The ability to communicate and motivate are two of the most important skills one must have in order to be an effective teacher. All the knowledge on technique is worthless to an instructor if he cannot communicate with his students. We develop language which is well understood in the dog circle but is foreign to the novice dog owner. If this language is used without clarification, the student is lost. To dazzle students with fancy footwork and fast talk might momentarily impress but does little to get points across. An effective teacher should seldom have to handle a student’s dog or demonstrate with his own in order to make his points. A handler having a problem teaching his dog an exercise does not need the instructor to train his dog or demonstrate with his own. He needs to be told how to do it himself. An instructor’s job is to verbally show the student what to do or not to do. This is not easy. It takes a thorough knowledge of the techniques and the ability to clearly explain them. One must be able to quickly analyze what’s going wrong and adjust instructions accordingly.
When presenting papers at professional meetings, those speakers who are outstanding 1) assume no prior knowledge of the subject by the audience, 2) are knowledgeable enough about their subject that foundations leading to significant points are built such that the audience is lead quickly, clearly, and logically to those points, 3) each idea is presented as a single unit or thought, 4) terms are used that are understood by the audience and new terms are clearly defined.
While we might be very knowledgeable, we must communicate on the level of the students using words and analogies they understand. As terms are introduced, they are defined and clearly explained. Exercises should be broken down to simple, easy to explain and understand steps.
Many students are motivated to come to class because they want their dog to be a little more manageable. However, after finding that it is not as easy as they thought, this form of motivation may not be enough. Some instructors use money to motivate feeling that if a student pays say $100.00 for a set of classes, he will work hard so that his money does not go to waste. By the same token, you had better give him his money’s worth of knowledge and instruction.
If time is taken to talk to a student paying attention to what they have to say, you can learn a lot about that person and what motivates him. This can be used to remotivate that student when he gets down. By knowing your students, they can be motivated as individuals. Students, like their dogs, are individuals and need to be handled as such.
Nothing detracts more from a class and cuts motivation than does boredom. For this reason, an instructor is also an entertainer. If you can keep the student’s attention, you are well on your way to getting points across. Keep class interesting and entertaining through stories, different exercises which also encompass points to be covered, and humor. Finally, a good teacher cares about his students and their dog. If the student gets the impression you don’t care, you have lost that road to communication.
All too often, we get into dog training because we like dogs, and rightfully so; but when you get right down to it, when teaching, we are dealing with people and somehow the dog seems to come out okay in spite of the people.
©1984 W. Herbert Morrison, III