Friday, December 23, 2011

Professional Responsibilities

I read a book a while back that I really wanted to write about.  This book really distressed me. And even two months later, I'm still upset!  The training was, at times....not so great...but it was the instruction that horrified me.  I didn't think it would be fair for the author to potentially read the post and be offended or upset because it's entirely -not- her fault, she's the one that deserved better.   A large portion of the book is about the training instruction the owner (author) and her dog receive.  The author wrote about how she dreaded practice, how the instructor would treat the human and dog students and the relief she had when practices or the relationship ended.    That's not how it's supposed to be!     

Why is it that instructors feel like they need to yell at students?  Maybe it's because I've been clicker training for so long? It's not my responsibility to stand right there and physically/verbally "make" someone give a specific response.   When errors happen, it's about reviewing the teaching plan, making modifications, and continuing the lesson.   It is my responsibility to teach a certain skill set and that's through the teaching process, not just yelling out impossible tasks.  

When clients/students are confused or responding incorrectly, the instructor needs to make modifications.  Maybe use the same phrase once more, but if the same phrase is being used dozens of times, maybe the learner really just doesn't understand or doesn't have the skill set to respond correctly.

I took horse riding lessons for almost ten years.  I was not very good by the end, though I had some amount of proficiency from the repetition.  Looking back at that learning experience, I'm horrified at a lot of the things that happened.  I can't believe how the instructor was allowed to be teaching kids. I can't believe that parents did not speak up or do something about it.  There were some pretty basic skills I was never able to learn.

Some of it seemed to come down to what we see with dog training and in teaching dog owners/handlers.... instructors sometimes take the errors personally.   The learners do want to succeed. They want to avoid the embarrassment or attention or 'correction'/direction they get with errors.   They want to go on and do more things.  

I'm amazed at the number of clicker-ly instructors who put blame on the human clients/students.  If it was the dog, the instructor could look at breaking down the skill, using reinforcement, setting the team up for success. But with the human, they can't do it, take the errors personally, and direct the blame to the humans involved.

To some extent, the dog can't learn all week at home without the person working, and the person does have to take the initiative. On the other hand, why aren't people practicing? How can we make it easier, seem more achievable, more entertaining?  Maybe they need some additional notes on what to do, or need to see or hear the instruction in a different way. Maybe they need to take a few notes themselves so that they remember what to do.  Maybe we gave them too many things and need to simplify. Maybe they don't understand how to do it at home on their own.

It's also hard that dog trainers spend so much time learning about dog training. They go to conferences and seminars and learn more. Read books and lists and learn more.   There aren't enough opportunities on teaching the humans. And often those are skipped in favor of training education sessions.  Most of us spend more time teaching people than training dogs.   Not only are we teaching the humans...but a wide age range....  young kids to seniors, everyone in between and a huge range in skill level. It's pretty ridiculous at times.  

No snow here. It's been raining for a week.  The pond is really full.  Griffin has gone swimming.  On Wednesday it was 60*.

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