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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Stacy, thanks for this. I was just talking about and contemplating this very thing yesterday. So much information can be overwhelming. I am learning how to learn, try, and then decide what works for my dogs and what doesn’t and to not take kind constructive comments personally. I love this sport and my dogs are enjoying the journey. Thank you for being a part of that journey.
Agree with Deborah Butler. My brilliant herding / stock work mentor always told us that we are creating a “tool box” and it’s our responsibility to use the correct tool at any given time based on the situation.” Recall your initial tool box to what it’s become over time! Mine is evolving too but too often I grab something wrong, still the apprentice! Thanks for all that you do for the sport.
Very interesting blog. I think when we start we want all the knowledge we can get. We figure that if WE know everything we can apply it to the dog. Each of us as a learner has a preferred style of learning. What I am finding out is I now try and take the webinars that fit my learning style. When I looked at the 5 days of webinars I picked 2 – Holly’s – because she was presenting 10 specific ways/games to try. Now I know that Quinn is not a slug coming off the line but I have been able to take her sock game and use it with Quinn to work on more advanced skills. I also picked the last night where Tony was going to give us a specific way to wrap vehicles. For me this was probably the best webinar I have taken so far. I have been looking for a way to do a little patterning with Quinn without taking away his independence and energy in searching. It worked great. I already knew that Quinn works to the right so I knew that after the #1 hide all I had to do was to take a step to the right to get him moving that way and then he was leading the search again. When I got to #4 hide I knew at start line he knew it was on same side but just taking that step to the right and off he went around that vehicle right to #4 hide – he was leading and he knew he was leading. I am sure he was thinking – dumb mom – I could have gone straight down that car. What is important is I know my learning style and these 2 webinar were giving me ideas that fit my style. What we miss is what is my dog’s learning style. I made a commitment that this first year of searching with Quinn and trialing I was going to do nothing but follow Quinn’s lead and learn – not look at search area and try and create a search plan. We did AKC trials and element trials and in all – just like our training Quinn picked what he wanted to do. Low and behold he picked a pattern to use in containers as he got more experience- knowing he naturally goes to his right I set him up at start line so that he can start that way. On his last NACSW trial – NW1 trial I got a judges comment that summed up what I had been trying to do – it was she loved Quinn’s energy and that I was willing to work with it making it a positive and that I was patient in letting him get to source and work it the way he felt he need to. Yes – because of Quinn’s natural ability he knows more about finding odor then I will ever know. He has a preferred style and after this year I know a lot more about how he learns and works. Yes we have titles and ribbons and placements but more important I have dog who loves working – a handler that knows his style and can work with it. Both of us are very happy campers. Who knows far we go in titles but I do know that both of us love playing the game together. Thanks again Stacy of all the different topics you present – your love of the sport and dogs who compete. and your willingness to present so many ideas and styles that allow us to determine what works best for out dogs.