank you, thank you, thank you! 

 

 

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