That question was suggested to me recently as one to think about “Susan, how would you answer that question at the end of your life.”

Did I make a difference?

I know my mom and dad made a difference raising 8 amazing children of their own and adopting two other equally amazing children (I won’t even mention the number of foster kids we had along the way:)). Each of us makes a difference in our own way. I would like to think I am making a difference in the lives of dogs and dog owners. That is what drives me to continue to work so hard at what I do and it is what drove me to start doing more of my work online where I can reach more people around the world.

Part of making a difference is understanding what will bring the most value to those of you who share my passion for dog training and agility training.  And one way I hear from you about your needs is through periodic surveys that query you about what tools and skills might be helpful.

Following a recent survey, I received a request to do a private, start-to-finish workshop in running contacts.

Previously I would I have just refused because I really didn’t want to try to train something if I didn’t feel confident I could transfer the knowledge successfully to others. But here I am, ten years since training my first dog’s running contacts and having successfully taught each of my last four dogs as well as helped several of my students’ dogs, I feel I have gotten the methodology down to a point I am ready to teach that “start-to-finish-all-inclusive” workshop.

Although I am doing more and more of my teaching on-line, the truth is I do still love to work with people on a one to one basis. Even though I really don’t have as much time to work with private clients as I used to, I recognize that helping other dog owners succeed is so rewarding which leaves me in a constantly struggle trying to do it all!

I do sometimes look back to my life a few years ago as a simpler time for me, (that is an understatement). When I think about the reach of this blog, my newsletters and my on-line programs, well, I realized how important it is for me to  continue to share what I’ve learned with others. That is what inspired me to start building my team, so collectively we could reach more people — even though it may have made my life more complex and yes at times, far more chaotic!

However, I really wanted to continue to offer live events as well… so recently I extended an opportunity to my most recent “Recallers” class in order to find that small select group of people interested in participating in this “start-to-finish” training with me. The first criteria I had when designing this program was that it had to provide MASSIVE value to those individuals who placed their trust in me. That’s always been my goal, with every bit of training I’ve ever produced.  I have taken great care to be sure the model accomplishes that goal.  In order to create that much value I knew I was going to have to raise the bar of pricing for a highly-specialized dog training workshop to a new level. It’s not a program for everyone. It’s not meant to be. That’s why it was priced the way it was and limited to just five people. Yes there was an application process, but the reason for it was that I wanted a cross section of dog breeds and experiences in dog training  and not to get “just the best” or “only Border Collies.  I wanted a true representation of dogs doing agility.

All of this appears to have caused a ripple this week in the world of dog agility.  Some people have suggested this project is all about money for me.  You know I could have done what the rest of the agility world expects and simply offered up three RC workshops for 15 people, charged each  individual $650 per workshop and no one in the agility community would have batted an eyelash AND I would have made more money! I would have created less work for myself with no on-line follow up to do, no sleepless nights figuring out how to help one of five people solve a problem and no DVD to produce (each of my 5 participants get a comprehensive DVD to recap the work in the course), which, by the way, will not be available for sale to others. The DVD is being provided as a tool to help students in the workshop reinforce their learning.

Sure this small focus group is a “different way” of doing things, but let me share with you what I believe is the key to my success as a dog trainer and as a business owner; I am not afraid to try new things even when the old ways are still successful, even if it means moving in a direction that others have not traveled before and opening myself up to criticism along the way.

This project is about finding the best way to help others further their education. It is about working closely with eager people who share my passion for collectively solving interesting and complex problems.

In short, it is about discovery, challenge and innovation.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at Swagger doing his running contacts here is a video clip.

Over the next couple of months I am going to be working very hard to bring out the best in this group of five dog and handlers as they work through the methodology of my running contacts. They will be participating in one on-line workshop, further online discussions, two live training sessions here at Say Yes and a full year follow up with me in an on-line forum.

Even though I will be focused on this group, I don’t want it to take away from my core mission of helping as many dog trainers as I can to meet their own dog training goals.

So, along with the small group training, I am also developing several free on-line webinars to help each of you improve your own dog’s contact performance.

Remember that survey I mentioned earlier?  While a few of you were interested in running contacts, most expressed that stopped contacts were your priority  because they can be taught with a greater degree of certainty and don’t require the same level of athleticism from the handler once they are in place.

So how can I help you?

What has you mystified, what needs improving with your contact training? Is your dog missing an element that you can’t figure out how to add or improve?  What topic(s) would you like to see me address with regard to your stopped contacts?  Your feedback is critical to in helping me develop content that meets your needs in these upcoming webinars, so please let me know what you are struggling with!

Today, I am grateful for the trust you have placed in me to help you achieve your goals.  And I am grateful for the privilege of working with all of you to collectively further knowledge about the hobby/sport/interest that brings us all such true and abiding joy.