Thursday and we were straight into another day of enlightenment with a kick-off from Ken Ramirez and “The challenge of being a consultant: the things they don’t teach you in animal training class!” Another great session from Ken where he spoke about dog training being more than just training dogs, i.e. so much of it is dealing with the dog’s owner.
Ken had a nine point plan to success and these are some of the key points raised:
- People skills are so important – the animals can take care of themselves
- It is important to identify what is the actual problem – does everyone see the same problem? before going down any training plan everyone must agree on a common goal. And as Ken said, this requires the dog trainer to be a good negotiator
- Discuss priorities – before implementing any plan, determine where achieving the plan fits into the priority list and is that priority list the same for everyone? Remember that a problem that is low on the priority list may not be easily solved and the dog owner must ask themselves: are you willing to sacrifice something to fix the problem?
- Speak the client’s language – for instance, forget about the scientific jargon
- Unlearn long-held beliefs, half-truths, myths and excuses – they just get in the way of finding solutions, such as it’s the breed or he just hates children. The dog trainer has to shift their thinking and get them to accept responsibility: instead of what’s wrong with the dog, ask why can’t I train it?
- Find acceptable behaviours – everyone focuses on the unwanted behaviour: “My dog jumps on me when I come home?” “What would you like it do?” “Stop jumping on me” … well, “Instead of jumping on you what would you like it do?” “Sit nicely.” Bingo!
- A flow-chart or something similar for problem solving is a valuable tool
- Consistency – make sure everyone agrees on the plane and everyone approaches the training the same way. It’s about the animal, not the ego
- Positive reinforcement for the owner – understand what motivates them and help them get something out of it. Stroke their ego, gain their trust and never betray it.
To sum up the session, a behavioural consultant needs to know and understand animal behaviour and training but they will never be successful unless they also have people, observational and organisational skills.