teach and learn

I walk my dogs to a nearby park several days a week and many times there are baseball and football teams practicing. I wince almost every time I walk by because the coaches are often yelling about what the young kids are doing wrong. With every one of these outbursts, I think how lucky I was and am to have been surrounded by several great coaches and teachers as a kid and an adult. They had much better ways to motivate.

Focus on the positive. My very first puppy class instructor set the tone not only for my own dog training, but for a life’s philosophy. Instead of thinking or yelling about what you don’t want. Focus on what you do what. And go after it. Put passion and energy and intensity into that. It’s fun. Try it.

Set an example. My current agility instructor competes alongside her students. She sees the same challenges and feels the same pressures. It means she can relate and be relevant. But it also means she has a great love for the training and the game, instilling that in her students as well.

Build pride. My cross-country coach used to end many practices and long runs by saying we’d just done something today that most people haven’t. That pride in what we had accomplished – whether we were first or last – was a large part of what made our team great. It was pride – not tied to ribbons or medals – but to our own personal effort.

Be yourself. My sister was probably one of my first coaches – except for my parents of course. Since she was a couple years older, she knew what I needed to “train” for – crazy things like living room gymnastics or bareback horse aerobics and useful things like losing the training wheels. But when we were a little older – the summer before my freshman year of high school, I went running with her because I wanted to run cross-country like she did. For a while I was matching my stride with hers. Copying her as usual. But she said – you can’t do that. You have to find your own stride. And so I did.

In life, you’re either teaching or learning. And if you’re doing it right, you’re doing both. Instead of training my dogs, I try to think of it as coaching them. And then we all end up on the same team.

This post was written as a part of a dog agility blog event. To read more posts about “What makes a good coach/instructor?” click here.

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