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.
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.
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