Amy Jensen has made a living training people around the world on how to train their puppies. Since 2019, she’s found a way to effectively engage puppy owners of all age ranges, generations and cultures as they learn – virtually – strategies and best practices that lead to well-behaved puppies.
The similarities between training puppies and training people may surprise you.
Transcript of the Conversation with Amy Jensen
Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast of all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, with Endurance Learning, and our podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, the world’s first and only rapid authoring tool for instructor-led training. It’s a little bit like instant pot for training and development, where you’ll put in a few characteristics of your training program, whether it is how long your presentation is, how many people will attend, are you doing it in-person or virtual? What’s your platform? What’s your seating arrangement and what are your learning objectives? Then you hit submit and it gives you a lesson plan in minutes. Soapboxify.com if you’d like to learn more about that.
Amy Jensen: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Brain Washburn: Well, I’m super excited about this. We’re going to talk a little bit about training puppies versus training people and how different are these two audiences. And as we always get started here, we always like to have people introduce themselves with a six-word biography. And so when I think of this topic of, you know training puppies and training people, I would kind of sum up my whole life in six words by saying, “I too, sometimes bark at people”. How about you? How would you introduce yourself and six words?
Amy Jensen: I love that. Well, I would say that “we all need to learn patience”. I think patience is something I’ve learned a lot by being in this position that I’m in – and training dogs – and I think that’s something we all could learn.
Brian Washburn: I absolutely agree with that. And just learning itself is a process, whether it’s people or dogs or children or just, kind of, customers, people that are coworkers.
So, you have this unique opportunity to work with both humans and canines in a training capacity. You’re basically running a train the trainer program. Except instead of the traditional model that our listeners are more accustomed to, in which people might train a person to train other people, you’re training people to train their puppies. What would you say are some of the biggest similarities between training people and training puppies?
Similarities Between Training People and Training Puppies
Amy Jensen: You know, Brian, I find that there’s a lot and I use it on my family all the time. In fact, I tell them “I should have probably done this before I had children and then I would have been a better parent.” But, you know, we all do what works for us. If it doesn’t work, we pretty much stop doing it. Puppies are the same way. If it doesn’t work for them, there’s no reason that they’ll do it. They only do what works for them.
Brian Washburn: Yeah, so kind of what’s rewarded gets reinforced, right?
Motivation is Key in Training
Amy Jensen: Absolutely. If they get something for it, they’re like, “great”. If they don’t, “I’m not doing that anymore”.
And we’re the same way, essentially, right? If we’re trying to do something and it doesn’t work for us, why would we keep doing it? Another one is motivation is key. I have a couple. Is that okay?
Brian Washburn: Please, yes.
Amu Jensen: So motivation is key. We have to be motivated by something to do something and dogs are the same way. So we use food mostly because they love food and have to eat, so we use that a lot for their motivation. I would say setting them up for success. We go the extra mile, people work harder, dogs work harder, and we’re all more cooperative when we are successful at something. If you know, I use the analogy a lot of playing a game. If there’s a game that you play and you keep losing, how long do you keep playing that game?
Brian Washburn: Yeah, it’s fascinating. I love that you mentioned this because in the world of change management – and I think that training and professional development is really a big change management initiative – one of the keys is finding small victories and celebrating those small victories. I love that you mentioned that one.
Amy Jensen: Yeah, so for these puppies, I mean, if you can help them win right away, they’re like, “yeah, game on let’s play!” And I can keep them pretty motivated in that training session just by helping them, you know, get those little victories, like you mentioned.
Limit Frustrations in Training
Amy Jensen: Another one will be to limit frustrations. I think that goes hand in hand with setting them up for success. You know, if a puppy is frustrated and they’re not winning a lot, and they’re hearing a lot of “No’s” or “Don’t”, or “Leave it”, or, you know, “Hey uh-uh” or whatever you use with your dog that just frustrates them. So the more we can say yes to them, then the more they’re willing to do things.
And it’s the same thing with my kids, right? If I’m always saying “no, no, no, no”, they get pretty frustrated, but if I can find ways to say “yes” and agree with them, we get along better.
Brian Washburn: And that’s so true for how we train people too, right? Is that if you’re in a session and you raise your hand and you offer an answer and the trainer’s like, “Nope.” I mean, that’s an awful experience, right?
Amy Jensen: Yeah!
Brian Washburn: So, finding a way to make sure that people know that that’s not the right answer, but doing it in a way that they feel good about even trying to participate, I think is a really, really key piece.
Amy Jensen: Yeah, and trying again, right? Because if we keep hearing the no’s, a lot of times we shut down as people. Like, I don’t want to keep venturing out, or I don’t want to keep guessing, or I don’t want to keep putting myself out there if I’m going to get shut down every time.
Brian Washburn: Yep. Any more?
Setting Boundaries in Training
Amy Jensen: The last one would be setting boundaries. Just having clearly defined rules is super important. You see that in people, we see that in dogs too.
Brian Washburn: Now you– I listen to your podcast. We have a new puppy here and you use a lot of analogies when you’re talking about concepts, both in your podcast and your puppy training classes. You’ll compare the importance of timing when you reward a puppy to a video game and an arcade where you win tickets. You’ll compare how a puppy might feel to how we might feel in certain situations. Why do you think analogies are so powerful when you’re trying to teach new concepts to people, and – bonus question – where do you get your analogies from?
Using Analogies in Teaching New Concepts
Amy Jensen: Okay. Well, you know, people understand stories. If you can give them a concept that makes sense to them and then relate that to something you want them to learn, I just find that they grasp it a lot better. So, you know, I try to take something that someone would have already experienced and that they already understand and then apply it to the puppy training. And then you see this light bulb go on. You’re like, “oh yeah, I get it.”
Brian Washburn: Yep. I mean that video game analogy that you had is– you know, I’ve taken my kids to the arcade – is such a powerful one. Just the importance of being able to say yes, as soon as, you know, your puppy does something and I’m able to use that also talking with my kids cause that’s the game that they gravitate towards. They want to win tickets. Where do you get your analogies from?
Amy Jensen: You know, all over the place, because sometimes it just pops into my head. The more I talk to people and coach people – and at this point I’ve coached thousands of people how to train their puppies – then I’ll have these little “aha moments: where I’m like, ah, I’ve said something enough times that this would relate to them, or this makes sense.
You know, a couple of them that I could explain would be like the crate and the kid throwing a tantrum, right? Like my kid’s on the ground, throwing a tantrum and I say, “You know what, I can see you’re frustrated. It’s okay to feel that way, but I need you to go to your room until you calm down and then you can come out.” You know, and they never come out and say, “I hate my bedroom.” And so I use that analogy. It’s like, well, that’s kind of like the puppy. Like they’re Zone four, crazy energy, can’t focus – that’s okay, right? That’s just normal puppy behavior. So we just put them in a pen or we put them in a crate until they calm down and then they can come back out again.
And so, just little moments like that where, you know, the more I coach people, the more I say, “how can I get them to understand this? What’s something that they could relate to?” and then we make the connection for them.
Brian Washburn: Yeah, I love that. And so Baxter and Bella has a whole suite of resources for people who are trying to learn how to train their puppies from a series of short podcasts, to on-demand videos, to live virtual classes, to office hours.
Were you intentional about how to organize all of your information and resources, or did you just think I’m going to throw a bunch of things against the wall and see what sticks?
Organizing Training Resources for Clients
Amy Jensen: (CHUCKLING) Good question. No, we started out actually with a workbook concept. I was training puppies for people in my home, and I wanted to be able to help more than just the three that I could help every year, you know? Training a puppy is intense. It’s like having a newborn baby at your house.
Brian Washburn: Yeah absolutely.
Amy Jensen: Anyways, so I thought, well, let’s just do a workbook and I can send this work back home with everybody who, you know, has a puppy. And then, you know, my husband and I, we decided to take it online because we could add video.
And we thought, that would be super helpful if actually we made it a website instead of a book. So we did that. And then as we started to get people in our program, we started to get questions. So as we got questions, we thought, you know, it’d be really cool if we could add some one-on-one live sessions that they could just, you know, meet with me, get on my calendar, schedule a session and we’ll meet one-on-one and just go through their questions. So we did that.
And then that grew to the point that now I’ve had to hire some trainers to come in and help me do those. And then I thought, well, we have enough people now I can host classes. So then we added the classes and the courses and the group Q&A’s and that’s how those were born. And they’ve been a huge hit.
And then I told my husband, you know, I think I’m going to start a podcast. And he was initially kind of skeptical, like “who listens to podcasts?” But I’m like, you know, I’m going to do them anyway and I have loved it. And people have, seem to have just kind of liked that five to 10 minute training reminder that I offer and so that evolved. You know, as we grew, I thought, you know, how can I get more people in? How can I teach more people about what we do? Because people seem to be really liking it. And that’s where the podcast came from. So I would say it just kind of snowballed into, we started with something very simple that I was very passionate about and then we just started to add things as we saw needs for them.
Brian Washburn: You did the opposite I think of what a lot of people do is, a lot of times, there’s the philosophy of “if you build it, they will come”. You were like, “they’re coming, so we need to build something and now they’re asking for something else, so let’s do that.” Have you discontinued anything? Or what, what do you think is your most popular resource?
Most Popular Puppy Training Resources
Amy Jensen: I would say our classes and courses have been a big hit. Just the one-on-one live interaction with us, which has been phenomenal and super fun because we meet people all around the world. You know, before COVID a lot of people were like, “Oh, I don’t think you can do puppy training online,” and we were already in the market and I was like, “I really think you can.” And we did start to grow and then COVID just, you know, blasted us out, which is awesome. But it’s possible to do it. And so I think the live connection that we can make with people – and I can answer people’s questions in Florida, even though I’m in Utah – has been really fun and helpful for them.
Some things that maybe we’ve let go of – not necessarily let go of – but I’ve taught so many classes at this point that there’s several, I don’t keep reteaching. We recorded them. They’re posted. People know how to access it. And so, I’ve taken maybe those time slots and applied them to maybe other classes that more people are wanting so that I can spend my time there where I’m getting more interest versus this class that everybody needs to go through, but it’s not as popular.
An Example of How An Effective Training Program Is Run
Brian Washburn: Yeah, I will just say for people who are listening in, and obviously your audience or your market is puppy training, but the way that you’re organizing this really sounds like best practices for anybody that runs a training department. You know, it’s finding out what people need or what they– I guess, what they want, but really what they need, what’s going to work. And then finding out, you know, with limited resources, in your case time, how to allocate that and then how to leverage technology for things that you don’t have the time for. I think that it’s a really fascinating case study in terms of how an effective training program is run.
I love your podcasts. They’re short, they’re five to ten minutes. They’re very targeted to a specific topic or skill. And they’re very practical. They’re immediately applicable, which I think is missing in a lot of podcasts. And I think that a lot of people who listen, either have podcasts or are thinking about, “Hey, maybe I want to start a podcast”. Do you have any advice for people who are listening and thinking I’d like to start creating podcasts, to use as learning tools?
Advice for Creating Podcasts as Learning Tools
Amy Jensen: Yeah, sure. I mean I did a lot of research before starting one. And, you know, number one: is a podcast for you? When I started thinking about it, you know, Scott was kind of like, well, maybe you should do Facebook lives? And for some reason I just didn’t really feel like that was me. Like, I don’t know. I didn’t really jive with it. And so, I wanted to do something that I felt comfortable doing. So if you’re going to start a podcast, make sure you’re comfortable doing it. Then you’ll be more likely every week to produce that episode and post it versus ah you’re dreading that day, when Wednesday comes around that you have to create this podcast. So pick a format or a platform that you resonate with and go with that. So for me, it was podcasts. I don’t have to be on camera necessarily. Yeah, people are listening to me, but I was fine with that.
And so I started doing my research. Invest in a good mic. Invest in some kind of software that’s really helpful in editing. I use Adobe Audition and love it. You know, find a podcast that you enjoy listening to, and then just create a similar type beginning and ending. Save those as templates. And then with every episode you produce, you can just use those same templates and it creates a very simplistic way of going about it.
Get to Know Amy Jensen
Brian Washburn: Thank you for those tips. And I could talk to you a lot longer about a lot of these things, but we’re coming to the end of our time. But before we leave, I have a few speed-round questions. Are you ready for them?
Amy Jensen: Yeah, let’s do it.
Brian Washburn: Alright. My first question is what’s your favorite feature to use during a Zoom training session?
Amy Jensen: Chat. Hands down, chat. I love to involve my people in my classes.
Brian Washburn: It’s fascinating that you use the chat. You also ask for volunteers to share their cameras sometimes when you’re showing a skill to see if they’re getting it, which, as somebody who’s watched it, I find that particularly helpful because it’s not just the expert doing things. Of course she’s going to do it right. But I can see other people doing it as well and I’m like, “Ah, Pico! That’s what you’re supposed to be doing!” I love the features that you leverage there. What’s the best professional or career advice you’ve ever received?
Amy Jensen: Do something that you’re passionate about, for sure. If you’re not passionate about it, it’s hard to get up and go to work everyday. But if you’re passionate and you love it, it’s not a job. It’s just what you love to do.
Brian Washburn: Yeah. And I think it’s clear that you were able to find that, which is awesome. What are you reading or listening to these days?
Amy Jensen: Well, when I’m not working, which is a lot of the time, I have a couple of books I’m studying right now, mostly dog stuff. One is Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. It’s a great book. And then my favorite podcast– actually the inspiration behind a lot of my stuff came from Jody Moore. She does a Better than Happy Podcast and I like to listen to those episodes.
Brian Washburn: Nice. And the last thing before we leave here is do you have any shameless plugs for us?
Amy Jensen: Of course. Well, if you’re adding a dog to your family in the near future, you need our Online Puppy School. I promise it works for any age dog. We have all of the resources you’ll need without leaving your living room.
Brian Washburn: I will, as somebody who has attended and used these resources, I will absolutely a hundred percent backup what you just said. I think it is fantastic. And so, it’s BaxterAndBella.com.
Amy Jensen: Yep. BaxterAndBella.com is where you can find us.
Brian Washburn: Awesome. Amy Jensen, who is the owner and creator of Baxter and Bella’s Online Puppy School, thank you so much for joining. And thank you, everyone, for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast of all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. You can find us on Spotify, on Apple, iHeartRadio, or wherever you get your podcasts. Go ahead and subscribe if you want to hear this every week. And if you’d like what you hear, go ahead and give us a rating. That’s how other people will find out about us. Until next time, in the words of the famous Amy Jensen, happy training, everyone.
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