I did some thinking after posting my last blog on how I’m getting SO much out of really focusing on training rather than trialing. Then I did a little reflection on the 5 night Webinar Consortium Week that I hosted. I decided that the SKILL of learning and applying concepts from many sources really is a SKILL. Nosework competitors are quite literally swimming in an ocean of available resources (live and/or virtual), that it can be a challenge to put the pieces together.

Today’s Nosework competitor may have access to local classes, seminars from visiting clinicians, workshops, judge’s feedback, podcasts, online classes, webinars, blogs, and instructional videos. (Not to mention good OR bad advice on social media)… how do you piece it all together?

As someone who teaches online and provides educational resources through my in person seminars, webinars, blogs, etc, I’m very aware of the full spectrum of training beliefs and approaches. I know that there is not a single approach that is “best”. Every dog is an individual and every handler comes with their own history. The worst thing I could do is to insinuate or suggest that someone replace their history wholesale with the instruction or knowledge that I offer. I would find that to be disrespectful at a minimum.

The challenge of course is that there is SO much information out there.

Not only are information sources coming from so many different perspectives and backgrounds, but the body of knowledge for sport detection is unbelievably large. Things like the simple process of imprinting an odor are enough to start a Facebook war! … and that is the SIMPLE part! This sport is rife with nuances in handling, deep observation, extremes in search environments, and an incredible breadth of scientific aspects that even those with scientific degrees have likely only scratched the surface.

This sport is REALLY complex!

The immense body of knowledge is one of the many reasons why I offer webinars and why I write as much as I can. My ultimate goal is to help provide educational resources that will increase handler and dog capability in a way that will make sport teams more sophisticated while enhancing their relationship with their dogs. Knowledge is a double edged sword though. With a wealth of sources of knowledge comes a need to filter and adapt.

I tend to teach frameworks when I teach online and in my seminars. To me, having a framework helps me to hang information onto it in a way that the material complements each other. It’s how I put together the pieces. If you are new to sport, it’s likely that you don’t have this framework yet or you may not even know or grasp the extent of the body of knowledge ahead of you. That’s ok by the way! In fact, it’s normal!

When a house it built, the structure is built first. When we learn this sport, we need to know how we are going to put the rooms together. Otherwise you might end up with a garage on the top floor and a toilet in the kitchen!

So what do you do?

First of all, a consistent source of reliable information is CRITICAL.

If you have access, local classes are an incredible source for this information. If you don’t have local classes, it’s actually very possible to learn everything on-line… but pick a consistent source… take full classes. Online classes are actually really super because you also get a lot of the theory and concepts that you might not be able to get from your local instructor. (That’s not because they don’t know it… really it’s just because of time constraints. Most local classes are driven my the students’ desire to search as much as possible which really minimizes time available for lecture.)

Develop a framework to hang knowledge onto

If you have a consistent source of information, gradually you will start to understand or develop your framework. This will take time and odds are, your framework will be pretty simplistic in the beginning!

Then branch out but focus on ONE THING from each resource

Then, start to branch out. If you really get into reading blogs, attending seminars, or watching webinars, try to focus on taking out ONE THING from each resource. Don’t try (or expect) to learn everything in one sitting. Odds are, the material will have some powerful nuances, and it’s actually pretty likely that you won’t be aware of a lot of them initially. You will also find that you can absorb more knowledge if you focus on trying to find JUST ONE THING. Our brains are simpler than we think! We learn best one thing at time (just like our dogs!)

Have an Open Mind

Listen with an open mind. You will find that if you approach new concepts with judgement that you will quite literally block your ability to learn. Even if you don’t agree with everything that is being told to you, there is always something to learn. Personally, as long as the dog is being respected and the training is kind, I believe that there is always something to take away! You might also find that by letting down your guard, that you will realize that maybe you and the presenter/author/instructor aren’t all that different in your opinions!

Just Try It… THEN decide!

TRY what is being presented. You can decide later if you think it’s a good fit for you. Even if it’s not… you learned something! Sometimes, a great way to understand our own training frameworks is to understand what the framework IS NOT. That is valuable too!

Remember that the knowledge being given is VALUABLE

And lastly, recognize that the information being given to you is VALUABLE. Instructors, clinicians, trainers, and authors deserve respect… the knowledge that they are giving you is based off of their own sweat capital and many, many mistakes. Whatever you are paying, it pales in comparison to the actual value of the information.

In Conclusion…

Being a good trainer and handler is about being thoughtful. It’s about observing the needs of your dog and evaluating your options. Applying your educational resources is no different!

Enjoy the Journey!