FLASCHBACK ARTICLE FROM FEBRUARY 2009
In 2008 I became a dog owner. My girlfriend Kelly and I adopted a very handsome Irish Water Spaniel. We named him “Shea” in honor of the ballpark that my favorite baseball team used to play in (and before you ask, the answer is: “No. We are not renaming him Citi-Field.”)
I’ve never owned a dog before and to be honest, I never got it. I never understood the affection that dog owners have for their pets. Until now. When Shea runs to the door to greet me after a gig, or wakes me up by licking my face, or curls up at my feet while I’m reading a book, I completely get the “Man’s Best Friend” thing.
And like most puppy owners, Kelly and I have signed up for some puppy training. We did the generic thing at our local PetCo which was like a 101 level college course. After Shea graduated from there (with perfect attendance, I’m so proud!) we found a local dog trainer and hired him for some one-on-one, intensive training. Trainer Mike has worked with us now for a few months and we are seeing a huge difference in Shea’s behavior.
And as I am wont to do, besides taking in Trainer Mike’s dog training, I have also watched him as a Trainer. I have enjoyed his technique and to be honest I have learned a few things that I will incorporate into my future DJ Training.
One of the first things Mike told us was that he was teaching us (Kelly and I) as much as he was teaching Shea. It was going to be up to us to practice with our dog on a daily basis if we wanted to see true results. And he wasn’t asking for a lot. Five to ten minutes a day was all. That’s pretty reasonable when you think about. I often ask my trainees to give me an hour or two per week in between sessions. Maybe next time I’ll just break it down to ten minutes a day. I mean think about it, if you can’t devote ten minutes a day to something, you might want to evaluate how much you really want it.
I also like the way Mike arrives for each session. He brings notes with him on whatever it is we are going to be working on but he also begins each session by asking us how things are going and if we have any questions or concerns. This shows me that he is organized in his training (he must have a “session plan” somewhere to keep himself on track) but he’s also flexible enough to roll with the punches and respond to whatever it is we ask him. I think those traits are essential to any good training program: an organized system led by a teacher who knows the material well enough that they can stray from the text when need be.
Another nugget I stole from Mike was when he told Kelly and I to always end a training session on a good note. When we work with Shea, for our five to ten minutes a day, our goal should be to end that session when Shea has done something very well. Our last command to Shea when a session is over is “Free Dog” and this will immediately set him off to running and jumping and exerting all that energy he had to control during the session. But we shouldn’t set Shea free (try saying that three times fast) on a down note. We have to wait till he has done a particular command very well and then end the session. I never really thought about that when it comes to working with my DJ trainees but I think it makes total sense. If you have a recruit who is excelling at a particular routine (“The Electric Slide” for example) maybe save that routine for the end of each training session. This was, no matter how many times you’ve had to correct him or her during the hour, you can end with some positive comments and send them home feeling confident.
I am always amazed at the similarities in any and almost all training programs. I remember years ago when I flirted with getting into golf (I have since given up on that) I took some lessons and the guy told me I’d break 100 someday . . . if I practiced. But I never really thought that training a DJ and training a dog could have any similarities. Yet after working with Trainer Mike I see that they do. With each, you will get optimum results if you are organized, if you practice regularly and if you stay upbeat and positive. And while I won’t be incorporating choke collars into any future DJ Training programs, I may start giving treats for Bridal Party Introductions.
Mike Walter is the owner of Elite Entertainment of New Jersey and a nationally recognized expert in the area of multisystem company development and staff training. You can contact Mike at [email protected]