Use Small Words

There are some very, very good dog trainers out there.

These are the trainers-of-trainers – they don’t take on pet people any more as they are beyond that, they are the nth degree blackbelts of dog training, the grand masters, the sensei, the research scientists of the dog world.

Some of these will drop little pearls of wisdom like gifts, hoping that other people will gather something valuable from it. Often, they are reluctant to give up their hard-won secrets, and won’t dole out any more information than that.

After puzzling for a while (and watching other people puzzle too) over one such pearl, a thought dawned on me.

Unless your audience can understand your wisdom, it’s useless.

Jargon, mystibabble, and confounding, elaborate language are the hallmarks of a lot of charlatans in the dog training business. I tell a lot of clients, if a dog trainer isn’t making sense to you, likely they don’t make sense to themselves. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean they are smarter than you are.

A good teacher is somebody who will take the time to explain things, in depth if necessary, and quickly if necessary. It’s one of the reasons that Patricia McConnell has developed such teeny weensy handout books for clients to read – they deliver bits of information quickly, efficiently, and understandably.

That’s why some research scientists actually make such terrible instructors in college as well – they can’t be bothered to take the time to break down the information without using jargon. A lot of them have the attitude of “Well, if you don’t understand it, look it up.” which is fine to a certain extent. The job of a teacher isn’t to spoonfeed the information to students, but it is to give them enough grounding of understanding that the lecture is productive.

Luckily, this pearl of wisdom actually did come from a sensei of the dog world, and this person did take the time to explain the jargon when questioned – thus demonstrating the difference between a good teacher and a charlatan in the use of language. (In fact, he even got the questioners to define the specialized terms by asking questions of them, another mark of a great teacher)

A good teacher will always do that, instead of dismissing you haughtily as an idiot because you don’t happen to get the term yet. In fact, the best teachers never make you feel like an idiot. They might correct you, they might even take you to task if you don’t do something right and they know that you can, but they will not talk down to you.


Because the information is important, and in its best form, can be taught to most anybody who is willing to learn it.

And a great teacher is willing to use small words to get there.


To be a good teacher, use small words. This also translates to teaching your dog – and right here, I was learning what to say and how to say it to Mika. I still haven’t mastered the language of herding yet.


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