One important aspect of your training plans should be taking your training on the road. That is rehearsing the skills that you're doing with your dog in your regular training environment and practicing them in new places.
Going somewhere new adds a different complexity to your training because several factors are likely to be different.
- Your behaviour - you might be a bit more on edge than at your usual training venue
- Distractions - there's likely to be a bunch of new sights, sounds and smells to act as potential distractions for your dog
- Different people & dogs - dynamics in a workshop are often very different to those within a regular weekly class where everyone knows each other very well
- Arousal levels - your dog might well be a bit more on their toes when travelling somewhere new, and their behaviour might well reflect that
Agility shows obviously take place in different venues and locations throughout the UK and abroad, so taking into account different surfaces is important too. If you only ever do your training on grass for example, your dog might struggle with something like a sand arena to begin with whilst they adjust to the different footing.
Indoor venues can be noisier and more crowded, which can heighten anxiety in dogs that find situations like that overwhelming. Gradually increasing their exposure to these places is key so that your dog has many positive experiences to draw on when they find themselves somewhere new and different.
It doesn't mean you have to train with a whole host of different trainers either. There are lots of venues that can be hired on an hourly basis (like the beautiful barn at Bowerlands in the pic above) which gives you the freedom to choose how you'd like to generalise your training in your own way. The Facebook group 'Agility Equipment Share' is a good place to find suitable venues.
Personally, I try and do a mix of workshops with guest trainers (as this makes me up my game and makes me more like the competition version of myself) and hiring different venues with my own training plans. But I pick my guest trainers carefully to complement the work I'm doing with my dogs so that neither of us end up confused!
Today I'm grateful for the training opportunities surrounding me as I head towards the start of my competition season. Fabulous training with Dan Shaw this past weekend, and fun with Bonny Quick planned for tomorrow morning. Spoiled! :)