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How About Becoming an Agility Instructor?

Put something back into the sport

When Mike Bacon became a full time instructor, it very quickly became clear that the demand for agility classes meant he would need some assistants. That's when he discovered there was a shortage of experience instructors. He started asking likely people if they would like to join him teaching. The immediate response was, 'I couldnít do that.' But that is just what most Agility Instructors thought before they started instructing. Mike's conversations then went more or less along these lines.

Why do we need more instructors?

Agility is growing all the time. There are more and more clubs that need a pool of instructors to allow their instructors to train their own dogs and to provide cover for holidays and sickness etc. There have even been adverts on Agilitynet in the last year for clubs desperately needing instructors.

Why should I do it?

There is real satisfaction in helping people to train their dogs. Just seeing handlers and dogs develop is a great feeling. When you have enough experience you could join the growing number of private instructors who charge for their services and even turn professional.

What experience would I need?

Having successfully trained at least one dog or more would be ideal. That doesn't mean that you have competed at the highest level, but you should have been able to get the best out of a dog that it could possibly achieve. Some previous teaching experience and presentation skills are a great help.

How would I start?

A really good way is by assisting someone who is already instructing. You might spend a lot of time moving poles up and down, but you will learn a lot. You may find it is not for you but at least you will know. Many clubs will help with new instructors and have extra classes just for instructors. Just make sure they have suitable insurance cover.

What other sort of training can I get?

There are also private individuals and organisations that run courses for people who want to become dog training instructors, and a few specialising in agility. Kim Hunt runs instructor courses in the Midlands and I will be running them from 2009 in North Somerset.

The Agility Club run an Instructors Course each year in the Autumn. It is an intensive 3.5 day course with an exam at the end. The courses are very well supported, and you need to get your name on the waiting list as soon as you can. All the details are posted and updated on Agilitynet.com.

This all sounds expensive. How can I afford it?

    Some clubs give assistance to people who have shown commitment to the club, and you should look at it as skills investment.

I donít think I have enough experience of basic dog training so where can I get it?

If you have trained a dog to a competitive level, you have a good basic knowledge, but if you want to learn more, there are organisations like The Association of Pet Dog Trainers. You can join as subscriber and get access to a wide range of workshops, seminars and courses. And the Kennel Club Accredited Instructors scheme provides an excellent framework to work from.

What about getting more advanced agility knowledge?

There are lots of workshops and courses get on as many as you can, and there is a huge amount of information on the web.

How do I which method to use?

They all have advantages and disadvantages, and may suit different dogs and handlers in different situations. Look at all the training ideas and methods you can. Analyse them, try them out and decide which are suitable for you and your students.

How did you start teaching agility?

I started instructing at pet and obedience classes and then went on some agility courses. My first instructors course was with John Gilbert and Peter Lewis, it was a few years ago. I also did instructors courses with Louis Harris, Steve Croxford and the Agility Club and lots of competition training workshops with my own dogs.

When do I start?

No time like the present...

About the author...
Mike Bacon has been a dog training instructor specialising in Agility for over 20 years. With Jack of Diamonds his Tervueren (Belgian Shepherd Dog), he came 6th in the FMBB Individual Agility World Championships in Spain 2004 and was a member of the winning team in Germany 2005. He has been appointed as the Team Manager of the Great Britain Agility squad for the FMBB World Championship from 2006 until 2010.

Mike has competed successfully in Obedience, and Working Trials as well as Agility but he is quite happy teaching people who just want to have some fun with their dogs. He is an Agility Club Approved Instructor (ACAI) and Member of the Kennel Club Accredited Instructor Scheme (KCAI)

Mike currently has two young dogs in training - a BSD (Jet), and a Parson Russell Terrier (Rusty). He is helping his daughter Claire train her Border Collie (Ty) and her BSD Ember. They also have two retired dogs - a Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tip) and a Working Sheepdog (Dash).

More details can be found at www.diamond-dog-training.co.uk or you can contact Mike on tel. 01934 833525. mobile: 07867 822425 or email mike_of_diamonds@yahoo.co.uk