Writing Courses


Right. One of my favourite parts of my job is writing courses. I write courses for you folk - the trainers, but in my previous live I spend years writing courses for owners.

The world is your oyster here and I really would try to be creative and maximise your talents and skills.

People online have the same problems as people offline. Because they’re the same people. Get a bit of paper. I know - its dated but serious, don’t use your phone or computer for the work required in this video. Its going to feel very very odd writing with a pen but I think it adds a certain freedom to the process.

Now I want you to pause this and write the most common training problems you hear from owners. We aren’t dealing with behaviour consults here so keep the serious stuff back.

For example: Dogs bark when they shouldn’t. Dogs drag their owner on the lead. Dogs jump all over people, dogs etc and don’t have any idea of personal space, dogs counter surf. Now there are also some the things people want to teach their dogs. For example: fetch, heelwork and protection work, stuff the kids can do with the dog are all that spring to my mind.

Relax with your list and flow. Just write all of them that come into your head and check back here in ten.

Ok: look through the list and pick the one you’re best at, or the youve the most experience with or the one that you think you’d do the best job at teaching and let’s roll with it. Could be from the problem list or the things owners want to teach list.

I’ll go with dogs jumping all over people because I doubt many of you will have chosen that.

Now I’m going to imagine a young dog. In my head this dog is always a cute yellow Labrador called Marley and the owners are always a young family of 4. No idea why - it’s just what comes to mind. Now this dog is an average Joe dog: hes a little untrained but he’s a nice chap in the right home and he learns well and his owners take care of him well. What do I need to teach his owners to do, to stop him jumping at people and dogs.

First I want you to write the bare bones exercises for your problem. If you could online teach them six exercises to work on this - which six are the most important or effective. Go!

So for my overloving pet dog, my six would be:

  • Sit to say please

  • Settle to bed with distractions

  • Cue of door bell for settle to bed

  • Leave it stationary

  • Leave it on lead passed

  • Premack loose lead in front

So bare bones will make a workshop. Intense, over two days. Boom. You just need to flesh the exercises out and work out the best order and Great Scott you’ve done.

So.. now let´s pretend I have a little longer with Marley. Lets really flesh out the above exercises and come up with a little training plan and list the exercises I’d do over time in order.

  • Teach sit to say please on lead for food

  • Proof and practice

  • Add distractions including door stuff

  • Add to all areas or luxury

  • Teach settle in bed

  • Add distance

  • Add proofing

  • Add door stuff as distraction

  • Add cue (could be door bell)

  • Same premise for dogs.

  • Teach loose lead

  • Add duration

  • Proof

  • Add dogs as distraction and premack

  • Leave it exercises

  • Make harder and harder

  • Start to merge it all together


Ok - so there are at least 17 exercises there. Id now put a number of sessions required for each for example sit to say please for food on lead is one sessions, proofing that is one session but teaching loose lead is probably at least 3 sessions. Which means this is enough content for a 6 week course. So now I want you to do the same. Flesh it out - even if you never end up doing it, and try and bring the detail right up to 30 sessions which is 6 weeks. I know this stuff isn’t easy and its tiring so make yourself a hot drink whilst you do this and grab a tasty snack but nothing too carb heavy or you’ll be asleep! 

Well done. Now I want you to imagine a little Malinois puppy joins with a young first time dog owner. She’ll need help. If she just worked through these exercises she might be happy but to really nail it there are some additional exercises I would give her.

What would I add to the course?

- Recall off toys

- Corinnes tease game with ham

- On and off switches

- Food on the lead to park games

So now imagine that pup and think up any particular additional exercises that may help her.

So these plus the others would be your 121 package. You get the point.


Now make a list of all the videos and a 1 next to the ones which will be in the 121 package, a W next to the ones for the workshop package and a C next to the videos for classes.

This is wicked. You have seriously just created a proper little online options package for one of your super skills. This is exciting. Be excited! Ok stand up, turn around and shake your tail feathers. Well done.

Now you need to write it. Only I wouldn’t. When I first started and especially when I started filming for TV I used to write myself scripts. I would rehearse and try and memorise. Way back when I started running classes for another organisation I did the same and tried to remember them. But the problem with that is that you beat yourself up or stumble when you make a different word choice. Be organised and write bullet point of the things you want to cover in each video but don’t try and memorise a script.

When I am writing owner courses each course should be pretty easy to explain too. A little tip is to ask your dog to sit stay or settle on a bed whilst you explain an exercises to camera. This looks good on your (owners can see you have control of your dog) but it also will make you hurry up and get the dog out to train! When you are bullet pointing your exercises the bullet points should be short and tell you what to do.

Feel free to add a short 1 minute max explanation about why your teaching a leave it or a recall or what not but do keep in mind its for dog owners who don’t always want to know the intimate details of why you chose a particular schedule of reinforcement and just want their car fixed. So keep it short and sweet. Then teach them how to do something. Keep each exercise short. You want around 3 progressive steps in each video.

For example

1. Use a raised lure and mark the sit.

2. Bring in the cue before the lure.

3. Fade the cue. Then add a super progress for the Achieving Annies

4. Start increasing time between treats.

If you struggle get your dog out and teach yourself. My dogs are forever being little rehearsal dogs for plans of things Im teaching. You don’t want more these very simple points as a training session and if your plans start to look more complex than that keep breaking them down and down and down. When you present them try to remember these four and just jump in. Pretend the camera is Marley the Lab owner (thats right - when I train to camera I talk to it like its Jennier Aniston and Owen Wilson but whatever works right??)

So your last and final job is to pick one exercise and write it into a video, or into a couple of videos if its a longer or more complicated exercise. These little videos are going to be SO good and remember all your doing is writing the barest points to remember. No scripts necessary.

Great job. Now take a break. You’ve literally just written the first draft of a workshop, class and 121 package as well as bullet script for your first video. When you learn about videoing and editing next, you can use this first bullet script to get practicing. Cant wait to see the results! 

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