Before you teach, you need to create a plan that will allow for a successful teaching situation. When your learner is engaged and happy and wants to be with you, training is easy. It only takes a few minutes to communicate new ideas effectively if the learner is engaged.

I do not train disengaged learners because it’s too difficult! When the learner is disengaged I spend my time and energy trying to refocus them and it’s frustrating for both of us. My energy goes too high and I get frantic, which doesn’t do either of us any good.  Instead, I follow this order:

  1. Make friends.
  2. Motivate!
  3. Teach.

Now let’s apply it.

You go to your client’s house. They open the door angry and frazzled. Their dog is peeing all over the house and the neighbors hate them because the dog barks constantly when they are at work.  First, let’s make friends.

How does this learner need to be approached? How about with a little sympathy?! It must be terrible when the neighbors are angry with you over non-stop barking and you don’t know what to do. And the peeing all over the house? How miserable to come home to a house that smells bad with a dog who’s screaming bloody murder.

Now your learner realizes that you’re not judgemental. You have empathy and you’re not blaming them for what they don’t know. Now what?

Motivation! How do you do that?

Remind them how much they love their dog! He’s so friendly and happy and cute!  And it’s so sweet how he wants to sit on your lap.  Take a moment to remind them that they love their dog and that he is special so that they care. Because sometimes, especially with behavior issues, they won’t be loving their dog much at all.  Work to bring it back to the positive.  There IS a reason they want to solve these issues but they may have forgotten it so bring it back to front and center.

So now the person likes you – you’re friendly and sympathetic.  They remember why they love their dog and are willing to put out some effort to make things better.  Now what?

Teach them!

You are going to solve this problem together! You are going to lay out a plan to help this person get their dog housebroken and to stop the barking! Not only that, you are going to give them management tools to help them get through while they apply their training program…how awesome is that?! You’re going to break down the pieces into tiny manageable bits so that they will be successful with their dog, and if they struggle, you’re going to give them a contingency plan. Your learner now realizes that not only do you understand the problems, you’re going to make it possible to solve them!

So now you have a learner who likes you, likes their dog, and sees that you have a plan to solve problems…you’ve seen this before and you’re competent to help them.  They’re motivated to take on the challenge because you’ve reminded them that the end result will be worth it.

Now your training can take hold.

And for those of you who thought this was about training an animal?  It is – people are animals.  Training is training – apply your skills to humans in the same way you’ve learned to apply them to dogs.