Downeast Dog News

Training Your Performance Dog

Agility, Obedience, Tracking
By Carolyn Fuhrer | Feb 01, 2021

Choosing an Instructor

Last month we talked about being sure of what you want to learn. Once you have decided that obedience, rally, agility, tracking, etc. is what you want, how do you find a trainer?

Maine has a lot of people who offer dog training and this gives us a wide choice of places to socialize our dogs and learn some basics. When choosing an instructor, it is important to understand what it is you want to learn and what you want to be able to teach your dog.

When you are just beginning or relatively new to dog sports, you may not really understand all that there is to learn about a particular venue. For example, manners class or pet obedience is not competitive obedience. Learning agility obstacles for fun and recreation is not competitive agility. Scent games will not get you a pass in a tracking test. Each sport has its own set of rules and guidelines and levels of skill that your dog and you must achieve in order to qualify.

AKC titles are something to be very proud of and take a great deal of dedication to achieve. Learning the correct performance of these skills can be very dependent upon proper instruction.

Good instructors compete with their own dogs and should be well respected in the sport. Good instructors are up-to-date on rules and regulations and have a thorough working knowledge of the rules and all the procedures involved in entering a competition. Ring etiquette and proper behavior at a trial is something they teach to their students.

Good instructors are constantly learning through seminars, camps, workshops, and one on one instruction. They may also offer workshops and camps themselves. A good instructor is versatile and creative. A good instructor understands humans and dogs as individuals and will craft instruction to allow each team to learn. One size does not fit all. A good instructor should be able to teach all breeds of dogs and all sizes of dogs and have an understanding of their differences and their needs.

A good instructor understands that the laws of learning are always in play and will help keep you from inadvertently teaching your dog poor behavior.

A skilled instructor is an excellent communicator and is able to break complex skills down into the smallest components so that you can easily understand and teach your dog. In order to do this effectively, an instructor must have a thorough understanding of the skill and the subtleties of breaking the skill into components that the dog and handler can master.

Take your time finding an instructor. Ask to visit classes and talk to students. Maybe take a private lesson. If you choose to do competitive dog sports, you will be making an investment in time and money. Find someone who will help you fulfill your goals for you and your dog.

Happy training.


Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 125 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. She is also an AKC Tracking Judge. You can contact her with questions, suggestions, and ideas for her column by e-mailing