Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundations Class Review

Unrelated, but cute

Unrelated, but cute

I wrote a longish post about our experience with Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundations class, but then figured it would be easier to read if I split it into two parts as I was really writing about two things. Today you can read a review of the class and next time I’ll tell you a bit about what we learned in it.

For those who don’t know, Silvia Trkman is a two-time FCI World Agility Champion and currently competes with four very successful dogs, so she obviously knows what she is doing when it comes to training dogs for agility. Agility Foundations is her online class which you attend by getting homework (instructions + video) and then sending in videos of your progress every week so Silvia can give you feedback. There are two ways to attend: Participant (sends videos and asks questions) and Auditor (can ask questions and see other people’s videos, but can’t post their own videos). This class is offered twice a year and lasts 4 months.

First, lets set some expectations. Since this is an “agility foundations” class you might expect that a lot of time would be spent on things like motivation, one jump work, flatwork and beginnings of handling. Well… not so. There is no material on motivating your dog (you should already know how to do that), one jump work (Silvia doesn’t do it except for wraps), flatwork (again, Silvia doesn’t do it) or handling (this class is not about handling). Silvia is happy to answer just about any question, from questions on motivation and building speed to questions on handling, but to get the most out of this class both dog and handler should have some of the basics covered already.

If you had an image of dogs just starting out in agility you will be surprised to learn that many of the dogs enrolled in this class are already competing. Many also enroll two or even three times in a row to really master the exercises. There is more to learn than any team can learn in mere 4 months and Silvia says it takes her 10 months to work through the program with her own pups.

It’s not that there are so many different exercises to learn – you could read through all the instructions and watch all the videos (without the DVD) in an hour. The catch is that it takes a lot of work to master them. So why does the class only last for 4 months? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s so that those with more experienced dogs can progress through exercises quickly while those with beginner dogs can take it twice. Silvia offers a significant discount for taking the class a second time so many people are doing it.

Because photos make every blog post more fun

Because photos make every blog post more fun

What is good about this class?

  • You are getting top-notch agility education.
  • This program produces tight turns at speed, independence and forward focus. It starts with wraps, then wraps at speed, sequences of wraps, wraps mixed with extension, and finally extension jumping. It also covers advanced concepts that might not be considered as foundation by some: serpentines, threadles and back side of the jump.
  • You can ask any question even if it’s not directly related to the lesson.
  • You can train at your dog’s pace. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on homework 2 and the class is at homework 6, Silvia will answer all your questions.
  • Fast answers to questions – mostly within 24 hours.
  • You can see other student’s videos, their questions and Silvia’s answers. Sometimes this will give you an ah-ha moment where you see the exercise more clearly or you find something new you would like to try with your dog.
  • Silvia recognizes that not all dogs are the same and if necessary will make suggestions to do different exercises depending on what your dog needs the most. Not all instructors are this way.
  • Silvia’s comments are always positive and encouraging. Some people prefer more direction – I suggest watching other people’s videos. Then areas for improvement immediately become more noticable 😛
  • The companion DVD is wonderful and really packed with information – you can of course order it separately, without enrolling in a class.

When NOT to take this class?

  • If you are in hurry to start competing.
  • If you don’t care much about wraps and want to train your dog on open sequences such as are found on USA courses.
  • This is a class for beginner dogs, not beginner handlers. If you have never taken agility lessons you will struggle with handling mechanics and might teach the dog wrong things. You need to have some idea of how to handle simple sequences to make it work. Not much, just a very basic knowledge.
  • If the most important thing to you is that the dog learns all the obstacles. This class uses regular jumps, tunnels, weaves and contact obstacles. What isn’t covered: tire, spread jump, double jump, table, chute.

If you are thinking of joining the October class I suggest you start working on basic stuff like restrains, cik&cap and driving into tunnels as soon as possible. The more you do beforehand the more you will get out of the class.

Are you done blogging yet?

Are you done blogging yet?

Photo credit: Stisnprtisn!

Here is a post on what we have learned in the AF class (which is by no means all there is to learn, it’s just what we were able to work on): What Java Learned In Agility Foundations

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8 thoughts on “Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundations Class Review

  1. Eva millan

    Hello.. 🙂 I love your posts but this time allow me to desagree with something… I didnt have clue of agility at all when i took this class first time nearly three years ago… no even seen agility before in my life… and thanks to fundations and silvia directions we starting competing last year and even although my handling is not great and needs improvement… i was able to have some good moments at lolabuland this year… so nope.. no need for previous experience…:-). thanks andreja for your posts.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Eva 🙂 I wasn’t saying it’s not possible, just that the course has very little information for the handler and it can lead to beginner handlers teaching wrong things to beginner dogs. Some people catch on faster than others. 😉
      For example I don’t remember seeing a discussion on how to perform a front cross and where to place it – something that someone instructing a beginner *handler* would take time to explain. Rear cross is described at the end, but let’s be honest, not many people made it all the way to rear crosses this time 😉 Same with blind crosses. Since all questions are welcome everyone can get up to speed with these IF they know what to ask.

      • I suppose though even Silvia herself says she never teaches FC or RC or BC to the dog so I suppose she doesn’t feel the need to teach it to the human either :).

        You are spot on though. The class is not ‘foundations’ in the sense of learning all the obstacles or anything we would usually see in an Australian Agility foundations course. Very very different to that.

        Do you think taking the Puppy class first is where she covers motivation? I took foundations (auditing) last year with Joey and that was my first ST class. I really feel like taking Puppy Class first would have been much more valuable. I would like to know your thoughts from another person’s perspective. Doing Puppy>RC>Foundations with Badger this time around I feel it is a much more complete process.

        It is so hard to think back to when I didn’t know what a FC or RC was that I am struggling to imagine what class would be like without that knowledge ;). I also wonder if it would be somewhat better because I have all these preconceived notions about what part of my body should be pointing where and now I am having to relearn how to run like a European instead of an Australian 😉

        • Yes, I think taking the puppy class helps a lot, both from perspective of motivation and some behaviors such as cik & cap. I also started with puppy class, then taking AF twice with Ruby in real life (and I do remember her explaining how to do a front cross there) before taking online AF, so I can’t offer a beginner’s perspective. I was more commenting on what I saw people struggle with. During AF is not the best time to learn how to motivate your dog. Of course it can be done, but personally I prefer to work on the actual class assignments 😉

          • Yes I agree completely. I saw a couple of really green people trying to learn motivation with super tough dogs in last year’s AF and Silvia gave them plenty of help but I could see that it was going to be a long long project for them, no way could they have learnt it in the class time.

            It always worries me if an instructor gives the impression that ‘you too can have the world’s fastest dog if you just take my course’. I have learnt through experience that no matter how much you might want it… you can’t always learn it fast enough and neither can the dog. That’s my opinion anyway.

            • Haha it takes a lot more than dog training to ‘have the worlds fastest dog’, but I know what you mean. What’s really missing is ‘a class that teaches you to handle the world’s fastest dog’. Now that’s a class I would take! Start from the very basics, please. I might or might not know how to get to spot X to execute that FC on time.

  2. Pingback: What Java Learned In Agility Foundations | Ruby The Whippet

  3. Pingback: Susan Garrett’s Puppy Peaks Review | Ruby The Whippet

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