Today is another Dog Agility Blog Event Day - September 5, 2012; please visit all the blogs at: (http://dog-agility-blog-events.posterous.com/pages/what-makes-a-good-coachinstructor).
Another great topic. I have been so lucky, most of my instructors have been wonderful and I have learned a lot from each one of them. Actually I have learned quite a bit from the few instructors I had who weren't so good too.
Now that I have been in agility for a few years if someone asked me what they should look for in an instructor for a beginner I would have to say, go watch a few classes in your area. Look for an instructor with a positive attitude and see if the students in their classes are having fun as they learn. Find one where the instructor has a good relationship with both handlers and dogs. Notice if their classes are small enough so each team gets equal time with the instructor and if the class level is balanced. Are the teams a mixture of advanced along with beginners where the beginners take up all the time and the more advanced teams don't get feedback or help? That may sound good to a beginner but as you progress you don't want to be the one who doesn't get much input.
Safety is a big issue for me especially with a beginner team. The very first agility class I took was with an instructor who was nice as she could be. I wasn't aware she had never done any classes prior to the one I was taking. As we were learning obstacles, she had them at full height rather than a training height for beginners dogs. My dog had no problem going up the teeter but when it bounced off the floor she freaked out. It took months and a different instructor to get her over her fear of teeters. Having the obstacles at full height was dangerous for those beginner dogs and we were lucky no one was hurt.
Some instructors prefer different systems of training developed by other advanced handlers which in itself is not a bad thing as long as they are open minded enough to realize that it may not work for all dogs. Your instructor should be knowledgeable enough to have several different approaches to handling and/or training. The instructor should also be open minded enough to listen to a handler if they have an idea or tried something at home that seemed to work better.
A instructor should be able to give constructive criticism without demoralizing the handler or putting down a specific breed saying it should not do agility. I have sadly seen instructors say if they want to do well in agility they should get a different breed of dog; they will never get a Champion title in agility with the breed they have. How sad is that??????
Personally I prefer classes for training, I like having other people, dogs around to help with socialization and preparing for trials. I prefer private lessons for specific issues that just can't be addressed in a class setting. If I hadn't done private lessons with Kiah I believe we would never have come as far as we have this year.
As I said in the beginning I have been really pleased with almost all of my instructors, their attitudes, knowledge and the commitment to their students. I admire them for the amount of time it takes to prepare for classes, researching problems or ideas to help their students become successful and just for the commitment it takes to want to be an instructor.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and please visit the others too. I know I will :-)
Please feel free to leave comments, I love hearing from others.