The start of a New Year is a great time to set goals, put new plans in place and quit some bad habits both in our personal lives and our dog training! I think New Year's Resolutions are meant to be broken…but plans and goals are not!
I wrote this blog last night and decided to come back to it today to look at it with a clear set of eyes before publishing. I made my coffee, opened my computer and the first thing I see is the latest All About Scent Work podcast, Patience, Grasshopper. I was like, wow, it's not just my area, it's an epidemic! Why are we in such a hurry to rush our dogs through scent work training? The next thing I did was check my email and yep, got an email from someone who wants to start classes right now so she can enter a trial in two months. What is the rush? Is scent work going away and we have to get as many titles as we can before it's gone??? Yes, your dog can start a class now and Q in an AKC trial in 2 months. It is absolutely possible. But no one imagines taking one session of obedience classes and earning a CD next month. You need to give your dog a solid foundation, with many repetitions in many new places. Why is scent work different? I digress… Check out the podcast, but in the meantime, let's talk about going back to basics.
I plan to start the New Year by going back to basics, both in training with my dogs and with the in-person classes I teach. Everyone is in such a hurry to make things harder and reduce the amount of rewards – why??? Building a strong foundation in scent work is the smartest thing we can do to ensure our dogs don't become frustrated and succeed whether they're playing the game for fun or plan on competing.
So, what are some examples of going back to basics? Last week we did a search with my advanced group where I had all open boxes out. I had my students count out ten treats and when their dogs hit on the box they were to feed all ten pieces of food. The dogs were blown away! What??? An easy hide and I get rewarded this much for finding it??? The dogs were so happy and the handlers all came out smiling. Guess what – you can do this in EVERY training session! You don't have to make it a special session. I reward my dog a LOT in training. I'm careful to vary the amount of rewards I give because I don't want her going to a trial and waiting for nine more rewards during a speed search, but I do reward a lot in training. And that's why she LOVES THE GAME!
I'm very excited for my January schedule of in-person classes because EVERYONE is going back to basics: containers, thresholds, corners, "easy" hides, known hides, leash handling and over the top rewarding…whether they like it or not! Not that we don't work on these things already, but we just came off an inaccessible class, a distractor class and a "pressure cooker" class. They were fun and the dogs had the chance to work on some specific issues, but we can't keep making things harder. It's not fun for the dogs and we don't want them to lose interest in the game.
Here's another plan/goal for 2019 – enter a Novice trial. Even if your dog is running in NW3 or Elite trials, enter a Novice trial for fun. You will have less pressure and your dog will be like, what? I only have to find one hide and my owner isn't acting like a weirdo all day wondering how we did? This is awesome!! Depending on where you are in the country, NW1s don't always fill – enter FEO! You'll be helping the trial host break even AND you get a fun day of trialing experience. Do you have AKC, UKC, USCSS, PSD, C-WAGS or other venues in your area? Enter at the Novice level. I cannot wait until we start hosting USCSS trials in my area so my dog can play in Novice again. She can't wait either!! (I've been telling her all about it!)
So, make your plans and goals for 2019. Reach for the stars – if you're determined you can do it! But remember to go back and solidify that foundation and your goals will be even easier to reach!
I'm happy to share my scent work plans & goals with you (oh, there's more, this is just related to scent work!) I look forward to hearing what yours are for 2019!
- Earn our Elite Championship
- Enter as many Novice trials as we can
- Host 3 NACSW trials
- Host 3 USCSS trials
- Host 2 seminars
- Complete CNWI training
- Volunteer for as many trials as I can and get approved for all levels of NACSW score room
Lori Coventry, CPDT-KA is the co-owner of Do Over Dog Training in Buffalo, NY. Lori offers scent work classes, private lessons, seminars and workshops. She also teaches classes through Scent Work University and Dog Sport University, is an NACSW trial host and competitor, AKC Scent Work judge and UKC Certifying Official. She shares her home with three dogs; a "stripey dog" named Daisy, a Mastiff named Ole E and an itty bitty pittie named Chewie. For more information visit http://www.DoOverDogTraining.com.