If you’ve coached clients, then you’ve run into client compliance challenges. Your clients are seeking professional dog training help because they want to make improvements to their dog’s behavior. But – sometimes your recommendations seem difficult or time consuming or maybe just confusing. How can you improve your clients’ buy-in? Here are a few tips using food toys as an example.
I frequently recommend the use of food toys for a variety of clients: clients with high energy dogs, clients with young dogs, clients with busy schedules. The following are some of the challenges in attaining client compliance and the solutions to them.
1. Challenge: Clients don’t understand the instructions or how to progress their dog through the steps.
Solution: Clearly describe the end goal behavior. Describe each of the steps in plain language. Then ask your client if they have questions. If possible, provide a demonstration. In instances where a demonstration is not practical, provide video clips.
Example: 1) The end goal is to prolong the amount of time it takes the dog to eat his meal, and to increase mental stimulation by encouraging the dog to utilize problem solving skills to disseminate the food. 2) Step 1: Introduce the food toy using an easy win. With a Kong, that might simply be loosely filling the toy with dry kibble. Don’t forget to help your dog stay engaged with the toy if necessary. This is supposed to be an easy win! 3) Don’t forget to check for understanding. 4) Provide a demonstration. See “Dry Kibble: Help If You Need To!”
2. Challenge: Clients begin a training exercise but are not successful immediately and give up.
Solution: Provide clients with short term and longer term training goals. Explain that training occurs in stages and following a path of small, incremental successes will lead to a more satisfactory conclusion. Make it clear that each of the steps in the training process is a goal, the successful completion of which aids in reaching the final goal.
Example: Although a Kong with loose kibble doesn’t occupy most dogs for very long, it’s an important step to successfully master before increasing the challenge to the dog. And it’s a great start to playing with interactive toys!
Solution: Provide clear, sequential instructions. For example, include starting points in your handouts, when to progress to the next step, and next steps.
Example: Explain step 1 in the process (see above). Repeat the process at a slightly higher difficulty level once the dog is emptying the Kong routinely with no help from your client. The next step is to increase the difficulty level, but only by a small margin. Fill the Kong with loose kibble and seal the top with something very tasty, like canned food, peanut butter, or cottage cheese. See “Kibble With A Bit Of Canned.”
Solution: Preview all of the stages, so that your clients know where they’re going with the training.
Example: Describe each of the stages and provide quick clips demonstrating them. Step 1, see “Dry Kibble: Help If You Need To!” Step 2, see “Kibble With A Bit Of Canned.” Step 3, freezing the Kong from Step 2. Step 4, see “Layered Kibble and Canned.” Step 5, freezing the Kong from Step 4. Step 6, see “Canned Mixed With Dry Kibble.” Step 7, freezing the Kong from Step 6.
Solution: Follow-up in subsequent training sessions by having clients demonstrate where they are in the training and demonstrating to them the next steps. You can do this electronically or in a hands-on training session. Use this as a problem-solving session by going through some common problems that clients encounter. You can even pro-actively include trouble-shooting tips in your handouts.
3. Challenge: Clients have very limited time and will limit their practice and follow-up to recommendations that they believe fit within their schedules.
Solution: Be reasonable in your expectations. Give your clients achievable tasks and goals that fit within the constraints of their mental, financial, and time restrictions.
Example: Ask your clients when they feed their dog and what their typical schedule is like. Pinpoint the times that are more flexible and encourage preparation of toys at these times.
Solution: Help your clients to understand how little time is actually required for your recommendations. Make suggestions about how they can fit the changes you recommend into their schedule.
Example: The most time-consuming step is the next to last step, canned and dry kibble mixed together and stuffed in the Kong. The last stage of difficulty is the same, but simply popping the stuffed Kong in the freezer. Point out to the client that the entire process of stuffing the Kong takes approximately 1 minute and 45 seconds (see the video clip “Canned Mixed With Dry Kibble”.)
Use these positive dog training tips to increase your clients buy-in to the training plan you’re recommending. They’ll stick with the training longer, have better success, and be happier with the results!