I know it can be so trying to trial with a sensitive dog… I get it. It can be frustrating and exasperating all rolled into one! They respond so quickly to our emotions and to the environment. It’s like we can’t take a wrong step! Sure, they will make you into a better trainer, yada, yada… but did you know that their sensitivity is a STRENGTH? In fact, it’s a Superpower!
Do you want to know the difference between a Good Nosework Dog and a Great Nosework Dog? Do you want to know why some dogs seem to search for the thrill of the search? I will give you a hint…. it has zero to do with the cookies in their handler’s treat pouch. These dogs search because the search itself has intrinsic value and is self-rewarding. Sure, some of them are genetically predisposed to be a “Hunting Breed”. But guess what? All dogs have hunting instinct to some degree, and all are affected by the Seeking System and are subject to dopamine releases. That is definitely a huge source of good feelings for searching, but it’s not the extra edge that some dogs seem to have.
The source of this edge is due in great part to YOU. Our dogs love to interact with us. When we engage and play with them, they FEEL GOOD (and so do you!). That emotion, when paired with the activity of searching, transfers that amazing feeling to the activity of searching. That feeling elevates the activity to become the Be-All for some dogs. It results in increased Confidence and increased Motivation.
In my last blog, I wrote about MOOD. You can find that blog (“Mood and the Sensitive Nosework Dog”) here: https://scentsabilitiesnw.com/blog/mood-and-the-sensitive-nosework-dog/
MOOD is powerful. There is nothing more powerful than a happy search dog. This is something that is totally in your control.
I just got done watching a video of one of my students play with her little Miniature Poodle. They were playing in an area where there are clearly a lot of distractions, both dog smells and critters. Initially, her dog was interested in the environment. Soon though they two started to play. I don’t mean with toys… I mean interaction! There was so much JOY between the two of them. I couldn’t help but smile and feel good just by watching. Her dog shut out all environmental concerns and gave his handler 100% of his attention. You could just tell how happy the two of them were, just interacting with each other.
Now imagine taking that feeling and applying it in the staging area and after leaving the search? If you do that enough, do you know what you will get? You will develop a dog who loves to search new places and loves to trial. Intrinsic value!
Let’s go back to the concept of the Sensitive Dog. I mentioned that they have a Superpower. Do you know what that is? Their Superpower is that they really do care what you think and how you feel. They are so available to your emotions and their own.
This means that if you can find out how to elicit JOY in your sensitive dog, you have found the KEY to success in training and trialing in the sport of Nosework.
Pretty amazing stuff.