Scent Work University Blog

Where we discuss all things Scent Work-related!

Maintain Your Sense of Awe

There is a cruel side effect to becoming more experienced and familiar with an activity. The shine and glow of said activity fades into a dull routine. The same is absolutely true with Scent Work and I implore you to do everything within your power to try to avoid this from happening to you. 
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, Scent Work has not been spared. Group activities, Sniff N' Go's and trials have being cancelled while dog training businesses are closing or suspending their services all in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus. One thing this situation has highlighted that may have otherwise been missed: Scent Work is a social activity for the human handlers.
​This sounds obvious. Yet, how many times do people work a search and prevent their dog from following where the odor cone is traveling? Are you guilty of this? If so, what can you do instead?
​You're trialing with your dog. You're confident in your training. Yet, you go to a trial and things go terribly wrong. What do you do now?! The answer: it all depends.
​Whether we want to admit it or not, there is an inherent conflict between training and trialing when it comes to Scent Work. If we aren't careful, we could throw all of our training away as we chase after more and more trialing opportunities.
What exactly is the handler's role in the Scent Work team, anyway? This topic has been on my mind this week as it came up in back-to-back in person NW1 Trial Prep classes I was instructing. One student made the comment, "I don't know why people worry about what to do at a trial, the dog does all of the work, we don't have to do anything".
People, by design, are fairly impatient. We get all excited about something and we want to do it NOW! The prospect of having to wait for the final payoff is painful and frustrating.Unfortunately, this WANT IT NOW approach can spell havoc when we are talking about working with and training our dogs, especially in regards to Scent Work.
​"Hi! I've heard a lot about your training and I wanted to see if you could help me and my dog. We've been training for a while and, while I like my trainer, I don't think we are getting anywhere. Looking forward to working with you!"Surprisingly, this type of message from a prospective client is not all that rare. Now, I'm not saying that to toot my own horn. I'm saying it because there appears to be a lack of communication between trainers or instructors and their clients which causes the latter to seek out help elsewhere.
Nothing like starting a blog post with a bang...There is no denying Scent Work is exploding in popularity, which in and of itself is a wonderful thing. More dogs sniffing, fantastic!Scent Work is an activity that is open to ALL dogs and carries with it real benefits trainers, instructors, competitors and dog owners worldwide are beginning to truly grasp and recognize.However, I fear that for some dogs, the quest to shift from the beneficial and fun activity of playing the Game of Scent Work to competing in the Sport of Scent Work could very well spell their doom.
You've been practicing Scent Work with your dog. Maybe you've been following the K9 Nose Work® training method that we cover in our Foundation Scent Work learning path. Perhaps you are using an operant training approach. Or an entirely different training approach altogether. Regardless, you may be noticing an issue: your dog finds the hides perfectly when you're practicing with them at-home...but not so much when you are at a trial or when someone else is setting the hides for you. But why?! Let's discuss some potential causes. 
A heartbreaking trend I've encountered throughout my professional dog training career is dog owners desperately wanting their dogs to be something they are not. The older dog to be spry again. The shy dog to be without any self-preservation. The reserved dog to suddenly go head-first into any given situation without a care. The careful and methodical dog to turn into a Tasmanian devil of activity. This is a surefire way to remove all the joy from any activity you are doing with your dog, especially Scent Work.