Many clubs and training organizations have established requirements for becoming an instructor. Many require having taught with an instructor for a period of time prior to teaching a class alone. Others require a UD title (not degree) on a dog before teaching even a basic class. Most require having taken a dog through a basic or novice class along with having earned a CD title. Some people are better trainers than others, while others are better teachers. Which is most important? The best is the person who excels at both. Unfortunately that leaves the majority of us out in the cold. Here are some considerations.
A person who has trained one or more of his own dogs to a UD title is hopefully aware of the problems that can pop up in advanced training and what can be done in early training to avoid them. In addition, he can see how certain training approaches in early training can create problems later. In most cases students don’t get bitten by the bug until after they have been through a class or two. It is wise not to let something slide that might cause problems later and the experienced instructor can spot them.
Regardless of how good a trainer you are, if you can’t effectively communicate with people, that experience remains untapped. Teachers who can explain so that all can understand are the most effective. Consider how you felt as a student and try to anticipate questions and develop clear explanations so as to supply them in your initial presentation.
Learn to explain how to teach an exercise so that the student can do it as well as you. All too often an instructor can take a dog and get the desired response. Yet the student has difficulty. Instructors rely on years of experience and gut feelings when working with a strange dog. Learn how to put those feelings into words so that others can benefit from that experience.
Trial preparation and most advanced classes should be left to those who have been there. This is one place where there is little substitute for experience. It is difficult to explain the ins and outs of competition unless you have been there and while many instructors who have not competed have had students to earn titles with high scores, their knowledge would be that much greater having had the experience themselves.
A good and effective instructor is a student himself. Without some outside input we can become very stale in our teaching. Exposure to the ideas of others always helps develop greater diversity in approach. Educational experiences are plentiful with all the clinics and seminars avail-able. Books on training and behavior provide good background information. Check with local veterinary associations to see if you can attend continuing education programs which are available.
We spend so much time learning about dogs that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we deal primarily with people. Many companies and community colleges offer classes in people motivation and management. These can provide invaluable insight on dealing with people and being a more effective motivator and communicator. Learning what motivates people can lead to a more productive class.
Experience, good communication skills, to say which is most important to being a good instructor is difficult. The best have both.
©1985 W. Herbert Morrison, III