001 002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009

Creating a Learning Environment

Posted on 03/28/10 7 Comments

It was hard to leave home again last Wednesday to head to my current teaching post in Finland, especially hard to leave Buzzy. Although he is much better I can’t help but feel the stress of me leaving may be contributing to his distress, but then I remember how very much Buzz loves John and I am better about it.

Last week I was near Parma, Italy and we have five awesome days of workshops (well in my humble opinion they were:). Teaching a workshop is  a lot like training a dog. You can be excited  to inspire brilliance when you begin but if the energy is not reciprocated it becomes less like a fun that fills you up, and more like work that drains you. Last week the Italians put all the passion they are famous for into their work, and to think how difficult it was to get me to Italy.

Michaela works 360 spins.

It started over two years ago when my now friend Michaela emailed me and asked me to Italy. I turned her down.  I am busy and as much as I love to teach, I am making an attempt to be home more. She tried again, again I said no. So poor Michaela, who doesn’t speak English hussled herself up an interpreteur and flew to Canada to observer two camps (Puppy and Skills). In person, she asked once more if I would come to Italy and I of course could not turn her down:).

Young Handler from Rome.
Young handler from Rome.

I have no regrets. While teaching there, I saw many talented handlers from not just the Italian world team, but other countries as well including one of the best from the Czech Republic. In the past when I have other successful agility competitors in my workshop, many of them have hadan arrogance about them. Often appearing impatient with what I am teaching, sighing deeply, checking their phone messages or constantly getting up and leaving the sessions as if “they know it all.”  It brings me to mind of a quote my friend Helen King says “Excuses prevent advancement and so do big fat egos”.

Italian World Team member and his up and coming dog play the collar grab game.
Collar grab game fun!

Let me tell you this was NOT the case in Italy. This crowd, some  high calibre World Championship medal winning competitors, came to learn and each of them played FULL OUT! By that I mean they where not afraid to show vulnerability and learn from me. They didn’t try to pretend they didn’t need any help, they allowed themselves to fail in front of the large group that were there and didn’t then bow out and not play again after a failure.

In my opinion that is “owning yourself”, knowing who you are. It is true confidence in your own abilities and understanding that exploring today’s limitations opens you up to tomorrow’s strengths. These people where authentic, they didn’t try to hide anything, therefore I think they opened themselves up to the best learning opportunities possible.   Although already “heros” in their homeland, they came to learn and they squeezed every opportunity to do so out of the five days of workshops.

To be honest, it scares me a bit. They are already world class runners and handlers, now improving their dog training may put them to new level of accomplishment! The truth is, the way I look at it is if I can push an already successful competitor to be better, in the end it makes me better because I WILL raise my game to continue to be in the hunt to be the best.

Today I am grateful for keen students and new friends. I will go back to Italy soon, it was incredibly reinforcing for me and I am not referring to the money I earned.


  1. Theresa says:
    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 11:04pm

    Sounds like such a great time . I’m really happy for you , AND happy for them !!!
    HMNNN, maybe I can work on the collar grab with that cute guy… lololol


  2. MIchaela C. from Italy says:
    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 6:03am

    I wish to thank Susan once more for the enthusiasm she transmitted during this stage and for her endless patience in regards to everything and everyone despite the long trip over and the time zone shift (next time you are to stay at least one week longer and take some days-off with John!).

    I regret having lost a lot of precious time because of the translation, but hope to have the opportunity to make up for the lost time during the next stages.

    Working with Susan gives me a lot of energy but at the same time it makes me sad as I understand how much I still have to learn from her and the distance between the two countries is so big!!!

    I promised that I will do my best to learn some English by the next stage and who knows mad as I am, I may decide to move to Canada!!!

    It is of great importance never to stop, we never finish learning, who believes he has “arrived”, who believes “to know it all” is a finished man!!! This is what I so much appreciate in Susan, she is in continuous evolution, she constantly tries to improve herself and her work transmitting with sincerity all her knowledge to her students.

    With all my love.



  3. Joan K says:
    Monday, March 29, 2010 at 2:38pm


    Reminds of this post last March (2009)


    It must have been a great workshop with genuine handlers and competitors, who truly opened themselves up to learning, the possibility of failure, and most importantly, the probability of increased SUCCESS!

    -Joan K


  4. Judith Batchelor says:
    Monday, March 29, 2010 at 8:28am

    Speaking as an inexperianced handler. Sometimes it is hard to be absolutly yourself infront of others- you want to make a good impression and don’t want others to think less of you. It shows great character to be absolutly yourself… Somethine we should all learn from myself included.


  5. Helen Verte says:
    Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 6:31pm

    Apart from having to leave Buzzy, this post was such a feel-good read. From Michaela’s persistence, to how these superstar handlers respected you and the learning experience, to Helen King’s quote, it just made my heart smile. What a fantastic and fulfilling journey. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    (Karen, “Embrace your holes?” I love it.)


  6. Trudie says:
    Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 8:23am

    What an awesome activity agility is !
    I’d be interested to know, if it’s possible to say, what kinds of activities you did in your workshop that your European students appreciated most. What was new or different for them? What did they excel in ?


  7. Karen M says:
    Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 7:05am

    It always pays to leave your ego at home if you truly wish to better yourself. No one else cares when you stuff up so embrace the moment and learn from your mistakes. “Embrace your holes!” (Hey, didn’t I hear that somewhere before?)


Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *