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Category Archives for "Free Resources"

How to make your own 2×2 weave poles

Make your own set of weave poles for training

This video will show you how to make your own set of 2×2 weave poles for training, which you'll need for my WEAVE POLES 101 course. Quick, easy, and inexpensive, that's the DIY way! Save your money for something more important, like…dog treats!
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Building Your Own Measuring Wicket

Your Very Own Sticky Wicket

Anna Hinze's May demonstrates the new measuring wicket!

Anna Hinze's May demonstrates the new measuring wicket!

The height of your dog determines what height they will need to jump. The measuring process can be a stressful one for some dogs and “real” measuring wickets are $250, whew! Here's a simple version of a wicket that costs no more than $10 in materials. This project is very easy and can be adjusted depending on your needs.  This wicket was made to use 1 length of 10 foot PVC pipe in order to maximize the use of it. I made the width quite wide (2 ft wide) so that I could accommodate fairly wide dogs, again you could easily alter the width in order to accommodate the dogs you are planning to measure.

Step One – Gather Your Supplies and Cut the PVC

You will need the following pieces:

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8

Building your own PVC Jumps

Or…back to basics.

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When I first started agility, many years ago, one of the most alluring things about agility, other than the actual activity itself, was the PVC “stuff” I could build. It was like Tinkertoys, for big kids. All those fittings, angles, and even…chemicals! It appealed to the chemist in me, the engineer in me, and the kid in me.

My first full set of jumps was PVC. I built them all, spray painted them, and even found aluminum number stamped jump cups for them. Then, I got a little more notoriety in the agility world and figured I should upgrade and get more “professional”. I sold them all and got metal jumps.

At the time, I thought these were more "professional" than my DIY PVC jumps.

At the time, I thought these were more “professional” than my DIY PVC jumps.

 

Then, we moved to WA, and I sold all THOSE, and didn't get any more, as I wouldn't need them in WA. Well, then after a couple years I struck out on my own again, and had to buy more jumps, and I had these made for me based on a design I brought home from Australia:

I brought one home, and had a whole set made. Now many jumps in the NW look like this!

I brought one home, and had a whole set made. Now many jumps in the NW look like this!

I wanted something lightweight, NOT metal (safety trumps however “professional” the jumps may look), and different than the standard rectangular PVC wing design.

Well, although my time is limited, I do love a project. This year, with the Agility Hall expanding to include an outdoor grass arena (currently being watered by a lovely NW downpour), I need another set of jumps. And, instead of just red white and blue jumps, I want one jump from each country I've been to (or maybe plan to go to) to compete in agility. I had thought of purchasing a whole set of Launch The Dog jumps, but despite how cool they look, they're a little pricey for me *and* I just want a little more instant gratification – I want my jumps NOW! Plus, the contrarian in me wants them less and less the more and more other people have them 🙂

So, I've embarked on a project to build a whole new set of PVC wing jumps. Jumps that look a little flashier than the typical rectangular wing design.

I'm keeping a record of building this set of jumps, so that those who are interested can take the plans and use them for their own designs. So, I'll be including pictures, how-to, flub ups, and finished results, for all to see, in addition to the cost of each DIY jump. So, without further ado, here's my latest project!

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Snooker Rules Explained!

Today was Chipper's very first USDAA trial! As I listened to the very thoughtful and thorough briefing that the judge gave to the Starter's Snooker competitors, I was surprised at the number of competitors that had no idea how the game was actually played! The judge was very patient explaining the rules – but oh, how I wanted to jump up and down and tell everybody, “hey, did you guys know that there is a CLASS you can take on this in my Online Classroom?!”.

Then, I realized that at the very least, I could make this 22 minute video, on the rules of snooker available to everybody! Lori Michaels put this video together as part of her Snooker 101 course. Judges, you can just play this video on your iPad during the briefing, and you'll never have to explain snooker again! OK, you probably will, but COMPETITORS and INSTRUCTORS, share this video with your students to help demystify the game! And, you can learn even MORE about the game, and the skills you need to play it, in Lori's SNOOKER 101 course!

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Let’s Pardon Some Turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Here in the USA, this time of year is often referred to as the season of remembrance.  Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season helps to remind us to be thankful for the things we have, be mindful of the many who go without and to send positive thoughts to those who cannot be with their families and friends because they’re busy protecting us so that we can enjoy our freedom.

With that and agility in mind, lately I’ve been thinking about how lucky we North Americans are for the agility opportunities we have in the United States (and Canada) and how I need to be mindful of that sort of thanksgiving as well.  As you look across this continent and think about the very basics (and beginnings) of training and shaping behaviors through the highest levels of complex competing (not to mention all the conditioning and advanced medical resources we have available), I genuinely believe that we have the best handlers and trainers in the WORLD right here in North America.

 

Current trends in seminars might seem shiny and brighter because they come from outside North America, but if you closely examine them, don’t they seem oddly familiar?

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Challenges build your training muscles

 

Recently, I listened to an interview on the radio with a Psychology Professor named Jim Stigler at UCLA. He was talking about how he'd watched anxiously as a fourth grader in a Japanese math classroom struggled at the front of the class to solve a problem.

Maybe you didn't know this, but I used to be a high school chemistry teacher.  So although I don't teach high school any longer, I'm still keenly interested in pedagogy (the study of teaching), and my ears always perk up when I hear things that relate to teaching, mental training, and that sort of thing, as I think those topics are applicable to agility.

Anyway, this guy was talking about how the teacher had called on a student who obviously DIDN'T know the answer to the problem at hand.  Now, as a teacher, I always tried to choose a student who I was pretty sure knew the answer 🙂 But in this case, the student didn't know the answer, and was up at the front of the room for a LONG time, getting the problem WRONG, over and over again. Finally, they solved the problem, and the class applauded.

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Getting great feedback as a participant

Objective

Getting great video feedback starts with submission of a great video! The following tips will help your long distance instructor give you the best feedback possible, whether that instructor is me, another instructor in my online classroom, or an instructor in another online classroom. Let’s get started!

Dress Appropriately

It may seem strange that you’d need to dress appropriately for something you’re just heading out to do in your back yard, but the clothes that you wear can affect the quality of the feedback your instructor can give you. If you want your instructor to be able to comment on your movements around the course with your dog, make sure that your movements can be seen. Wear bright colors that contrast with the background; for example, if you’re working on a dirt surface, you don’t want to be wearing brown pants, or your instructor won’t be able to see your legs! If you’re working on grass, avoid wearing green. And ALWAYS avoid wearing black, since it makes your body very difficult to observe on the screen.

In my videos, I make the effort to wear bright colors such as red, or blue. It’s not just because I’m patriotic! I also try to wear clothing that has stripes or other features on it. For example, in many of my videos, I’m wearing a pair of athletic pants that have white stripes down the leg. These white stripes make it easier to see the angle of my legs as I move. And, I tend to wear tops that are either brightly colored and/or have stripes on them as well, so you can see my shoulders and arms better.

I try to wear clothing that is not lumpy or loose. Not only is it difficult for me to run in loose lumpy clothing, but it makes it difficult for an observer to even tell if they’re looking at my front or my back end! Even if I might not feel entirely comfortable in snug fitting clothing, I know that to an observer watching my videos, snug clothing is going to make it easier to see my body, and how it’s moving.

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What Makes A Good Coach?

Although I originally posted this on my personal website some time ago, the information is perennially relevant, so I thought I'd share here on the Classroom Blog, where posts of a more educational nature reside 🙂

There are a lot of online classrooms springing up here and there, and I think it will be interesting to see how they evolve over time.  Some seem to provide little to no personal feedback at all, and instead simply drip scripted content to the user over time. Others, like mine, really are the online equivalent of a class, where students receive homework, do their homework, receive feedback on their homework, and also participate in discussions, sometimes with, and sometimes without the instructor chiming in. But, the instructor is providing that oh-so-valuable feedback! And, as an update, I'm happy to say that my Classroom now provides the best of BOTH worlds – those on a tight budget can still get the valuable information at a lower price, and those with a little more disposable income can participate in the discussions, still, at a reasonable price – something I'm proud that all the instructors here have stuck to.

As an instructor and coach, and as a person who actually has a formal education and degree in Science Education (and as somebody who taught in the public school system for a number of years!), the question of what makes a good coach is an important one that I think every person should consider. But it's not the only question! As lifelong learners, we all need to consider several factors when deciding what makes a good instructor or coach for US, personally.

Why do you need a coach?

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Why Struggling is Key

 

Recently, I listened to an interview on the radio with a Psychology Professor named Jim Stigler at UCLA. He was talking about how he'd watched anxiously as a fourth grader in a Japanese math classroom struggled at the front of the class to solve a problem.

Maybe you didn't know this, but I used to be a high school chemistry teacher.  So although I don't teach high school any longer, I'm still keenly interested in pedagogy (the study of teaching), and my ears always perk up when I hear things that relate to teaching, mental training, and that sort of thing, as I think those topics are applicable to agility.

Anyway, this guy was talking about how the teacher had called on a student who obviously DIDN'T know the answer to the problem at hand.  Now, as a teacher, I always tried to choose a student who I was pretty sure knew the answer 🙂 But in this case, the student didn't know the answer, and was up at the front of the room for a LONG time, getting the problem WRONG, over and over again. Finally, they solved the problem, and the class applauded.

I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you're just not very smart. It's a sign of low ability — people who are smart don't struggle, they just naturally get it, that's our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity.

To make a long story short, the point of the article was really that in the mind of this Professor, and according to his research, it seems that Eastern cultures have really promoted the idea that intellectual struggle is a GOOD thing, that the process of struggling intellectually is what MAKES you intellectually strong.  He contrasts that to the prevailing notion in Western cultures, that intellectual ability is something innate, something you either have or don't have.

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Thoughts on handling the Novice Dog

Juno had her big Novice Debut this weekend! She's almost certainly had the least preparation and training of any of my dogs to date, given my busy travel schedule and focus on Solar and Jester, but nevertheless, she did great. I've been waiting for her debut for some time, not only because running a Novice dog is a ton of fun, but to prove to people that you don't have to step in to the ring perfect, or perfectly prepared.  To the contrary, there are things I believe that the dogs will only learn in the ring, and so I see no reason to wait til they're running Master's level courses to enter them in a trial, provided that I can provide a positive experience that will further growth between my dog and myself as a team.

Juno's debut in the Novice ring has gotten me thinking how all of the things I've been working lately to make sure I'm implementing as a coach for my students really applies to our dogs as well. For those of us involved in a team sport with our dogs, we serve not only as trainers, but as canine coaches too, and although it's taken me several years to fully grasp the concept, I do believe that in order to achieve maximum success with our dogs as athletes, we must be flexible coaches, able to be the coach our dog needs us to be as his/her needs change, rather than expecting our dogs to conform constantly to our needs.

Like us, I believe our dogs move through different levels of competency as they learn the ins and outs of the sport of dog agility.  To review, here are the four basic levels of competency:

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  • Unconsciously unskilled At this stage, the learner (the dog, in this case), doesn't even know that they don't know anything.  They're blissfully ignorant, if you will.As their coach, at this stage, you need to show them what to do, and make sure that you make the learning fun enough that the dog wants more.  Just like with a young human athlete, if the sport is fun at this stage, they're going to want to do it more. It's not necessarily important that the finer details of form are perfect at this point, as long as they're not forgotten about by you the coach, for later refinement. Juno is moving through this stage at the moment (as of the completion of her very first agility trial).  She doesn't even know that she's unskilled, and there's no reason for me to point that out to her.  While she's busy checking out the ring crew, the obstacles, the spectators, the judge, and ME, I'm busy guiding her through that experience, showing her what to do, and making sure she feels great about herself while she's attempting to do it.
  • Consciously unskilled At some point, Juno will move in to this stage, and since we can't directly communicate verbally, it may be that she's already there to some extent.  This would be the stage that a young athlete might be having a lot of fun and now they want to be better. They're aware that they're fairly unskilled, either because they feel it internally, because you've pointed it out to them, or, in the case of most of us people, we see others doing better and measure ourselves up against that. I would never push a person or a dog who is consciously (or unconsciously) unskilled to do anything fast; in the case of the dog, if they're not going fast, it's highly likely that it's because they know there is a lot to learn and they don't know a lot of what there is to learn, and they're trying to take everything in and process it…and that takes brainpower….which takes time…and so any reasonable creature will do the safe and logical thing….SLOW DOWN!As my dog's coach, at this stage, it's my job to make sure that I continue to support their efforts to figure out what to do, but as they are ready for it, to also show them how to do those certain things. I need to be observant enough to see when my dog is asking for help, or asking me a question about how to do something, and I need to be prepared to respond in a way that will help their growth as a teammate.
  • Consciously skilled As the dog gains experiences that they can put in to their own personal playbook of how the game of agility is played, they're going to gain skill. At this stage, though, employing those skills in the right places and at the right times is going to take conscious effort. At this stage, they're probably learning (or ready to learn) when to use the particular mechanical skills they've previously learned.  Developing your agility dog in to a good team player means you, as coach, need to be ready to spot when they've slipped in to this particular stage of their development.  It may be that they suddenly make more mistakes than they made previously, and as coach, it's important to recognize whether that should be attributed to a deficiency in mechanical skill, or perhaps, the mistakes are due to the dog trying to sort out when to do something, and not quite making the right decision, or making the right decision but not being able to execute it at the right time.At this stage, getting on your dog's case for mechanical errors (a dropped bar or missed contact) when the reason the dog made the mistake was because she was really making an effort to anticipate correctly what she thought was going to happen is not likely to improve the situation.  In fact, it may make it worse.  Imagine, you're on a sports team, and you finally think you've got it, and so you take some initiative to be proactive and show your coach that you're getting it.  And then, despite your best efforts, you just don't quite get it right, because things weren't quite as they seemed to be.  How would you respond if your coach yelled at you for taking that initiative? Would you try harder the next time, or would you tend to hold off from taking initiative again in the future? What if, on the other hand, your coach congratulated you for your efforts, and then provided meaningful instruction and feedback on why things didn't quite work out this time around? My guess is that you'd be a LOT more likely to try even harder in the future!
  • Unconsciously skilled Finally, after perhaps several years, you and your dog together are unconsciously skilled.  You've gone through the motions enough times, and you've been consistent enough, that your dog can read your cues without much conscious effort, leaving more of his brain free to process things like that divot in the dirt that's right where he'd like to take off, or that splinter in the contact that's right where he'd like to put his foot.  He can deal with contingencies that arise, because the skills that he has come naturally to him, and he can use his subconscious brain to deal with whatever comes his way. Also, because you've been such a supportive coach, moving from the what, to the how and then to the when appropriately, building your dog's self-image all the way, your dog is a confident and happy teammate.  Although mistakes happen, when they do, the both of you know that they are just honest mistakes, and not due to a lack of effort or understanding on either party's part.

Obviously, I'm going to continue to put an emphasis on enjoyment together as a team throughout these different learning stages, but like us, I really do feel that what makes something “fun” changes as you move through these stages.  For example, in the first stage, most would not find nitty gritty details and highly analytical training to be very fun.  That's not terribly motivating for a beginner in any endeavor! But, as the thirst for more develops, there may well come a time when a lot of pleasure can be taken in learning the finer details involved in perfecting a particular mechanical skill. Our dogs, like us, are changing all the time.  When I look at Fly, who is now 12.5 years old, he is definitely not the same dog he was when he was a year old.  Likewise, Jester, Solar, and Juno are all different dogs than they were when they arrived in our family, both physically and mentally.  Their development as individuals as we progress together as companions and teammates is what makes the sport so much fun, and so rewarding.  Our dogs aren't the only ones changing, though.  We of course, are changing all the time too.  As handlers, we may ourselves be moving through the four learning stages listed above, and then our task is doubled, as we'll have to be our own coaches as well as our dogs' coaches. Our circumstances in life change as well. We move, our interests change, jobs, partners, you name it.  The only thing that stays the same is that things always change.  But, being alert to the needs of your canine partner with respect to what they require from you as a companion, a leader, a handler, and a coach, is something that benefits both dog and human alike – it's the name of the game!

Juno's First Trial, 4/30-5/2, 2011