Like many trainers, I try to bring in folks every year to host workshops. I love workshops! I love the shared experience of learning; I love meeting new people and their dogs; and I especially love bringing in new skill-sets and ideas to improve my training.
I generally recommend that my students attend all relevant workshops that I bring in.
But what about workshops brought in by other trainers? Including presenters with whom I am unfamiliar?
As much as I love workshops, I think care should be taken when attending workshops hosted by unknown clinicians. So, I thought I'd share my workshop rules of thumb.
!) If you're unsure, just audit. This is completely valid, and you can get a ton out of a workshop just by watching the Dog Trainer work other people's dogs.
2) If you're new to a sport a clinician is probably a safe bet. They can't mess up what you've not yet started to train.
3) Use extreme caution about changes to your dog's established training techniques and methods. Different people stress different aspects of their working relationship with their dogs. You need to make sure that any changes you make are not confusing or unfair to your dog
4) Know what is important to you. If a trainer says something that makes no sense or doesn't add anything, discard it. Politely hold your line.
5) Watch the other dogs work - It's too easy to get sucked into social hour, but you will learn far more from watching the clinician than chatting with your friends. And, its rude to talk while other folks are trying to listen..
6) Even trainers who are training for different sports have things to offer. I went to Michele Pouliot's Workshop even though she trains for freestyle and I do not. I knew her platform work would be incredibly helpful for my obedience training (And it was, and she's an incredible clinician, if you ever get a chance to go to a workshop where she teaches, take your dog, and go!)
7) Ask around. We had a phenomenal IGP decoy come out from Germany (Marcel Wissing), but before I signed up, I asked if he would work my little border collie. This is especially important if you have dogs outside the norm for your sport. (He was amazing by the way! I learned a ton watching him work the 'real' dogs, almost more than I learned working Matilda.)
8) Remember the work you've already put in and the journey you're on. This is one person's opinion of you and your dog, a person who met you minutes ago, and is just seeing your dog for the first time. Be proud of your dog, and be cautious about comparing your dog unfavorably to other dogs that look better. You and your dog on on your own personal journey, and the reason you're here is to learn. Open up your mind, have the grace to be humble, but stay true to your core values.
*Photo of our upcoming clinician Jeanne Joy Hartnagle