Are You Treating Your Students Like Dogs? Part 2

by | May 23, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I published the first part of this blog. Check that out here.

Let's continue down that list of tips for how to align ourselves with our human learners and have a bigger impact on their progress.

6. Stop Over-Facing Them

“Train on courses way harder than you'll see in competition so that competition feels easy” is advice that I've been hearing since I started dog sports over 25 years ago. However, is this really helping? When we over-face handlers week after week, what exactly are they learning? Sequences should be within their current skill set and gently push their understanding. Advance their skill set with other types of training, not sequencing and coursework. Remember, their success means the dog's success!

7. Keep Communication Open

Create a safe space for students to tell you how they feel about their goals, their progress, and their needs. Make it known that your door is open (create boundaries about when/where/how your door opens) to talk about their training plans.

8. Model the Behaviors that You Want to See

How you train, how you teach, how you compete, how to participate in learning, and how you fail is how your students are learning all of those things. Think about the things that bug you the most in your clients, and then look for how you're modeling those behaviors.

9. Stop Blaming the Learner

Positive Reinforcement trainers know that it's not the dog's fault when they make a mistake. Guess what? It's not our student's fault when they make a mistake either. No one gets it wrong on purpose. If your student isn't giving you the behavior that you're looking for, take a look at how you're breaking it down, explaining it, or sticking to criteria surrounding that behavior.

10. +R is for humans, too.

I think by now, I've made this clear, but it's worth repeating: all beings respond to positive reinforcement. Remember that just by signing up to your class, they are already proving motivated to get better. They signed up, they paid money, they show up every week. That's all you can ask for in a learner: motivation to participate. You, the teacher, hold the power to build on their motivation and inspire them to learn. Inspire them to practice outside of class, and inspire them to want more.

Remember that you have power. How you use that power will make or break your students' progress.



Megan Foster


I have been training in agility nearly my entire life. With seventeen years of experience, I have had the opportunities to work with hundreds of dogs within a large variety of breeds.

I began my agility journey with an American Eskimo and a Westie. In 1999, I began competing with my first Shetland Sheepdog, Buddy. Buddy’s lesson to me was about connection and bond. While running him, I knew that agility was what I was meant to do.