What makes my classes unique?
- At the first class meeting, “congratulate” the owners for enrolling in your class. This is the first step for owners in building a relationship with their dogs; trainers need to nourish that relationship with the owners/dogs they teach.
- Learn the names of dogs as quickly as possible (in my case, I “meet and greet” each dog by name beginning on week 2, and throughout all subsequent classes). Owners like to hear their dog’s name.
- Establish a protocol (routine) used at the beginning of each class that sets the stage for learning (e.g., warm-up exercise to get dog’s attention; “watch me;” “R & R,” repetition and review from previous week; equipment check, “doggie roll call,” etc.)
- Say something positive to each owner about his/her dog at least once during each class period. Ideally, this should be positive feedback about an exercise; the reality is sometimes, ‘I like your dog’s expression,’ may be the best you can muster. Remember this: when you praise the dog, you are praising the owner, too!
- Each owner has a different learning style preference (or combination of styles): auditory, visual, kinesthetic. Use all three learning styles in every exercise you teach.
- Maintain a calm, relaxed, controlled “energy” in your classes. This will rapidly spread to owners and dogs, setting the stage for learning. And, know and respond when the energy in the room is becoming negative. Smile!
- Be open and always check for understanding. Embrace problem solving. Invite owners to ask questions within your classes. Oftentimes, an individual’s question is shared by other owners in the class. If this gets to be too much, invite the owner to consult with you individually.
- Encourage owners to figure out their dog’s learning threshold. What is the absolute maximum number of repetitions your dog can handle before ‘folding?’ Each dog’s threshold number is different and once the threshold is determined, owners need to honor that number.
- Teach owners to always end each exercise on a positive. As I often say in class, “finish on a good one.”
- At the end of each class, praise your students AND “thank” them for coming.
Ellen Drewes-Stoen, NADOI #920, SPOT#7345, CGC 100059
Ellen spent 40 years as a college professor in education methods and student teacher supervision in the public schools, and is always excited to implement educational research into teaching dog classes. She is an Instructor at Good Dog Center in Decorah, Iowa.