The Essential Packing List for Dog Training Teachers


By Sumac Grant-Johnson CPDT-KA & Wag It Games Founder

Teaching should be judged by the students’ ability to understand, implement and benefit from it. Students of great teachers progress towards their goals, enjoy the learning process and rave about what they have experienced.

Great teachers have knowledge beyond the specific skills they are teaching. They have the ability to inspire and transfer their knowledge and skills to others effectively. However for the knowledge and skill to be of any value, the student must have a desire to learn what the teacher has to offer and the motivation and ability to make use of it.

E­xceptional teachers have a vast and varied “toolbox” filled with knowledge, skills, tools and experiences. Their toolbox is never complete and is constantly growing. These teachers know that the more they have in their toolbox, the better they become.

Below is a packing list of essentials for the teacher toolbox. This packing list is above and beyond the knowledge and skills required to teach target skills and train dogs. Teaching dog training is teaching humans to train dogs and the items below are essential components for teaching the human member of your student team. This packing list is not considered complete as the best teacher toolboxes are always being filled with more.

  • Human Behavior – Skillful trainers of dogs have a vast knowledge about canine behavior. They “read” the dog and choose methods and techniques that will lead the dog to perform new behaviors and/or increase or reduce behaviors. The exact same thing is true when working with people. The ability to “read” and train people requires knowledge about the behavior of the human animal.
  • Human Communication – It is generally agreed that though we humans talk a lot, the majority of our communication takes place without words. Researchers have identified almost a million nonverbal cues and signals we use to communicate with one another. The teacher’s body language and facial expressions are critically important to presenting the information. In return, the student’s body language and facial expressions offer the instructor a wealth of valuable information—if they know how to interpret it.
  • Learning Styles – Just like dogs we humans do not all learn things the same way. Some people learn more easily by doing, others by listening, others by observing and etc. Having knowledge of learning styles, combined with human behavior and communication, allows the instructor to “read” each student and teach according to the students’ learning styles. This adaptability will facilitate a better learning process for the student.
  • Teaching – There are many methods, components and tools for teaching: lecture, demonstration, hands-on, written information, videos, games, collaborative activities, homework, flip teaching, Student-Led or Teacher-Led to name just a few. The appropriate use of teaching techniques keeps students engaged and facilitates their progress. The time constraints of the class session force the instructor to be efficient. The use of additional tools such as Speed Teaching[i] and Observe Interpret Act[ii] assist in packing a lot of material into a short amount of time.
  • Motivation – Just as positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in dog training, it is also the same in teaching humans. Typically a clicker or verbal marker is conditioned to reinforce dog behavior. People come with built-in conditioned reinforcers: compliments. Just as a clicker can be paired with treats to motivate, people have been conditioned so that compliments motivate. Compliment Marking[iii] can be powerful in motivating students and advancing their skills.
  • Creativity & Flexibility – The ability for an instructor to read the student then creatively modify, combine or adjust what is in their toolbox to best serve each student is powerful. This skill develops through a toolbox filled not only with knowledge and tools, but also with significant experience.
  • Compassion, Trust & Respect – Just as the dog must have a relationship of trust and caring with a human to form a positive working partnership, the same is true between humans. When an instructor authentically cares about and respects his or her student and the student feels the sincerity and trusts the instructor, a positive teacher/student partnership may be formed.
  • Humility & Passion – Humility is an important trait and one that is all to often lost. Great teachers are not superior to their students. Great teachers are nothing without their students. They set their ego and personal goals aside and focus on helping their students reach their goals. Exceptional teachers do not share out of ego. They feel such passion about what they do, they must share it. It spills out of them naturally when they teach. It is inspiring and contagious, and it is a key component of both business and teaching success.
  • Kind & Positive – Great instructors are ALWAYS kind. They also teach in a positive, supporting manner. Instead of focusing on and correcting what their students are doing wrong, they look for what their students are doing well and build and expand on the positive.

[i] Speed Teaching – A technique for delivering information in small increments through brief and repeated interaction. Developed by Sumac

[ii] Observe Interpret Act – A formula for assessing students based in what the student is doing right and harnessing it. Developed by Sumac

[iii] Compliment Marking – A method of combining complimentary words with information that ties the marker to the student’s action. Developed by Sumac

For information about Sumacs Online Instructor Training Course                                            Next course begins February 22

Copyright Sumac Grant-Johnson 2016

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