The course was 5 weeks long and I found the setup to be very worthwhile. It consisted of
- A new game presented each day. Each had a fun name and fun was a major ingredient in the entire course. With names like "Cookie in the Corner" and "Smoke Ya", how can you not have fun? Susan is a fun person and her attitude is contagious: she wants training to be fun for handler and dog. The games introduced new skills and built upon previous ones. Most days, there was a 2-5 minute video posted to illustrate the game and sometimes links to her site for supporting articles etc.
- The course had a strong social networking piece to it. Each game was posted on a different page and each of us could comment or ask questions on the games. There was a section for asking the staff questions, for bragging among ourselves, etc. Many of the questions were answered by other participants; some were taking this course for the second time and helped out tremendously.
- In addition, there were webinars and coaching calls. These were amazing and lasted between 1 and 2 hours each. There were three coaching calls plus a taped one from the previous course as well as two webinars. In the webinars, we were give a "lecture" to watch 24 hours ahead of time and then she took live questions. For the coaching calls, we were encouraged to post questions to the website and then she answered them live during the "call" (online).
- Depending on the level one signed up for, there is access to the course for different lengths of time- until either June, August or a full year. In addition, the different levels offer some of the materials in an e-book form as well as DVD and podcast.
How does this course relate to horses? In so many ways that my mind was absolutely exploding with possibilities on a daily basis. Initially, I looked at whether each game could be transferred to horses. Then I began to see bigger connections. Her mantras, her goals, and her methods are applicable on so many levels that I don't know where to begin. I have shared several of my thoughts on my Facebook page but I'll include the following:
- Average or Better- the concept that we need to know our horses' behaviors well enough that we only reinforce behavior that is at least as good as they are capable of on average. I tell myself "average or better" all the time now because I found I frequently rewarded mediocre behavior because "he's so cute" or "he tried" or "I need to maintain that". I look at things completely differently now and see a difference already.
- Don't allow rehearsals of bad behavior- this is one of those things that of course I knew, but somehow, that statement has jumped out at me and I'm seeing ways to apply it constantly. I think it's because I followed "reward the good, but ignore the bad" for so long. But ignoring the bad doesn't always work if it's self-reinforcing or if you haven't given them something else to do instead. So now I look at unwanted behaviors with a sharper eye and find ways to eliminate rehearsals of it, even if it means that it takes more time. Better to take the time now, than deal with this forever.
- Record keeping- we've heard it before, but this course supplied us with a downloadable journal and I have adapted it for my horses. It includes details I didn't think of before and on Susan's suggestion, I committed to using the journal for the course and am trying to build it as a habit. Wow is it helpful to write things down after they happen and use that to develop a plan for the next session. Otherwise, I'm doing same old same old each day.
- Find the Joy- this can be said best by reading Susan's blog post. I'll put a link at the end. Another complete game-changer for me.
Here is the link to Susan's blog which made me look at my training in a whole different way (of course it helps to watch some of her videos to see how utterly thrilled her dogs are to work for her every second of their lives).