Ep. 49: Cyber Scent Work Something New

Jun 1, 2021

In this episode, we speak with Sean McMurray of Tails U Win! Canine Center, LLC in Manchester, CT about a brand new organization, Cyber Scent Work, Inc. that is launching on June 7, 2021. Cyber Scent Work is the perfect bridge between training and trialing in Scent Work and stands to provide a service that has been needed for a LONG time.

Check out Cyber Scent Work here: https://www.cyberscentwork.com/


  • Dianna L. Santos
  • Sean McMurray


Dianna L. Santos: Welcome to the All About Scent Work podcast. In this podcast, we talk about all things Scent Work. That can include training tips, the behind the scenes look at what your instructor or trial official may be going through, and much more. In this episode, we're going to be speaking with Sean McMurray at Tails-U-Win Canine Center in Manchester, Connecticut, about an exciting new Scent Work venture, that all of you really want to participate in. So before we start diving into the podcast episode itself, let me do a very quick introduction on myself.

My name is Dianna Santos. I'm the Owner and Lead instructor for Scent Work University, Dog Support University, and Pet Dog U. These are online dog training platforms that are designed to provide high-quality dog training instruction to as many people as possible. We're very fortunate to have a client basis worldwide. At Scent Work University in particular, we provide online courses, seminars, webinars, and eBooks, that are all designed to help you achieve your Scent Work training goals. Whether you're just starting out, looking to develop some more advanced skills, or if you're interested in competing, we have a training solution for you. Now that you know a little bit more about me. Let's dive into the podcast episode itself.

So again, in this podcast episode, we're speaking with Sean McMurray of Tails-U-Win Canine Center in Manchester, Connecticut. We start off our conversation with Sean giving a very quick introduction of himself and his background. As a trainer.

Sean McMurray: I started training professionally in 1990, where shortly after I start working at Tails-U-Win in Manchester, Connecticut. Fortunately was able to hook up with Leslie Nelson, who was an amazing trainer and learn a lot from her, a lot about positive reinforcement training, how to actually teach classes and get people interested in dog training itself. And probably 10 years ago is when I started doing the set work program at Tails, and develop that into mainly going from teaching pet people how to interact with their dogs and do a new fun game right up to currently teaching classes where people are competing and doing fairly well in competition.

Dianna L. Santos: So what was the thing that drew you into doing more of the Scent Work type of teaching?

Sean McMurray: There was a woman who introduced me to the nose work. She was a search and rescue person, and she taught me the basics of nose work, just kind of expanded from there. I really enjoy the teaching of the dog. We were just talking about this yesterday, how amazing it is when a dog comes into a training facility, whereas all the odors that are in there from all day dog training, and they come in and they can actually find things that we're asking them to find. This is amazing watching the dogs work through that.

Dianna L. Santos: In the years you've been doing this. And again, like you said, you started it with pet dogs, people who are just looking to do something fun with their dogs. And now there's people who've been bitten by the competition bug and like, "Ooh, I think I would like to earn the pretty little ribbons and the titles." So what would you say are some of the keynote dogs to stick out in your mind as far as over the years you've been teaching, were like, "Wow, that's a dog I'll remember forever," as far as the types of students that you've had?

Sean McMurray: Yeah. There isn't such a big range of dogs coming into class. People who may never want to compete, but just want to do really fun things with their dogs, to the people that are high-end competition people. We actually have the number one dog in the USCSS in the country, his name is Ranko, so one of my students.

Dianna L. Santos: Wow, congratulations.

Sean McMurray: Yeah. Thanks. Is a really super intense dog and it just had so much fun watching their relationship grow between the dog and owner.

Dianna L. Santos: And as far as the different types of dogs that you've been teaching over the years, what about dogs with any kind of physical things like blind dogs or deaf dogs or dogs amputations, or dogs in carts? Have you been dealing with any of those?

Sean McMurray: Absolutely. I have several deaf dogs, a couple of blind dogs. It's just amazing watching them overcome those obstacles. You would think they would be crashing into everything, but they tend not to. It's just amazing watching them use their nose to go find things. Also, I've had a couple of dogs, amputees, three legged dogs, and it's just amazing. I actually had a gentleman who lost his leg and had a dog who also had an amputated leg. They were just so much fun to watch together and they just great bonding experience that they had together.

Dianna L. Santos: That's awesome. And that's one of the things that I know personally, that I love about Scent Work, is that there may be... For the team that you were just talking about, they may look at a class of agility people and they're like, "Oh, we can't do that." But a set work, they can do it, they can play this game and they can play together. And the community is so incredibly welcoming, which is awesome. So the fact that you've been able to build this program through Tails over the last 10 years and cultivate these little baby people who are just interested in having fun with their dogs. And now they're like, "Oh, when are we going to maybe do other things?" But what about those people who may have, like myself, for those of you who may not know, Sean is actually my mentor.

Dianna L. Santos: He's the reason why I'm actually a professional dog trainer. He's one of the people who took me under his little Sean teaching wing, and in his Sean away had me assisting in his classes. And then Sean has a very particular way of teaching of he will teach and then he'll help you help. And then slowly but surely, he just kind of goes into the background and suddenly Sean is gone and you're teaching the class. And you're like, "Okay, great." But it's a very effective way of teaching. But Sean was my mentor, and the reason why I was very drawn to working with Sean, is that he was very kind with my very dog, I want to eat other dogs, Dobermans Zeus, and made a lot of accommodations for us. So why don't you just talk really quickly about what you thought about this weird chick who walks into your class with this dog that she's like, "By the way he likes to eat other dogs, and I think I maybe want to do some work with him. What do we do?" So if you want to talk about that, go ahead.

Sean McMurray: Absolutely. It was interesting because Scent Work in general, you tend to work one-on-one with a dog and the owner at the same time. So there's not the fear of the other dogs being too close to that dog that's working and they have to worry about what's going on. So you're able to give them enough space so that they can work without worrying about the other dogs being so close to them. And I think that's one of the things that a lot of people have, I guess, fears of is am I going to be able to do it in front of other people? Am I going to be able to do i, near another dog? And Nose Work and Scent Work, they don't really have to worry about those things

Dianna L. Santos: For Zeus and I, we love Sean's classes. We actually had Zeus's closet, where we would have his crates inside of an actual closet and he'd be safe in there. And then we would just close it if anyone else had to come in, which was great. But the one thing that we realized really early on, that it wasn't going to be a good idea for him to compete, it would just would not be safe. And that did not deter me from continuing to play the game. But I could see that there'll be a lot of people who may have similar situations where maybe their dogs are not as maybe aggressive as he was, but maybe trialing wouldn't be such a great idea. So what do you right now? What do you tell those clients? And they're like, "Oh wow, you have the number one USCSS dog in your classes. But I don't think that I can trial, Sean. What do I do?"

Sean McMurray: Yeah. I also have some students that have no intention of ever trialing. The one that comes to my mind is a 75 year old woman with a two year old Newfoundland who is not interested in competing out in public, she loves playing the game at home. That's why I think this organization that we're setting up is perfect for this kind of people that will be more than happy to video their dog at home and be able to see what they're doing and how they're progressing and get feedback from us to let them know how they're doing and what they should continue to do.

Dianna L. Santos: Exactly. And that's a wonderful little lead-in. So for those of you've been listening up until this point, you're like, "Okay, what's going on, spill the beans." So Sean and I have been working over the past two years already, trying to put together this new organization called Cyber Scent Work. And the whole purpose of Cyber Scent Work is to bridge the gap between training and trialing, as far as Scent Work is concerned. And one of the biggest buckets of people that we're trying to help is exactly who Sean just talked about, is someone who may not be interested in competing, or someone like who I used to be with Zeus, cannot compete, or also for people who are currently competing, but they want to be able to get the training feedback. So one of the biggest issues that we have right now, as far as the community is that there are a lot more trialing opportunities, which is good, but now people are replacing training with trialing.

So they're going to trial after trial, after trial. And they may be trying to use that experience with the trial to replace what they would have been getting from training otherwise. So you can kind of go down a rabbit hole really quickly, and all of a sudden, all this great stuff that you had for your training has gone out the window, because now you're trying to basically backwards engineer, "Well, this happened at this trial and that must mean this." Whereas if you just had someone there to maybe watch what you were doing, could say, "Oh, this and this, and this would actually help you and your dog. Try these things going forward." So Cyber Scent Work is supposed to address all of those lovely things.

So we are extraordinarily excited that we're going to be introducing this very, very soon, and it's all virtual. So I want to basically allow Sean to dive into this a little bit, as far as how he can use this with his own clients, because this isn't just something that, well, a little person by themselves can do it. This is something instructors can do as well. So if you want to just describe Sean, what you may do for... Yeah, the number one dog in USCSS, that's great. But now maybe they're still going up in the upper levels, they're still addressing some things. How could they potentially use Cyber Scent Work to continue to improve?

Sean McMurray: I think the main thing for me would be, it's always great to get feedback from somebody else on how you're doing. So if you're experiencing difficulty, just say an example, in the corners, so there's something going on that you can't quite figure out what's going on. And I think it'd be really helpful to everyone to get information about, what I can do differently? What will make it easier for my dog? What will make my handling better? And anything that will improve the performance of our dogs, not only in competitions, but in everyday life too. So getting them to understand that there's sometimes I'm going to ask you to do something, to trust me to do it this way, and then we'll go from there.

Dianna L. Santos: And to piggyback off of that, the wonderful thing about how we're setting this up is, we're bringing in really experienced people as reviewers. So these are all trusted colleagues of ours who are professional instructors or their trial officials, or the professional detection dog trainers, more than likely all three. And so this is all feedback that other instructors like Sean or myself or anyone else in the country or the world would then be able to use and then partner with that client to then turn around and say, "okay, this is some really great feedback that we got. We can now tie this into our classes or our training going forward to address these other things." Because I know that even for myself, with working with clients, I may see something one way, but then another instructor may be like, "Oh, well, did you happen to notice, yada, yada." I'll be like, "I did not even see that. Oh, thank you so much."

Sean McMurray: I appreciate that.

Dianna L. Santos: Another pair of eyes helps. So this is something that we're both pretty passionate about. Again, the benefit of working under Sean and learning under him and becoming an instructor, act tells you is that, it was really basically like a teaching school for instructors, where you mentored underneath different people, and it was a very group learning environment. We were very accustomed to assisting in a variety of different classes, with different instructors. So having that group think mentality was actually very good, and it's something that I really value throughout the entirety of my career. And it's something that I think that all of us in the dog training community should do. So that's something that Cyber Scent Work is going to be promoting as well. So now, what about that 75 year old that you have with her newfoundland, what about her? Why should she bother doing Cyber Scent Work?

Sean McMurray: You had mentioned this at one point, people are always interested in seeing how their dogs are progressing. It's always nice to get that pretty little ribbon to understand that you have achieved something no matter what it's going to be. So people be interested in seeing how much their dog has progressed and is capable of doing things, searching for the different odors that were in all the organizations. Just getting them to be able to do the things that are going to make them happy and able to work with their dogs and see the progress that they've been making.

Dianna L. Santos: And speaking of ribbons, do they happen to get ribbons through Cyber Scent Work, Sean?

Sean McMurray: Oh, absolutely. You should see the amazing ribbons.

Dianna L. Santos: Yes, they are gorgeous ribbons. And Sean was very good to helping us secure these ribbons and helping them actually be a thing. They are gorgeous, gorgeous ribbons. And there's one photo of it comparing the biggest ribbon next to Sean's head.

Sean McMurray: Bigger than my head.

Dianna L. Santos: Exactly. The other people who may be interested in Cyber Scent Work are those with those dogs who may not do quite as well in doing competitions in person, or it would be putting the dog into a situation where they may not do as well. How would you suggest for those people to think about Cyber Scent Work? What's the best way of them to think about Cyber Scent Work as a good alternative to maybe putting their dog into a pigeon hole where they have to go to a in-person trial?

Sean McMurray: Like Dianna with her dog, you definitely do not want that dog to be under stress in a trial situation. It's just so much more comfortable for them to be in a safe environment where they know the environment and are capable of performing in a safe environment, and not have to worry about the other dogs that may possibly not interact with them as well as they should be. So that these people can stay safe and keep your dog safe and comfortable and not have to worry about going out with them.

Dianna L. Santos: Exactly. One thing that people should keep in mind with Cyber Scent Work is that we do have roles that we have laid out. We have three different tracks, so we're open to all different varieties of dogs, as far as where you may be in your training journey or what your preferences are. So there may be people who are just starting out or there may be people who just never want to have their dogs hunting for target odors. So we have three different tracks of food, paired odor, and odor tracks. And we tell people that within the different levels, you have six different levels, beginner, intermediate, novice, advanced, mastering, expert. That with each level we suggest where it is that you can set up your search areas. But again, those are suggestions, and that we are constantly promoting people to be advocates for their dogs. So at no point are we telling you who may have a reactive dog or a sensitive dog, so go and put your dog into a situation where they're going to fail.

Of course, we would love for you to push the boundaries a little bit as far as ensuring the dog doesn't have a fishbowl experience of a life, if that's possible. If you can work a little bit outside and make sure that you are pushing the envelope a little bit, so the work can be a little bit bigger, that's great. But if that means simply that from working inside your house or with your trainer at a training center that now you're working with your trainer at a friend's house, great, that's fine. We do not need you going into the middle of a very busy park and setting up a search, if that's going to be having your dog be set up to fail. So that's a really important thing for everyone to understand is that, with this we're trying to promote people playing the game with their dogs, first and foremost. Number two, to be safe with their dogs. Number three is to have fun.

We are not finding dead bodies or bombs with Cyber Scent Work, we are finding Birch, Anise or clove or food or paired odors. It's a game, so don't stress about it, just go and have fun with your dogs and enjoy the time with them. Just really quickly, I think it's good for us to give a background as far as how this all came together and to give people an appreciation for just how much we've been trying to get this thing off the ground. So if you just want to talk about how it is that all of this came to be, I'll start really quickly. That I had been thinking about this for years, is there some kind of virtual way that we can have people do some kind of Cyber Scent Work competition thing for dogs like Zeus? Because I knew that I couldn't potentially compete with him.

And I was fine playing on my own, but I have plenty of clients who were like, "You're not going to give me any kind of reward for doing this." I can go sit on the couch and vegetate for the 15 minutes. It may take me to the train. I don't want to do this." So I wanted to figure out a way to reward people. Then suddenly at two o'clock in the morning as most ideas do, it dawned on me, "Oh, we can kind of combine this." So I spent all night typing up this draft version and shot it over to Sean like, "Hey Sean, what do you think of this?" So do you want to just share with everyone what your initial thoughts were of that draft?

Sean McMurray: Yeah, when I first looked at it, I'm like, "This is exactly what so many people are looking for and actually need because they can't go out and perform in public, whether it's their dog or them. Maybe the people don't want to go out in public and possibly fail in front of a bunch of people and not be comfortable doing that. So it's not just the dog, it's for the people too, that won't be or wouldn't be as comfortable performing in public.

Dianna L. Santos: So then we went from there and I spent some time working out some bugs and whatnot. And then I went back to Sean, I'm like, "All right, Sean, I think this is actually going to be a thing. So do you want to help me with this? Because you are just such a great resource and we work really well together." And he surprisingly said yes. And I was like, "Wow, okay, great. We're going to do this. We're going to make this thing." And we were all excited and we're like, "Oh, this is going to be great." So the plan was, we're going to have again, the whole basis of the business is basically a website. We need to make sure that the website is as good as it can be. So we went out and we hired a developer and we're like, "Great."

And this is all in 2020, the very beginning of it. So we're like, "Oh, this is wonderful." And then the problems began. So that dragged on for months. COVID hit, and everyone was like, "Oh, we're all to be inside." And Sean and I are like, "This would be a really great time to maybe launch Cyber Scent Work."

Sean McMurray: It would be ideal.

Dianna L. Santos: And that just didn't happen. So basically that lasted for another eight or nine months, and then our developer quit. So we were now way into COVID, other things have popped up, other things were happening. And we were like, "Oh, what are we going to do? This is such a nightmare." So I was like, "Sean, do you still think this is a good idea?" And Sean said, "Yes." And I was like, "Fine. We're going to figure this out."

So we did, and we built the site ourselves. But the fricking timing, and it's been a very long haul, but now it's finally here and we are very, very excited about it. So when you're talking to your clients about Cyber Scent Work, what are some of the things that you're going to tell them as far as things of reasons why on all the other things that there are to do, particularly even with Scent Work, because I thought AKC, and it's USCSS, and there's an NACSW, and this PSD and this... Sean, really another one, some more acronyms for me to remember, what are you going to tell these people?

Sean McMurray: I think the main thing is that you can get feedback and that's the important part of it. We're going to give you suggestions that will make your training even better. It's not just, "Congratulations, you did a fine job. Here's your ribbon." We're going to reward you with this ribbon, but we're also going to give you feedback to let you know where you can, small things that you can do to make improvements in your performances.

Dianna L. Santos: And that's really, I hope something that everyone can really appreciate. And with this, we are basically prompting you to play the game more with your dog, and to do it in a way that will help you further improve. And again, whether or not you want to formally compete or not, that doesn't matter, playing the game and having that building of that bond is what really is important. Like what Sean was talking about with the amputee team, them playing that game together and having that incredible bond, that's what this is all about, is creating memories and having opportunities to create these moments that we will remember from now until ever that's what we're trying to promote.

So we're hoping that all of you are going to give Cyber Scent Work a good look, and there's going to be all kinds of information on there. The rules, we tried to write them up as easily as we can so they're easy to decipher. We'll have lots of tutorial videos for you in order to go through. If you ever have any questions, you can always contact myself or Sean, we're always more than happy to help. But yeah, we are very excited about Cyber Scent Work, so go check it out and go sign up.

Sean McMurray: That sounds good.

Dianna L. Santos: So as you can see, we are very, very, very excited about Cyber Scent Work. This is something that we really strongly believe will help so many people, and it's something that has been needed in the community for a while. So we urge you to check out cyberscentwork.com in order to learn more about the organization, what is it we're providing. And also the steps that you can take in order to participate. We've tried to make this as easy as possible. So what we urge you to do, check out the website, look over the rules, and then once you're ready, you can just click on, get started. You would then create a free account, there is no charge at all to you to create an account on our site. You would then register one of your dogs, which is only $20. And then you can figure out what the levels are that you want to submit a video for.

We urge you for the very first time to submit one video at a time of a search. Because again, we are scoring you on so much more than your dog merely finding a hide. So again, not only are your searches being scored on a pass-fail basis, about whether or not you can earn a queue in order to potentially earn a title in Cyber Scent Work. You don't only get that, you also get pages, and I do mean pages of training feedback with every single entry that you submit. This is feedback for both yourself and your dog that you can then take on in order to further improve your scent work game.

Again, the whole purpose behind this is to promote more people playing the game with their dogs. If you approach us in the right way, you can play the game more with your dog and get a lot out of it. You can also earn pretty ribbons and certificates and get lots of really valuable feedback. So again, we are so excited about Cyber Scent Work and we hope you join us on the journey. Thanks so much for listening. Happy training. We look forward to seeing you soon.

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