The perfect client does not exist. Or rather, every client is perfect in some way, but not in every way. One of the challenges you face as your clients’ dog training resource is to point out the imperfections both specifically and fully without dampening your clients’ enthusiasm for learning. If you fail to point out your clients’ training weaknesses – poor timing or clumsy delivery, for example, then you’re failing your clients as a teacher. If you point out these weaknesses and your clients are offended and discouraged, then you’re failing your clients as a teacher.
So how do you walk this fine line? Be specific and very descriptive in pointing out both perfections and imperfections. The following are some examples of specific language.
1. I like how smoothly you delivered the treat to Spot. You had the treat ready in your hand and your movements to his mouth were clean and economical. Excellent job!
***NOT*** Good Job!
2. I noticed that you fumbled in your treat bag for a bit before you had a treat ready for Spot. You might try emptying your treats from the plastic baggie directly into your treat pouch to make them more accessible, or have a treat ready in your hand.
***NOT***Your treat delivery wasn’t very good. You need to have treats out and ready more quickly.
1. Good job using the marker word. As soon as Spot’s nose touched your hand, you marked it with a prompt “good.” There was no delay between his nose touch and your marker word, which is exactly what we’re looking for!
***NOT*** Good job using the marker word!
2. Your marker word “good” was delivered after your dog’s nose was no longer touching your hand. Before you put your hand out, be sure you’re ready to speak up! Ideally, you want your marker word to be spoken as your dog’s nose is touching your hand.
***NOT*** You were a little slow. Try being a little faster.
Remember, all clients are perfect in some way. Be sure that you recognize and acknowledge their good training in a specific way so that they can repeat it, whether it’s great timing, reading body language well, their enthusiasm for training, or following your instructions closely. If you see areas for improvement, point out the specific need for improvement and provide specific instructions for how your clients might improve.
If you find yourself struggling with specificity, then review your own training skills. Practicing good mechanics, especially videoing yourself, can make you more aware of exactly why certain training feels better or works better. In knowing specifically why certain training skills work well, you should be better able to specifically explain to your clients what you like and want repeated and what needs improvement. Also, check out our blog post “Skills Practice: Improve Your Reward Delivery.” There are several very specific tips regarding reward delivery.
Becoming a certified dog trainer means becoming a teacher. You have a responsibility as a teacher to encourage learning in your students – and it’s just good business!