Posted by: allstaragility | March 1, 2017

An Open Letter to My Students

To My Agility Students:

At the risk of sounding mushy, I will just say it:  I want to help each of you succeed with all of my heart and every fiber of my being.  However you define success with your dog, I want that for you.   I share in the excitement a new puppy brings, your pain when you have to say goodbye and almost everything on your journey together in between. It is usually the last thing on my mind before I go to bed and, yes, I have spent sleepless nights working through your training issues and how best to tackle them.  It is what fuels my fire and keeps me doing this most days, nights and weekends.

Unfortunately, teaching can also be a life-sucking emotional drain.  There… I said it. It took years for me to come to the conclusion that I cannot care about your success more than you and still retain my sanity.   I think that is the big reason why caring instructors burn out and quit, it just takes a toll.  So, help me help you.  You will get 100% from me as an instructor, please give me 100% as a student in return.  How can you do that?  Here are some ways:

-Show up for your training on time.  Being late for class (repeatedly) is inconsiderate unless you have regular conflicts.  Yeah, I know… Traffic sucks.  It always sucks.  I used to drive 3 hours one way to take an agility class in a cold barn (uphill both directions). 😉

-Leave your problems at the door.  Don’t carry your anger at your boss into the ring with your dog.  Only carry treats and toys.

-Do your homework and tell me your progress instead of excuses.  Have a question, you can ask between classes!  That is why e-mail and texting were invented.

-Your dog is your TOP priority in class, not socializing with your friends (that is why Facebook was invented).  Use your time to improve your teamwork and relationship with your dog, even when not training in the ring (focus with ring distractions, crate games, etc).

-Have your dog out, warmed up, and ready for your turn.  Just like at a trial.  Your turn starts when the person ahead of you is done.  Also… Potty your dog AND yourself before class. 😉

-Don’t get caught up in comparisons or trying to impress classmates.  Learning happens as much through “failure” as it does being perfect.  You are not in class to be perfect or the fastest (save that for trials).

-I won’t waste your time or mine repeating information over and over.  If you don’t feel it is important enough to remember, I wont feel it is important enough to repeat week after week (just don’t blame me when your contacts go to crap in competition because you weren’t consistent with criteria).  If you look at me for an answer and I just shrug my shoulders, this is probably why. 🙂

-Participate in class.  Ask questions, challenge my theories, think outside the box and learn from watching others.   Yeah, you may be nuts to try to get in that blind cross, but kudos to you for thinking of it!

-Approach challenges with a can-do attitude.  No whining!

-Help set bars/change the A-frame and table.  Pump some iron (PVC)!

-Know the course and your handling plan.  Shadow-walk it outside the ring if you have to wait for your turn.  Execute your plan.  Too much to remember?  Wait there while I renumber a second course for you to memorize! Bwahahahahaha!

-REWARD YOUR DOG!!!!!  PLAY WITH YOUR DOG!!!!!  Yes, I will yell it in all caps if I need to and those will likely be my last words before that blood vessle in my brain pops.

-Smile and learn.  LEARNING IS FUN!!!


Your Agility Instructor

PS- Edited to add:

-Take notes and video because so much during class tends to go in one ear and out the other if not documented.  Plus, it will prove you really did not give a release cue off the teeter, even though you are positive you did! 😛

-Listen and learn from each other- to a point.  Even though what I am saying to one person may not apply to the dog you have now, it may apply to your future dog and you will be getting double the value out of class!

-Be mindful of being a back-seat instructor.  In class, you are the instructed, not the instructor.   Side coaching often distracts other students in class and undermines the instructor’s teaching.  Giving each other advice is always welcome, just recognize when it crosses the line and becomes disruptive to the experience of others.

-Clean up your space.  Contrary to what many think, instructor’s dogs are the last to get training and that time is precious.  I would rather train my dogs than clean up your crusty, stale cheese left on the table, empty water bottles and tufts of hair your shedding dog dropped on the floor.

-Please tell me how I can be a better instructor for YOU!   We all learn differently.  If you have difficulty hearing, speak up!  If it helps to see a demo, ask me!  Do I need to put it in a different context, let me know!  If I am pressuring you too much,  tell me to back off!  If you want me to push you more, tell me to bring the pain!


  1. Extremely well said Lori!

  2. Love this. It’s so true! You get out what you put in. Practice practice practice! On a side note, How can i get a private lesson ?

    Regards Andrew

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. OMG Lori – that is great!! Would love to hang that up at my field for my students! 🙂 Julie Watson

  4. Lori, this is great. I feel so lucky that I am able to train with you in person occasionally and am happy to hold up my end of the bargain in order to get your amazing support and insight!

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