ABC Mentor Training–Part One

16June 2014

As a graduate of Animal Behavior College (ABC), I was very excited when they asked me to be apart of their mentor training program.  As part of the program to become a dog trainer, ABC requires both book knowledge and hands-on training.  The latter is where I come in.  So a few months ago, I got to meet my Mentee, Jessica.


For the first part of her hands-on training, Jess brought her dog, Kaiko, to one of my Basic Manners Dog Training classes.  She took the class as any other client would.  Basic Manners is a 6-week, one hour per week class.  Each week the class learns new things to take home and practice with their dogs.  Handouts are given at the end of each week, and a certificate is given upon completion.  Items covered in the Basic Manners class include:  Come when called, Look/ Watch Me, Loose Leash Walking, Sit & Auto-sit, Down, Stand/ Up, Stay, Leave-it, and Drop-it.
During this class, Jess learned what it is like to be in a group class and take direction from an instructor.  Having participated in this class, Jess has learned not only how to better work with her own dog, but also got to see how a large training class is properly run.  A good instructor should be able to keep everyone under control and on-task.
First we must work on a student’s technique in working with the dog.
This first picture is the first day Jess worked with her dog in class.  Remember, your body language when training a dog is very important.  You can see in these pictures that Jess is not only back too far from the dog, but is also arching her back outwards and away.  In the dog world, this makes you a weak energy.  To correct this problem, she should step in and stand straight up.  In this first picture, you will also notice the leash is tight.  You want your leash short but loose when working with your dog.

Always remember to stand tall and calm, but not stiff.  When working with your dog, stand directly in front of them.  There should be no more than 12-18 inches between you and your dog.  

In the second picture, you can see Jess is still standing too far away, but has loosened the leash.

One of the most important things students learn in Basic Manners Dog Training is Loose Leash Walking (LLW).  This basically means the dog is walking nicely on a leash, not pulling, and not all over the place.  (Also visit our Trainer Tips for more help).  To train a dog how to Loose Leash Walk, you basically have two options.  When the dog pulls you 1) stop and wait for the dog to move in a way that releases the tension on the leash, or 2) say “Let’s go!” and walk off in the opposite direction.  Here you can see Jess demonstrating the stop and wait technique for LLW.  If you are consistent in teaching LLW to your dog, you will have a dog that is a pleasure to walk with in a short amount of time.  But remember to be consistent!  Letting your dog just pull every now and then sets back your training.


The first class with owners and their dogs can very hectic and stressful.  This is to be expected.  Many new dogs are coming together for the first time and can get easily over-excited.  People are also excited and sometimes nervous about what might happen.  As class progresses, a good trainer will make all students feel comfortable and welcome, while still helping them to improve their training techniques with their dog.  In this next picture, if you look at the body language in both Jess and Kaiko, they seem slightly more relaxed.  Noticing little things like this is important.

Jess working with her mom and Kaiko.  Part of being consistent is making sure that everyone in the household has all the same rules, all the same cue words, all the time.  Not being consistent with your dog confuses her, and sets back training.  I highly encourage families to have all member present during training.  It is important that everyone is on the same page when it comes to training.  If you have a large family, it may be helpful to keep a list of rules, cue words, and commands you use for everyone to see.  Practice training together.  Help each other.  Remember not to get frustrated.  Stay calm and make it fun.

As class progresses week by week, participants succeed in some areas and have trouble in others.  As a trainer, it is vitally important to help correct the weak parts, but also point out the things that people do well.  We do positive reinforcement training for both dog, and human.  Clients training their dogs must also be told when they do things well and encouraged to continue.  In this picture, you can see that Jess has gotten much closer when working with the dog, and has much better body language.


Sadly, 6 weeks goes by very fast and class is over.  Above are the graduates of Basic Manners Level One, April 2014.  Jess is on the left, with other class participants to the right.  Clients are always proud and excited to receive their certificates.