Personal Video Coaching
As a pet dog trainer, much of your work will be coaching others to train their own dogs—this is a client-centric business, after all. For this reason, a large part of the Academy’s curriculum is devoted to honing your coaching and counseling skills. That said, we are exacting about building your ‘mechanics’ – your training skills. All trainers should be fully competent in manufacturing dog behavior. Many trainers do day-training and board-and-train, so personally undertake much of a client dog’s training themselves. And all trainers must excel in coaching their clients’ mechanics: picking what particular aspects of their training to prioritize and triage in and out, based on the particularities of the client and the case. Coaching your client’s mechanics requires a solid foundation of skills including great mechanics on your part.
We are exacting coaches. No one graduates from the Academy with poor training skills. But throughout your learning process, we model how to skill-build by focusing on prompting and reinforcing what you’re doing right. We do this via an intensive video-coaching process:
- The educational material you’ll work through builds from the theoretical (Animal Learning) to the more concrete (Dog Training and Obedience Behaviors) to the procedural (training plans and how to use them), so you won’t fly blind.
- Once you are ready, you’ll start to train a selection of required behaviors. You’ll do self-assessments and when you’re comfortable, you’ll send video to the Academy’s video coaches.
- You’ll receive detailed, positive, and helpful written feedback.
- Using the feedback you’ve received, you’ll continue training and submit another video.
This process is repeated for all the behaviors we want to see until your technique is given the stamp of approval. There are training assignments in two of the four levels—for example, some basic obedience behaviors to verbal stimulus control for Freshmen and a free-shaped retrieve for Sophomores. Each assignment was carefully selected to hone certain training skills and styles, and it generally takes a few repeat submissions of video to bring your performance to Academy standards for any one assignment.
We often get asked about in-person training workshops. The Academy has found that in-person sessions are simply not the best way to teach trainers to train. Video coaching allows the Academy’s coaches to assess your mechanics much more thoroughly than in-person workshops would allow. Videos can be viewed by the coaches at slower speeds or multiple times, and your current submission can be compared to earlier submissions to gauge your progress. And video submissions are easier on you: videos can be submitted for coaching without the expense of travel, and with dogs that are not otherwise suitable for workshops–your own dog, dogs in the shelters you work for, or even your foster dog, for example. When you graduate, your clients’ dogs will not always be social and low-key like those dogs most suitable for in-person workshops, so this trial-by-fire approach actually ends up being a boon.
We also have very high expectations of our coaching staff, which makes in-person workshops logistically difficult to organize. All of our video coaches are honors graduates of our program and have demonstrated, via inter-rater reliability testing, that they coach students using a shared ethic and technique.
I found the video coaching process tremendously beneficial, and you are not expected to submit video of professional quality: no one minded my sending in tape wearing full early morning PJ and slippers attire. (Me, not my dog.) The instructional feedback from instructors is very specific and targets exactly the areas requiring improvement, but always in a positively constructive and helpful tone. And what you are doing well is always emphasized and highlighted, so even if there is an area in which you are struggling, you feel good about the feedback.
– Thea R.
The video coaching has improved my technique a thousand fold!
I was nervous about submitting my first video–everyone seems to be. But it got much easier after that one and the feedback I received was invaluable. Getting clear, specific, kind, constructive reviews of videos I submitted was incredibly helpful, and knowing I can send in as many versions as necessary to get it right takes off some of the pressure.
I love being able to train at my own pace instead of needing to be at a specific time and place with a dog who might or might not be ready to work. I can work with any dog in any location and at any time while recording the session for feedback about what’s working and where I should practice a bit more.