Sitting at the dog training center with my dog, Max, I obediently followed our instructor as she taught us how to make our dogs sit, stay, and lay down. After a few sessions, I realized that the instructor was not really teaching my dog rather she was training me to develop my leadership skills. She belted out commands to us humans, saying, “Stand tall like you have confidence, don’t be wishy washy with your leash handling and make direct eye contact!”
When we did a good job with our dogs, she would say, “What are you waiting for? Give your dog a treat!”
I often got frustrated because Max was not obeying my commands. I said to Max with an angry expression on my face, “What’s wrong with you? I told you to come to me.” The instructor came over and said, “How do you expect him to understand what you mean? Look at your body language, you’re bent over, not standing straight. Your facial expression doesn’t show that you genuinely want him to succeed. If I was your dog, I wouldn’t want to obey you either.”
I felt put-down by the boot camp-style feedback but swallowed my pride and continued with training. Before long, I became engrossed in the skills I was learning and continued on to the Intermediate and Advanced classes. In-fact, I got so hooked on what I was learning, I kept going back for more.
I started to practice what I learned in dog training classes at work. I began to feel more confident as a leader and noticed improvements in the people on my team. As my communication to others became more clear, there was less confusion with the directions I delivered. Things got done right and people were happy!
Here are some tips I learned in my classes. I know you’ll agree that these handling skills can be transferred to humans to help us become better leaders.
Dog Training 101
1. Be clear and specific – Your voice should be clear so your dog can understand. Don’t mumble.
2. Be consistent – It will confuse the dog when you don’t use the same words. If “okay” is your release word for your dog, don’t say “come it’s okay” the next time.
3. Keep it simple – Use only one command at a time. Say “sit down” instead of “come here and sit down.”
4. Gain loyalty by being fair – Dogs notice if you are not fair. Be compassionate and truthful. No physical violence, instead show them respect.
5. Be confident – When giving dogs a command, show confidence in your body language, voice tone and facial expression.
6. Give feedback – if you don’t get the appropriate response, correct them immediately. Be patient and keep teaching until you get the response you’re looking for
7. Praise all the time – When you get the correct response, praise them immediately…. yes, every time!
8. Positive ending – Finish your training session with the correct behavior. Never end on a negative note. Say, “Yhea, good job!” and give them ample treats and pet their head.
Fact: When dogs go through obedience training, their self-esteem is higher.
Now, go see how these dog training methods can fit into your human interactions. I guarantee, that your relationships with your co-workers, friends and family members will improve just like mine did!