Ep. 103: Instructors - The Pain of Growth

Feb 10, 2024


Dianna L. Santos

Being a Scent Work instructor is an honor and a privilege. You devote countless hours learning and honing your craft, perfecting it with your own dogs and then transferring that knowledge to your clients. Those clients then go on to play the wonderful sniffing game, having successes and a blast doing so.

However, to be an effective teacher requires one also be a student, someone open to learning new information, approaches and perspectives. The issue? There may come a point in time when this seemingly runs in conflict with your current approaches, program or curriculum!

In this episode, we discuss how painful it can be for Scent Work instructors to grow and adjust their training approaches, lessons and curriculum. The possible professional ramifications. The emotional toll. How it may cause you to second guess your worth as an instructor and trainer! While growth can indeed be painful, even eliciting powerful emotional responses, growing as a Scent Work instructor is a GOOD thing and DOES NOT mean one was bad, unknowledgeable or worthless before said growth.

One such newer resource that can help you further grow as an instructor is the book authored by Sue Sternberg and Dana Zinn: The Dog-Driven Search: Handling Our Nose Work Dogs to Promote Independence, Joy, and Enthusiasm

This is the first installment for our new Scent Work instructor-focused podcast series. We look forward to sharing interviews with fellow colleagues about their training journeys, their experience as an instructor and much more.


Welcome to the All About Scent Work Podcast. In this podcast we talk about all things Scent Work, that conclude training tips, a behind scenes look of what your instructor or trial official may be going through and much more. In this episode, we're going to be having a discussion specifically for instructors. So before we start diving into the episode itself, let we do a very quick introduction on myself. My name is Dianna Santos. I'm the Owner and Lead Instructor of Scent Work University. This is an online dog training platform that's designed to help you achieve your Scent Work training goals regardless of where you are in your stepping journey. So maybe you're just getting started in Scent Work, you're trying to develop some more advanced skills, or you're interested in trialing or potentially already trialing even upper levels. We'd likely have a training solution for you since we offer online courses, seminars, webinars, and eBooks, a bunch of different resources that may be able to help you and your dog. As you're continuing along your sniffing journey, start to know a little bit more about me. Let's dive into the episode itself.

So in this episode I wanted to have a discussion for my fellow colleagues, basically to talk about from an instructor's perspective, some of the things that we may contend with as instructors. We may think about things that we're dealing with, contemplating all that good jazz. So this is actually going to be a series of discussions that will be released over a period of time, and also I'll be bringing in other speakers as well, so you don't just hear me pontificate about things, but this very first episode, what I wanted to focus on was this idea of growth and helping that make sense with where you are now, where you were before and where you want to go going forward. And then that doesn't mean that you are bad. What does any of this mean? Scent, Work as a sport, as an activity, as something that we are concentrating on in the civilian sense is still relatively new.

Again, in the grand scheme of things, because of that, there have been lots of changes as far as how people may go upon training for Scent Work, even some of the ideas about how the sport was going to be conducted, how trials were going to be put together, whether or not there were going to be trials. All these things have been changing and morphing over time, and as those changes have occurred, that also meant that what we were potentially doing as instructors and trainers also should have changed over time to better fit what the new set of criteria were or how we may have determined as a community, well, we want our dogs or our teams to do X and there may be certain ways to have them achieve that. There is also, as with everything training, there are so many different ways to get to the same goal point, right?

Let's just take a sit. I could lure a sit, I could capture a sit, I could shape a sit. None of those are better or worse than another, but I think the argument could absolutely be made that some approaches would work better for some teams, some approaches would work better in certain situations, but it's good for you to understand how to do all of them, if that makes sense. And then you're also just going to have your preferences as an Instructor, as a trainer being able to convey that information. You may feel more comfortable doing a certain approach. You may just have preferences with your own personal dogs. You may have had more successes using a certain approach with your dogs, your clients, the clients you've had so far. All of that is completely understandable. What does any of this have to do with growth?

There is, in the Scent Work realm, there have been lots of changes, relatively speaking in a very short period of time. Some of that has occurred because quite frankly, when the sport came on the scene through trial and error, it was determined what would work and what wouldn't. Logistically speaking, we have X number of teams, they're trying to do X, Y, or Z. How can we ensure that they're going to do that in a way that's going to be successful for both the dog, the handler, the trial officials, the trial host, the place that owns the actual space? We can't have people there until four or five, six o'clock in the morning. We have to be able to move all of this along. But at the same point, we also have to have tests that are testing the things that we want to be testing.

And you also have a trial official who doesn't have any of the background, any of the history about that team. So we need to be able to ensure that there is some consistency, that there is a set number of things that we are looking for. What is a qualifying run as an example? What is it that we actually want to see? So there have been changes and lots of things that have been removed from requirements added to requirements, and that will continue on, and I tip my hat honestly and truly to all of the competition organizations that are out there, that they are flexible with these types of things as far as recognizing, okay, we may have thought on paper this makes perfect sense and then in practice it did not. So now we need to shift that same kind of flexibility has to happen on the training side too, where we may have had success doing something a certain way, then we may learn about a different way of approaching it, and then we have to be flexible enough to try that out to see was that a one-off success?

Was that a success that maybe was limited to that one team or maybe that type of team, or is that something that I may be able to put into my toolbox and apply to everyone as an example? Additionally, recognizing that I don't care how experienced you are, I don't care how accomplished you are, I don't care how long you've been doing this. There is someone out there who has a different perspective, who has a different set of skills, who has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, and they are bringing something different to the table than you are as an instructor or as a trainer, and potentially listening to that person and seeing what you may be able to glean that would be beneficial to yourself personally, and then also to your program and how you may be able to weave all that in. That's also really important, like Santos.

Sure, all of this makes sense. It's a lot harder than what I'm describing, and here's why. As an Instructor or a trainer, when you're doing this professionally or if you are charging people for your services, even if you're doing it part-time, what you are basically advertising is I have the experience and the knowledge to help you and your dog achieve X, Y, or Z, and I'm going to be using my skillset to teach you and your dog to do these things. And that's because I have already determined what is going to be helpful and what is going to work, and we are going to try to find the most efficient way of getting you there. Okay, what's the problem? The problem is, is that baked into that is almost a subconscious type of idea that you know it all, right? Because you have to, right?

Otherwise you can't be advertising these things, and I think that's where things really start falling apart because if that's the stance that we're taking that I am all knowing and therefore you will learn from me and you will be good. What happens with new information comes along. What happens when maybe not new information, but a new take, a different way of phrasing something, maybe a different way of organizing something, maybe something as simple as the same exact thing that you were doing, but it's broken down into smaller pieces. There's not so much lumping, it's breaking it up into more bite-sized steps or approaches is recognizing I may have been trying to do 15 things at once with how I was doing whatever it was, and now I can see that those are actually 15 different things. I should be breaking that up more. The issue is that if you have that realization, any of those, but you were already saying, I am all knowing, well, now we have a problem.

So what I'm trying to talk about in this episode is the natural inclination to dig your heels in and say, no, this is the way it's done. Because it's tied into, no, this is the way that I've been doing it, and if I change it, does that negate everything I did before? And I'm here to tell you the answer is no. I will take this out of adult training altogether, try to help this make more sense, and I'll talk about it from my first career was with horses, and again, I say this career, it started when I was I think 11. So take that for what it's worth, but I think that's why it really illustrates what I'm going for. When I first started working with horses, and again, horses were my passion, it was just everything, horses all day long, and I finally got to actually be in the presence of a horse when I was on 11, I was like, oh, this is amazing.

I was a sponge, right? This was everything to me, and I would take in every little piece of information from anyone who would give it to me, but I was only going to this one barn, and they were a very accomplished, very successful barn as it were. I had no idea how successful they were at the time. I was just a kid, but they had very specific ways of doing things. And then I was there for a few years and then I moved out of state and I went to a different barn and they had a completely different way of doing things, and my confidence was shattered because I walked in there being like, Hey, I've been doing this for a couple of years and I'm good. I've been doing this seven days a week for a couple of years. I know I am good.

And in very quick order, I was basically broken down to be like, you don't know Jack. You don't know anything, which I don't think is the right approach either, but it completely shattered my confidence and I had to then rebuild it all over again and was constantly second guessing myself, which is not a great thing to do when you're working with a thousand pound animal. It's a good, sure far away to get hurt. I was very lucky that I did not, but then it almost became a dogmatic thing where I had had all of this success early on in my career. I then went to this other place and it was, oh, you don't know anything. You're almost like, you're trash, which was awful. Then I moved to this other place and it was still kind of like, well, we're going to show you the right way of doing it right way.

And now it was everything that I learned before was just wrong, and that wasn't true. It was just a different way of doing it. And on top of it, what was even better is in all of these places over this period of time, there was a lot of changes happening in the horse industry as a whole across the entire spectrum of how you handle horses, how you train horses, how you feed horses. There was complete disarray as far as what do we actually put inside of these animals so they don't develop ulcers and die colic all the time and just drop dead. It was no one knew what they were doing. We had talked ourselves into circles, be like, oh my God, we don't know what to do with these animals. And here I am little at this point, maybe 16, 17, completely stuck in this whirlwind of just chaos.

But then I had an epiphany of my own as I was working with this horse that I had helped full, he was born in my arms and I was trying to do a number of procedures on him to get him ready for show, and he was extraordinarily afraid because there was a whole bunch of reasons for that. There was all very weird type of approaches as far as you let them out and you let them live and grow up outside, and then we just bring him inside the barn for the first time ever, and now we're just going to do all this grooming stuff to 'em with clippers and cross ties, and they're just going to figure it out. It was just weird. So he's sitting there very afraid about this whole thing, and I'm using every to put a kindly management tool you possibly could to try to keep him from basically bolting.

And he is shaking, he is sweating, he's just not a happy camper. And I'm doing everything that I've been told every single thing to a T, and it finally dawned on me. I'm like, this feels gross. This doesn't feel right. It's not working. So I took off all the management tools, I stopped everything I was doing, and I'm like, I'm just going to just try to take my time, right? I'm just going to see what I can do. He seems like he's just afraid to be in this barn. And it did. It took me, I dunno, two months or something. Again, this is ages ago, so I don't remember. It took me a while, but then I was able to do all the things I needed to do to him as far as grooming him, using clippers, all this other stuff, and I didn't need all of that management stuff that had been told to me over the whole time I had been in horses.

This is what you do. If the horse does X, you do this and it works. Suddenly the owner came in like, oh, wow, look, he's all spruced up and whatever else. Did you use this? Did you use that? Did you use this? Other things like, no, I used an apple and he came in, he was calm. I fed him an apple, and I did a little bit, and then I put him back out and she said, well, how long did that take you? Oh, it took me a couple of weeks. And I was like, well, it was a good thing that we didn't have a deadline because you have to move this up. I'm like, yeah, but he was afraid. Well, they just have to do it. There was just a complete just shut off to no, but you don't seem to understand. It wasn't working.

The things that you told me to do weren't working, so I had to do something else. And then I felt really gross because everything that I had done previously was now in conflict with what this new approach of basically positive reinforcement of what that was, of not browbeating the horse into doing what you wanted them to do instead of recognizing that this animal is not, again, he was born in my arms. He was very important to me. I loved him very, very much. And here he is. He's like, oh my God, so scared communicating that he doesn't want to be bad. He's just terrified. What does any of this have to do with anything? That journey that I went on of taking in every piece of information in the very beginning, I'm passionate and everything else, and then being told you don't know anything because that's not the same exact way that the new place did it.

And then recognizing on my own, well, the tools and everything that I have been taught are in conflict with what I think. First of all, they don't make me feel very good. Second of all, the animal definitely doesn't like it, and third of all, they don't seem to be working. Now, that was in convict with basically the whole history I had with horses. It was a nightmare. And then I felt, so does that mean that I was a bad person for doing all these things before? And the answer is no. I was doing what I was taught. I was doing what unquote worked because it did. It just wasn't the best route. And then you noticed a lot as I went along working with the same horses in the same place where one would be injured, another one would be this thing or that thing, and I was just doing, let's just be patient.

Let's just try this other thing. And again, I'm not basing this on any books. I'm literally just experimenting on my own. I don't like what we were doing before. It didn't seem to be working really well. Let's try this other route. And suddenly I'm able to do all this stuff with horses that it wasn't as much of a conflict, but that journey, that's growth, right? And it would be really easy for me to just dismiss everything that I had ever been shown or taught or the people who taught me and demonized them, oh, which is be, oh, they're just terrible, horrible people. They had no value. First of all, it wouldn't be true. These were accomplished, very accomplished people. That very first barn I went to internationally known, truly high up there. I had no idea at the time. Looking back, I was like, wow.

Who knew? Very experienced people. They did not hate the horses that they worked with. They loved them. They dotted on them. They spent a lot of money on them, a lot of time they were using the information that they had. Same thing for all the other places I went to. Those people didn't hate the animals that they were working with. They loved them. They were using the tools that they had that also, frankly, they worked, but their definition of work had differed from what my definition of work turned into. I was recognizing that the animals that I was working with, sure, eventually they would do what I wanted them to do. I wanted them to want to do what I wanted them to do. I didn't want to be in a battle with them to accomplish anything. I didn't want it to be a, you walk in and they back up away from you.

And a lot of this sprung from a very natural thing that happened with me that because I was there at this particular barn all of the time when I was working, I would get there at six 30 in the morning. I'd leave at six o'clock at night, and I was not riding. This is not a thing of, oh, Dianna just rushing to get barn chores done so she can ride all the horses. I wasn't riding at all. I was actually just walking and watching them. I would just stand out in the fast and just watch them just be horses. And that was because I was so entranced by them. I wanted to better understand them, and there wasn't anyone else there. Once they realized that I wasn't going to break anything, like, okay, you can do everything on your own. We've broken you down. We've told you what to do, and the play doesn't burn down, so enjoy.

But because I was spending all this time watching the horses became my teachers, that sounds corny, but it's true. Watching, okay, this one does this with their body to this other horse, and they respond in this way, and I was interpreting that the more that I did that, the more that I wanted to ensure that we were having those conversations, that if I did something, what was their response? And then when we put that in the context of I'm trying to do the things that I was told by everyone who worked with me, oh, you do X, Y, and Z when you need your horse to do one, two, or three. If their response was icky, that made me feel gross. What does any of this have to do with dog train? What does any of this have to do with that work? That journey that I went on is very easy to just wave off all that prior experience.

All of those other people and professionals, those approaches and things is they're evil, they're wrong, they're terrible. I am now enlightened and I shall share my worth with the world or whatever. I don't think that's necessarily helpful. I think understanding where your journey has taken you and not selectively editing it is important. When we bring this back into Scent Work, I don't think that there has been the same kind of dramatic pivot of what I was just describing of where basically it was borderline abusive, what we were talking about with the horses to this really big shift of, okay, well now let me actually, Hey, horse, do you want to do this? As opposed to, you will do this otherwise it's really not going to be in your best interest in Scent Work. What we're noticing now, and I think is a good thing is, again, more of a conversation with the dogs.

The dogs are more of a, they're part of the calculation a little bit more, which you would think, but Scent Work is the thing. The whole thing about it is it's about the dogs using their Nose. Yes. But because the activity so quickly in my opinion, sprung into the sport, the sport has nothing to do with the dogs. The sport has everything to do with the people and the people's egos and all the other good jazz. So because of that training was then developed to ensure that those teams would be able to take a test. But that means that the test has to be designed and the test has to actually work, and then changes have to be made to the tests, and then we change our training to make sure that we're still passing those tests and so on and so on and on.

But now there's conversations of, well, should the dogs be taking the test? How do we know if the dogs are enjoying themselves as they're taking the test? If the dogs aren't passing the test, why aren't they passing the test? Is there something that we're doing in our training that is prohibiting them from passing the test? Is our role of what we're doing as a handler? Are we encumbering our dogs? Are we making it very difficult for them to do well in the test? All of those questions are not bad questions to be asking, and that process as an Instructor, I know you were like, she's never going to be able to wrap this up. That process as an Instructor is very difficult because if you are asking those questions, if you're making these changes, if you're having this growth as you're working with clients, suddenly it can definitely come into, oh my God, my client yesterday was not well served as opposed to my client today, and I just don't think that's true, and I don't think that's fair to yourself either.

And what I get concerned by is if those kinds of ideas bubble up in the back of your head that you're just going to be like, no, I'm just going to block everything out and I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. Out of the fear of a client being like, well, wait a second. We were learning else yesterday. Does that mean all my other stuff is useless? The answer is no, it's not, and I will try to put this in a tangible example so you can understand what I mean. When I first started Scent Work University, I had already been doing Scent Work as an Instructor for years, and I was developing the online program based upon the types of classes that I had been offering in person, and it was Introduction to Scent Work, Introducing Birch and Exteriors and Vehicles with Birch, and then Introducing Anise was the core progression we first introduced.

Because the way that I like to train network is I like to use primary first. We're building the drive for the dog, we're focusing on the dog, yada, yada. Then if that goes well, perfect, now we're going to be introducing an odor. We would start with Birch because Birch was typically entry level odor. This is the odor you're going to need for the lower level, so on and so on. That goes well. Great. Now we're going to introduce him to exteriors and vehicles. That goes great. Fantastic. Now we're going to introduce another odor of anise. That worked. That worked when I was doing stuff in person that worked online, fantastic, but then I started noticing when I was reviewing videos, I was working with clients that there were some dogs when they finished the introduction to Scent Work course, they had done it. They had done okay.

They had done all right, but there were definitely some exercises that we had to modify or maybe they had to repeat and repeat more than was expected. They had completed the course, but in the back of my mind, I'm like, I don't know if you really grasp everything, either the dog, the handler, or both, but now I'm just pushing you into Introducing Birch because that's the next thing that we have, right? Additionally, for those dogs who were on the odor track already, we would have the Introducing Birch course. They concentrated on finding the hides inside containers and interiors, and it was basically split in half, and then we were going, and if that went well, then they went to the exteriors and vehicles class. It's like, okay, but they were just getting the concept in that first course. Wouldn't we want to maybe spend a little bit more time on both containers and interiors to ensure that it's actually solid as far as these different kind of odor puzzles?

And then I was noticing there were things that I wanted the dog to focus on and I wanted things for the handler to focus on, and I didn't want to do them at the same time. What does any of this mean? It means, I can't remember how many years ago it was now. I basically created additional courses and put them in between these steps where in my mind I was taking too big of jumps from thing to thing to thing, and I have to tell you that in the clients, since I made that change of now we have the introductions network course, everyone still recommended to start there and then they can stay on the primary path or they're doing the actual odor track where they want to go and search for target odor. Now we're splitting that up into more pieces, so we have an interiors and field trips with either primary or Birch course, so you're baking in that need for them to, I don't need you to just search at home now.

I need you to be able to search other places too, and breaking that up into really specifics of breaking it down. It's not just go forth into the world. It's find a entry level novel location, like a different room in your house. Go work at a friend's house that maybe your dog has actually done play dates with, and then do an upper level, so that would be maybe a dog-friendly business or a park or et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. There were several courses that I created to be those intermediary steps. Does that mean that I was a terrible, horrible Instructor before when I didn't? The answer is no. I grew, I grew and I was able to recognize that there were gaps that I needed to fill in. There were different skill sets that my clients were missing that we were addressing along the way, but wouldn't it just be better to just do it in the beginning that there were different ways of explaining things, of breaking it down, and I have to tell you, trying to do that on an online platform with prerecorded content is a pain in the butt.

I'm not going to lie, redoing courses not fun, but that's just part of the thing. I can't just say, oh, we're just going to leave it there because I don't feel like spending the time. That's not an option. You have to just do it, but why is any of this important? Why are we talking about this? What is with this super long episode? It would've been very easy for me as an Instructor to just say particularly because it was such a pain point as far as time, as far as convincing people, I'm not just creating these courses to try to get money out of you. That was not it at all. It would've been very easy for me to just brush it off, feel like it's not important. It was important. I recognized as an Instructor, as a trainer, these skills are missing or there's too much lumping here.

There hasn't been enough focus on this, that or the other thing. I haven't been explaining X, Y, or Z in a way that I really should. It'd been very easy for me to brush that off and just be like, well, they'll deal with it. To me, that's not what instructors or trainers should be doing. My job is just the opposite. It's to recognize where those gaps and holes of whatever are and plugging them up. People who are doing in-person training, likely more likely than not, you would have an easier time making these kinds of shifts and modifications and changes to your program. You may need to offer an additional class as an example. You may need to shift where your curriculum is, what you're doing in week one, two, and three and so on, and it may very well be that you have a client who worked with you for a while, right?

Maybe they're on dog four and they've gone through your intro sequence. They know it like the back of their hand, and now they're doing this one and they're like, wait a second. What's the deal? We were used to do X, y, or Z in week two, and now I don't even know what we're doing. Be ready to have those conversations be transparent that, oh, yeah, we've changed things up. We've shifted things up because X, Y or Z, I feel works better as an example. We may have better results. I broke this up into smaller pieces, whatever, and make it clear that for yourself and your clients, the stuff that happened before wasn't wrong. Basically, what I'm trying to get across in the most rambling way possible, there's no need to demonize yourself, your clients, the dogs and techniques that you had before, they probably worked. They probably still do work.

My approach for my program of Introduction to Scent Work, Introducing Birch Exteriors and Vehicles with Birch, that works. I know what works. There's lots of teams been very successful with that progression. I have since split it up more because I think it works better. It doesn't mean people who are doing it another way are wrong. For me, this seems to be a better way of going about it. That doesn't mean that the teams before were bad. What I'm trying to get across here is that as instructors and trainers, it is far too easy for us to wrap ourselves, our ego, our self-worth everything and what we are teaching, how we are teaching it, how we are designing everything, how the progression is going along, and it can become very psychologically painful to allow yourself to grow, to allow yourself to change and to shift because suddenly the thing comes up in the back of your head of Then I'm wrong, and it's not that you're wrong. How can I put this? If you don't know something, how can you be wrong about not knowing it?

I'll use this as an example. There has, again, Sue Sternberg and Dana Zinn have recently released The Dog-Driven Search book, and it's caused a lot of discussions. This is a really good book, and it's again, having that focus on the dog of they should have a say. They want them to have lots of joy and enthusiasm. The bank of joy and enthusiasm should be nice and full, and that we should be mindful about what our handling is saying to the dogs and what our bodies are doing, and a lot of those things can be in complete contrast to what traditionally this very new sport of Scent Work, what we may have been accustomed to doing. Let's say as an example, the dog is working a space. They start going into a tighter space, so I back up in order to give them room to work, but what they're pointing out is that from body language standpoint, that means that you are trying to get the dog's attention and draw them into you as an example.

Just think of, again, in completely different context, you're working with a puppy and the puppy is invested in something. If you want them to come to you, what do you do? You crouch down, you go puppy, puppy, puppy, and you back straight up and what do you know? It's like a magnet. Here they come, but that very simple thing of the backup causes so many issues for people because now it's like, oh my God, I'm terrible handler. I'm doing terrible things with my dogs. If I back up or the other flip side of it is, no, I must always back up and you will not tell me that I'm wrong. It's like there's so much emotion attached to this. It's like, guys, it's okay.

You may very well find that there are situations where you do need to back up, and that doesn't make you wrong. That doesn't make you wrong as an Instructor, that doesn't make you wrong as a handler, it doesn't make you wrong as a trainer. It's just recognizing what the information means. So as myself as an example, I'm still in the process of going through the entirety of the book. I've been listening to their webinars and I think they have a lot of really good things to say. I really do, and there are absolutely pain points as far as everyone taking in the information. Does it mean that I'm going to completely upend my entire training approach and my whole program? Probably not. I'm going to probably supplement a lot of it, but there are certain things that I like to do in my program where I am really focusing on the dog first and I'm trying to separate them from the handler, and I can appreciate the take that, well, we should be working on the handler early too.
In my opinion, and this is just my opinion as an Instructor, the handler is already trying to learn so much. Scent Work can be so different from other types of dog sports that I really want the dog to be able to concentrate on what they're doing and let the handler learn to watch, let them learn to subconsciously take in the information of what it is that they're seeing. We can then work on the handling pieces, in my opinion, that can, and here's the thing that can change it be a year from now, it can be a month from now, who knows, and I think about it more. I'm like, ah, no, actually I'm going to be changing this, that and the other thing, and that's okay. That doesn't mean that I'm wrong. It doesn't mean I'm bad. It doesn't mean, oh, well, I got to close all Scent Work University.

I'm just a terrible trainer and well, I'm garbage. That's not true. It's being open to the idea that I'm doing things in a certain way for a reason, and there should be a reason. If you don't have a reason for why you're doing something, that should be a red flag. So to my colleagues, if you can look at what you're doing and tell me specifically why are you doing X, Y or Z isn't great, all the more power to you, but if you can't, well, maybe we should have a discussion, but if you can give those reasons and then as you're taking in new information that maybe really resonates with you, you think would help certain clients you think would help a whole bunch of clients, how can you weave that in? How could you potentially modify things and why would you be doing it?

Could it just be here's my core program, here's my core approach, and then we supplement it with this other thing that can work too. I know you're like, wow, this was quite a journey that really sure what the point is. The point is to try to highlight how easy it is for us to do a number of things. One, latch on to something hook line and sinker, get very, very excited about it, and then suddenly get lost in a sea where it's like, okay, well, you weren't thinking about all of the ways you may be able to weave this in. You weren't thinking about, well, will this work for that client or this situation, whatever, and it may cause you more issues. On the flip side, we may encounter something that is new or a different approach, a different take, a different perspective, and it elicits a very emotional response in us where we're just aversive to it right out of the gate because it is new and we just kind of dig our heels in and we won't let the information percolate in our brain at all.

I think both of those approaches are not helpful. Instead, I think that we need to be open-minded, particularly as instructors and trainers, because we are going to be working with so many clients, and no matter how successful you may have been up until this point, you will encounter a dog, a handler, or a team that basically upend everything you've done up until this point. No matter what you seem to do, nothing works and it's very possible that maybe it's just not a good match for you. Your teaching style, there's a personality conflict, whatever, could just be your experience level up until this point, that is also a possibility, but it could be the tools that are in your toolbox right now aren't the best fit, and expanding your toolbox may be helpful. Doing that kind of growth, having that of journey is not bad and it doesn't negate what you were doing before.

That's basically why I just want instructors to think about and trainers in the back of their minds is it's very easy to fall into these pitfalls. Pitfall one, I find something new. I blow up everything I was doing before. I demonize everything that I was doing before and I pretend that I never did it. I think that that's not helpful. Pitfall number two is I come across something new. It, for lack of a better term, challenges what I'm doing now, and I get very mad about it and I demonize everyone who's interested in that new thing and I put my heels in and say, no, my way is the only way. I also don't think that's helpful. And then pitfall three is I encounter something new and now it puts into question everything that I know, and now I have imposter syndrome, I feel paralyzed and I want to close my business because now apparently I don't know anything that is also not true.
All of these are very, I think they're not reasonable, but they're common emotional responses to these types of things that can happen and the fact that we are having these kinds of conversations of how we may be able to play the sniffing game and how we may be able to train and how we may be able to teach our clients, and what are we going to be focusing on the conversations of, well, are there going to be different types of Scent Work, different flavors of Scent Work? We're just going to be concentrating on competitive Scent Work. Are we going to be potentially changing the way we think about trialing in Scent Work? What about just Scent Work for engagement purposes for enrichment? I think that those kinds of conversations are good. Quite honestly, the end result of the conversation, maybe we're going to do exactly what we've been doing right now, right?

That's possible, but I think actually thinking this stuff through is not bad and it doesn't make you a bad Instructor or trainer, and if you do modify or change your program, that's good. If there's thought behind it, if you're just doing it for willy-nilly, maybe not so great, but if you're actually thinking about it, that's great. I tip my hat to you because it's scary. It's scary to do so because you may indeed have a client say you changed stuff. That means that you didn't really know what you were doing before, which isn't true, right? So there is going to be a series of podcasts that we're going to be putting together, talking specifically with instructors about maybe their training journey of how they are determining what they are including in their programs, how they have grown themselves, how they kind of deal with all of this professionally and personally, because a thing too is everything I'm talking about, you may very well be experiencing as a handler as well of, well, I used to do this with dog one and now dog two is requiring me to do something entirely different.

Does that mean I don't know what I'm doing? No, it just means you have to do things differently and you may have to learn different skills and there may be a learning curve there, and that's okay. So we're going to be doing all of that. We're going to have these conversations with fellow colleagues because again, my whole objective with this podcast is to talk about things in the open that people may be thinking about or percolating about or talking about behind the water cooler. Let's not do that. Let's just talk about it openly and go from there. So that's that. Additionally, I'm going to be putting together a series of webinars through Scent Work University talking about how as instructors, we can really evaluate what it is that we're training, evaluate your program, evaluate who the actual, the goal is, who the target audience is, both the dog, the handler, and the team, and how you can really drill down into the why are you doing that and how is that working best.

So we'll be posting more details about that webinar series up in the network university site should be up by be up soon, so definitely keep an eye out for that. If there are other topics that you are interested in, particularly if you are an Instructor or a trainer and you're like, I really would love to hear you talk about blah, blah, blah, please let me know because again, we want to make certain that we are helping everyone with these podcasts. Yes, we absolutely want to help people who own dogs and they're playing Scent Work, whether they're playing for fun, whether they're playing for enrichment, whether they're playing to compete or all the above, that's fantastic, but I also want to recognize that there are lots of other people who wear different hats in this community. Your instructors and your trainers, your trial officials, your trial hosts, your competitional organization owners. There's lots of different people that are involved in this community, and I want to make certain that we're talking to all of them and we're helping as many of them as we possibly can with this podcast. So if there's a particular topic that you'd be interested in, let me know and I'll be more than happy to put that together. And again, I promise we'll also talk to other peoples who're not just listening to me.

But thank you guys so very much for listening. I hope this podcast was somewhat helpful or at least interesting, maybe thought provoking, who knows? But definitely make certain that you do check out the book that Sue Sternberg and Dana Zinn put together. Again, it's called The Dog-Driven Search. I will have a link for that inside of the podcast episode replay page, and take in as much information as you possibly can. That's basically my best piece of advice. Don't be afraid to grow. Growth is good, and you are fantastic, and to all of my colleagues who are teaching people and their dogs to play the Stiffy game, honestly and truly, I don't care what your school of thought is, how you go about doing it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this a focus and to allow these dogs to be celebrated for using their amazing sense of smell. You are awesome. All right guys. Thanks so much. Happy Training. I look forward to seeing you soon.

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