The Elusive Quality of Inspiration

I’ve been designing lesson plans for dog agility for about 20 years now. My own writing over the years reflects the growth of our sport and, frankly, our emerging understanding of the training mission and moreover, how to accomplish it.

My new year’s resolution, as you might have gathered, is to design a suite of distance training workbooks. And I am determined that these will be mostly fresh and new… while attending to the mundane foundation training for the individual dog. I say “mundane”… it doesn’t take great inspiration to isolate the dog and trainer in a space with a single hurdle with the express purpose of teaching the dog to go away and demonstrate his understanding of the performance of the obstacle. This is an obvious and necessary and should be a part of the training curriculum.

Almost always I have the underlying motivation that it should be both fun and painful for my students. The fun part is obvious… that’s why we’re doing this, and anybody in the “business” should understand that if you bore them all to death your students will seek out another facilitator. The “pain” part is harder to explain I suppose. Most handlers would love to lah de dah along in complacent comfort. But in order to teach them a new thing you have to challenge the student and push him out of his comfort zone altogether. And this can be painful.

I have several approaches to the development of a lesson plan. I’ve taken a little artistic liberty in giving these methods a name. Bear with.

Pedantic Prose

Begin with an exercise that is designed to teach specific skills to the handler or dog. This is possibly the most difficult starting point for a lesson plan. The set of the floor is likely to feel contrived and mechanical. And so, beginning with the “skill set” takes considerable skill. Otherwise it is more pain than fun; and those elements need to be in balance.

Found Poem

After many years of designing for league play when I did the big training center thing at Dogwood (up near Columbus) I discovered that the best starting point designing a lesson plan was to begin with the “game”. In other words, design a fun course or a challenging game… and the lesson plan will reveal itself like a “found poem.”

Stolen Verse

To tell you the truth I love stealing a challenging bit from a course or a game I see out in the world set up by some evil judge. Of course I’ll always credit the judge for the design. It is important to put in your training mix a variety of challenges that might not have occurred to you, as the course designer.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Go the Distance ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Workbook – Jan 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store:


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