Thoughts on “Professional” Disc Dog Instructors

Over on Facebook, Lawrence Frederick said:

I find it simply amazing/shocking that people are paying money to have so called “Professional” disc players come teach them how to throw and train their dogs.

While I never have, nor never will, profess to be a dog trainer, I think I know a bit about throwing a disc. So, I feel I am qualified to call people out when I see posted pictures, YouTube videos and publications, of them teaching people to throw, INCORRECTLY!!

Not only are you wasting your money to have these people teach you something they don’t know a thing about, but you are creating bad habits by doing what these people are telling you.

All you have to do is “buy” a copy of any of the three or four awesome books (written over 30 years ago) about how to throw correctly (and learn the basics of throwing, which it is obvious these people have never learned) and read them and you will know more than the people that are training you.

I am not pointing a finger at any one person here because there are a ton of people out there doing this injustice to our sport. AND, I am not the only person that feels this way as I have had this conversation with a few people over the past couple of weeks.

We get it that everyone can learn something from anyone, but to charge people money to teach them something you don’t know yourself is just wrong….

And a huge discussion ensued… it’s interesting, you should read it.

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My response was kind of too long and thoughtful for the Facebook memory hole, so I moved it over here.


Yo, Lawrence, thanks for the plug. I appreciate it.
The discussion was great.

Professional Disclosure

I’m not sure how I should respond to this, Lawrence. I mean, teaching this sport and training dogs is my livelihood, so I’m one of those people making money on this, and have probably provided the mold for others to do so as well. I’ve been teaching disc dog seminars for money since 2003, and have been pursuing it full time since 2010.

I think PVybe does pretty good – the people we work with all improve and many of our clients are now top shelf, world class players who are still paying clients. We improve the relationship and communication between dog and handler, and always bring a fresh perspective to performance.

It’s been a bit hard to see a bunch of people coming into the disc dog seminar and camp scene, noobies and veterans alike. More than a few people I have worked with and taught are now my competitors for the very few non-contest weekend camp opportunities. But that’s cool, I’m stoked for them – sincerely.

If they are out there getting people playing with their dogs it serves me and my business and it serves the sport. I’m totally cool with our ability to deliver a great learning experience. More teachers means more opportunities. Opportunities are better than cookies here at Pawsitive Vybe.

Noob Trainers

People who have passion for the game of disc who organize instruction are awesome. Do they get ahead of themselves sometimes? I think so. It’s not easy out there teaching a bunch of different people and different dogs. I don’t really think you can fake the seminar and camp thing very well. You either can do it or not. Classes are hit or miss from my point of view, and tend to only keep running if they are successful.

Is some of the training out there suspect? Sure. But I’m sure a bunch of our stuff seems suspect, especially third hand or through the grapevine… holy cow the things I’ve been responsible for teaching… And that’s the thing about dog sport training – there are many ways to go about it.

We fix lots of broken stuff, and encounter some very interesting learned training techniques, but as long as the instruction isn’t patently wrong or dangerous, I’m cool. Regardless of their experience level in competitive disc dog formats, if they’re getting people out there playing with dogs and discs it’s cool with me.

Cross Trainers

A clever dog dancing freestyle person could totally teach me a thing or two about playing disc. And it might totally be worth paying for that access to dog training/dog sport knowledge even though the instruction may or may not have been entirely proper from a competitive standpoint.

I’ve been asked to do work with Flyball and Agility teams on behavior and drive and for out of the box solutions to competitive behavior. I’m not a Flyballer or Agility person.

Am I of no value there because of my lack of competitive experience?

Cultivate Learning Culture

The thing that bothers me is our general fear of paying for knowledge and instruction as a sport. What Chuck teaches is invaluable. What we teach is invaluable. Tracy Custer? As soon as we can travel again guess where we’re going?

In all other sports there is an understanding that knowledge has value and people who are knowledgeable should be compensated for dispensing that knowledge. Those teachers and that culture of learning create a working body of knowledge that the sport absorbs and passes on to future players and future foundation.

A common vocabulary develops. Different frameworks of play and handling systems. These things don’t get exposure or shared unless the teacher is compensated. They live and die with the rise and fall of the competitor. A culture of learning values that knowledge and holds on to it.

Easy Come, Easy Go

But in the Disc Dog game we’re supposed to give it away. And we do, BTW, all of our instruction is publicly available at our site – 300+ disc dog articles and videos. I’m always jamming and teaching on the sidelines of events. Our personal lessons are 2 hours instead of the billed 1… Learning, sharing, and playing is what we do here at Pawsitive Vybe. It’s who we are.

My point is that we should cultivate a culture of learning where it’s common to pay to bring Chuck, Tracy, or PVybe in to do some teaching. Where we support knowledgable leaders and teachers in our sport and help them to build and grow their teaching ability and knowledge. That’s a vital resource for continued growth of the sport and ever more awe inspiring performances.

It’s happened in Europe, they pay for training – they value it. They bring in the biggest names in dog Frisbee. But it’s been kind of slow to catch on here in the States. When it happens for real we will start to generate that working body of knowledge – the dog training, the disc training, the disc dog training – that will make a “butterfly reverse back vault” as readily accessible as a “FrontFront is a stable position directly in front of the handler. Front is an traditional obedience skill. Usually your dog sits in this position, but standing is often acceptable as well, especially in the game of disc dog freestyle. It is important to have a stable Front position for training and performing many disc dog tricks. Your Front position should... Cross” is in agility. .

Bringing It Home

People paying for disc dog instruction at the local level is an incredible development for our sport. This is one way to bring it to the masses. Would I like to keep that instruction perfect and proper? Of course! It would make our job of jamming or fixing things that much easier, and I’d certainly rather have the instruction be of a high enough quality to hold the attention of dog and handler.

But instead of trying to keep people from teaching, I’d rather reach out to these upstart teachers and young players and help them get some proper skills together. Connect them with other reputable trainers and leverage that interest that they share with their crew to grow the sport.

A general culture of learning in k9disc means the ignorant trainers and the fraudsters can’t keep up with quality instruction and a knowledgeable community.


In the FB Comment thread, Lawrence references these books as must haves for disc sport enthusiasts:
Frisbee by The Masters by Charles Tips
Frisbee Players Handbook By MarkShort for “Positive Marker”, a Mark is a word or signal given at the exact moment a desired behavior is performed. It’s like a clicker. Mark can also mean the act of marking behaviors. “Did you Mark that?” asks if the positive marker was given to tell the dog he was correct. When playing disc it is important to Mark... Danna and Dan Poynter
Frisbee – A Practitioner’s manual and definitive treatise by Dr. Stancil E. D. Johnson
I’ll be ordering our copies in the near future…

Comments

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      Right on, Bettina. It’s a tough topic for me, personally. I certainly hear what Lawrence is saying, and see the trend, but I’m banking on the fact that teaching camps and seminars is kind of hard, and that there should be a pretty large difference between Professional and “Professional”.
      Peace~

  1. Sarah

    Hi Ron,
    Thanks for this! I was just struggling with this very thing today. I’m apprenticing under a local dog trainer here in my little Saskatchewan city. I am pretty much the only person in the immediate area who has *any* knowledge of disc, and that knowledge is all from you. They asked me if I would consider putting on a beginners seminar… I don’t feel qualified AT ALL to be teaching others about disc right now, but I would also love to see it become a thing here, where the only current thing is agility. I’m very torn. I’m not a disc professional. Could I impart *some* knowledge… Maybe… I think their money would be better spent with pvybe.

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      Hey Sarah,
      Yea, you are a total hit for my archetype “professional” that I thought might get caught up in this. And you totally should be teaching a class or hosting playdates. Renting a facility and whatnot costs money. You totally should charge for your time if you can help people. Should you do a 3 day camp? Perhaps not, but why not? You and your friends/clients get together and do a camp – centralized location in your region – the overhead on that is huge. Renting a facility is expensive. Travel, prep, materials… all that expensive.

      So I think you should do something and charge some kind of fee to support and grow the venture. Whether it’s your venture or a fledgling club, it should have some kind of dues. Should it be traveling pro rate? Maybe not. But that skin in the game is what makes people who are struggling, frustrated, or just plain tired on the day of class – that investment is what makes them show up and stick with it long enough to catch the bug.

      If you do a good job you’ll have the critical mass to draw some big name up there to teach more deeply. In which case you’re off to the races. That culture of learning really boosts performance. Noobies get great instruction – a mainline to the fix – pros get new and creative skills and drills.

      I think Lawrence was talking about the branding and hype and the sheer number of people teaching at a “Professional” level who have limited experience or ability. I’ve seen this uptick as well, it’s interesting, but I’m cool with that too.

      Do it.

  2. Erin

    This is such a familiar topic-I’m a horse trainer by profession and we have all kinds of certification systems here but the # of coaches/trainers coming out who are holding these pieces of paper are by no means the kind of people who should be teaching systems to anyone if you compare them to the real professionals of the industry. The forefathers of our sports worked their butts off and are still competing and winning but people just don’t want to pay for their direct instruction. They want to read books, go on the internet and clinic with lesser names who have a half-baked understanding of what the masters are/were teaching because it’s just SO EXPENSIVE. I used to be one of those people who stood up barking about how lesser coaches getting paid was killing our industry and taking money away from the hard-working true pros out there. But the reality of it is that somewhere along the way our sport just got too wrapped up in $ and the accessability for all got muddied. We need a middle ground and we need people passionate about development, not just winning.
    Ron’s right-better we have people who are willing to help than those who covet the knowledge for themselves and do nothing to help anyone else for fear that they will be the one who’s “student overcomes the master” so to speak. How does any sport evolve if not for people like Ron & Apryl working their butts off and bringing it to the people-while still learning themselves?! If everyone is willing to learn and there are people who can bring it how else will it evolve. One discdogger in the middle of nowhere shouldn’t feel frustrated and alone but rather empowered and excited!

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      I think this is really hard in passionate niche markets. It’s really easy to get caught up in stuff, I think. A tiny move by someone can impact your whole business.

      We do not charge a bunch of money, in fact we’re probably 50% of where we should be as far as value goes, I think. If we were in another sport where there was a longer and more diverse history of paying for knowledge we would probably be charging more.

      But there is that point where you cease to get the passion and start to just get the money, you essentially price a good portion of the passionate players out of your instruction. Teaching and dog training are remarkably easy and rewarding when you have passionate clients. We actually get a lot of cross over people (Flyball/Agility) who want foundation work these days because of our passion, value, and pricing.

      I would really hate to lose that personal connection to our passionate clients. Apryl and I both feed off of that. We are instead looking to expand our camp and seminar offerings and putting out a few projects like Jam in a Flash, the Pawsitive Vybe Show, and Zero to Jam. We should be able to stay in the sweet spot price wise for passionate people at camps and seminars if we have some nice training products/resources to fall back on.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Erin.

  3. Jack

    Great post Ron. Can’t thank you enough for all the knowledge you’ve imparted to me over the years. Just had some thoughts about this topic today as the members of our little class that we have going here performed quite well at the discdogathon events today. I may not be the caliber of teacher to be called “professional” but I do know that our core class group is enjoying the game with their pups and continuing to come out and compete at our local events. I’d like to think that our class has provided some motivation for that.

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      Sure you can thank me, man. Keep on teachin’.

      Don’t think you have any problems on the “Pro” front, Jack. Every teacher has their strengths and weaknesses. Your class rocks. Apryl and I are both jealous.

      Congrats on the great performance this weekend, yourself and your students. Keep it up.
      Peace~

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