A two-day Tagteach event in Canandaigua may benefit teachers, coaches, parents, dog owners and corporate trainers.
Many tasks are easier to learn when broken down into simple components.
That is the main concept behind TAGteach™, a relatively new teaching method that helps people learn more efficiently through positive reinforcement of individual components.
TAGteach will be the topic of a two-day conference that will be presented in late August by PetConnections, a division of Ontario ARC, at its Canandaigua facility.
Joey Iversen of Washington, a professional dog trainer and behavior counselor with more than 16 years of experience training and showing dogs and horses, will be the featured speaker. She is a member of the TAGteach faculty.
Jenna Chapman, communications coordinator at Ontario ARC, said the conference will be of particular interest to teachers, coaches, adult students and parents of children with disabilities and other challenges who have previous experience with TAGteach, applied behavior analysis or clicker training.
TAGteach uses tags to highlight specific learning goals. For example, during a recent demonstration at Ontario ARC, Program Manager Brenda Burton performed specific tasks under the direction of Gail Furst, animal-assisted activity and therapy trainer, and her dog Willow, a 2-year-old boxer.
Burton placed a color adhesive dot — or tag — on Burton's thigh and another on Willow's shoulder. Burton knew she was correctly walking the dog when the two tags matched up side by side. Her successful completion of the instruction was confirmed with the sound of a clicker. She continues to try and chieve the goal until she hears the click. For her part, Willow got a treat.
The method, which includes repeating tasks until the clicker indicates successful completion, has been used by athletes, dancers and others to improve performance. At PetConnections, it helps individuals improve agility, fine motor skills, recall and memory, as well as identify colors and sequencing.
In another demonstration, showing range of motion, Burton held up colorful leis, asking Chapman to reach up, take them and lean forward to put them around Willow's neck. The movements help her increase her range of motion and would be used in physical therapy for someone dealing with such limitations to help them gain better movement.
Willow and eight other dogs, owned by trained volunteers, not only serve as co-therapists, but provide additional incentive for participation. Burton said people are a lot more interested in going for a walk when a dog accompanies them.
“I think a dog is completely there,” said Furst. “They're present at the moment. They can't hide their feelings. They're not judgmental. It doesn't matter to Willow how people are dressed, how old they are or how they look.”
Chapman said not everyone is comfortable in social situations and the dog gives them something else to concentrate on. Ontario ARC is also “extremely sensitive” to people who do not like dogs, Furst said.
Furst founded PetConnections five years ago with another boxer named Albert, and pictures of the dog grace the walls of the facility, accompanied by many smiling faces.
PetConnections also includes various workshops and educational programs, such as dog safety for children; works with various community partners; and provides paying jobs for Ontario ARC program members who assist professional dog groomers and make a variety of retail pet products sold at the organization's BAD DOG Spa & Retail Store, as well as online.
Proceeds support PetConnections and increase its ability to offer innovative animal-assisted programs, community activities and paid employment for people with disabilities, through Ontario ARC.
The TAGteach method helps individuals learn the various steps to make some of the products, such as boondoggle-type pull toys. Burton said it is challenging to figure out the sequence of steps and using the TAGteach method has greatly reduced the amount of time to make them.
Furst and Burton began using TAGteach two years ago and continue to try to bring it to more members of the community. An introductory level workshop was presented in August 2015.
The TAGteach advanced workshop will help teachers, parents, coaches, corporate trainers and therapists refine and improve the way they communicate with learners to get the best possible results in the least amount of time, Chapman said.
If you go
WHAT TAGteach International advanced workshop, which is geared toward parents, dog trainers, coaches, teachers and adult students
WHEN Friday and Saturday, Aug. 25 and 26
WHERE Ontario ARC, 3701 County Complex Drive
DETAILS Cost is $425. The workshop will be presented by PetConnections, a division of Ontario ARC. For more information, contact Gail Furst at email@example.com or 585-919-2146. Additional details and registration information are available at tagteach.com.