How I became a OneMind Dogs Instructor
It should probably read: “Why I became a OneMind Dogs Instructor!” It’s really all because of… or should I say: thanks to … my dog Mick!
Every agility competitor has probably heard about this OneMind Dogs handling method, some may even know that it originates in Finland. Fewer people know that the method was first developed by Janita Leinonen for her dog Tekla who suddenly lost her hearing in 2003. Since Janita’s handling was mostly verbal, she feared that she had to stop training and competing with Tekla, which would have been a terrible thing for a border collie who lives to work. She really had only one option: finding other ways to communicate with Tekla, without the use of verbal cues. Janita began to study and experiment with the subtle body language that is commonly used by dogs to communicate with each other. She learned to communicate with Tekla in HER language and realized that non-verbal cues are a powerful and underused tool for communication. Thanks to Tekla, Janita learned to listen. Their determination and love for each other meant they did not give up –and their efforts evolved into the OneMind Dogs method. The results spoke for themselves: after Tekla became deaf, her achievements not only continued but even increased.
Through lots of experimentation, trial and error, a method was developed that ALL dogs from anywhere understand easily and quickly. We, the handlers, have to learn it first, but after that … it works for all dogs. I’ve experienced this first hand when training my youngster, Jai. With me using the correct body language he is able to perform most common handling manoeuvres very quickly and without a lot of repetitions since I’m communicating with him in a way that he naturally already knows.
Getting back to Mick, who is neither deaf nor hard of hearing: I remember that pivotal moment when I was questioning why Mick didn’t go to the backside of a jump in spite of me giving him the correct verbal cue in a timely manner. An instructor I was working with at the time pointed out to me that my chest was pointing toward the front side of the jump and that’s what Mick was responding to! WHAT? So Mick is not really listening to my words?!? Physical cues are MUCH stronger than verbal cues?!? … Not long after that I decided to have a closer look at the OneMind Dogs method, which I had heard about and seen videos on Facebook. I signed up for a free membership, upgraded to a premium membership shortly after and my learning began. I learned about the 7 handling elements, how dogs naturally respond to our body language and that verbal cues are at the bottom of the list of handling elements!
While I was studying videos online, reading articles, learning all I could about OneMind Dogs handling, I received, back in May 2017, an invitation to become an instructor for OneMind Dogs! My learning had really just begun, some things worked well for me, others were a work in progress and I certainly didn’t know enough to be able to teach this to anyone! But then I was thinking: what the heck, this was great opportunity for learning for myself and my own dogs, so I filled out the application. I was surprised when I was accepted to join their international coaching program and went on to submit the required video application, thus making it through to the next step. At the end of June it became serious and I had to make the decision whether to continue on this journey which meant committing to extensive on-line learning as well as attending the 4 day training in the US in September. I’m glad that I took the leap and during the training in Connecticut, I had another huge aha moment that completely changed how I see agility: Connection is what Mick had been searching from me! All those times when he refused obstacles, barking at me, “not listening” ….. This became obvious when I watched Mikko Aaltonen, one of the fabulous Finnish coaches, walk a course with his virtual dog! Not even a real dog, but seeing how he maintained his connection during the whole course …. who knew this was even possible!!! I learned that when we don’t connect with our dogs, they often seek that connection with us.
Another key part was learning to handle lines, not obstacles, and how to handle FOR my dog, seeing the course from the dog’s perspective. The training was without our own dogs but we were often asked the question: “where do you think your dog would like you to be, to be able to execute this line?” … mind-altering!!! We also had to teach students what we had just learned, all under the scrutiny and with the kindest support of the 3 Finnish coaches, Jenni Leino, Mari Kaplas and Mikko Aaltonen. I am so impressed with their way of teaching in such a clear and positive manner. Always explaining WHY we do it like this, or like that and what happens if we do it differently. None of my coaches had ever been this thorough and clear in their teaching!
In March 2018, I continued my education for Handling Techniques 2 in California and came away even more inspired to become a better handler for my dogs and a better teacher for my students. The coaches and fellow instructors have become a world-wide family, always uplifting, patiently explaining the How and the Why, all with the common goal to be the best handlers for our dogs.
In April 2019, I attended “Foundations for Agility” in Pennsylvania. This course is designed to get puppies started on the right paw and I was amazed at how quickly they can learn all the foundations for agility. With very few repetitions and always making it super fun for the puppies and their owners, dogs can learn everything they’ll need to know once they are old enough to run courses and compete! I’m looking forward to getting my certification and teaching “Foundations for Agility” this summer!
If you’re interested in hosting a 2 day seminar, please contact me about details:
Read an article about How Do Dogs Learn? The Science Behind Physical and Verbal Cues
Videos from OneMind Dogs Handling Techniques 1
Videos from OneMind Dogs Handling Techniques 2