Wednesday, December 3, 2014

To be interested in learning, you must be challenged!

I was going to blog about something slightly different, but an email from a friend the other day really hit the core of this topic, Continuing Education.

Some friends and I were chatting about running really hard courses, both in competition and in practice.  It was mentioned that there are a number of people who are getting bored with agility.  Once you get a couple of MACH's/ADCH's that is not challenge enough anymore.  We were not trying to diminish that accomplishment (they are huge), but really expressing that we don't learn as much from the third MACH/ADCH as the first and that there has to be more challenges placed in front of us.

She said "People are not going to be interested in learning unless the test (agility test) gets harder"

I loved this statement.  When reflecting inwardly on this statement I find it to be very true or key to what keeps me motivated and learning.  For me personally, I always have to have challenges that are beyond my current capabilities.  This is what keeps me wanting to continue my education.  Think about it, why would you continue to learn calculus if you were only tested on multiplication flash cards?

Hoot pondering life

We as trainers and competitors are figuring how to train ourselves and our dogs with greater competency and efficiency than say even 5 years ago.  Our young novice dogs frequently have skills that our seasoned 7 year old dogs don't have.  Our teachers are presenting foundation classes that challenge the skills of my 10 year old agility dog.  Novice dogs are entering the ring with an intense love for the game.

I believe that we as trainers and competitors, have outpaced our agility organizations (USDAA, AKC, etc...).  We are learning, training, and adapting faster to harder challenges in our classes and daily training then these organizations can present courses to test those skills.  The gap has grown.  If the gap continues to grow, we are going to lose the innovators in our sport if we don't continue to challenge them intellectually.  People who need to be stimulated by the challenges will move on to new challenges. 

I will speak only for myself, I can get slightly bored.  Not because I can run every course clean, I don't.  But I want to come home from trials with a list of to-do items that inspire me to get better.  I want to see sequences that presented challenges.  Challenges that I had not thought about training until that day. Or perhaps caused me to think about my cues and feel the necessity to be even more clear for my dog.

How do you cue a tunnel entrance if it is two tunnels nested together?  How do you cue the dog walk when it is has a tunnel entrance on both sides?  What new skills do I need to develop to get the backside of a jump right after a straight tunnel?

For me the challenges don't always have to be physical (for me or my dog), but must always grab my intellect.

P.S. Training puppies keeps me interested, but I can't keep getting puppies


Greg S said...

Nice post Mary. I loved your "PS"!

Anonymous said...

Supporting your comment: The book "How We Decide" talks about children doing better when told "you worked hard on that test" versus "you're really smart". Challenges do drive us.
My suggestions are try tougher breeds (my Canaan and my "all-nose" hound mix are probably more challenging for agility than most border collies).
I also sometimes run course very differently than I think is best just to try skills I use less often and push myself and my dog.
But I agree with you and I often say "boredom is the curse of the intellegent"

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blogger day posting on learning. Once I became almost competent at one thing, I get bored and look for new challenges. I don’t have a MACH or any other “Championship” title. I have only a few Q’s/titles at the highest level in several agility organizations. I have almost quit trialing entirely. There are enough trials in my area where I could go to one or more almost every weekend. I only entered two trials this year. I don’t like getting up early, driving for up to an hour and seating around all day, when I can run as many courses as I want at home, and my dog would rather chase a ball after a run than go back to his crate. I have no issue with those who go to trials almost every weekend. If I would enjoy the social aspects of the trials, I would be there with them. Although I don’t have a high Q rate (even running courses at home), I don’t consider most trial courses very challenging and actually that is often the reason why we fail to have a clean run. I just don’t put in the required effort.
I have three issues with MACH and similar awards. One is relative to this discussion. But first unlike you, I do not consider them accomplishments. They are nothing more than customer appreciation awards. An accomplishment is doing a course or a sequence with ease when a month or a year ago it was an impossible task. Once someone has Qed at the top level, all that is needed to have a “Champion” dog is to do the same thing several more times. I am aware that some organizations have additional requirements, but the bottom line is still you don’t have to be very good to be a “champion.” One does not become a mathematician by demonstrating his/her proficiency at the multiplication table several times. A team that has Qed at the master level has proven that they know the “multiplication table.” Doing it several more times proves nothing. AKC gives out about 1,000 MACH titles a year. If they gave out 1/10 that many, it would still be ten times too many. The title “Champion” should be awarded only to the best of the best. To paraphrase Bud Houston, agility organizations give out titles like move theaters give out popcorn. Not many people call themselves champion golfers, runners, bicyclist, swimmers, etc. The truth is that most of us are no better at agility than we are at the other sports we play when compared to the elite (the true champions) of that sport.
My most serious objection to “Champion” title is that many handlers continue to enter trials in order to get the last (enter a number) Qs needed for their “Champion” title, long after their dogs should have been retired. Their actions are not in their dogs’ best interest.
The third issue I have is relevant to this discussion. The desire to get a qualifying run is a disincentive to improve. This takes the form of entering trials where the judge is known to have easy courses (at least for the skillset of a particular team) or not challenging a course to get the fastest time possible, but rather playing it safe and getting the easy Q. Judges won’t get hired again if their courses are too challenging. Most handlers claim that they do agility for fun. At the few trials I have attended, I have seen the following happen twice: Something happened during the runs, I suspect something with the timing. The handlers were giving the choice of getting a Q with SCT for the run or running the course again, and getting whatever result the run produced. Both times the handler chose to take the “bird-in-hand,” rather than an extra run. Could there have been other factors that influence the handlers’ decision? Yes, but my money is that the handler did not want to risk losing a Q.
I love playing agility with my dog, and I think it is a great sport, but I see way too many people who are what I call under the influence of the Evil Q-gods.