Ep. 84: Why the "Why" Matters

Jan 7, 2023

When we are training, trialing or making decisions about our sniffing journey, we oftentimes solely focus on the "how".

In this podcast episode, discover the importance of understanding the "why".


  • Dianna L. Santos


Dianna L. Santos (00:00):
Welcome to the All About Scent Work Podcast. In this podcast we talk about all things Scent Work, that can include training tips, a behind scenes look at what your instructor or trial official may be going through and much more. In this episode, I want to talk about why the why matters. So before we start diving into the podcast episode, so help 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 Sport University and Pet Dog U. These are online dog training platforms that are designed to help you achieve your dog training goals. And we're very fortunate to have a client bases worldwide. For Scent Work University in particular, we have online courses, seminars, webinars, and e-books that again are designed to help you and your dog achieve your Scent Work training goals regardless of where you are in your sniffing journey. So you may just be starting out looking to develop some more advanced skills. You're interested in trialing or you're currently trialing and trying to finesse things to get to the higher levels. We likely have a training solution for you. Now you to know a little bit more about me, let's dive nto the podcast episode itself.

So in this episode I wanted to really dive into understanding or grasping with the fact that knowing why we're doing something is actually really important and how that is completely in difficult to how we want to generally approach something. So to take this as Scent Work for just a second following tutorials on YouTube as an example, it's a really popular thing and has been for a while and the most common thing that people will do is they'll kind of like go through the video and and like fast forward speed and just show me what to do. And that's what the YouTube video is for. This is how you can change a tire on your car. This is how you can do anything right? And they literally show you how to do it and you go off and you do it and you're like, great, fantastic.

The problem is, is that knowing how to do something is really only part of the equation. Understanding the why you may be doing that thing is actually really important, particularly when we're talking about learning and particularly when we're talking about teaching something or someone else such as our dogs. What I wanted to talk about in this podcast is how we can get stuck so much in the how when we're talking about stunt Scent Work in not just the training piece but even just in our journey that it can really cause us some issues. So some examples, one of the things that is very common to hear when you're first starting off in stunt Scent Work is when you are doing your exercises in the beginning, right? You're you're brand new, your dog is brand new, you wanna be quiet so that your dog is able to focus.

So we're gonna do our search and the how is I'm gonna be silent, as quiet as I possibly can be as a handler and then my dog is gonna be searching. So maybe saying, well I kind of understand the why I'm doing that, right? I'm trying not to distract my dog, but is that really the why for my purposes as an instructor? While it is absolutely true that you yammering at your dog could be distracting more often than it's the way in which you're yammering at your dog. Typically speaking, if you were just to leave someone to their own devices who's never done this before and you say, okay, there is something for the dog to go find. For my purposes it would be primary food or a toy and the person knows where it is, but the dog does not left of their own devices.

The person is going to want to help. So they're gonna be interjecting themselves as a dog is trying to figure this out. And they are also feeling pressure, meaning the handler that I'm standing there as an instructor or if they're working on their own virtually they know that oh my god, my dog is supposed to find it. And we have very bad way of telling how long something has gone on for that, that pressure, that concern, that anxiety causes them to interject themselves even more and also increases their anxiety as the handler, which absolutely can be perceived by the dog. So to try to counteract all of that of the find to find it, come on honey, you can do it, you can do it. Look, it's over here. That all that kind of stuff. We give them something else to do, such as for my purposes, we're gonna stay at the start line.

You're gonna breathe, you're gonna smile and you're gonna wait and you're gonna stay nice and quiet and until your dog finds a hide, once they do, I want you to give lots of verbal praise and tell them how great they are. You're still gonna stay at the start line cuz then they're gonna find some more hides and when they're all done then you're gonna say, what a great job all done and they're gonna have a nice celebration with them. But again, the important piece is understanding why we're doing that and then the understanding that you may not be doing that forever. , the whole point is for my purposes as far as again encouraging the handler to stay quiet is to diminish their anxiety, their desire to interject themselves into the search, to grant the dog the space and the time to actually figure out, okay, here's this odor plume for this treat or this toy.

How am I gonna be able to sort this out to go get it without the person like badgering them . But in addition to that, it's a building the handler's skills as far as observation skills cuz now they're not standing there hovering over their dog and worrying and whatever else and like pointing to a hide. They're at a really good perspective as far as back at the start line. They can see more and they're even subconsciously taking in what their dog looks like when their dog is sorting all that out. Wonderful learning and all these wonderful things are happening. Fantastic. Once it's been going on for a bit, we then purposefully want to encourage the handler to start being more involved to actually verbalize what it is that they're seeing because that is another learning process for the handler to be able to see something and then process it in your brain and be able to spit it out of your mouth.

It's a very challenging thing to do, particularly when you're doing that in a search. You're so concentrated on it, you're trying to figure out what the dog is doing and the dog more likely not is doing 10 different things at once. . So trying to process all that and say it fast enough so that you're catching everything, that's a very important skill for handlers too. But if we don't explain why I initially wanted you to be quiet and what the whole goal was and now I'm telling you I want you to verbalize, well now I've just blown your head up, right, . Because if it was simply, well we don't wanna distract the dog or we're still, oh being noisy or saying anything while the dog is searching is bad, which of course is not, then you're not gonna wanna do this exercise I'm encouraging you to do that can be so important for your skills as a handler.

So a very simple example to try to demonstrate what I'm talking about with about this whole why thing that if we don't on our own as handlers and trainers, take the importance of understanding the why and really hold onto it and really try to dive in, okay, I know how to do something as far as these are maybe the mechanics that I can do. These are the steps that I can take. Why am I doing those things and why are B, all of those pieces part of the puzzle? Are they going to stay that way forever? More likely than not, the answer is no . And then why would I be swapping out certain things at certain points? What is the goal at the end of the day? Why am I doing this? It's so important. But a lot of times we're so focused on the end goal of whatever the case may be, having the dog find the hide, right?

Just show me how to get there. Be like, yeah, but you gotta understand the why's in between and it's absolutely true. that that may slow you down a little bit. Same thing again if you were watching that YouTube video. The YouTube video may be 10 minutes long, right? Really not that long in in the grand scheme of things. But even for myself, I'm like I don't have time . So we're like kind of fast forwarding through whatever else you may be missing. Really important information and understanding those whys can make all the difference in the world. I'll give you another example. Let's say again for my foundation class, for my introduction to set course. One of the things that we do is that we try to generalize and help the dogs generalize what it is we want them to search. As far as containers, we start off with boxes and then we start broadening it off from there.

And one of the types of containers I encourage people to use is a cone. And I'm sure there's lots of people going that's not a container. There's a reason why. Again, the why is important. I want to use cones in the very beginning because they present a very useful learning opportunity for the dog because of the shape of the cone. You can have a treat on the bottom of the cone. The cone is covering the trait basically. And as it's sitting there, the odor is going to be bellowing up into the cone and escaping out the top, potentially also escaping out the bottom. But it's filling the space of the cone itself. So this wonderful thing happens where the dog comes up, they get a whiff of the odor the handler is in, is instructed during the course you're supposed to move in very quickly to tip the cone over to grant the dog access so that they can actually get to their treat.

So we're not encouraging the dog to destroy homes . But here's a really fun thing that happens is a dog will eat their treat and then proud 99.9% of the time they're then gonna shove their face into the cone itself. And this is the learning opportunity that I'm talking about that is essentially lingering odor. All of that odor had been emanating from that treat and has been sucked up into that cone. And there's still gonna be lingering odor in there. There's no treat in there. Obviously they ate it already. But this is a wonderful learning opportunity for the dog that I don't have to do anything. The handler doesn't have to do anything the dog is figuring out on their own simply by using this particular type of item that prevents this lovely billowing effect. Do we need to use cones forever in our searches?

No. And I would even encourage for people who are going to be trialing to not, because then the dogs may think that they're going to be productive forever. And that's usually not the case. It may depend on the trialing organization that you go to, but usually they're just used for boundaries. So we don't want the dogs thinking that there may actually be hides in the cones that they're not gonna be productive. So once the dog understands, maybe after a couple of repetitions or maybe even a week or so of using it, then you don't have to use cones inside of your search areas anymore. But again, it's understanding the why that matters. Cuz if you don't grasp the why, then you very well may just be using cones forever in a day and they be like, oh my dog is always looking at cones.

Like of course they are. Why wouldn't they? cones are very productive, right? There's a reason why we do these things and this is where people get very frustrated because they just want everything to be a straight line. I do this and this and this and this. And that's not the way that training works. Training is very much ebbs and flows and ups and downs and forward and backward and sideways motions. You may introduce something and then you have to fade it out. But the reason why you were introducing it was because certain skills and learning needed to occur. Maybe that was going to be the most straightforward way to help your dog understand this part of the puzzle. Maybe you are the one that needed to have some skills obtained and that's why we took this diversion. So it seems, and now you're coming back onto your main path as far as what your goals were.

But again, just to really belabor this , understanding the why helps you kind of get rid of all of that negative connection or or negative emotion that you may have attached to what may seem to you as though it's not the journey that you were hoping for, which may still be a really well planned out and really well executed journey. But you're right, it's not a straight line cuz it never is . There's always diversions and all kinds of stuff that's normal, that's learning. Cuz again, you are learning and your dog is learning at the very same time. So we have the whole training piece, understanding the why absolutely positively matters. Then understanding your why potentially when you're trialing all that matters too. Why are you doing certain things as far as how you're conducting yourself at trial? Meaning what types of routines do you have in place when you are trialing, when you're getting ready to go to the trial the following day, right?

Maybe even prep work leading up into the trial, the week, the month leading up to it, the actual trial day itself. Why are you doing certain things? What is the purpose behind it? Are you just simply doing things because someone else did it? Because you happen to see someone else at another trial like, oh that looked interesting, I'm gonna do that. I mean, it's not to say that you shouldn't be inspired, but you should then also think through, well why ? Why would they potentially be doing that? Is that actually gonna be helpful for me and my dog? Because we can absolutely fall into trends just like with everything else, , there are things that can get really popular and then all of a sudden they kind of fizzle out. So we really want to take stock in why we may be doing something and whether or not it may be time to pivot, to go do something else, to maybe adjust it little a little bit.

Maybe we shouldn't have done it in the first place. , all of this is very malleable. It's not as though you should just say, well I've always done it this way with the other five dogs that I had as an example. That doesn't matter. You have a new dog. Now there's very good reasons for you to be asking why? Because let's say from my situation, you know, I had Doberman's, now I have this tiny little creature, I have a smooth ox terrier now, drastically different dog just from size standpoint. So there's a lot of things that I'm going to be constantly asking, well why am I doing this? Why am I having this approach? Why is this my routine? Because I may be in Doberman brain, but now I need to be in smooth ter your brain, , just the size alone, who he is, all that other stuff that matters.

Like you need to make certain that you're making good decisions. And honestly that can only happen if you understand the why. But even deeper into that, as far as your routines, you know what it is you're doing to prepare how it is that you're going through the day, how you're helping the dog get from point A to point B, what you're doing when they're settling inside of their crate, what you are doing to get through the day to ensure that you're not like bombarding yourself with stress, understanding your why as far as what your schedule is gonna be like. Meaning why are you training the way that you are? Meaning frequency, why are you trialing the way that you are, meaning frequency, when you may be entering the trials and all this other stuff. This is extraordinarily important. There are no right or wrong answers to any of this.

You just have to understand what it is. And you may ask the question to yourself like, okay, why am I doing this? Why am I training, you know, five, six days a week? And if you have that really honest question with yourself, the answer may be surprising, right? And it may not be what you actually want it to be. So as an example, let's say that you do find that you're training an awful lot. It's not bringing you and your dog as much joy as you were hoping. So you're training more cuz clearly like something is missing. So we gotta figure it out, kind of thing. So you take a moment, you listen to this podcast, you're like, fine, I'm gonna ask myself why. And then the answer is, well, I thought that's what I was supposed to do. Or I thought that's what teams who do well do.

Or I thought that's what, you know, people who really wanna go to the high levels do. And to me those answers are all indicative of a bigger problem that you need to figure out a different kind of why that's more specific for you and your dog. Really broad statements like that, they're not realistic because everyone's life is different, everyone's dog is different, everyone's personality is different. And there are definitely teams out there that can go real gung ho, they're going all the time, you know, good job, you know, like tip my hat to you. I'm a workaholic as far as my, my work is concerned, but I don't have that same kind of, I've gotta do everything all the time when it comes to dog training and definitely when it comes to trialing and it would be a very alien thing for me to do that.

So that's just not in my Y camp at all, right? I do training with my dog because I enjoy it and because I think that's something he enjoys. And then we do that for a little bit and then we do other stuff. If I'm gonna be trialing, I'm trying to find better wise for me because it's very much a, I have a more hate than love relationship with competing. And I'm trying to d determine how I can kind of shift that dynamic where I know I just recognizing myself that I pushed myself into trialing before I was really ready and then I was in it and then I was a professional trainer. So like, well I must do this because I'm a professional trainer. I fell into that pitfall pretty darn hard and it caused a lot of issues for me. I didn't stop to think about the why.

Why am I doing this? And once I did, I was like, well the damage is done, we might as well just keep going. And that was a very foolish thing to do, . So the point being is that we want to make certain that we're always asking, why am I doing something? Am I doing this because other people are doing it? Am I doing it because I think I'm supposed to do it? Am I doing it because I don't know why I'm doing it just, I just am , I'm not really thinking about it at all. Because the why really does matter. Even when we're talking about the really big stuff, such as often you train how you're training, the approach that you're taking to training as far as your emotional approach, if you're trialing, when you're trialing, how often you're trialing, that all matters.

And also understanding that it's okay for it to change. It's not as though you're locked in for life. You absolutely can be really super gung-ho about stuff, right? I wanna train every day because it's, I'm passionate about it and I'm driven about it and I'm just so inspired and it's great and also very important. Also, my dog is there with me and you know it's, we may train every day, but we're still gonna be making it really motivating for both of us, right? It's not a drill, it's not work, it's fantastic, great, all fantastic things. A plus is across the board . But let's say that a whole bunch of life stuff happens to you, it could be good, it could be bad, but now your life is just busy, right? It's really, really jam-packed with stuff. You absolutely can have a reassessment and then determine I'm not going to be trial training as much.

And the why is I don't have the time, I don't have the mental bandwidth. I'm not emotionally there where I'm able to do it to the level that I want to with my dog. It could also be that your dog isn't there, that maybe they're sick, maybe they have injured, maybe they're older, whatever the case may be, right? But the point is, is that we have to not only understand our whys, but also understand the whys may change. . So constantly assessing and asking these questions really does help. So I hope that this podcast made a little bit of sense as far as this is really what I mean, anytime that I'm saying we need to be mindful and thoughtful. And yes, I do think about these things a lot more than most people I think, but there's good reason for it. I see a lot of people just missing these pieces and it causes them angst, it causes them issues, it makes, you know, things messier and not, not pleasant .

So I'm trying to help people understand that there's a different way that you can go about it. It doesn't mean that you have to follow a specific path. You must have this why that's not what it is. No. You just need to understand why you're doing something and that that can then inform you about future decisions that you're making and may also just shift the emotion response, emotional response you have to whatever it is you may doing. So again, going back to a training example of understanding the whole thing of the handler being quiet. Why the advice may be given the reasoning behind it, but then you're not blindsided when now the advice is we purposefully want you to verbalize, right? It can really help you have a better understanding and also in your own mind realize this is why I'm trying to be quiet.

There are benefits to that. I don't have to be quiet forever, but I want to ensure that I'm not interjecting myself into the search that I could potentially be getting anxious, that it's possible that watching my dog try and learn is really, really hard and I need to recognize that in myself as a handler. So I'm gonna breathe and smile instead to allow them to do that. And then also wonderful side effect to that is you may then notice that you are more patient, more understanding, less anxious, and you also recognize when your dog is trying more in other contexts out of Scent Work. Because again, nothing happens inside of a vacuum. So for me as an instructor, that's a wonderful thing, right? , if all of that could happen, I would be so incredibly happy. To me it's not always just about finding hides.

It's about these other skills, these other abilities, the building and the deepening of the relationship. The understanding of how everything can kind of move and feed into itself. How can you change your journey from here to there? How is your journey gonna change around along the way? How can you make really mindful and thoughtful decisions for both you and your dog and have the the best intentions in in mind for both yourself and them? That's the stuff that matters to me. Yeah, your dog found the hide. Great. Who cares? . It's not that I'm trying to diminish the fact that they do. They're amazing hunters. I love watching Dogs hunt. But that is like this tiny little piece of all this other stuff that we're trying to build. And that's why the why matters because then we're able to really develop some of these other skills that again, can even exist outside of network and can just improve the relationship you have with your dog and the kinds of decisions that you're making too.

So I hope this made a little bit of sense, but as always, I want to hear from you guys. We'll be posting this podcast episode up on our website as well as our social media. So you're always more than welcome to ask us any questions that you have, any feedback but you liked, would you like? Yeah, no, I don't think that's correct at all. That's fine. We are going to be active again with our podcast. We took a little bit of a break because I am now with dog once again. So I've been a little busy. But I'm excited that we are going to be having some new speakers. We're gonna have some round table discussions. We're gonna be talking about all different types of things we can be doing as far as training. We're gonna be providing some additional conversations that are specific towards instructors cuz we have lots of new instructors who are coming into Scent Worth University, both as instructors to teach and share their knowledge. But also we have a lot of clients who are signing on who are instructors, which makes me so incredibly happy. We want to really support our fellow colleagues and whatever we can do to do that, we are going to do so. So I want to thank you all so very much. 2023 is sounding like a fantastic year. It's gonna be full of lots of sniffing goodness. So thank you very much for listening. Happy training. We look forward to seeing you soon.

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