Over the last couple of months I have been attending a weekly training course.  Not so much a business development course but instead a course which has tested and developed my communication skills.

It has led to me not only learning a new skill but has also refreshed my communication skills in an environment that I am not used to….. Dog Training!

I have a 7 month Golden Retriever called Charley. A very confident, strong willed puppy. Like most dogs he is inquisitive, challenging and needs to be stimulated.

(As I write this, he is chasing a reflection of light around the room!) Over the 10 week course, all key aspects to having good communication skills have been experienced:

  • I have had to actively listen. Listening to the instructor explaining what commands I will need to use. Being mindful to ask questions if I needed to clarify a point.
  • Using non verbal Communication. When working with a dog this registers quite high on your priority list. I have had to ensure that my body language, eye contact, body position and tone are correct when working with Charley.
  • Building a rapport. This has been experienced in a number of ways. It has been with the instructor, Charley and other course attendees. Through conversation and shared interest, a rapport has been built with the instructor. Naturally you will have a rapport with your dog but it needs to be the right one. It has also been great to be in an environment where people are not afraid to fail or can share issues and stories.
  • Being clear and concise. Giving short specific commands to Charley, to prevent confusion has been imperative. (To be told that I talk too much when giving a instruction was a complete surprise to me!!)
  • Confident. When giving instruction to Charley it has been important to do so in a confident way. The tone and body language have had to exude this, to gain success.
  • Showing empathy. Yes, dogs have off days! You need to be aware of the environment and factors which may be impacting on your dog’s behaviour.
  • Open-Mindedness. Although I might have thought I knew how best to speak and behave with Charley, I have listened to my instructor and taken on board his methods. It is amazing how subtle changes can make an impact. There is also a reason why the instructor is the instructor!
  • Show respect. It is the same as when you are with your colleagues, you need to show the same behaviours. Whether it is praise, or whether it is being direct in your approach, the same skills are required. Shouting and getting angry gets you nowhere.
  • Receiving Feedback. Whether it was me receiving feedback from the instructor or me giving praise to Charley, it has resulted in a positive outcome. It allowed me to improve my skills and to ensure that Charley’s behaviour is the correct one.
  • Adopting the right approach. It has been important that Charley has understood when he has done something good or something wrong. Adjusting my tone to give praise or correct poor behaviour achieved this.

It might not have been a corporate business course but it has definitely led to the same skills being used…….but I can guarantee in a much more fun environment!!!

Plus, I now have a puppy who is trained – almost!