Following on from yesterday's topic, 7 Reasons to Train Scentwork With Your Dog, I thought I would share the reasons that I train scentwork with MY dog.
My springer spaniel, Vinnie, had to retire early from agility due to issues with his back. He was still a relatively young dog, and certainly not ready to settle for a sedate life by the fire! As luck would have it, at around this time the opportunity came up to attend a 'Train the Trainer' course with Scentwork UK at a local venue. Local courses like this are rare, so I jumped at the opportunity. For that workshop I lent Vinnie to a friend, and I did the training with my younger dog, Ripley. We all really enjoyed the training, and after the course spent the next few weeks working on the exercises. Once I'd trained my dogs, I felt ready to offer classes.
Whilst the take up for those classes wasn't huge, I had a core of people that I worked with to train to the point that they were ready to compete. This was really helpful in teaching me about how different types of dogs learned, and the sort of issues that could crop up. Scentwork was still a fairly new discipline, but competing opportunities eventually started becoming available. These provided even more learning opportunities!
In 2019 I got the opportunity to train as a Trial Manager and Judge with Scentwork UK. This gave me further insight in to the expectations for our dogs during these trials as well as the chance to run trials. I ran a few trials before the pandemic in 2020, and a few more between lockdowns in the summer of 2020. Watching lots of different handlers and dogs work is a great way to improve your observation skills, which is so beneficial for your own training. In 2020 I was introduced to Nosework Games - a new type of competition with very different searches. The lockdowns gave me a great chance to delve in to those and learn some new skills.
The truth is, it hasn't been plain sailing with Ripley. There were times were he would just keep on searching and could never seem to find the hide. What was really happening was that the sniffing was so enjoyable for Ripley that he didn't want it to end. That set me off on a new learning journey - working out how to make it worth his while to indicate the find. That was then linked in to him really understanding the behaviour he needed to perform when he found the hide - his indication. All of this allowed me to really hone my training technique to help the people that I see for scentwork.
So how did I come to write the book? In December 2020 I saw an advert for a course entitled 'Write A Book In 30 Days', so I signed up. I didn't have a clue at that point what I was going to write about. Even as the course started, I thought I might write about my favourite things that I've taught Ripley. I finally decided on a scentwork book for complete beginners. By the end of January 2021 I had a first draft, and I published it at the beginning of March 2021. It really is amazing what we can do when we really apply ourselves!