A Roadmap for Foundations in Nosework

We have all heard the phrase “Train the Dog in front of you”.  In fact, it’s the title of my favorite book…. by Denise Fenzi.  I tell all of my students to read it…. And it is not overtly about Nosework!  In fact though, it’s extremely relevant!  It nests quite perfectly with my Roadmap for Foundations.

Those of you who know my philosophies know that I structure everything around my Pyramid: The Four Cornerstones of Trial Preparation.  Confidence and Motivation are everything.  Emotions are trained.  Arousal is a habit.  These are core concepts of what I teach.

This of course is just the high level framework.  The Roadmap for Foundations is the directional course of how to apply the Pyramid.  For the Roadmap, I leveraged the concepts in Denise’s book written in Chapters 2 and 3.  She’s entirely spot on when she describes dogs along the spectrums of Cautious to Secure and Environmental to Handler Focused.  These two spectrums are critical in assessing the Nosework dog and in establishing a path forward.

Very often we are presented with a training challenge and we need direction.  Which way we go depends ENTIRELY on these two spectrums!

The first step is to read Denise’s book which you can order here: https://www.thedogathlete.com/collections/books/products/train-the-dog-in-front-of-you

The second step is introspection.  This step isn’t always easy!  Sometimes we label our dogs as what we want them to be rather than what they really are.  This is where the book comes in handy.

Once we know where our dog falls, we can use the roadmap to figure out HOW to train. 

In general your Secure dogs should focus on Motivation while the Cautious dogs should focus on Confidence.  The nuances come into play when we consider when the dog naturally orients towards us or the environment.  Keep in mind that this isn’t “trained” orientation…. This is personality….  However this is still relevant for “trained” orientation…. The dog will still need to develop independence!

Let’s talk about the Focus of each quadrant…

Environmental / Secure:

These dogs are naturally secure and naturally very interested on what is going on around them.  Things like critters and other dog smells can be VERY important to this dog.  Focus on Odor Obedience and Motivation.

Handler / Secure:

These dogs are just really “into” their person.  They are truly engaged with their person and focus on their every movement and word.  These dogs need to learn to work independently and should focus on drive to odor (motivation).

Environmental / Cautious:

These dogs are typically worried about their surroundings and may “check out”.  They tend to be sensitive and may seem like they’ve forgotten that the handler is on the other end of the leash.  These dogs need confidence and careful generalization in different easy environments.  Acclimation will help this group of dogs immensely.

Handler / Cautious:

These dogs are a bit unsure and seek out security in their person.  Their handler may have difficulty getting away from their “velcro” dog during a search.  These dogs may also worried about their environment but they look to their handler for solace.  Some of these dogs are okay with the environment but lack confidence in their own abilities.  These dogs need to build confidence and the feeling of “I can do this”.  Working in easy environments doing easy skills can help this group of dogs develop confidence to be able to work away from their handler.

It should be noted that Cautious dogs often tend to need BOTH confidence in the environment and confidence in their skills.  Confidence is generally built by working easy skills in easy environments before ratcheting up the challenge level.  These dogs' tendencies towards the environment or the handler simply tells us that we need to take slightly different tactics to reorient them towards the search.

In general, secure dogs need to work on the value for odor so that there is a shift in their priorities from either the handler or the environment towards target odor.

Now that you have a Roadmap, you can develop tactics in shoring up Foundations!

Interested in learning more and developing tactics?  These concepts are the core of my Confidence & Motivation Seminar topic.  Now booking Fall / Winter of 2018 and early 2019.

Happy Sniffing!!

© Stacy Barnett 2015