As pet industry professionals, we need to ask ourselves if we can relate to one or more of the following problems within our businesses:

  • Difficulty in converting prospects to customers.
  • Private training clients who start out “gung ho” and then fall off the program prior to achieving their goals.
  • Pet care clients who disregard our advice.
  • Substantial group class attrition.
  • Time expended trying to convince clients, rather than teach them.
  • Frustrated clients who appear to just “not get it.”
  • Lack of client knowledge retention across our training services.
  • An apparent lack of client commitment to our methods and suggested ideas.
  • Incomplete homework assignments and insufficient practice of skills.
  • Difficulty and frustration engaging clients and changing their attitudes so we can build consensus and support their needs.

In our roles as training and behavior experts, we are both teachers and trainers. We have a unique role to play when clients seek our help and expertise. Irrespective of how competent we are at our craft or how much knowledge we have, if we cannot adequately impart this onto our clients, then we are doing them a disservice.

In the fields of animal training and behavior, it is widely accepted that it is unlikely, if not impossible, to be fully competent across all the varied industry services. As a result, some professionals elect to be very strategic when defining their scope, and narrow their focus to areas they both enjoy and feel competent in. From a marketing perspective, selecting limited services and marketing oneself as an expert in a specific niche can be a strategically savvy move. It is critical that, as professionals, we recognize and acknowledge our own competent skill set and work within its confines. Regardless, whether we choose to focus on a specific type of training, a specific protocol, or pet care services, the one very important skill we all need is the ability to teach people to train and care for their own animals.

Research proposes that people in training or teaching roles tend to implement the same teaching method they experienced as students. In the absence of a training certification program that focuses on teaching skills rather than just the transfer of knowledge, this means that, if most of an individual’s learning experience was lecture-based, for example, then that probably forms the foundation of how that individual now teaches their students (Wolvin, 1983).

Lecturing students is regarded as an easy and convenient method of teaching. Indeed, it is a constructive model for communicating conceptual knowledge, particularly when there is a significant knowledge gap between the teacher and the students, and when there is a large audience. During lectures, the teacher only has to focus on covering his or her program content and not on whether the student is learning anything or not. This type of teaching has been in play for over 800 years and remains a traditional method for many universities. Lecturing was, of course, the teaching method of choice and even necessity prior to the inception of text books. A convenient concept, lecturing is entrenched into our system of knowledge dissemination. However, as is often the case, what is convenient is not always the most effective option.

Experiential learning, the science behind the On Task Skill Coaching ™ discussed in this book, is an adult-centric learning process whereby students develop skills and knowledge from direct experiences rather than in traditional classrooms or academic settings. In dog trainer speak, this means no more lectures or one-way-training traffic, but an integrated approach using the learning cycle and a process-driven system that works.

As pet professionals, we need to look at and be prepared to change how we deliver the necessary information to our clients, whether it is for the teaching of new skills or the active engagement of differing philosophies and methods. Even for simple tasks like fitting a harness, trimming nails, or playing fetch, specific skills are still required for them to be done correctly. An experience is an osmosis of action and thought and is the bridge that connects students to whatever object they are interacting with. When we experience something, we do not separate the action from the end result. Each complements the other on a loop system and new experiences, when mastered, become the foundation to the new learning experience. To this end, I present the Strategic Model for On Task Skill Coaching ™. I hope you will find this helpful in your training and teaching roles.

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