Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What makes a good instructor?

Today is Dog Agility Blog Action Day! Although I’m not a blog focused solely on agility, it is one of our main hobbies  :)  And I think today's topic fits all dog sports...


Anyway, today’s topic is “What makes a good coach / instructor?”


There are some things that I feel are critical to being a good instructor:

  • A good instructor will support you in your failures as well as your successes. This is especially true in your early trialing experiences! There needs to be emotional support as well.

  • A good instructor should also be learning from you!

  • Good instructors will admit to their own mistakes, and vow to help you not make the same mistake!

  • A good instructor evaluates a team’s strengths & weaknesses, and works with those to improve the team.

  • A good instructor will think outside the box. Not every method will work for every handler, dog, or even every breed.

  • A good instructor welcomes feedback & evaluation. Not just from students, but from themselves. Introspection & self-evaluation are critical!

  • A good instructor actually enjoys their students and their students’ dogs. An instructor should be able to find one redeeming quality in each dog & person. There should never be any talking down or bashing of either.


So all of those things define a good instructor. But what separates the “good instructors” form the truly “GREAT instructors?”
  • A great instructor also has an instructor! It's all about continuing education! Never settle for someone who assumes they already know it all and has nothing left to learn. Teaching the same things you’ve taught for years or teaching things the same way you’ve taught for years is just stale.
  • A great instructor is not always someone with a high caliber dog winning at national events. And a person with that high caliber dog is not always a great instructor. Do not confuse someone who can “train their own dogs well” with someone who can teach you to train your dog well!
  • A great instructor realizes that they are not just training a dog, but a person too! You can teach a dog every complicated move in the book, but if the handler cannot perform those moves, well, you’ve really not accomplished anything. Teach what they’ll use. You can push them to try more, but realize that some teams may never be able to perform certain things.


I encourage everyone to think about what personally matters to you in an instructor. And don’t forget, you can have many different instructors & coaches! There are a lot of good & great instructors out there! Broaden your horizons! Don’t feel that you have to stay with 1 person, whether it be out of loyalty or whatever. Every instructor has strengths & weaknesses. What one instructor may excel at, another instructor may fail at. And communication skills vary. How do you know what works for you & your dog if you’ve never tried anything different?


Please check out all the other blogs participating today! Click here.


Some of my personal favorites:


  1. Love your ideas too about what seperates good from GREAT, great post, thanks!

  2. Really enjoyed reading your blog entry for blog action day. Every one of your points is absolutely critical. I'm thinking of taking all of these great comments and making a "student" handout for selecting a good agility instructor. Love this topic. So close to home.