[00:00:00] Hey everyone. Welcome to Fostering Excellence in Agility, the podcast. I'm your host, competitor, coach, and mentor Megan Foster. I help agility enthusiasts focus on the small details of training and behavior while still having a clear understanding of their big picture goals. Join me as I take you through key elements of dog agility training, competing and teaching, and how you can take action today to start improving your skills within the sport.
Let's get started. Hey everyone. Today I want to talk to you about seminars. What are the seminars for? What can we get out of seminars? How can we, as students, get the most out of a seminar? What can we do as the host to make sure that you are getting the most out of the seminar and your attendees are getting the most out of the seminar?
And [00:01:00] also, How instructors can begin to upgrade their seminar presentation and give an experience that is going to be more sustainable and long lasting, even when you leave that facility. So first I just have to say. , I have been to a ton of seminars, and generally speaking, dog agility seminars tend to focus on handling and handling concepts.
It is more rare to find a seminar that goes into more of a training concept of say, contacts or weaves or any specific obstacle or, uh, other type of skill and I can totally see why this is because most of [00:02:00] these training concepts take a lot more time to actually go through a progression. If you hired me to teach a weave Pole seminar, I can absolutely present my weave pole training process in one day, but there's no practical way to take one team through that entire process. And so what tends to happen in those seminars is, okay, fine, let's do the weave pole seminar and let's have 10 working spots. But obviously those 10 working spots are probably at different points in the weave pole training progression. And so then not every team is going to do every exercise and you can see how quickly that can be tricky.
It's also not how I train, and I suspect it's not how many people train to do multiple sessions of the [00:03:00] same or similar skill in one day. So it's typically harder to present kind of a training concept in the traditional sense of agility. People want to work their dogs.. Now, if you are a new listener to this podcast, I welcome you, but you have to know that I like to do things a little bit differently, and I like to encourage people to learn separately from their dogs.
So if I were to be hired for more of a training obstacle concept like seminar. , it would look more like, let's choose the working spots strategically so that each one can demonstrate a different stage in the progression. So it would be [00:04:00] maybe auditor heavy and working spot light, because I would need a couple of dogs to show the very beginning phases and then a couple more dogs to kind of show how we're gonna start doing.
Multiple sets of weave poles, and then we are gonna need some dogs that are already weaving to show some of the proofing processes. And then we're gonna need a couple of dogs to show what it looks like when we add sequencing and handling. And that's a very, very brief overview of what it might look like.
But then we also could have a couple of dogs for some problem solving and some troubleshooting, and a lot of room for questions. . So that's probably why you don't see seminars that don't look like that, okay? Because those types of seminars are very lecture heavy, very discussion heavy, very question heavy, and the working spots are just there to demonstrate the process.
And like I said, agility, people want to work their dogs. So [00:05:00] traditional agility seminars tend to be more focused on handling because that is something that we can do multiple sessions of throughout a day throughout the day and make it slightly different and keep it changing so that it's interesting and not too repetitive, and also getting quick wins in handling.
Is relatively easy compared to quick wins in a training concept, Quick wins in a training concept are sometimes more difficult because if you are instructing in a place that's brand new, you don't know the people, it means you don't know their learning history or their prerequisite skills. So it can be more difficult to give them those quick wins.
When it comes to, weave pole troubleshooting, or contact troubleshooting or start line troubleshooting because you need a little bit of the history behind [00:06:00] what's causing that problem. But with handling, you can usually identify the point of the problem. Just by watching that one in the moment thing, so I absolutely understand how we've gotten to this culture of agility.
Seminars are handling seminars, and I will say that sometimes it has even gone as far as the handling seminars don't include any of the obstacles that aren't jumps or tunnels because of that extra layer. Of having to problem solve in the moment, or handlers feeling like they can't maintain their criteria because their time with that instructor to work on the handling is limited.
So I completely understand how we've gotten to this point and. I just like to have these open [00:07:00] conversations of is that working for everyone and can this be different or better or improved upon, or just kind of mix things up every now and then. Does every agility seminar have to be a handling seminar?
And when we talk about handling seminars, I think as an instructor, it's important that. I don't let the handling seminar become miniature private lessons that none of the other participants are interested in watching. It's important for me that when you come to my seminar that the entire day is a learning experience because you are there auditing much more than you are there working your dog.
So it's my goal. to make sure that your experience when you're not working is just as valuable [00:08:00] and dare I say, more valuable than when you are working your dog with me. Because the fact of the matter is there's nothing in that 10 minutes. that I can give you in that, in those 10 minutes of working with your dog that I can give you, that's more valuable than what I'm gonna give you the, the rest of the seven hour seminar.
And I know there's, there's usually multiple turns, so even, I, I think the most video footage I've ever had of a working spot is maybe 30 minutes total throughout the entire day. But when I. Take out all the instruction in between the reps. There's maybe 10 or 12 minutes of me physically running my dog. So when we really truly look at that, it's a very short lesson where the instructor gets to actually [00:09:00] see you work your dog.
But the rest of it is an, is an amazing opportunity to observe how that instructor works. And so as a student, when I attend a seminar and when you are a student attending my seminar, these are the things that I would be focusing on . I am at a seminar to hear new ideas. . Or hear known ideas expanded on. I am at that seminar if I have a working spot to practice those ideas presented.
So I am turning myself over to that presenter for that day to practice the things that they are presenting. And I'm going to put that, Yeah. But. Part of my brain to the side [00:10:00] for that day. I'm going to not overanalyze how it fits into my bigger picture in that moment. I'm going to commit to their process as long as it's not harmful to myself or my dog or someone else at the seminar.
Obviously that goes with choosing the presenter wisely. Advocating for yourself aside. I'm not going to refuse to try something because I'm not sure how it fits within my communication system. I'm going to give myself over to that process and practice what they're teaching for myself because that's the best time to do it, is practicing a new idea.
that you've just heard for the first time with the presenter in front of you is the best use of use of that time. And getting as much out of that training process is going to be more [00:11:00] valuable than completing the course the way you know how. Okay? I also am aware of the other students in the room. So when I'm a student, I feel.
Some obligation to demonstrate for the rest of the group, so when I turn myself over to that presenter and I do what they're asking, I also have this sense of pride that I'm able to demonstrate and provide an additional learning opportunity for the other working spots and the auditing spots in the room.
When I'm a student, I'm also focusing heavily on observing that presenter. I'm observing how they set up the training, so how did they make this new idea accessible for me and my dog? [00:12:00] And then how did they make that accessible for all of the other teams in the room that are different? because what applies to me now may not apply to me in the future.
And maybe I do have a student that it could apply to as well. And I'm also observing how problems are solved because even if I don't have a problem today, I know that I will have a problem in the future. And the more I can learn about troubleshooting those things, the more prepared I will be when that instructor leaves. .
Because as a student, I have to recognize that my time with that presenter is very limited. So I need to use my very short amount of working time to get as much as I can about that idea that they're presenting on. But then I need to double [00:13:00] down and use my auditing time and make it work hard for me and.
Really focus on observing how they are teaching these skills and how they are troubleshooting these skills and listen for those little details that you may have missed when you had your dog out and working, because you will miss things when you're having to pay attention to your dog and be there for your dog.
So now, Hop over and swap hats and consider what a seminar is for. From the host's perspective, uh, most of the time the person that hires the presenter, the host is usually the instructor at a facility that's pretty typical in, in the sport. So this is a [00:14:00] really amazing opportunity. To provide your students with valuable ideas and insights that you automatically approve of.
Because if you are seeking out a presenter to bring into your facility, it probably means that you have been previously exposed to some of their ideas and you are interested in learning more, which means students, if your instructor. Takes the time and effort and energy to put together a seminar. And let me tell you, it is a lot of time and effort and energy.
Sign up, talk to your instructor about auditing, about which working spots may be appropriate for you, and also consider just across the board auditing, because seminars are not easy for dogs. And as I just [00:15:00] explained, it's a very short amount of time with the dog. The value, in my opinion, is in all of the hours surrounding the minutes you get to spend with your dog.
So auditing is extremely underrated and undervalued in my experience. And so I'm encouraging you that if your instructor. Brings in a presenter, it is because they value that presenter's ideas and you should honor that and try your best to be there and definitely have these conversations with your instructor.
But once you have the presenter there and you've got all the things ready to go, and you've got this great group, you've got a lot of auditors, you've got your working spots, and you're
there as the host, [00:16:00] I want you to think about everything that I just said as a student, and also you need to be watching how that presenter.
Solves problems for your students. I absolutely love it when a host who is there watching all of their students work with me, stands right next to me and has a notebook because I know that they're writing down little things that. I either observed that they might have missed maybe how I explained something.
Maybe, um, they see a light bulb moment in their student and they are wondering, Oh gosh, I wonder how Megan said that, to make them light up like that. because it's so common when we're watching our students learn from someone else to be a little bit frustrated when they [00:17:00] finally hear something that you've been trying to tell them for years.
But instead of being frustrated, figure out why that was, and that is the bonus of being able to bring in the presenters that you value. because there's probably a baseline level of similarity, right? If I bring in someone for my students to observe, it's because our philosophies are probably already pretty similar, and we're just trying to increase our knowledge and expand our minds on some different ideas or have some new ideas brought in that still mesh with how we train.
So hearing those ideas and hearing how they explain things to your own students is so valuable. If you are an instructor that [00:18:00] is hosting a seminar, it should feel like professional development and also personal develop. So yes, you're gonna learn things that are specific to you and your dogs, but you should also be really observing how they're teaching and how they are getting through to your students and jotting down any of their homework assignments that they get from a presenter of how to maintain that success as you move forward.
Tho those things are so. valuable to yourself and your students. So if you, if you are bringing in seminar presenters and that just adds value to your coaching for when that presenter leaves, you're able to just pick up right where they left off and help those students apply those ideas that they've just learned.
You are [00:19:00] now kinda stepping more into that coaching role and that is so huge and valuable to your students. .
Finally, I wanna talk about what seminars are for from the instructor role. And this is really near and dear to me as I try and provide different formats and bring the concept seminar format to the table while also maintaining . Some handling and presenting new ideas and focusing on all of the things that are of value to me when I'm working with people and dogs.
So my goal always with seminars is to share my ideas in ways that can be [00:20:00] sustainable for the participants. I don't find it very valuable to come in, give everyone some quick wins and leave with everyone happy, but unaware of how to apply it when I leave. So my seminars tend to focus more on short concepts and the training process and the problem solving process.
Rather than course running and there's no shortage, of course, running seminars, and there's no problem with course running seminars. It's how I prefer to present ideas is to make sure that those ideas can continue to be carried out when I leave. So sharing ideas that are sustainable is the number one reason that I do a seminar.[00:21:00]
Obviously when I teach a seminar, I'm there to network. I'm there to meet people, and especially now that I teach online, and I have this podcast, so I have lots of people who quote know me, but I don't know them. So it's nice to get out there and meet the people who are following me on social media and are on my email list and things like, So I'm absolutely there to network and put some faces to the names that I see commenting on my things, and I'm there to make those connections with people and be invested in their experience and in their training journey, even if it's only for a short amount of time when a student comes to me and my seminars.
I strive to have them feel like they have been [00:22:00] coached by me for the last 10 years, that I can just step in and I can observe and I can give them what they need in that moment, but also what they will need in the next moments when I leave. So making those connections with people and truly investing myself in their progress is really, really important to me.
Every time I teach, especially in person, I am there to learn, to grow and to continue honing my skills. I learn so much from. Delivering content verbally. I learn so much from demonstrating said content. I learn so much from teaching said content and seeing how each new team processes that content and how I have to tweak it for that team in order for it to be [00:23:00] successful and sustainable.
And all of that stays with me so that either the next seminar that I present somewhere else in the country. , I can be faster and more direct with solving someone else's problem. Or if I return to that facility and work with that student in another six months or in another year, I will be able to remember that connection that I made and see the progress that they were able to make given the steps and sustainability that I gave them the last time I saw them.
And so what are seminars for, again, to kind of wrap things up? In my opinion, seminars are for learning new ideas and observing how those new ideas are presented. And if you [00:24:00] have a working spot, you get to practice those ideas. . So I would love to hear about why you attend seminars and what you feel like seminars are for, and if there's anything about what I said today that makes you kind of pause or scratch your head, or if you have any feedback at all on how we can continue to develop the seminar experience and not just focus on.
. One tiny thing so that seminars don't turn into miniature private lessons.
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