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Old 09-30-2011, 08:52 AM
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Emily Emily is offline
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Default Teaching group classes - your thoughts

Soooo I'm planning on teaching a group class in late October, as long as we get at least a few dogs. I've taught groups before, but not in obedience, in music, haha. Anyway, I wanted to get your thoughts on some stuff from those that have taught before, and even if you haven't, I'd still like your opinion.

-R+ based training - have you ever encountered any "I don't want to use food" or "he should just do it" people? If so, how did you get through to them, if you did? Both my dogs (even the puppers!) will perform without food in my hand, pocket, or even the room, so I'm thinking that's a good argument right there?

-clicker/marker training - How does it go over with the public? I'm trying to decide if I want to delve into marker training really, or just stick to ye old lure, LOL. I would love to get people understanding the basics of a marker and how powerful it is, but is that realistic? (BTW, these are 1 hour sessions for 8 weeks)

- fun demo - first day of class is no student dogs, and I feel I should give a demo with mine to establish some credibility with clients. I was thinking of having Mackenzy wait in a down-stay somewhere where the class will come filing past her, and then recalling her so she comes flying to me. Then do a little heeling with some snappy pivots and a down in motion, and then show off her "leave it". Anything you would add? Anything you did that went over really well with clients?

Thanks for any help!
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:10 AM
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For people hesitant to use food I go with the "we *will* be fading it out" discussion, may demo my dogs performing without food, use the "I don't work for the joy of work, I do expect a paycheck, so why would I expect my dog to?" argument, or, if they are really stubborn, I will often have success getting them to use a toy instead.

When I taught group classes I taught my puppies mostly with lure/reward because they had so many other things to remember I didn't want to take class time to explain marker work. All of my other classes were clicker-based and I never had a problem getting people interested in it.

Demos: people are mostly impressed by stays and recalls I find, so I think your idea is a good one. I always had one of my dogs on her mat while I lectured during the first class and people thought that was awesome!
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:10 AM
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My best advice is to audit some classes. That's where you are going to get your best ideas for a curriculum and come backs to the repetitive questions. Better yet, find a trainer you respect to mentor under!

As far as the not wanting to use food, on the first day of the class I go into why we use rewards to teach new behaviors, that yes you can wean off of them once a behavior is thoroughly learned and that they are needed because our dogs are not Lassie and most will not work for us out of the goodness of their hearts.

I use a mixture of lure/marking. Even if you lure, you should still mark the correct behavior and then wean the lure of very, very quickly. I really emphasize the fact that you use a lure only a couple of times and then switch to a similar hand signal. I push clicker training, but it can be cumbersome for new handlers to remember to use it while watching their dog and managing a leash a treats. Sometimes a marker word is better, sometimes the clicker is better.

The first day of class is a lot of lectures on methodology, the human-dog bond, why we use rewards, markers, the process of training, management, etc. If you are planning on doing clicker training, this is also when you introduce it and maybe do some fun clicker training games (click everytime I clap, etc).

As far as a demo, I mostly just use the classes dogs to demo exercises before we work on them. For my more advanced classes, I use Zuma to demonstrate the exercises. I don't think I've ever done a demo like the one you are describing just because our dogs are dogs and what happens when she doesn't recall? You look like a fool. LOL
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:28 AM
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Since you are doing the first class no student dogs, that should give you ample time to explain why we use food, the basics of marker training, etc. and will hopefully save you some questions

My training club used to teach with lure/reward but suggested a clicker too. I never got it that way. Then they switched to all clicker class (though I think they still use a lot of lures with the click for beginning obed)...I had already started clicking at home but it hasnt seemed that many, if any, people are having hard time just starting that way from the get go.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenmagick View Post
Since you are doing the first class no student dogs, that should give you ample time to explain why we use food, the basics of marker training, etc. and will hopefully save you some questions
Ditto - our first class is also orientation with no dogs, so we talk about all of this stuff. It sets up very clearly what the expectations are in the class, both for what we expect out of the students and what the students can expect to go on in class. I haven't actually had many people who object to using treats... I can think of two guys who weren't big on it but I didn't really butt heads with either of them. They were both respectful about it and DID use treats - not as many as I would have liked, but they did use the treats.


Auggie is usually my demo dog the first night, and I don't worry about showing off anything flashy with him. I just go over what we are going to be doing in class, how we shape things, and what the finished product will look like - and always use the caveat that Auggie is nearly six and has been doing this stuff for a long time, because people are always like "there's no way my dog can do that!!" and get intimidated. Personally I've found people can be discouraged easily and a lot of people think "my dog is the WORST dog ever" - usually at least two people per class tell me they think their dog is the worst in the class, and I usually only have 4-5 people in a class - so I do my best to not make them feel any worse than they already do.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emily View Post

-R+ based training - have you ever encountered any "I don't want to use food" or "he should just do it" people? If so, how did you get through to them, if you did? Both my dogs (even the puppers!) will perform without food in my hand, pocket, or even the room, so I'm thinking that's a good argument right there?
After approaching this issue in multiple ways I find the best course of action is to not make any issue about it at all. Teach by example and people will either come around or they won't. Disagreeing with people about it, even in a polite way and trying to "prove" that you are right tends to only put people on the defense. I get people like this in some of my classes at the training club more than I did at the private place I used to teach. When I encounter them I just say "OK but i will be describing teaching these exercises and problem solving using a reward based method". And I leave it at that. More often than not, people start to be more accepting of using food as the weeks go on. They see everyone's dogs responding better than their dog and see how responsive and attentive my dogs are. And all of the instructions are given using food rewards, so they an participate more fully if they use food as well. I don't make a big deal of them bringing treats either, except to say things such as "wow he's really doing better this week!" or encouraging them to keep working on the behaviors "like we did this week". Most people don't go from non-treaters to full use of a reward based method in 8 weeks but it is nice to see people start to open their mind to the possibilities of using reward based methods

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emily View Post
-clicker/marker training - How does it go over with the public? I'm trying to decide if I want to delve into marker training really, or just stick to ye old lure, LOL. I would love to get people understanding the basics of a marker and how powerful it is, but is that realistic? (BTW, these are 1 hour sessions for 8 weeks)
At the private place I trained at, all of the classes were clicker based. It worked very well, so it is not unrealistic and is definitely do-able. Occasionally people would decide they didn't want to use the clicker. Which I pretty much addressed the same as the food issue. However, it does give another "thing" to cover and teach.

For the classes at the all-breed club and my private puppy classes, I tend to just use a marker word. And I only describe it as "This is what tells your dog what he did to get the treat and it will help your training go quicker and easier". "Say yes, give him a treat" is part of the instructions for everything.I do have to say it over and over and remind people ("remember to say yes so your dog knows why he's getting a treat!) but that tends to be pretty much how group classes go anyway LOL I have Savvy in a foundation agility class and this subject was approached the same way for that. I think that tends to be the most effective way to use the method of a behavior marker without people really having to know about it LOL

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emily View Post
- fun demo - first day of class is no student dogs, and I feel I should give a demo with mine to establish some credibility with clients. I was thinking of having Mackenzy wait in a down-stay somewhere where the class will come filing past her, and then recalling her so she comes flying to me. Then do a little heeling with some snappy pivots and a down in motion, and then show off her "leave it". Anything you would add? Anything you did that went over really well with clients?
I know a lot of places like to do the "no dogs for first class thing". For me, it seems like a waste of a training session, when it's so hard to get everything into 8 weeks as it is. Actually, my favorite class format is ongoing, drop-ins but I guess that is another topic for another thread

I use my dogs to demo the end product in class and sometimes to demo method. Often, I use student's dogs to demo method though because they can see it on a dog who doesn't know more than their dog (plus I like to take the dog that people say "he'll never do that" and get him to do it quickly LOL). You do have to be careful in picking student's dogs - the dog has to be one who is food motivated and outgoing.

As for what impresses people the most in my classes. First would be that Jagger can be put on a down stay while I teach class, get up and demo then go back to a down stay. Next would be their attentive heeling, which many people tell me is like my dog is dancing with me (and I tell them - that's the idea!). A lot of people are impressed by tricks too, especially ones that seem harder like lifting back legs, jumping on your back, "hugging" a stuffed animal, jumping through hoops, larger dogs walking on their back legs, impulse control, perch work "go to your mat", etc. Basically though, I think some of it is just an overall impression of focus and attention. People who can't even get their dog to look at them will tend to be impressed by any demonstration of a well trained dog...or even a somewhat trained dog For your dogs-free night, I'd suggest demo'ing everything you will teach in the class than fun stuff to show the possibilities of a trained dog.

I do tell people up front that I'm not picky on a lot of manners stuff, so yes my dogs do jump on me and their friends, are allowed to mouth at me, etc. I also show them that if I want them to stop, they do right away and explain that what they do or don't tolerate as far as that stuff goes is entirely up to them.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:45 PM
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I actually love the ongoing drop in classes and my club offers that...but you still have to go to an orientation first which I really like.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:57 PM
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I find a lot of novice trainers are intimidated by the clicker since it's just one more object to juggle while they're trying to learn the ropes. We hand out clickers on the first class and suggest that people continue to use them, but I'd say 80% of clients will return the clicker to us at the end of that first class. (We ask those who hold onto them to pay a couple bucks.)

We use markers (the click or a marker word) coupled with luring for most of our basic classes.

I find a lot of people are impressed by recalling over (or away from) food & toys. Sending my dog to her crate/mat seems to make a good impression, as well as a tidy drop-on-recall or send-out. Nice tidy heeling is always great to see too.
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:58 PM
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I don't have much more to add, you've gotten a lot of great advice already.

I just want to say, though, I've seen trainers do heel demos to "wow" their class on the first day, and honestly it always ends up making them look pretentious.

When I taught classes, I usually used clients' dogs to demo behaviors, though I'd use Luna if I needed to show the "finished product." On the first night, in a class with no dogs (I've taught both with and without dogs the first night), I might've used Luna to demo how the clicker works to mark a behavior. One time I had a class that was particularly interested in shaping, so I had them pick a behavior that Luna didn't know and I shaped it with the clicker. So while I usually had a demo planned, I'd modify that depending on the individuals in the class.

Besides the first class, just about the only demo I did with Luna was to demo stay... for that one, it helps to have a dog who will do a nice long stay while you explain what you're doing. But after I explained it, I'd always also use a client's dog to demo what they should expect that first time in class. I think I also used her a little bit in the last class to demo what they could learn in more advanced classes.

If I could change one thing, I'd probably have done loose leash walking/heeling demos to show what the finished product would be. I did that a couple of times with Luna, but it was really difficult because she's so small it's hard to translate what she's doing to what your 100-lb lab should do. I wouldn't do it in the first week, but whenever you're starting to teach heeling it might be nice.
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Old 10-01-2011, 05:52 AM
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I'm not super keen on doing demos with my own dog for the sake of doing a demo. I worry that it can look a bit pretentious and I find people are more keen if I show them what results I can get demo'ing something with one of their dogs rather than my own dog.

Sometimes I use my dog to demonstrate the finished exercise if I need to but as a rule I generally don't bring her out. I also tend to think - at the end of the day, what I can do with my dog is irrelevant - it's about what I can do with the owners in my class, and their dogs

One of my pets hates at the obedience club I instruct at is when our training coordinator will get me to bring my dog over to do a 'show off' demo for the first nighters as a 'look at what you'll get if you train here' type thing. My dog doesn't work how she works because the club is awesome, she works like that because I put a lot of work into her and at the end of the day, very few pet owners are ever going to put that level of work into their dog. I guess it can show them what you can get if you put the effort in, but at the same time I worry it can sometimes put people off if after their first class their dog isn't at the same level. Not sure if that makes sense or not


ETA: Having said all that, sometimes I have my dog in a down stay whilst I check equipment and take tickets from people at the start of class purely as a useful thing and I think that kind of 'low key' demonstration can help reinforce the important of training and the benefits you can get of having a dog capable of doing a solid stay etc.

I remember only a couple of months ago spending a heap of time in class plugging away about the importance of recall and running a number of recall exercises. I kept reiterating how important it was to practice at home and out and about, as it could save your dog's life, blah blah. Then one of my students looked about 50 meters away and asked "is that your dog out by the tree?" (we train outside on a big grass oval). I said oh no, it can't be, she's in her crate. I look over and sure enough, she's managed to get out of her crate, and she's taken herself for a walk and was scenting something next to a tree. I was mortified and knew that I had one chance to recall her and if she didn't come immediately I'd look like a massive idiot. Talk about pressure!! I called her to HERE! and THANK GOD she left the scent (she's a beagle) and pelted over to me as fast as she could, doing a perfect front. Whilst my class was watching. All I could think was thank god... I knew her recall was good but you just never know! LOL I WAS SO RELIEVED! hehe
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