24 Oct

For many years it was normal & accepted practice for humans at school and for dogs in a training class to be taught in a classroom/hall environment where a "teacher" instructed & sometimes demonstrated to the class what they were learning that day and pupil/dog owner were supposed listen, maybe have ago and to go away with some "homework" and remember it before the next class.

So when I originally became a dog trainer I also taught classes in this way as it was the norm so this is what many clients expected as they had always done it this way.

While I have been learning to become a better trainer I have found there are different and new ways to do many things that my client and their dogs expect from a dog trainer.

One of the most enlightening to me was that over the last few decades the way people learn has been researched.  It has now been accepted that one method does not fit all, as humans learn and retain information in different ways due to their physical limitations, genetics, upbringing, emotions, personalities & many other factors. Therefore the traditional methods of teaching in schools & colleges are being adapted to suit the individuals. 

This also made me realise that the way I was taught at school and at other times since often didn't work for me. If it didn't work for me it must also apply to how many of my clients learn and how they have felt in the past.  I also realised that  this must be the case for our dogs as they are living beings with many individual traits just like their human companions.

So how can this relate to dog training & dog trainers?

It can relate in many ways as "dog training" has been mis-named for many years. In most cases these days the trainer is not training the dog but helping the handler/guardian to ask their dog to do things (that may not come naturally to a dog) but we need them to do so they can live in the human world safely & harmoniously.

I have mentioned that I feel that a dog trainer cannot teach the same skills to all people in the same way. Which is usually how they were shown to by someone else or they do it in the way they personally learn or understand instruction. They should be able identify when or if their client is struggling and know how to help.

The trainer should also be able to identify if the dog is struggling to learn what is being shown as they are individual too and may require a different method of instruction.

Many dog trainers like myself have now realised that their own personal learning style & haw they learn may not be a suitable method for all of their clients and their dogs to learn. 

I therefore decided to understand other learning styles and adapt my teaching methods to suit the learning styles of the individual partnerships in front of me. 

This meant that the traditional classroom/group training format didn't work for me any more. I now specialise in personal programmes where I can work closely with the partnerships to achieve their goals in a way that suits them.

What are the different leaning styles?

There are a number of different research models available. After researching learning styles for my own development the concept which I personally found helpful was the VARK model https://vark-learn.com/

What is the VARK Model?

Very briefly Neil Fleming's VARK model was designed and was  introduced in 1987 to help students and others learn more about their individual learning preferences. According to the VARK model, learners are identified by whether they have a preference for:

  • Visual learning (pictures, movies, diagrams)
  • Auditory learning (music, discussion, lectures)
  • Reading and writing (making lists, reading textbooks, taking notes)
  • Kinesthetic learning (movement, experiments, hands-on activities)

The reason this model appealed to me was it wasn't too complex and any of the four preferences may be the most prominent learning style for any individual. Each style may be used individually but often needs to be in conjunction with one or more of the others.  

How I incorporate some or all of these preferences when teaching individuals

Visual Learning   - for people who like to see what is required

  • Demonstration - personally or by video to show technique etc
  • Notes or Handouts - providing images, diagrams to take away
  • Video Recordings - as a reminder 

Auditory Learning - for people who like to hear the facts 

  • Verbal Instruction -  for facts or background information
  • Question & Answer Time - for clarification
  • Voice Notes  - as a reminder

Reading & Writing Learning - for people who want more detail or make their own notes

  • Pre-issued Notes - for background or technical information
  • Reading Lists - for more information
  • Note taking Opportunities - to help retention or to put into their own words
  • Session Notes - to be taken away or sent

Kinesthetic Learning - for people who learn by physically doing the the task

  • Practical Opportunities - to practice during the session
  • Setting Challenges - to complete and send back by video or photograph between sessions

I also consider the above to a degree when helping my client teach their dog to learn new skills as the dog may also have physical or genetic preferences. These are usually visual such as luring or hand signals or auditory using a voice, whistle or clicker. But if I am "shaping" a behaviour they may learn by kinesthetic learning by offering a wanted behaviour without being asked.

If you would like to understand more about  how your learning style can be incorporated in your training and learning with your spaniel.

See details of my Speaking Spaniel Personal Dog Training Programmes or contact me to arrange a FREE 20 minute mini consultation by clicking on the link below


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