Keeping the students motivated is another challenge that faces the obedience instructor. I’m sure most will agree that the goal of a trained dog or the investment of the training fee is not sufficient motivation for some students to keep working through the entire session. We have found several things that appear to have been successful in improving overall attendance and final results of training.
A good beginning is a sincere interest in the dog, handler, and their progress. It is all too possible to settle into a routine when teaching so that our spiel remains the same session after session and the students are not thought of as individuals, but rather collectively as “the class.” If each handler believes that the instructor is interested and doing his best to help him, he is more likely to try harder himself. This expression of interest, or lack of it, may be apparent to the prospective student from his first phone call inquiring about your classes.
Another and possibly more important way of increasing student motivation is allowing some visible success in training from the very first night by providing an outline or other description of realistic accomplishment for the week’s training. This can be accomplished by designing a program such that each step the dog is taught leads to success. If the handler can see the improvement, he is more likely to keep up. Having to wait the entire eight or ten week session to compare his results with the ultimate goal, may be too long for a feeling of satisfactory accomplishment.
As instructors we tell our students to praise their dogs; we should also follow our own advice by praising the handlers for the progress they make however small it may be. This requires the instructor to pay attention to each student and remember from week to week how each is doing.
Socialize with the students. When possible extend invitations to go out for a snack after class. Not only will this help the students to feel a part of the group, but informal conversations may provide the instructor with more information and insight than the formal class allows.
Student motivation is a tough subject with no clear cut guidelines. Each person is different and must be handled individually, but a genuine interest in the student along with a program designed to provide success will go a long way toward lowering the drop- out rate and improving the final results of training.
©1976 W.H. Morrison, III