Last night I planned to teach my beginner agility group how to perform a front cross handling manoeuvre. When you're learning anything for the first time you'll usually struggle, but add the complication of giving information to your dog who's never done it before either and it tends to make the situation that much harder! But as always my group was up for a challenge so after some warm up work with the contact equipment and the tunnel, we moved onto the handling portion of my lesson plan.
Now I always aim to set my students up for success, but it isn't always easy when you're concentrating really hard, to give good feedback to your dog about what their job is - this quite often results in dog's wandering off and sniffing, or finding more rewarding activities to participate in whilst you sort yourself out. The thing about agility is that it's a team sport and our dog's do appreciate it when we give them the impression that we know what we're doing - even when we don't! ;)
So I decided that I'd give them a head start by lending them Ella to try the manoeuvre first, before having a go with their own dogs. Asking her to demonstrate if with them meant they didn't have to worry about her remaining in a wait on the startline or going into the tunnel - they're all in awe of how professionally she conducts herself where agility is concerned. And of course it's something which riding instructors do all the time - start you off on the old school master before putting you onto the bucking bronco, probably as they're keen not to put you off on your first week ;)
Well as ever, I was very grateful for Ella's help - despite all the moaning and protesting that they'd never be able to do it, they were so relaxed when having a go at the exercise with Ella, that they all did beautifully when they brought their own dogs up for a turn. Result! Not to mention how darned please Ella looked to have 6 turns, however short they might have been, in a row - she was very pleased with herself indeed.
Having faith in our ability to do anything has a lot to do with the outcome in any sport and in fact in all areas of our lives too of course! Belief is necessary to victory as they say - well it was lovely to see how much my group believed in their wonderful dogs last night, made me a very happy instructor indeed. Can't wait to work on their skills further next week, but for now just reflecting on how some of the best teachers have four legs and a waggy tail :)