A Public Posting

A Public Posting
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Visiting my blog these days must be very frustrating for some people who have followed me for years. The blog opens up to a series of posts that are password protected! Very mysterious, eh?

Allow me to explain.

I’ve begun a training series for young dogs to teach those dogs to work independently and at a distance from the handler.

Beginning back in July the program started with less than a dozen students. I limited the number of students because each week I assign homework and ask everyone to record their homework and send a link to YouTube videos. The videos are both important and time consuming. Seeing dog and handler in each exercise allows me to coach and give feedback on what it is that I see.

Inasmuch as I am asking my students to pay for this training series, I shouldn’t be allowing free access to the material to just anyone in the world. Note: $25/month with four modules each month.

The Virtual Classroom

I’m pleased with my students who do the weekly homework assignments and send me the video proof. This allows us to have a good back and forth discussion about the details. And, frankly, it allows me to shape the ongoing development of the training series.

Here is a homework video from week 10 of the program, featuring Kiara a 7 or 8 month old Papillon handled by Darlene Schmucker:

Very few of my students submit homework. This is tough for me because I believe that both the homework and the coaching are important elements of the program.

This is way harder than it might seem. We should admire and be sympathetic to public school teachers who were thrown into teaching the Virtual Classroom as our society was gob-smacked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with insufficient practice with tools and methodologies hastily designed for the task.

And I’m thinking that public school teachers don’t have the leisure to limit the size of their classes to ten or twelve students.

Why does a student not send homework? It’s very possible that recording; uploading to YouTube; and sending the link is too technical. And it’s possible too that some aren’t doing their homework.

Back in the day, when I did live classes, seeing my students work in class provided plenty of information about how the training of individual dogs and handlers was going; which informed the content of subsequent lesson plans.

The Jokers Notebook

This series derives its’ name from the classic game of Gamblers, as I learned it, coming up in the USDAA. Gamblers is a two-part game consisting of a dogs-choice point accumulation period followed by the performance of a distance challenge, called the “Joker”.

The material used for this series represents an orderly progression of skills taught to a young dog; and fairly represents how I train my own dogs.

A real challenge for me has been to organize these materials from nearly 30 years of articles, books, blog postings and YouTube videos that I have authored. Effective training material must show step-by-step methodology and whenever possible visual demonstration of the exercises and concepts. Some people are visual learners.

Right now I’m re-reviewing student YouTube videos from this first distance-dog virtual classroom, with the notion that some should be included in the existing modules.

At this writing we’re up to 18 weekly modules. I’m thinking that I will put a finish to it in six or eight more weeks. The final weeks will be spent in demonstrating the escalation of the foundation exercises. And then—having the material—everybody will continue with their individual home schooling.

A New Class

In the next few days I’m going to begin marketing a new class. Again, I should like to limit the number of students in the new class to no more than ten or twelve.

Ideally these dogs will be less than six months old. I am a firm believer that what a dog learns in his first year of life is the most powerful learning. The early lesson is a life-long lesson.

I will accept older dogs. But I will make it clear to the dog-trainer student that we’ll be working against the muscle memory of both the handler and the dog… rather than just the handler. ;-P

Being very much a creature of the last century I’ll likely be marketing the new class using email marketing.

For the meantime if you know someone with a new young dog who might benefit from learning wickedly powerful skills of independent performance in dog agility, please share this with them, or refer them to me by email. I reckon I will start only one or two new classes each year.

Video Sample

I want to share with you a training video that neatly demonstrates most of the training steps in an advanced foundation exercise. The training underway is called “Named Obstacle”… which means that you teach the dog the names of obstacles. This give you the ability to, for example, name the desired obstacle in a discrimination rather than having to run in and “handle” it.

Note that this exercise depends on prerequisite skills. The dog must already be comfortable with working at a distance; and the dog must know “Left” and “Right” directional.

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Questions Comments and Impassioned Speeches to Bud Houston, Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Connect with me on FaceBook!

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