Acquiring additional instructors to meet the demands of a growing clientele is most rewarding but can present many problems. I needed an instructor with sound personal development. Knowing that I was capable of supplying the technical training, my instructor would be required to supply the ability to communicate and cooperate. He would have to be interested, display enthusiasm and emotional stability, have pride in his appearance, and a take charge attitude or leadership quality.
It was not long before I found the individual I was looking for. Having studied his personal growth over a two-year span, I was pleased with what I had observed. Within two years his dog had acquired his C.D., C.D.X., and U.D. titles. His excellent training had produced some fantastic scores, representing both regular and non-regular classes. He was asked to judge matches and was well liked by judges, exhibitors and spectators. I do not intend to imply that superior handlers make good instructors – nothing could be further from the truth – it just happened that way. Even more remarkable, this handler remained modest through it all. I decided to approach him with a plan. Would he be willing to serve an apprenticeship under my tutelage?
The first year he was to attend as many classes as possible, observing personalities in handlers and temperaments in dogs. He spent from 6 to 10 hours per week assisting those who had missed lessons or were having difficulties and was required to handle any and all dogs. As a result, the handlers gained confidence in his judgment, knowing he was interested in their welfare. When he ran into a problem for which he did not know the answer, he admitted it and then we would discuss it. He visited the classes of other instructors in and out of the area; he disapproved of some methods; and he reserved judgment until he saw the end product.
His first Novice class at the school was somewhat disappointing to both of us. It wasn’t a bad class and to some it would have been a good class. I have had many like it myself. The attitude of the handlers was frustrating. They simply were not interested in self improvement and this produced a lack of confidence in their instructor. His first Open class, on the other hand, was all I could have hoped for and I attribute this to the following: fewer but more capable handlers who shared their instructor’s interest in perfection. Although I enjoy teaching Open classes, I felt it wise to turn Open instructing over to my apprentice. Not only did it bring recognition sooner than expected, but it kept me on my toes. If my Novice handlers were not ready for the Open class, he would let me know about it. In return, if the Utility handlers were not prepared, I would let him know.
To date he has been in obedience five years. He has assisted and trained approximately 156 weeks. When he qualifies for membership in the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors I shall insist that he apply, knowing that he has a lot to offer, but at the same time a lot to learn, as I do. Then I can spend more time with my other apprentice, but that is another story.
As you may have gathered, I take my instructing seriously. I believe that a handler who enrolls in an obedience class is entitled to sound instruction by an experienced instructor. Experience, however, does not come overnight; it takes a willingness to learn, patience and perseverance. In addition, I believe that a potential instructor should first work under the guidance and direct supervision of an experienced trainer. In my school there is no room for self-appointed experts and instant instructors.
©1974 J. R. Kenner