Expert coaching in the K9 world

It’s amazing to witness the growth and confidence that trainers experience as they overcome challenges and see their hard work pay off. Just like solving a puzzle, when all the pieces come together, a trainer’s confidence soars, and they embark on a transformative journey. As unwanted behaviors vanish and training skills sharpen, a beautiful human-animal partnership blossoms. But the benefits extend beyond the training arena. Stepping out of their comfort zone and acquiring new skills, trainers learn invaluable life lessons. That is what makes dog training so powerful!

Think about talent shows on TV. Initially, candidates often appear shy, standing with sagging shoulders. However, once they progress to the next round, something magical happens—they start believing in themselves. Not only do their appearances change, with new hairstyles, clothes, and make-up, but their entire demeanor transforms. Their body language exudes confidence, and they face the world with a newfound sense of self. Trainers undergo a similar metamorphosis.
Growing confidence

Many trainers begin their journey as handlers, kennel staff, or dog walkers—shy and inexperienced, but eager to absorb every ounce of training knowledge they encounter. Gradually, they start walking their dogs differently and adjusting their own behaviors. Their work improves, and they achieve results more swiftly. Compliments pour in from experienced trainers and management, fueling their growing confidence. With time, they make fewer mistakes and delve deeper into the understanding of dog behavior. Their progression is remarkable, and the transformation is tangible. The impact of training stretches far beyond the scope of animal behavior—it molds individuals into more resilient, confident, and capable versions of themselves. They are able to choose another modus and step into their world with pride and self confidence. That is why you hear me, during my workshops, often ask participants to choose the modus that is needed for the task they are about to perform.

But the journey doesn’t end there. In my workshops, I focus on empowering people to reach their next level in their career, sports, or hobby. The ACT! Workshops are designed to help individuals step outside their comfort zones and believe in themselves. Just like the trainers, the change I see in people is incredibly motivating. Witnessing participants break free from their limitations and embrace new challenges is awe-inspiring. As they push their boundaries, they unlock hidden strengths and abilities. The workshops provide a supportive environment for growth, where individuals can learn, evolve, and become the best versions of themselves. And when I ask them “are you happy?” the insecure “I think so” is replaced by a firm “yes!” at the end of the workshop. 
Then the transformation
The transformations I witness in trainers, workshop participants and dogs are remarkable. Shy individuals become confident leaders, timid handlers  turn into fierce competitors, and hobbyists master their crafts. It’s a privilege to be a part of their journeys and see them achieve their goals. The joy and fulfillment I experience through these incredible transformations are immeasurable. Seeing individuals believe in themselves, embrace change, and unleash their full potential is a testament to the power of empowerment and personal growth. So, if you’re ready to embark on a journey of self-discovery, empowerment, and transformation, join me at the ACT! Workshops. Together, we’ll create a world where humans and animals thrive in harmony, while reaching new heights in our careers, sports, or hobbies. Let’s step outside our comfort zones, believe in ourselves, and make the most of this incredible journey of growth
Feedforward approach
Coaching dog trainers, like any form of teaching, relies heavily on clear communication and an effective feedforward approach. The difference between feedforward and feedback in this context relates to the timing and purpose of the information shared. Feedback typically involves looking back at past actions to assess their effectiveness, while feedforward focuses on future performance and how it can be improved. It doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other; they serve different purposes and can be used in different contexts. But one thing stands clear, we can not change the past. What happened is history and we better can focus on the future because that is what we can influence. I know that many trainers and instructors are using feedback as their main coaching style. Because in general we humans like to focus on the mistakes, we correct, we punish. We sum op a list of all the things that the handler and his dog were doing wrong. But didn’t we experienced in training dogs that reinforcing wanted behavior is much more powerful? And overal is better for the relation?
There are a few reasons why you might lean more towards using feedforward when coaching dog trainers

Future Focused: Feedforward is about shaping future behavior rather than dwelling on the past. It allows the trainer to adapt their approach based on what they’ve learned, rather than focusing on correcting past mistakes. In the dynamic context of dog training, this can be very beneficial, as it promotes adaptability and continuous learning.

Constructive Approach: Feedforward tends to be more constructive and positive in nature, which can help maintain motivation and engagement. If a trainer is constantly receiving criticism about past mistakes, they may become discouraged. Conversely, feedforward provides guidance and suggestions for future situations, promoting a growth mindset

Circumvents Defensiveness: Since feedforward is future-oriented and doesn’t focus on past mistakes, it can circumvent potential defensiveness or resistance to change. When we criticize past actions, people can often feel defensive or judged. Feedforward reduces the chances of this happening because it’s more about potential improvement rather than criticism. 
Promotes Active Learning: By offering suggestions for future scenarios, feedforward encourages the trainer to think actively about how they can implement this advice. This kind of proactive, forward-thinking learning can often be more effective than simply being told what they did wrong.
Also feedback has its place
Remember, while feedforward can have several benefits, feedback also has its place and can be a very effective tool when used correctly. The key is to balance both approaches and use them in the right situations to provide the most effective learning experience for the dog trainers you’re coaching. The way we frame our feedback or feedforward can have a massive impact on how it is received and how effective it is in fostering improvement. Effective communication requires choosing the right words and the right time to deliver the message. Here are a few additional considerations in that context:
  1. Emphasize Strengths: People are often more motivated to improve when they feel confident about their abilities. Emphasize the strengths of the dog trainers you’re coaching, and highlight how they can use these strengths to address their challenges. This can be more empowering and motivating than focusing solely on their weaknesses.
  2. Be Specific and Clear: Instead of using broad or vague terms, be as specific as possible about what they are doing well and where they can improve. Clear, concrete suggestions are more likely to be acted upon and can help prevent misunderstanding. Like  Brené Brown explained, clear is kind, unclear is unkind.
  3. Timing Matters: Choose the right time to provide feedforward. Ideally, it should be soon after the observed behavior so the event is fresh in their mind. Also, ensure the person is in the right state of mind to receive your input – they should be calm, not overly stressed, and ready to listen.
  4. Create a Safe Space: Establish a trusting relationship where they feel comfortable receiving and acting upon your feedforward. Open dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding are essential for this. The person should feel that your intent is to help them grow, not criticize or demean them.
  5. Encourage Open Dialogue: Make it a two-way conversation. After giving your feedforward, ask for their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. This can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the situation and foster a more engaging and interactive learning environment.
Remember, the main goal of providing feedforward or feedback is to promote growth and improvement. It should be done in a supportive, respectful manner that empowers the individual to step out of their comfort zone and reach their full potential.
What to do with challenging people?
Of course you will meet people that are not open for your feedforward or feedback. There can be many reasons why people are not willing to change. Stay curious and open minded, don’t judge. Try to figure out who is in front of you and what forms the blockage. Handling individuals who resist change or are not open to learning can be a challenging aspect of coaching. Here are a few strategies that might help:
  1. Build Trust: Resistance to change can often be rooted in fear or lack of trust. Spend time building a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding. It may take time, but creating a safe environment can lead to greater receptivity.
  2. Understand their Perspective: Try to understand their fears, apprehensions, and motivations. A resistant attitude often masks deeper concerns. Having open, empathetic conversations might help reveal these underlying issues.
  3. Connect Goals to Personal Interests: People are more likely to engage in change if they can see a direct benefit for themselves. Connect the goals of the training or coaching to their personal interests, goals, or values.
  4. Involve them in Decision Making: People are more likely to buy into a change if they feel they’ve had some input in shaping it. Allow them to contribute ideas and solutions.
  5. Provide Incremental Challenges: Big changes can feel overwhelming. Instead, offer small, manageable challenges that allow for quick wins and gradually move them out of their comfort zone.
  6. Model Positive Behavior: Demonstrating the behaviors and attitudes you hope to see can also influence their mindset.
  7. Offer Support: Let them know you’re there to support them, not judge them. Show patience and persistence.
You can not force growth and change
However, it’s also important to remember that as a coach, your role is to provide opportunities for growth and change, but you can’t force someone to take them. In some cases, if an individual is consistently resistant and not making progress, it may be best to have a frank conversation about whether the coaching relationship is the right fit. This can lead to a more constructive dialogue or, in some cases, a mutual decision to part ways.

ACT! Is operating worldwide. You can find more information on my website about the ACT! innovative training products and workshops about detection, odor recognition testing, tracking, scent wheel training, laser training and radio-directional dogs. If you are interested the ACT, Masterclass, please contact me so I can provide you with the specific Masterclass you need for your organization! 

Any questions or comments?

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to send me an e-mail. 

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