When I think of moving forward, you can’t go much further than a train, not much can stop a train, but a derailment can. Most derailments are minor, a slight disruption in forward movement, while others are very serious and can cause major damage. Nosework careers can be compared to moving forward. Staying on track is when our training is going well, everything is going smoothly, and your attempts and training acquire the same qualities with very little effort and much success. But training can get off track, and then things can derail for a nose work team. Training can repeat itself with very little challenge or failure, the placement of the skins is unchanged and predictable, or there are very few differences in the team’s training environment. Trials can really show that a workout is out of control, and it is best to spot any training mistakes early and stop any damage to what may be a once very successful nose work team.
Have you encountered a training problem that you keep seeing? Perhaps you keep seeing that your dog is demotivated looking for new places or you are struggling with false positives when searching for containers, both of which are very common problems for nose work teams. You will face challenges as you move forward as a team. The most common elements that I see in successful teams is not the methodology of the training, but some similarities that keep your training on track:
Mistakes don’t lead to excuses
Nobody likes their dog fighting in a search, especially if a search is in progress. The best coaches analyze what happened on the exam and don’t apologize for what happened, they make a plan for their next training session. Part of a good plan can be not to change anything! A bad day / rehearsal doesn’t mean a derailment, but if you see the same mistake in your workout again, it’s time to sit down and come up with a plan to address the problem.
Plan for the unexpected
Nose work is a sport that offers a lot of variety in the search environment and that means distractions are common, the weather changes quickly and a good team has a plan for them. If it started to rain during a test drive, there is a plan for this. Did the wind pick up before your vehicle search and now the search is different from what you thought you would be doing? A good plan will keep you on track. If all the containers in your search are the same and the pattern is confusing, no problem for a team with a plan.
Realize your strengths and weaknesses
This is vital in any workout, but especially nose work, as just practicing what you and your dog are good at (convergence, anyone?) Won’t challenge you as a team or improve your training. Structuring your training session to develop both “fun” and “harder” skills is a good mix to keep a team motivated.
The year ahead offers opportunities to move forward with your training and stay on the rails, including your nose work. A good year starts with fixed goals! I invite you to join my One Happy Goals Facebook group. It’s free and we’re making goals for the coming year. You can take part here:
Once you’ve joined the group, you’ll have the option to sign up for a free webinar I’ll be running this Saturday, January 9th at 12:00 PM CT. We discuss goals of staying on course in training and getting from “here” to “there”. I hope to be able to train with you soon!