Lorrie’s Agility Dog Blog

Musings on Dogs, Agility, and Being an Instructor

Adding Adrenaline

Instructors sometimes have a difficult time keeping students energized and motivated.  At various points during their agility careers, students can become a bit “ho-hum” about training.  It is sometimes difficult to get beginners to show enthusiasm after the initial thrill of a new activity wears off.  Many people are too embarrassed to be animated in class.  More experienced students have a difficult time reproducing anything resembling the excitement of a trial.  The result is training that is far different than what will occur at a trial.  When classes slow down, it is time to add some adrenaline!

When students are learning handling, they need a lot of practice on crosses.  Here is a way to make that practice fun.  Set up three cones, tunnel bags, or something similar as shown in the picture below.  Create a start/finish line about 15’ back from the cones.  Now it is time for agility barrel racing!  Have each handler do one round with front crosses and one round with rear crosses.  Time each round.  The dog and handler with the lowest combined time wins.


For more advanced students, set up two mini courses that are exactly the same.  There is an example below, but you can use whatever arrangement you want as long as the start/finish line is the same.  Divide the students into two teams.  Try to make them as even as possible in terms of speed, skill, and experience.  Run a simultaneous relay.  If you have any dogs that might get overly excited when another dog is running, put up a ring gate between the two courses.  The team that finishes first wins.  You can make rules about dropped bars (i.e. someone else on the team has to reset them).


For the students who are trialing, set up a full course, or as close to a full course as you have room and equipment for.  Tell the students that the course will be run just as if it was a trial, with an unnamed prize going to first place.  Time each student and keep track of faults.  You can decide to score time plus faults or use standard scoring.  Present a prize to the winning team.

Prizes for winners do not have to break the bank.  I hand out bags of “good” treats (Zuke’s or something similar), stuffed toys, small bags to carry training supplies in, journals, and everyone’s favorite – chocolate bars.  The idea isn’t to have a huge prize for the winner; it is to spur the competitive spirit of the class so they push like it is a trial rather than “only” a class.  Just one of these sessions every other month or so can energize the class and motivate students to practice more at home so they can keep up with their classmates.  Add some adrenaline to your classes and see what your students are really capable of!


April 27, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Mental Management, Teaching Agility | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Knowing Your Destination

One of the items in the agility training journals I hand out to my beginning students is an article about setting goals.  I tell them they need something to work toward if their agility journey is going to be successful.  I won’t make all of you try to endure through the full four pages (I include several examples), but I thought I’d share my tips on successfully setting attainable goals.  They are listed below, but I didn’t put them in any particular order.

 Own Your Goals:

  • Make sure your goals are yours, not goals other people have for you.
  • Don’t set a goal that you are ambivalent about; only set goals you truly want to reach.

Think Positively:

  • Word your goals in positive terms. 
  • For example, “Learn to execute smooth front crosses 90% of the time by the end of the year” is a much better goal than “Quit messing up front crosses”.


  • Make goals concrete, measurable, and within a specific timeframe.


  • Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many goals.

Put Them In Writing:

  • Writing them down makes you more likely to remember them.
  • Your written goals provide a good record of your success.
  • You can always modify your goals if you need to.

Be Realistic:

  • Goals set too low will not offer a sense of accomplishment.
  • Goals set too high are frustrating and demoralizing.

Break Them Down:

  • Each goal should have as many steps as necessary to help you achieve small successes.
  • Short term goals should lead to achieving long term goals
  • Each goal should have a path that will get you from where you are to where you want to be.
  • Include details in your goals, not generalities.

Review Them Frequently:

  • Remind yourself of what your goals are frequently.
  • Readjust your goals as necessary.

List The Whys:

  • Listing the reasons you want to achieve your goals makes you more likely to want to complete them.

Set Performance vs. Outcome Goals:

  • Outcomes are frequently affected by outside influences or things you can’t control like injury, illness, or event cancellations.
  • For example, if you set a goal to obtain a specific title, and your dog gets injured, you can’t attain that goal.  If you set a goal of having smooth, connected runs 90% of the time, you can obtain the goal whether you have 10 runs or 50.


  • Visualizing yourself achieving your goal helps you to attain it.
  • Visualization is a proven practice technique.
  • Trouble visualizing may indicate that you are not certain you can attain your goal.

Determine Your Needs:

  • What skills do you need?
  • What knowledge or information do you need?
  • What help do you need?
  • What resources are required?
  • What are the obstacles to achieving your goals?

I ask each of my students to give me both short-term and long-term goals.  For the newest people, their long-term is only two months, because they don’t always know if they will want to continue after the first session.  For those who I know are going to continue, I ask for 6-month goals.  I also tell them that they should have a short goal for each week and each training session, even though I don’t ask to see those.  I hope these tips will help you to think more clearly about setting goals for yourself.  You can’t get where you are going if you don’t know your destination!

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Goals, Mental Management, Recordkeeping, Training | , , , | 4 Comments