Attending Dog Training Seminars, Workshops, and Camps
I’ve been an enthusiastic attendee of (mostly) Agility seminars since 2003. As a member of the CCPDT, I also attend the dog trainers’ version of professional development seminars. I wanted to share with you some tips for getting the most out of these fabulous opportunities for learning.
Agility run-throughs at Port Chester Obedience in White Plains, NY
What kind of seminar is it?
Dog behavior and training seminars abound here in the Northeast. Professional trainers, hobby trainers and animal lovers who have an interest in training all look forward to events such as the APDT Conference happening annually, and can also attend webinars and specialized lectures which are a key component of advancing our learning in what is fundamentally a science-based profession. Trainers certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT) and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) need to get CEUs to keep their certification, and most of us wouldn’t miss a chance to hear about the latest advances in training and behavior from the likes of Karen Pryor, Ken Ramirez, Kathy Sdao, and Steve White, and so many others!
Tip #1 : If you’re thinking about attending a lecture or seminar such as these, check to see whether dogs are allowed in the space you’re headed to. If you’re planning to go to a larger event where dogs are welcome such as ClickerExpo, there’s a ton of great info about what to expect on their site.
Attending Agility classes and run-throughs at your local club or training center is a great step in your training in this exciting sport. One important facet of your dog’s education is going to be learning how to take her new skills on the road and play with you in new environments! Seminars provide the opportunity to gain fresh perspective, challenge your comfort levels, and think outside of the box in a supportive atmosphere. In addition to that, it’s fun to get to know your fellow dog addicts agility enthusiasts at these events - my participation in the sport of Agility is especially enhanced by being part of this fun community.
“My turn!” Flop and I getting ready to run at a handling seminar, summer 2013.
Most Agility instructors and clubs will let you know when a special workshop is coming up (check those bulletin boards!). An Agility seminar presenter will make the content of what they’re teaching available so that you can determine if it’s the right level for you and your dog. As an example, I just got an announcement for an upcoming seminar in my area. From the description : “Advanced/Masters or by permission. Dog should be able to do courses of jumps and tunnels - we will not be looking at weaves or contacts,” this is not a workshop for puppies or even my Novice-level dog.
Puppy Camp! Puppy Lilu and Nelci and fun on an elevated plank
“Novice” or “Starters” level dogs have seen some sequencing in their regular training class and have been introduced to all of the Agility equipment, though they might not yet be “perfect”. “Open / Advanced means “Intermediate” level (and yes, this is worth an email to determine if your dog is ready for this level!) Advanced, Masters and International level seminars are for those teams who are already competing and/or have a thorough familiarity with Agility obstacles and handling.
My puppy wasn’t ready for the handling moves in this seminar, so I audited and practiced focus, attention, and play with her on the sidelines.
Neno Pessoa runs IQ Agility in Bloomsbury, NJ and enjoys hosting and teaching Agility seminars at his great facility and elsewhere. “My favorite thing about teaching is to see the people's faces as they are walking the course wondering how they can possibly do it! Then, when they learn how to handle it by the end of the seminar.” How can attendees make the most of the event they attend? “People who go to a seminar to socialize or who refuse to try or learn anything new or different from what they think they or their dog can do can’t get much from seminars,” says Pessoa. Seminar presenters will help you through the learning stages of new-to-you techniques, most often by breaking that new behavior or handling move into small, digestible steps.
I met Monique Plinck at a seminar that she taught this past summer at Port Chester Obedience Club. Her Criterion Agility facility is located in Middlefield, CT. Though it was apparent during her days at PCOTC, her great joy in teaching seminars “...is working with handlers I don't regularly train with. Watching them settle in, grasp, learn and grow.” she says. That concentrated time has its’ limits, though : “Depending on the seminar time....4 hours, 1 day, 2 or 3 days - that limited time is a challenge with how much I want to cover and share while not overwhelming the group with content.”
Seminar presenter Tracy Sklenar explains a jump sequence as handlers and dogs get warmed up
More Agility Seminar Tips:
#1. Prepare! Pack a comfortable, portable chair and bring a notebook. Make sure your dog’s treats are prepared and your toy bag is packed!
#2. Is your dog comfortable in his crate? Practice this at home well before you go. You will get so much more out of your seminar if your dog can settle in a crate. Walking courses while your dog is upset and stressed in his crate makes it harder to learn and get the most out of your time at your seminar.
#3. Charge your cell / camera batteries and ask your neighbor to film your dog’s runs. Chances are they will ask you to do the same!
#4. Read the fine print! The guidelines that will be emailed to you should be detailed re: directions to the site, local hotel information if need be, and particulars about the site. (Examples : Some locations have plenty of room for both working and non-working dogs, and some do not. Another example : Lunch arrangements are handled differently at every seminar I go to.)
Have fun! Learn something new with your dog! What seminars have you attended lately?
Misa Martin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Years of attending agility seminars, workshops, seminars and camps with her first dog led to the beginning of her professional dog training career as a PetSmart Trainer in 2008. In addition to joining Port Chester Obedience Training Club's Family Manners program, Misa is a staff trainer at the Mount Vernon Humane Society, active with Pets Alive Westchester as a group class instructor and consultant for training and behavior issues, and a volunteer for the Walden Humane Society's education program. Misa owns Hudson Valley Dog Trainer, providing reward-based training to private clients. Through her knowledge, experience, and sense of humor, Misa encourages students to approach dog training as a team effort, where students learn as much from their dogs as dogs learn from their "parents," making training fun for humans and dogs alike! Misa can be reached at [email protected]