Understanding Your Audience of Experienced Dog People

September 5, 2007


It is essential that you know your audience.  I wrote about this in an earlier blog posting.  (Check the June 2007 entries.) You have to tailor your approach to suit your audience.  For dog trainers, there are two primary audiences:  (1) Experienced dog trainers and those who want to become experienced dog trainers, and (2) pet owners.


If your audience is experienced trainers, they already know a lot about dog training, whether or not you agree with what they know.  What they are often working toward now is improving their records of wins with a favorite dog or gaining greater respect in the field.  If you want to be their trainer, you must always remember that they most of all want to be respected as professionals.  They will respond better to compliments and reverence to their expertise and educations than they will to your attempts to teach them new skills.

Be humble and learn to get your reinforcers from your students’ successes.  You are going to be their coach, not their teacher.  And by coach, I mean “life coach”, not “professional sports coach”.  Your job is to help them excel and to lift them up high while keeping your profile modest.  Sound counter-intuitive?  Keep reading! 

Your job in working with the advanced audience is to support them in what they are already doing, to offer feedback on the things they request feedback on, to offer new information that perhaps they haven’t had a chance to access.  Anything you do to change their behavior must be done delicately and subtly. Reinforce what they do that works by praising their expertise and professionalism.  Ignore what they are not doing well at the same time.  Before long you’ll probably find that the reinforcement for the good performances builds those skills to the point that they overwhelm the undesirable stuff and it fades away. 

And if you want to be successful, you must not try to take credit for the change.  Brag about your student to others, in front of the student whenever possible.  Does this sound like I’m telling you to eschew all your own glory?  Does that sound counter to the idea of promoting your training business?  Think about overhearing some trainer at an agility trial saying this:

“I’ve got to tell you about my student, Louise Tate!  She just won her MACH title with her dog, Spider! I am so excited for her! She has worked hard and it has really paid off.” 

Is that not the teacher YOU would want to work with?  By bragging about your students’ successes you are promoting yourself in the best possible way.  You’re showing that not only are you a good instructor- after all, look at what your student accomplished!  You’re also saying that you are willing to not just share but freely give away the glory. 

Everyone knows the old dog world saying, “The only thing two trainers can agree on is that the third one is wrong.”  I urge you to create a new one. 

The only thing that trainer talks about is how great her students are.”  Work on praising your students until you start hearing this from other people.  Your students will love you.  Then they will talk about you to all their friends.  And the best marketing engine in the world will be off and running. Word-of-mouth.

What about the student who isn’t doing so well?  There are a few different things to consider.  First, remind her about the successes she’s had, no matter how small.   Remember her big successes forever. And point out small successes immediately as they occur, while minimizing responses to problems. One of the biggest problems she may be having is paying too much attention to mistakes.  Don’t you join in with her on that!  Help her focus on successes and goals. 

Mistakes are just starting places.  They’re not failures.  

Do not think you’re going to win their hearts by knowing something they don’t know. You may NOT know anything they know.  What will set you apart from all the rest is being proud of your students even when they surpass you.  The way to their hearts is to let them know you believe to the bottom of your heart and to the depths of your soul that They are great trainers, and that you will freely announce that to the world.  Then do it! 

Copyright 2007, Kellie Snider

Don’t forget to order your copy of our new DVD:  The Constructional Aggression Treatment:  Shaping Your Way Out Of Aggression.  It’s a complete seminar in a 5 disc set. Save yourself some travel expenses and attend your next seminar at home! 

“…your seminar has been the best received of any I have ever produced.” 

Alta Tawzer of Tawzer Dog Videos.



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