I have four dogs and they all do Nosework. Their talents are all different and they have all taught me something special about this journey that we’re are on. Each of their journeys is different, but one is no less special than the other. This weekend I had the chance to work two of my dogs on opposite spectrums and although one titled and one did not, their days were equally special.
I worry very much that folks get too wrapped up in the titles.
Titling is FUN. Winning is FUN. I get it. I really, really do. This is not a case of sour grapes. I’ve had my fair share of titles all the way through Summit League. But not all dogs will get to Summit League. And you know what? It’s really ok! It doesn’t make the dog any less special, the handler any less capable, or the journey any less important. The important thing is to find your own joy. Yes, ribbons are exciting and if you title, WAY TO GO! I’m super happy for you. I really am. I’m also super happy for the handler who FINALLY passed Containers or who didn’t make up a hide in a Blank Room.
Today Joey, my Standard Poodle, attempted NW3 (again). He did well! We had a false alert in Containers because of the bellows effect from the door opening and closing, however that happened to a lot of other dogs too. We also missed a hide in Interiors, but a lot of dogs missed the same hide. However, he found all of the other hides in the trial and we called the Blank Room correctly! One of these days he will earn his NW3. I’m not worried.
Here’s the thing… the searching part isn’t actually Joey’s favorite part of the day! What he loves is getting to be the “Star of the Show”. (I tell my dogs in the morning who gets to be “Star of the Show” that day…). He got to be the special one to get out of the van. Joey loves Staging Areas! He gets special scritches and tons of cookies in Staging Areas. Then, on the way back from the search, no matter how it went, he gets to feel like Superman. He trots back with his tail up, getting cookies all the way. He puts on his “Happy Ears” which tell me that he is especially pleased with himself! A passed search is just icing on the cake!
You see, Joey will NEVER search like Judd or Brava.
Brava did her NW2 yesterday. She came in Second Overall with 3 P’s and a smoking placement in Interiors. She is hell on wheels and the only challenge is keeping her sane in the Staging Areas because she wants to SEARCH NOW!
Joey just isn’t wired like Brava. Joey has nearly no appreciable food or toy motivation. He is older (11.5 years) with low stamina. Joey is “low drive”, and he has no Hunt Drive to speak of. But you know what? We have fun! When the hides are right for him and the wind speaks to him, he can do REALLY well! He placed in the top three in both his NW1 and NW2 trials. The boy CAN search, but his journey is not about speed. It’s also not about the relentless drive to source that gets your blood moving, giving you a real search high. His journey is special and it’s about companionship. It’s about him getting his “Special Day”.
If I was wrapped up in “The Title”, I would risk being disappointed in my dog. I might even quit trialing him. The point isn’t to win or title. The point is to enjoy this very special sport with my very special friend.
There are WAY more Joey’s out there than there are Brava’s in this sport.
Here’s the other thing. There are WAY more Joey’s out there than Brava’s in this sport. This sport isn’t just for the Brava’s in this world. If we get lost and start thinking of Nosework or Scent Work in terms of ribbons, we are going to thoroughly shortchange our dogs. We will experience disappointment, and we will lose an opportunity to just enjoy the journey.
I encourage all of you to challenge yourselves to get more “into the now”. Treasure every search, every trial. Absolutely rejoice in accomplishments, but be careful not to make is ABOUT the accomplishment. And please remember that everyone is on a different journey. Titles and placements don’t make one team better than the other.
What do YOU love about searching and trialing with YOUR dog?