Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Agility Student

After writing the last post, I thought I'd revisit the timeline of Philip's Agility training. We've been training for about a year now, and have moved through 6 different classes.

February-March 2009: Beginner Agility course, just for fun.
This was the start of it all - a 5 week course, focusing on learning the very basics. We started with regular and panel jumps, tire, and open tunnel. We then added the table and the weave poles. Lastly, we worked on very low height A-frame, dog walk, and teeter. Nothing overly fancy in this class, just the very basic introduction to Agility.

May-October 2009: Basic intro course, focused on competition.
We started this class at a different place than the first one because I wanted to focus on competition. This was also a beginner class, but structured very differently from the other one. Here we focused on all the obstacles individually for accuracy, learned to put 2-3 obstacles together, and covered basic handler techniques - front and rear crosses, lead out, etc. Philip had to go back to basics on several things, but we stuck to the plan and went to class week after week.

October-November 2009: Transitional course, refining details.
After the very long beginner course, we were almost ready to move on. Before moving on to the next big class though, we attended a short transitional class. This was a quick class (30 minutes, once a week) with just 2-3 dogs total. It was basically individually focused on each dog to raise the A-frame to full height, and refine any other obstacle performance.

November-December 2009: Novice Agility.
This class, and all others after it, is structured more like trials - dogs run full on courses and we fix mistakes along the way. There are several levels of difficulty (just like in trials), and this was the lowest of them. I had to get used to remembering 10-15 obstacles per course, and running the whole thing, so that was a pretty steep learning curve for me. On courses, we had to stop and redo some parts often since Philip was still perfecting his skills, so lots of learning for him too.

January-March 2010: Another Novice Agility.
In December, our instructor said she thought we were ready to try a real trial. I decided to wait till after the holidays though, so I signed Philip up for his first trial in January. I got a new job at the same time, so had to switch to a different class time. The class we moved to was technically the same level as before, but in practice was a little more advanced, and with more serious student. All in all I still felt like we moved up in difficulty a bit.

April 2010 - Present: Excellent Agility.
Due to time constraints with work, I basically had to stick with the Novice class while Philip advanced, and couldn't attend an Open class. Since we have moved into Open level in trial though, we needed to start practicing harder courses. So earlier this week we moved to the Excellent class - a huge jump. You can read a bit more about that in my last post. The courses are much harder, and the dogs are much more advanced. It would have probably helped to go through Open level first, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right? :)

So there you have it, you can see that we spent a long time as beginners, but I think it was well worth it in the end since we skipped through to trials and other fun pretty quickly once we moved out of the beginner course. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I'd definitely stick to the same general plan (though add in the Open class transition) - good solid basic knowledge is the key to running solid courses.

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