How to coach a Coach!

by Gemma Whitlaw // September 2017

How to coach a Coach!

Wednesday 30th August – Dog School Sussex (Gemma, Lizzie and Lana) and Education Officer (Jo Cullum-Fernandez) were very excited to be running our first ever FREE Family Training Class.

The Family Training Classes are a Free Educational Training session aimed at Families with children age 7-11. We strongly believe that dog training is something the whole family should be able to enjoy and so this Family Training Class is designed to give families the basics in starting their dogs training – as well as children learning key skills in how to approach and interact with dogs!

The session included:

  • An introduction to Clicker Training – learn how to correctly use a clicker to reinforce your dog’s good behaviour.
  • Basic Commands – learn the best ways to teach your dog fun tricks and every day commands.
  • Be Dog Smart – learn how to stay safe around dogs when you are out and about.
  • Grand Finale – families and their dogs will get the opportunity to practice what they have learned by completing a fun assault course!

So what started as a normal training session for Head Coach Gemma, she soon found herself in the shoes of one her canine pupils being taught a trick with a clicker as her only guide as to what the trick may be.

Gemma was asked to leave the room while the class decided on a trick to teach!

All dogs learn through trial and error. One way to teach a new behaviour is to wait for the dog to show the behaviour you want and to click and reward them when they do the behaviour (shaping) (for more details of this come to Dog School Sussex!) So this is how the class tackled teaching Gemma.

When Gemma came back into the room, she walked about, waiting to hear that clicker to tell her she was in the right area. After a couple of laps she heard a click when she got to the dog bed! She was getting warmer - it was something to dog with the bed!

So what could it be about that bed. Gemma tried kneeling on the bed – this did not work to get a click? Hmm, this was more complicated than expected...

So Gemma tried sitting on the bed – this did get rewarded but it was not over...

The light bulb went on! Despite feeling rather silly Gemma tried rolling over when she was lying down and…. Hurrah!! It worked!! The class had taught this whole new behaviour to Gemma with only the guidance of a clicker!!

All the children in the class were then keen to give it a go! We love to use this exercise to highlight how tricky training can be from our dogs perspective. Our dog does not know we want them to sit, lie down or roll over – these are all things we need to show them and then reward them when they offer the behaviour we like!

After mastering the art of training a Coach the class went on to do a super job of teaching their dogs sit, lie down and even a spin! I think we have the next generation of show dogs and handlers here in Sussex!