I'm going to challenge your beliefs and kick the bee-hive that is the hidden truth of dog training. My background is in Quality Management and Process Improvement, Facilitation and Project Coordination. Those roles came with a lot of adult education, formal and informal, and I was often tasked with getting people to adopt change and embrace processes they perceived as being an obstacle to their jobs. And guess what? I loved it!
I've been a hobby dog trainer for over 20+ years and have taken my share of classes. When I contrast the models we use in dog training to educate the human end of the leash, versus models we use in corporate adult education, it's clear to me the dog training industry is a bit behind the times. Is that because clients don't want to spend the money on problems they don't yet perceive? Or, is it simply that we dog trainers just do what we've always done (or are too busy arguing over training methodology that we missed the plot entirely...)? Whoever's to blame, one thing remains clear to me...our systems are broken. Intentional or not, how we educate clients in dog training is not set-up to bring about retention, lasting change or success. Here's why...
1. Limited Progression in Short-Term Sessions: When I first opened Canine Development and Testing, I kept going back to the question of why most training classes are 6-weeks long? What can possibly be done in a single private lesson? No one had an answer for me. No meaningful learning can be done in 6 hours and we dog trainers are famous for cramming in about 4 months worth of curriculum into the average puppy class, resulting in our clients drinking from a fire hoses while their excitable puppy flails at the end of a leash. While the standard 6-week class or private session may produce some progress, the reality is they often fail to provide a comprehensive framework to connect the training pieces effectively. As a result, you're left figuring out how to implement the techniques on your own, most of which you barely had time to practice, let alone master This is not a recipe for success! Personally, I think it's a tragedy if a client goes home confused or anxious.
2. Foundations Take Time: Beware, the illusion of quick training. In a system where trainers need to accommodate a variety of dogs and their owners in a short period of time, the foundational stages are often rushed. However, the truth is that building strong foundations for dogs takes time and patience. Don't be fooled by the accelerated pace; your dog's success relies on a solid foundation that requires ample time and attention as well as an individual approach. Last time I checked, I didn't lose weight after a 3 day diet, and my 10km time didn't improve after just one run. Of course, most dog trainers are trying to maximize your success at class or private lessons but the reality is, these sessions are not optimized for the individual learner. There's so much pressure to keep up the schedule no matter where your dog falls on the spectrum of heathen to angel. So, you go through the motions and, if you're keen, you'll take the next level of classes, blissfully unaware of all the gaps in your training, only to be disappointed later to find out that 'you didn't know what you didn't know'.
3. Handler Development: Here's a reality check: your trainer's time is limited, and your development as a handler is largely up to you. While trainers would love to dedicate more time to your growth, the truth is they can't provide individualized attention to every handler. It's up to you to take charge of your own development, honing your skills and understanding how to become an effective handler for your dog. Yet, we barely talk about this! Mostly, we don't have the time as we have 4-7 other clients that also have questions, need development and coaching, and we only have 15 mins between you and the next class or appointment.
In light of these truth's, it's clear we need a better learning system that prioritizes the long-term success of dogs and their owners. By acknowledging the limitations of our standard short-term classes, the importance of taking the time with our foundations, and the value in helping our clients master skills through coaching and feedback, we can re-shape the way we approach dog training. Even better, adding a personalized approach, with a focus on continuous improvement can revolutionize the training experience for dog and owner, ensuring both reach their full potential.
My goal as a business owner and dog trainer (mostly trainer of the people, if we're being honest) is to develop programs that go beyond the limitations of traditional classes or disjointed private sessions. My approach to you and your dog's unique needs will empower you to build a strong foundation and achieve lasting progress in whatever skills you take on. The biggest struggle we have isn't about methodology or tools, it's how we can create an accessible, supportive environment for learning for dogs and humans alike.
Drop me a line at Canine Development and Testing if you want to know more about how I've structured our programs to support my vision for dog training.