I just got back from day one of a two-day workshop sponsored by The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). I learned so much and feel inspired to try all the new ideas that I gathered on my poor unsuspecting piano students.
As the workshop progressed, however, I could not help noticing how similar teaching humans and dogs are. One thing that truly stuck out to me was that over 70% of our communication–and we communicate when we teach– is done through body language.
I’ve found that when I’m upbeat, relaxed and in a good frame of mind, my students respond much more positively to me. Sometimes I don’t have to say anything to my students, but they seem to sense my mood. So, I always try to be in a good mood when I step into my music studio. It is, after all, about having fun making music with these incredible kids. I therefore leave all the cr*p that happened earlier in the day, or that’s pending at the front door, wipe my feet on the door mat, and come into my studio to have fun with my children.
Dog training’s no different. At the recent obedience trials, I was worried that Athena would break her stays because all the other dogs competing with her were breaking theirs. I must have had that worried look on my face because when the judge said “return to your dogs” at the end of the exercise, Athena’s ears went back and she began licking her lips as I approached her: typical calming signals. I smiled at her to let her know that I was pleased with her, and I saw her visibly relax. Her ears went up; she resumed panting. All was well, and she won the Novice class.
What our body language says is more important that our actual words.