Do you want to know the REAL secret to training a Nosework dog? It’s rather simple and easy to do.

The secret is in prioritization. It’s in picking long-term goals over short-term goals.

What does this mean? It means that we need to think about how our training impacts the dog as a whole rather than thinking about the short-term gain. Short-term goals are usually trial related or even just hide related. What do I mean by that?

When our focus is on qualifying or finding a specific hide or finishing the search at hand, we risk losing perspective. We risk thinking about the trees and not the forest.

But what exactly IS “the Forest”?

The Forest in this case is how your dog feels about searching.

When we make the right decisions for our dogs in training and trialing, we are able to position our dogs for long-term success. This is seeing the “Forest through the Trees”.

Core to dog’s drive, desire and ability to search is self confidence in his ability to find the hide and the belief that he will be successful and earn his reward. It’s the dog’s enjoyment and belief that he CAN find the hide and find it quickly! A dog’s belief system is a huge integral part of his searching capability.

Have I lost you?

Dogs are emotional creatures. They are also cognitive creatures. This means that they think… that they feel…

To help you make decisions about your training, you can ask yourself a series of questions…

  • Is my goal for this search going to increase my dog’s self confidence in his own abilities?
  • Can my dog be successful without stress and anxiety?
  • Is my dog working without frustration and within his personal level of resilience?
  • Are my expectations of the search outcomes consistent with my dog’s abilities? Am I being honest in this assessment?
  • Will solving this search or competing in this class increase my dog’s desire to search next time?
  • Am I establishing trust during this search or am I making my dog uncomfortable?
  • I know they say “Trust Your Dog” but am I being Trustworthy in return?

If you can answer YES to ALL of the questions above, you are in good shape. If you answer to NO to ANY of the questions, time to stop and reassess your actions!

Yes, it’s that simple.

You see, it’s imperative to de-prioritize Skills and the Current Search in order to preserve what is sacred. And to a Nosework handler, your dog’s Confidence, Motivation and Trust in You is just that… sacred.

4 Cornerstones Graphic
De-prioritizing Skills by focusing first on Confidence and second on Motivation helps to create a fundamentally sound Nosework Dog who is positioned to fulfill his full potential.
©Stacy Barnett, Scentsabilities Nosework

Oftentimes, my experiences as a trainer and teacher inspires me to write. In this case, the sensitivity of the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy students were the inspiration. FDSA Students have an incredible and empathetic approach to training that is both inspiring and enough to keep all of us instructors passionate about what we do. FDSA Students are the reason why the FDSA community is so kind and so strong.

So keep going out there making the right decisions for your dog! This might mean stopping a search or sacrificing a Q. But in the long-run, you will have an engaged and happy partner who will take you much farther and with much greater success!

Sniff On!