Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tag Points for Agility Handling

In their new book "Agility Right from the Start", authors Emelie Johnson-Vegh and Eva Bertilsson explain how to use TAGteach to teach agility handling skills. They stress the importance of teaching the handling skills first WITHOUT the dog and then adding the dog into the equation.

Here is an example that they have provided for us:

When training agility, it’s beneficial if you have rewards that can fill a number of purposes. One of the purposes that need to be filled is the possibility to throw your reward ahead (most often a toy reward). For you to be able to use this kind of reward to its full extent, you want the thrown reward to land in a precise spot. This means that you need the mechanical skills to be able to throw with precision. For us as agility trainers this also means that you need to be able to do so with both your left and your right hand.

This can naturally be taught in many ways, but one of the things you can do to improve your precision throwing is to place out a large container close to you. Throw the toy into the container, and then gradually increase the distance. Go back close to the container again when you begin working with your other hand. Then change the container to a smaller one, and yet again begin close to it and work your way out.

Suggested tag points for this exercise are:

  • The tag point is… engage core when throwing.  
  • If you work with your core muscles, it will make it easier to throw longer. Have your coach actually place her/his hand on you to be able to tell if you have indeed engaged your core, unless you’re working with somebody trained to be able to see this. If you’re tagging yourself you can place the hand that’s not throwing on your body to feel it yourself. 
  • The tag point is… look at desired landing area. 
  • Where your gaze goes, so does your focus. Look at where you’re aiming. 
  • The tag point is… attempt.  
  • The idea here is to work with your non-dominant hand with no pressure.
Naturally there are a great many more possible tag points! Find out what you need to work on, break it down and create the tag points suitable for you. 

Click here to find out more or buy the book. Highly Recommended!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Seminar Summary - Portland April 2010

By Keri Gorman

Just wanted to share some highlights from the Portland TAGteach seminar. As usual we had a diverse group which included horse trainers, dog trainers, a nurse, an occupational therapist and a dance teacher, 15 people in all.

I've been teaching TAG for about 5 years now and the seminars have evolved so much! We are at the point where people are already familiar with TAG before attending the seminar, many of them having already used it. We spend much more time in discussion and practice which is challenging and rewarding for me. This group in particular already had a sense of why tagging would be better than not, but wanted clarity in the best use of the methodology and language. TAGteach is such a simple tool, yet brings up so many complex questions.

Here are some of my "ah ha" moments:

A mother of 3 boys (ages 5, 7 and 9) spent the weekend developing a TAG plan for helping one of her boys get out of bed in the morning and off to school. The whole routine had become very toxic to both mom and son. It seemed that just tagging the individual components of the routine would not be enough and the process needed some creativity. Well, what boy wouldn't love spitting some toothpaste on the mirror in the morning? By 7:30am, the TAG point is "spit toothpaste on the mirror". Certainly incompatible with lying in bed and the morning can start out with a little humor!

A group of us were tagged for square dancing, always fun! I can add that to the list of Irish dance step, hula, belly dancing and swing, all of which Ihave learned thanks to TAG.

The group came up with some very creative ways to teach a class of medical field managers how to "read their manual", a normally daunting and boring task.

TAGpoints for a Blind Contour Drawing lesson, that was a first!! We all got to participate in this one and it was so cool! It's amazing to me that such a structured and scientific teaching tool can be SO useful in teaching
creativity. It was the first time in my life I haven't been scared to create art, I have complete trust that a  TAGteacher can get me through it.

Thank you to Theresa and all the attendees for another amazing seminar. Lots of great contributions and I'm sure more to come from this particular group!

I'm on my way to the local fire department tomorrow morning to introduce a little TAG to the captain. I just see endless possibilities for this application! Talk about a profession that requires instinctive skill recall!

Find out more about Keri or contact her at TAG Northwest

Monday, April 5, 2010

Upcoming TAGteach Seminars

Portland, OR

Boulder, CO

Golden Valley, MN

Brisbane, Australia (09/11-12/2010)

Hamburg, Germany (10/16-17/2010)

Dates coming for New Zealand

Contact Theresa McKeon if you are interested in a 1-day workshop option.

I wonder what the rope is for?

Some TAG Terms

As TAGteach has been evolving in practice, so has the language we have been using to describe what we are doing. Here are definitions of some TAG terms.
  • TAG: Teaching with Acoustical Guidance.
  • TAGteachTM: a term used to describe the concept and process of TAGteach. Anyone wishing to use this term in a commercial project requires permission.
  • tag point: a single selected aspect of a response, action or position that is acoustically marked as it is occurring. more information
  • TAGteacherTM : a TAGteach practitioner who has received at least one level of certification in TAGteach.
  • value added tag point: a tag point that resolves more than one problem.
  • three try rule: if a learner dose not correctly execute the tag point in three tries, the teacher will break the task down further to ensure success on the next try.
  • tagulatorTM : a device made from beads that is used to keep a count of the number of tags the learner has earned.
  • point of success: a place to start or return to that guarantees the learner a tag.
  • Self-Tagging: The act of tagging oneself. A means to promote positive interactions with yourself, to encourage skill acquisition and retention.    
  • focus point: this is like a tag point in that you ask the learner to focus on one thing, but no tag will occur at the moment of success (verbal praise may come afterward).

          Thursday, April 1, 2010

          Why Host a TAGteach Seminar? Part 2

          Most people who host a TAGteach seminar are those who have already attended one seminar and want to know more and want to spread the knowledge to others. We asked some of our hosts why they decided to host a seminar, after all, why would anyone want to come to the same thing again? The fact is, the seminar experience is different every time because much of it is dependent on who is there. The attendees are usually fascinating people with a lot of insight and experience to offer.

          From time to time we will post the responses to our question "why host a TAGteach seminar?".

          I am Doris Vaterlaus from Switzerland and I have been into clicker training since 1994. I was one of the first to introduce this kind of teaching and training to our country, while at the same time giving workshops and lectures in other European countries, for example Germany, France, Austria and Italy. I have used training with a marker + rewards for various species, mainly dogs, but also horses, ponies, goats, and a chicken (at the Baileys), as well as giving advice on how to retrain animals with behavioural issues, such as a parrot, many dogs and their owners, horses and cats.

          About 10 years ago, I helped a young girl with dyscalculia – and she improved extraordinarily quickly. She is now working as an office assistance in her community.

          The longer I am into this positive and respectful way of teaching and learning, the more I realise that we are, first and foremost, teaching people how to communicate with their animals and how to train them to reach their goals.

          That’s why, in 2009, I organised the first TAGteach Certification Seminar in Switzerland and the first in Europe, inviting Theresa McKeon as presenter. We were an international group of trainers from different professional fields; alongside dog trainers the group included veterinarians, a forestry engineer, parents and teachers of autistic children and trainers for assistance dogs.
          This seminar gave me a deeper insight into training people and brought me to a further level of teaching – for example, it led me to a new dimension of clicker training.

          Theresa showed us the 5 most important points of application:

          1. General input = explanations, ideas
          2. Application for the planned task
          3. Defining the TAGpoint = focus on one single point
          4. Last step: = marking the success of the single step
          5. Finally: Reward this step

          A TAG means: success – no TAG means: goal not reached

          I had always had the idea of organising another seminar of this kind, then, earlier this year, Christine from Germany contacted me and we decided to give it another try, this time in the North of Germany, in order to reach another group of interested people.

          I am looking forward to another interesting seminar and to meeting new people who are just getting to know this kind and effective way of teaching and learning.

          This event will take place in Hamburg, Germany on 16 and 17 October, and will attract many trainers and teachers from various professional fields. Visit or for more information.

          TAGteach and Handwriting

          Writing is a basic skill and something all kids struggle with to one degree or another. Every parent has seen the frustration of a child trying to make the letters look right, but not quite managing it, the inexplicable repetition of the same error over and over. The child knows it is not quite right, yet can't seem to change what he is doing. Drawing attention to the error in order to help correct it often results in floods of tears.

          TAGteacher Madeline Gabriel sent us two short videos that illustrate how she used TAGteach to help her sons with their writing. In the first clip, the tag point is "pencil to the line" and the child is self-tagging. This is a great way for him to develop increased focus and interest in the task. He knows exactly what he has to do and he can see when he does it right. This is a good tag point.

          In the second video we see another tag point, this one to help with letter formation. Andrew was creating e's with a big loop and becoming very frustrated. Here's what Madeline had to say about the situation:

          The thing we worked on was lower case "e". I was amazed that we were able to come up with a tag point of "that way" to help him feel how to draw his straight line across and then immediately go "that way" (up and to the left) vs. the little tiny extra poofing out to the right he was doing.

          It's hardly any difference in pencil movement, but it makes ALL the difference in keeping the shape of the letter in proportion. We did it by me holding over his hand holding the pencil and making the movement together with a tag as the pencil went "that way."

          Andrew could articulate to his dad exactly what the tag point was and I could clearly see him move his pencil very deliberately.

          Just FYI, I'm really not a terribly picky mother! I know to some people this may look like nitpicking, but I meant it to show how precision doesn't have to be hard. It's just as easy for him to do it "correctly" with TAG and he's very confident and proud about his e's now.

          I mostly leave him alone to do his own thing, but I had to start tagging again when he started saying, "I hate e's! I'm really bad at them!" and he had ten pages with lots and lots of e's. I was seeing hours of erasing and crying stretching out before me and I'm definitely not into THAT!

          See the images below to see the problem with the "poofing" out to the right that was causing misshapen e's:

          Together they decided on the tag point "that way" which means "move to the left right away after drawing the horizontal line". This is a great tag point because it causes the movement that results in a correctly drawn e. There is no point in using the tag point, "draw a good e" because if Andrew could do this he would, he just doesn't know how. We discussed tag points that "make it happen" in a previous blog post.

          The above provide two good examples of creativity and good tag points that help the learner focus on one thing and be successful.