Learning your dog can be one of the most challenging aspects of training. The training part is actually rather easy. It’s understanding the creature that you are training that can be difficult. The more complex the soul, the more creative and empathetic the trainer needs to be. You have to learn what makes your dog tick. You have to take a leap of faith and ask yourself if you have perhaps falsely labeled your partner in a negative way. Have you lost your belief in your partner? Do you attend trials not believing you will title? Do you expect to fail and tell yourself that you’re only being realistic?
If the answer to any of these questions is Yes then you need to take a good hard look at your four footed friend and try to figure out if there is something that he hasn’t told you yet. Has he told you what really makes him tick? Do you know the inner JOY in your dog? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.
When I debuted Joey at NW1, I went for JOYFUL searches. That’s just what he gave me… When I think of “JOY”, I think of that day.
There’s no recipe to training, at least there’s no successful recipe for every dog. To train a dog, we need to know where we are starting from, and that can sometimes be the most difficult part of the process. We have to strip away our preconceptions and take a good hard look at what we have in front of us. When we do so, sometimes we are pleasantly surprised and sometimes we realize that we have a lot of work ahead of us! The important thing to realize is that either of those scenarios is OKAY. Starting at the real beginning is the important part, not the beginning that we either believe we are at or wish we were at. Reality just IS. We have to embrace it and love it. It’s how we effectively respect the dog. To respect dog is to know the dog.
So the first step in training a Nosework dog is REFLECTION.
To do this we have to look at our dogs fundamentally. We have to look at their temperaments, their likes and dislikes, their general constitution. To do this we have to become Observers. Our dogs aren’t simply squirrel chasing creatures whose lives are run by the when the kibble hits the bowl. They are complex souls with no verbal way to communicate their likes and desires to us. We have to query the dog on his own terms.
So the second step in training a Nosework dog is EMPATHY.
Once we reflect and empathize with our dogs, we start to know them. We start to really know them and we start to appreciate not only what they can do but what they can teach us. When we get to this point, we are able to appreciate this sport for it’s spirit. Nosework touches the dog’s soul because it’s consummate DOG. A dog’s brain is 1/8th dedicated to olfaction. Nosework allows the dog to use himself in ways so natural that the consequences of doing the sport within it’s intended spirit results in growth in the dog’s capacity and happiness overall. Few other sports can make that claim!