When I think of forward motion you can’t get much more forward than a train, not much can stop a train, but a de-railment can. Most de-railments are minor, a slight disruption of forward motion, while others can be quite serious and lead to a lot of damage. Nosework careers can be likened to trains headed forward, staying on the rails would be when our training goes well, things run smoothly and your trials and training take on the same qualities with very little struggle and a lot of success. But, training can get off track, and that is when things can start to derail for a nosework team. Training may have become repetitive with very little challenge or failure, hide placement is unvaried and predictable or there may be very little variation in where the team trains. Trials can really show up training that has gone off the rails, and it’s best to catch training errors early and stop any damage to what may have once been a very successful nosework team.
Have you run into a training issue that you see over and over again? Perhaps you consistently see that your dog is demotivated when searching in new places or you struggle with false alerts during container searches, both very common problems for nosework teams. You will have challenges to your forward motion as a team. The most common elements I see in successful teams is not the methodology of the training a few commonalities that keep their training on the rails:
Errors Don’t Lead to Excuses
No one likes it when their dog struggles during a search, especially a search in a trial. The best trainers analyze what happened at the the trial and don’t make excuses for what happened, they make a plan for their next training session. Part of a good plan may be to not change anything! One bad day/trial does not derailment mean, but if you see the same error in your training again, time to sit down and address the problem with a plan.
Plan for the Unexpected
Nosework is a sport that lends itself to a lot of variation in the search environment and that means distractions are common, weather changes quickly and a good team has a plan for that. Did it start to rain at a trial, there’s a plan for that. Did the wind kick up before your vehicle search and now the search is different than the one you thought you would run? A good plan keeps you on track. Are all the containers in your search the same and the pattern confusing, no worries for a team with a plan.
Recognize Your Strengths and Weaknesses
This is vital in all training but especially so for nosework, as practicing only what you and your dog do well with (converging, anyone?), and ignoring areas that you struggle with (thresholds can be a bear), will lead to sessions that don’t challenge you as a team or progress your training. Structuring your training session so that you work both “fun” and “harder” skills makes a nice mix to keep a team motivated.
This coming year presents opportunities to keep your training moving forward, and on the rails, including your nosework skills. A good year starts with solid goals! I am inviting you to join my One Happy Goals Facebook group. It’s free and we are making goals for the coming year. You can join here:
Once you join the group you will have a chance to sign up for a free webinar I am doing this Saturday, January 9th at noon CT. We’ll discuss goals, staying on track in training and getting from “here” to “there”. Hope to train with you soon!