Thoughts on “Professional” Disc Dog Instructors

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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 “Front 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 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…