Puppy Talk – Puppy Healthcare
One week to go till pick up day and two things remain on my list: Vets, and pet insurance.
We have several vets close by, but never having owned a pet that required a vet, I’m not really sure what I’m looking for. There was that incident with George, my fan-tailed gold fish, who got a large piece of gravel stuck in his mouth, but emergency home surgery, with a pair of tweezers and a steady hand, soon sorted that one out!
My only reference point for vets is the 1970's TV show ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, but as we neither live on a farm, or in Yorkshire, even this limited knowledge is useless. In the end a quick visit to our local Vets, where a lovely lady asked me lots of questions, talked me through the basics, and gave me some bedtime reading about a Pet health plan, made me quite content that I had found the Vets for us.
Unfortunately, there is no happy receptionist holding your hand through the process of choosing pet insurance on-line. Just a computer screen, a bunch of questions, some of which bear no resemblance to the pet we own, a limited policy overview and a monthly figure to compare against. Should I go with a major brand or a less known option? Why would lifetime cover be better than annual? And does it mean I love my dog any less if I plump for a cheaper option!
In the end, I opt for the well-known brand with life cover. In the absence of any past experience, I can only go with what feels right.
Trainers Talk – Trainers Welfare
So, how does puppy health care translate into Trainers welfare? It's actually not that difficult to make the links. An animal’s health isn't solely dependent on a Vet. The keen eye of the owner and positive interaction with the general public will also give a puppy a great start in being a happy well developed dog. In the case of a Trainer, the general public become the delegates, the puppy owner becomes the Line Manager and the Vets become the Mentor.
Delegates, just like the general public, come in all shapes and sizes, offering different experiences and challenges for Trainers. It’s important to gain as much exposure to as many different types of delegates as possible. Why? Because if a Trainer only ever interacts with one type of delegate (i.e new starters), or one type of environment (i.e in a meeting room), then over time it becomes harder to transition, limiting options for progression. Exposure doesn’t have to mean training, it could be attending meetings or running projects as long as it gets you in front of different types of audiences.
Line Managers of course, don’t ‘own’ Trainers! They are however, accountable for their welfare. Just as an owner should socialise and train their puppy, a Line Manager should give opportunities for Trainers to gain new experiences and offer to observe and give feedback on a regular basis. To a busy Line Manager this may seem like a ‘nice to have’ but, in reality it’s a must! If a trainer / training team is going to be perceived as a professional integrated part of a business, they will need to plan for their own development as well as everyone else’s!
Mentors are a valuable part of any Trainers development. They are one step removed from the Line Manager, and while they may ask how things are in general, they are more invested in specific development issues. Just as a Vet would assess general wellbeing, they are specialists and will always look to diagnose and facilitate specific improvements.
Trainers are often hard wired to naturally develop others, and tend to learn through experiences, and sometimes qualifications. But think about it, we create training needs analysis for businesses to strive towards achieving the future, why is it then that so many Trainers do not have a Professional Development Plan that offers the same insight for their own future? I now have a healthcare plan in place for Maisie’s arrival: Vets, socialisation and training courses. I’ve also done my research on what to look out for regarding any health issues. The question now is… What do you have planned for your own welfare as a Trainer?
Nikie Forster is Director of Curious Lighthouse Learning Consultancy, where she specialises in enabling Trainers and Facilitators to enhance their performance, whether they are at the very start of their journey or experienced professionals ~ including mentoring options. Interested ~ check out www.curiouslighthouse.co.uk)
(Puppy Talk – Preparation and Puppy Proofing!
After choosing Maisie, the wait now begins! We have weeks to wait before we pick her up, and although our breeder is very good at sending photos and video clips, she is already growing fast and I feel like I’m missing out on her development. However, our time is being put to good use as we start puppy proofing the house and garden! We’ve even started a list!
I remember when we were expecting our son, I was scanning the shelves of a local pharmacy, with an even longer list, when I bumped into an old friend, who already had two children. She promptly looked at my list and announced, “you won’t need half of that stuff!” My somewhat hormonal/defensive response was; “This is my child, I’ll buy what I want!” she was of course right, I didn’t need the ton of cotton wool balls or the sensitive baby shampoo, (he had no hair for 6 months!) And while flippantly blame the baby hormones, in retrospect my response actually came from my values, which is to say, I believe that when advice is given, it should always be given with positive intentions or not at all.
Trainers Talk – Preparing for your new Training role
Whether you are a seasoned professional or this is your first venture in the role of Trainer, similar activities will ensure your new role is a success. Companies vary a great deal when dealing with new employees, some will focus on the paperwork, policies and procedures ensuring your fully aware of ‘what not to do’ when you arrive, most of which is complete common sense, but apparently needs saying;
Better companies will focus on what you actually need to know to feel confident that you’ve made the right choice, and will also cover what is expected from you. If they don’t supply this info, you should a) go research it, and b) consider making it part of the on-boarding process once your established in your role, as ultimately you may well be involved in the induction process, and having this information up front will enable people to integrate more quickly and confidently into the company.
So, what information would be useful prior to starting a new training role?
So, whether you're preparing for a puppy or a new training role, the best advice I can offer is to keep in mind that the idea is to be prepared, not to be competent. If you are at least armed with enough information to ask the right questions to the right people you’re on your way to success!
There needs to be some flexibility thou to meet with the unknown such as: personality types, (barking dogs V shy dogs), what if it's not quite the job that was offered (non-shedding puppy V fur ball that malts as soon as you look at it), or unexpected projects (house training taking longer than expected....I really hope that one doesn’t transfer from puppy to Trainer! Good luck!
(Nikie Forster is Director of Curious Lighthouse Learning Consultancy, where she specialises in enabling Trainers and Facilitators to enhance their performance, whether they are at the very start of their journey or experienced professionals ~ including facilitating people with potential to create a career in training. Interested ~ check out www.curiouslighthouse.co.uk)
Puppy Talk – Puppy Picking Day
The day has finally arrived! It’s ‘Puppy Picking Day’!
Six months after we signed up with our Australian Labradoodle breeder, we are finally winging our way up the A34 towards Swindon to view five girl puppies. We’d seen a few photos of the tiny bundles of fur, all snuggled together with their mother ‘Coco’, but we have no idea how we might choose ‘our’ puppy.
As we near the breeders home the conversation turns to, ‘What are we looking for in a puppy?’ Ignoring my husband’s flippant quip about four legs, two ears and a tail… we conclude that we’ve done enough research to know we have the right breed, and the right breeder (we also know that two puppies from a previous litter were chosen to become assistance dogs, so feel encouraged that one of our main criteria, to have a pup with a good temperament, has a better than average chance of being met! But as I tend to make decisions mainly based on instinct, (which has never failed me yet), I feel hopeful that our puppy will naturally become obvious to us!
Sat on the floor being climbed on by the pups, I look for tell-tale signs for which one should be our family companion for the next decade! Some snuggle in, some scamper off. Some whimper and some yapp. Some are adventurous and some look for a safe haven, especially from our rather bouncy 5-year-old son! But in the end, it is the largest of the girls, with her white streak down her chest and her rather independent roaming, and occasional soft bark, that wins our hearts. Maisie has been selected! (Although, had I not been there, I suspect she would have been named Megatron instead!)
Making the link to L&D – Trainer picking day
So, you’ve been invited to attend an interview for a Training role. Even if the company has considered their ideal Trainer (breed), and have done their homework when it comes to recruitment options (Breeder), they still have to select the right Trainer for their company … it’s their version of puppy picking day!
For Trainers, recruitment events often involve; a group activity, a presentation/micro training session and an interview. I’ve had my share of being an applicant and a panellist at these events, and it’s not always the obvious things that get people the job. I could offer an entire books worth of advice on do’s and don’ts for this topic, but instead, I will offer just six things that would make me sit up and remember you as a prime candidate for the role:
1. Create a role for yourself. Become the flipchart scribe, facilitator or time monitor. If you don’t have a role you don’t have a purpose!
2. READ and clarify the objective! As a panellist, I want to see who can; understand what is being asked of them, facilitate others to stay on track and be creative all in one go.
The Presentation/Micro teach session
3. Showcase your skills. You can include a lot of different facilitation formats in a short space of time; flipchart, PowerPoint, discussion, activity, post-it notes, handouts etc. Just ensure they are appropriate for the audience and the topic. If it’s only a very short session, have a handout that highlights how you would have run the session with; a) more/less time, b) more/less delegates c) different pitch levels d) traditional training V an alternative way to learn etc.
4. Take your own flipchart pens! So many companies have faded flipchart pens! Get some brightly coloured, even scented pens and be prepared! You don’t want your well-planned flipchart activity to look poor just because the pens they supply aren’t great!
5. Have examples. Most companies still use competency based question. So, ensure you’ve thought of good examples such as; overcoming a challenge, implementing a programme of training where there was resistance, dealing successfully with senior stakeholders etc.
6. Listen to the questions! Not just so you can answer it correctly, but so you can look for hints on the challenges the company is facing and weave your answer around this.
Out of a group for five puppies, we chose Maisie because she stood out for us. The way she interacted with the other pups and how she reacted when we paid her more attention. It was also lovely to hear the breeder’s son say that she was his favourite too, (references). You can never be 100% sure you’ve made the right choice, as a Trainer or an employer (or as a new puppy owner) until the commitment has been made, but at least you’ve made it past the selection process!
(Nikie Forster is Director of Curious Lighthouse Learning Consultancy, where she specialises in enabling Trainers and Facilitators to enhance their performance, whether they are at the very start of their journey or experienced professionals ~ including working in partnership with people who have the potential to create a career in training. Interested ~ check out www.curiouslighthouse.co.uk)
Puppy Talk – Becoming a Dog Person
The realisation that we’d just agreed to get a dog was a pleasant surprise! My husband’s family had always had dogs but I’d always been in a strictly two fish and a cat kind of family… and very independent cats at that!
We’d spoken about it for some time, we’d done our research, read up on different breeds, watched dog related TV shows and even accosted random dog walkers in the park to ask them questions about behaviour, shedding and trainability.
We’d finally agreed that a cross poodle breed was the one for us, but it wasn’t until I met Sherlock, a friend-of-a-friends gorgeous Australian Labradoodle, that looked like a big soft teddy bear, with a temperament to match, that everything fell into place.
Sherlock - The Australian Labradoodle that inspired our breed choice
We met up with the same Breeder and having identified gender, fur type and colouring, we got ourselves on the waiting list! They had a great reputation, so the waiting list was rather long, but we really felt it was worth the wait to get the right dog for us.
It is often said that you’re either a cat or a dog person. Well I’m not sure I whole heartedly agree with that, but what I do know is that people who have cats and dogs talk a lot about them, and this encourages new conversation and new friendships. All in all, I’m looking forward to becoming a dog person!
Link to L&D – Becoming a Trainer!
Even if a company has done their research and identified the right type of person for a training role, (agreed on Breed) and talked to recruitment agency’s (found a reputable Breeder), taking on a full-time Trainer is a big commitment.
In the dog world, there are now options to ‘borrow-a-dog’, take it for walkies and hire it for a few hours without commitment. This is especially good for people who either want to ‘test drive’ what having a dog is like, or do not want the commitment of a full-time dog. In the business world offering up a similar approach will allow you the opportunity to gain valuable experience, and is a great way for them to ‘test-drive’ your talents before they commit. Here’s just five ways to get involved in becoming a Trainer:
This may seem like a lot of effort, but as we all know - neither a puppy or a Trainer is just for Christmas, so doing the right research and preparation up front will ensure a happy outcome!
Nikie Forster is Director of Curious Lighthouse Learning Consultancy, where she specialises in enabling Trainers and Facilitators to enhance their performance, whether they are at the very start of their journey or experienced professionals ~ including enabling existing employees in becoming in-house Trainers. Interested ~ check out www.curiouslighthouse.co.uk
What are these blogs all about?
Over my 20-year career in Learning and Development (L&D) there has always been one constant piece of feedback I’ve received… that I can link learning to almost any situation. I’ve decided to take this as a compliment - whether intended this way or not!
So, when my family and I decided it was the right time to get a dog, I saw the chance to challenge myself to make each new dog experience link back to Learning and Development and create a blog post about it.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re a dog lover or even if you work in the field of L&D, each of these short blogs will hopefully give a little insight into how our everyday world can hold learning, even when you’re not looking for it!
A bit more about me
Hi, I’m Nikie Forster. As well as being a Mum to Joe, our 5-year-old son, and Wife to Colin, I’m also the Director of Curious Lighthouse Learning Consultancy. Based in Hampshire, where I specialise in enabling Trainers and Facilitators to enhance their performance, whether they are at the very start of their journey or experienced professionals. I am constantly curious about development of others and myself.
A bit more about Maisie
Maisie is a beautiful black Australian Labradoodle. Australian Labradoodles have been breed over multiple generations of other Australian Labradoodles so the look and temperaments are similar. They have a great reputation for being low shedding, gentle and playful family dogs who are easy to train… but that’s yet to be confirmed – she made be as mad as a hatter, which of course would fit in perfectly with our family!
Follow our journey
From choosing a breeder and picking up our pup, to training and general life observations with a dog. Follow our journey together and see how learning happens every day, not just in a meeting room. www.curiouslighthouse.co.uk/landdwithmasieandme
Nikie Forster & Maisie the Austrialian Labradooble
When we decided to get a dog, I combined our new arrival with my passion for Learning and Development (L&D) to create these blogs. Challenging myself to link each new dog experience with L&D.