Back to Basics Part 1: Initial consult aims
I keep getting asked do I have written content to give to clients in a consult so that they can then read it later.
Well...I used to have a whole portfolio of info that spelled out the different concepts and exercises so that these could be given as an info pack in puppy pre schools or dog courses.
Humans are funny creatures and usually have the best intentions but...
the intentions were that the dog owner " would read that later"...later never seemed to come.
That they would pass the info onto other family members to read rather than showing them what they had learned in class...see above.
That they really didn't need to concentrate and participate as they could just...read it later.
Sometimes a client will write down point form as we work together as a memory enhancer, great idea as if you wrote it then it will be in your words and be the points that you want to remember.
At other times a client will leave a consult or class and take the time to apply the exercises and then get back to me with questions or to clarify points, problem solving at it's best.
The initial consult is to give a bulk of information, format it into relevant exercises and then allow the client to practice the techniques and understand the fundamentals by applying them. There is only a finite amount of time and head space in that consult so it is encouraged that they then participate in group classes so that they have time and opportunity to practice and apply what they have learned.
Sometimes a client prefers follow on consults instead as they feel they learn better via a one on one format.
This class format needs to be a safe place for both dog and handler so there is a screening process involved at consult stage. There may need to be a change out of training equipment to enable the handler to have sufficient control as well as confidence to manage their dogs behaviour in a group setting.
Sometimes the dogs levels of anxiety/reactivity/fear may need to be addressed individually initially until the dog is capable of finding a neutral headspace once in a more challenging environment.
The class itself is run in a casual and low key format, encouraging the participants to be themselves and lose any shame, guilt, embarrassment etc that their dog's behaviour may have led to up to that point. Embrace who your dog's are and work on better head space for both ends of the lead. This then enables motivated learning and new pathways for both dog and handlers. Dog class can be a serious space at times when dealing with aggression but there should also be the ability to have some laughs and enjoy the challenges. Play excellerates learning by at least 40%...for both human and dog so integrating play as a stress relief and downtime is as important as the control work.
The trinity of reinforcement for me as a trainer is Food, play, touch. All are vital so being able to flow from one reward system to the next depending on what the dog desires is critical in building relationship as well as relevance to the training in process. Motivation is a topic all on it's own. Without motivation then there is limited learning.
If your dog has access to all three of those reinforcers for free, when ever it so desires and for no work then you have lost the ability to negotiate for better behaviour. If instead we remove the Trinity and control the application or availability depending on the behaviour the dog is offering then we can change behavioural patterns and outcomes.
Dog owners rarely approach a trainer for help unless there are already issues or sometimes it is due to the last dog that they had and that they never want a repeat of those issues in the new dog. Sometimes the relationship has got to the point of last chances for the dog so the timeline for improvement is now much shortened. Not ideal but at least there is help there and if the training and physical management processes are applied then a fast turn around can be achieved. It takes longer to get the 'ideal' dog as well as many reps of good practice along with consistency and clear communication. All topics to be thought about at a deeper level.