Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Cheap Ass Continuing Education Following the Pareto Principle

Today is another Dog Agility Blog Event and we're discussing Continuing Education. 

The Pareto principle, or 80-20 rule, states that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes.  And when I think about all the seminars, books, DVD's, seminars, classes, magazines (did I mention seminars?)  that I've ever bought, read, attended, etc. this holds true.  Don't get me wrong, I love going to seminars and learning new stuff.  Love it more than or at least as much as trialing.  But I'd say that 80% of the useful stuff I've learned has come from 20% of the seminar presenters.  And that precious little information that I've heard at seminars has actually worked its way into my training and even less into the ring.  Let's be honest here, hands up who goes through their seminar notes from 4-5 years ago?  Two years ago?  Last year?  Ever?  I did finally wise up and shoot some video from one of the 20% seminar presenters and I have occasionally gone back and looked at that.  Enormously useful.  My notes?  Can barely make heads or tails of them.  And I take careful notes.

I'm also terribly guilty of charging on to learn new fancy handling maneuvers when my nearly 10 year old dog still struggles with weave pole entries.  Because an enormous amount of effort has gone into those weave pole entries with little improvement.  So why not let it go and practice something fun like that fancy blind cross serpentine move?  And fess up people, I know I'm not alone, I see plenty of people struggling in the masters ring with super basic training/handling holes.  I'm not judging here, I'm right there with you.  But I wonder how much more gains I might get from just a little bit more effort with the basics?

I don't take lessons or go to a lot of seminars and I've never taken an online class mostly for economic reasons but also because after 15 years in the sport I'm not sure if the time/effort/money are going to give me big gains.  I'm not for a second saying I know it all or that I have nothing to learn.  There's loads to learn.  Asstons.  The sport has come so far and continues to progress at such a pace that I wonder if we'll soon have two tiers of agility (if we don't already).  But I think there's value in taking time to practice, working on and reinforcing the basics as well as the fancy stuff, and perhaps most importantly of all, learning how to figure stuff out for ourselves.  I work with a training partner and when something goes wrong we help each other troubleshoot.  I learn from helping her almost as much as I learn going through the exercises myself.  I've also learned how to spot stuff on my own, how to feel when I've done something wrong without needing a teacher or even a video camera.  I'm not always right but I'm getting there.  Seminars and the occasional lesson are super fun but it's these once a week little training sessions along with playing short little games with the weave poles and teeter (another issue that crops up if I don't keep on it) in my backyard that give me the 80% of results.  Plus I love farting around, experimenting with things, why should the experts be the only ones who get to invent handling moves?

I also learn a lot from watching handling at trials.  I don't typically experiment with a completely unpracticed move at a trial but I'll often go home and set up a similar scenario to practice something I saw someone else do.  Or I may not like the exact handling move but it'll spark an idea of something to try.  So much great stuff out there to learn from other people but I think we get the most bang for our time and effort by spending the time working with our dogs and learning how to learn for ourselves.

This post is part of the Dog Agility Dog Event.  For more posts on Continuing Education go here.