Ep. 85: Eww...Containers!

Jan 14, 2023

Do you DESPISE containers? Are they dumb, boring and your least favorite search element ever? You are not alone apparently! There is rather large contingency within the Scent Work community who are not fans of Container searches.

In this episode, Dianna will do her very best to try to make the case FOR Containers, describing how valuable of a learning tool they can be and attempt to inspire listeners to give this search element another chance.

Intrigued? Be certain to check out these resources to take an even deeper dive into all things Container-related:

You may also be inspired by some of the challenges posed in these eBooks:


  • Dianna L. Santos


Welcome to the All About Scent Work Podcast. In this podcast, we talk about all things Scent Work. That includes 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 containers. So before we start diving into the podcast episode itself, let me do a very quick introduction of 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 base that is worldwide. For 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.

So whether you're just getting started in Scent Work, looking to develop some more advanced skills, interested in trialing, or if you're already trialing and trying to finessed some things for the upper levels of competition, we likely have a training solution for you. So now that you know a little bit more about me, let's dive into the podcast episode itself.

So in this episode, I want to talk about containers and the fact that they are an element that so many people despise. And I'm trying, I don't know if I'm succeeding, but I'm trying to have people have a different perspective about containers. An interesting thing about containers is that they're oftentimes seen as something that you just do with baby dogs or they're just really boring or they're not the really super exciting, sexy stuff.

They're not your giant field that the dog has to go search or that really super complicated warehouse. They're not the tractor or the big rig, you know, they're just, oh, just boring containers. Who cares? The problem is, is that the approach that you have to containers absolutely affects the result that you have in containers, meaning that if you just view it as something that is really boring, it's something baby dogs do.

You really just can't wait to stop doing containers. Then that's going to reflect in the results that you see in your training. And we see this time and time again, we are not immune as handlers and trainers to being affected by our own emotions. So if you and I are not enjoying something or if we think something is boring or it's a waste of time or whatever, and we're really excited about something else.

And we're the ones who are designing and scheduling the training. I can almost guarantee you that you're not going to be doing the thing that you find boring and a waste of time. You're going to be doing the other fun stuff. So the translation to all of this is that people don't do container searches in their practice sessions, and if they do, is almost like resentful.

It's like, “Oh, we just have to do this, get through this so I can go do the other fun stuff.” And to me, that's a really huge missed opportunity. Containers can be a really wonderful search element. It all depends on how you approach it and how it is that you're using it in your training and the learning opportunities that can afford your dogs as well as yourself.

The wonderful thing about the NACSW K9 Nose Work training method, the training method that I follow as a CNWI, is that everything starts in containers. So basically your foundation is built from there. We start with boxes and the reason being is that it helps focus the dog's attention. But it's also a really great assessment tool because there are lots of dogs from all types of different breeds and ages and backgrounds that are a little worried about the boxes.

They may be concerned about sticking their head into the box. They may be concerned once you start making different orientations of the boxes, they may be worried if the box moves or if they move the box, or if they bump into the box, they may show that there is some spacial sensitivity as far as if there are, let's say, two rows of boxes in a small space and you have a larger dog.

Suddenly they don't know where to put their feet. But the reason why all of this is really helpful as an instructor is that you can see all of this very, very, very early on and then you can start making adjustments and customizations from the very beginning stages long before you're ever using target odor. Because for the K9 Nosework Training Method, the focus is on building the dog's drive and their independence and their love for the game.

So we're having them search for primary food or toys so there's no potential negative attachment to, let's say, birch and or clove as an example. But all of this is possible because of the way that it's designed as far as the exercises of using containers, right. If you weren't using the boxes in this way, then you may not be able to see any of this until your dog is already pretty far along.

And that could be problematic because now maybe you are using target odor and suddenly there's this big gaping hole that really is foundational that you're now going to be kind of stuck as far as how it is you're going to be addressing it. A lot of people would try to address it within the context of Scent Work, where, in my opinion, it may even be better to address that completely outside in a way from odor.

So big, long, complicated way of saying is that because containers are the foundation to everything as far as how I train, it provides me with so much information and I have such an appreciation for the containers themselves and the learning that can take place in using the containers for both the dog and the handler. Let's try to do this in the handler point of view to help us make a little bit more sense when we're talking about Scent Work.

As I've said so many times, you've been listening to me in this podcast and other training is that we cannot experience odor as people. We can't see it, we can smell it. We're just really guessing, right? We're pretty much going on if we have any kind of we took maybe Laurel Scarioni’s Hide Placement and Odor Movement Seminar. Maybe we have some other training background or we're just, you know, going by what our dog says, but you and I can’t experience it, so we're really just guessing.

But the wonderful thing about having containers is that we know where the hide is. It's inside the container, but we can change the placement of the containers in relationship to the other things inside of the space, whether it's indoors or outdoors. And suddenly the whole odor picture can change. We know exactly where the hide is and it can really open up a handler's eyes to just how complicated this can be.

And it can help them get out of the stuck way of thinking that because it's inside of a container, then the dogs will only be focusing on containers. They may actually notice the dog picking up odor on a whole other side of the space and then make a beeline to the odor container out of seemingly nowhere right. And that could be a really powerful learning moment for the handler.

It can also help as far as handling, because clearly these are where the containers are. And we're trying to figure out how can I properly support my dog without crowding them and also without overly disturbing the space. So I'm not dragging and pulling odor with me on advertently as I'm walking back and forth all around all the containers and stuff like that.

Again, there's just so many possibilities from the learning standpoint as far as figuring out what potentially is going on, what you could be doing as a handler, how you could be honing some of these skills that really is very well-suited with containers. It's fantastic. But then there's also the how you can make containers more sexy, more exciting, more fun.

And honestly, it's just trying to figure out, well, how many different types of odor puzzles could you potentially pose with containers? How many problem solving searches could you pose with containers? How many different ways can you help the team develop their skills they need for each other with containers? Dana Zinn does an absolutely fantastic job with this.

She covered so many of these things inside her, All About the Box; A Detailed Look at Container Searches Webinar. She's coming back for her follow up webinar. Part two I'm super, super, super excited about. But what I love, what Dana talks about is how effective of a search element this is can be, how complicated it can also be that it's not as easy as we may think that odor absolutely could potentially be getting trapped or collecting onto other containers, which is why your dog may absolutely spend some time investigating a container that's next to an odor container.

All of these things are just underlining that we should be spending more time doing container searches and not begrudgingly, not in a way that we think, “Oh, God, I have to do container searches. It sucks”. Instead, it should be like, “Wow, we're going to be doing container searches!” and again, opening up your mind to how you may be able to do that.

What ways can you use your containers to help your dog develop some additional skills to help you develop some additional skills to help your team and to keep things fun and exciting. And that is a challenge all within itself. But if we can shift the way that we think about it, then we may actually see a very big improvement as far as how our dogs, ourselves and our teams are tackling containers.

Again, it doesn't just have to be boxes, it can be any slew of things, items that are used to hold onto other items. It doesn't just have to be in a straight row. It can be all kinds of different orientations. They don't all just have to be on the ground. They absolutely can be elevated. They could be duct taped to a wall, they could be suspended even.

There's all kinds of different things that we could be doing, and we can also be using them to help the dog understand other types of odor puzzles. So one of the things that I really like to do with my courses and in my training is to use empty, completely empty. They're totally clean. They've never been used in a search before.

Boxes to help the dog understand how they may be able to work the odor plume that's coming from either a suspended or a very elevated height. And you have those containers set out where you think that the odor plume is going to be falling and interacting with the space. And you'll see the dogs come up and they use those boxes as information points.

And then they look up like, look, it's that five foot, six foot height, it's up there. And then you can fade those containers, maybe even in the very next run, right? But offering and using and leveraging these tools and viewing them like that, that they are tools that this isn't just something that I can't wait to start doing containers.

It's just such a sad way of looking at it, particularly because again, I start all my clients on containers, I start my own dogs on containers. I love boxes. I think boxes are fantastic. They're also really easy. You can just bring them with you whenever you want to do field trips, which is all my warm up searches are use doing using boxes for my searches on be able to assess the dog.

I think it's great when I used to do when I started doing in-person twice a year I went to came gone to the dogs in order to teach there's some fun classes and year after year I would have some of the dogs and people would come back and those dogs would see me from like very far down the field.

Maybe they boxes would be pulling their person is are they good because they were so excited like that's the way that I always viewed containers is that level of the dog season like oh my God, we're going to be doing container searches. Like that's what I'm looking for. And the handlers were really excited. Do container searches, do they had no problems with them.

They were excited to do it. It was basically the gateway to all the other fun stuff that we did. So the longer that I was teaching stunt work and longer I was in the community, I started noticing that not everyone had that opinion, that actually a lot of people despise containers. They thought containers were a complete waste of time.

They couldn't wait to stop doing containers. And that made me very, very sad. And then there were, you know, some people were training. They're like, oh, yeah, no. As soon as you can get done with containers, just forget them. They're not important. I'm like, “Oh, no, blasphemy!” Containers are so important, but they're also a really valuable tool is a short episode.

This is just me with a stream of consciousness, a stream of thought, basically, because I know that I've seen this a lot recently where people are really just like, “Oh, I don't like containers.” I really want you all to challenge yourself to maybe shift the way that you're thinking about it. And if for no other reason, if all of the things I talked about already doesn't move, you move the needle in any way, shape or form.

Then just realize that it's going to cause a negative feedback loop. As far as how effective your own training and performance will be. If you don't like something, you're not going to be practicing it. Your dog is going to pick up on the fact that you don't like it and it's going to cause things to get icky and gross.

So instead of that, maybe we can look at containers a little bit differently where, again, they're an opportunity they're an opportunity for you to learn for the dog, to learn to develop skills. And they can really be fun and exciting. But yeah, we may have to, you know, rack our brains a little bit in order to figure that out.

I love using containers. So again, if you haven't already, feel free to check out the Sniffy Fun ebooks that we've been putting out. We have the 50 Sniffy Fun Challenges and the three versions of the Winter Sniffy Fun Challenge ebook, the third one will be coming out in March of 2023, but there are lots of different suggestions in there as far as the different types of things that you could be doing, specifically with containers and different types of containers that you could be using.

Again, we have the webinars from Dana Zinn, which are absolutely fantastic. I also released a course called the Leveraging Containers for Life Course, where we literally walk through all the different things that you could be doing and it doesn't matter. You don't have to be really super experienced. You could have just completed our introduction to that rigorous or you could be really experienced and maybe you're like, I don't like containers.

Or maybe this will change your opinion about it because there are so many different ways that we could be using these to our advantage. And I'm hoping that I may be able to move the needle a little bit to just help people look at them in a way that just view them for what they are. It's a really fun search element if we don't attach unnecessary emotion to it, if that makes any sense.

But as always, I want to hear from all of you. Did I at least get you thinking about potentially changing your opinion about containers if they're not your favorite search element so far? If you don't like containers, why don't you like containers? And then maybe I can come up with some, you know, suggestions on how you may be able to change your mind.

Are there other elements that you're like, “Oh, well, you know, I actually don't mind containers, but I really don't like this other element”, let us know we want to hear from you. That's what this podcast is all about. So we'll be posting this podcast up on our website, as well as our social media sites. So they're always more than welcome to comment there.

We are going to be having some more roundtables with our instructors as well as some guest speakers, which I'm very, very excited about. If you do know of someone that you want us to spotlight, potentially they are giving back to the network community. Maybe they're just your favorite instructor. Maybe they're a competitor that is just a ray of sunshine.

Whatever. It doesn't matter. Let me know. Contact me and I will be more than happy to reach out to them. Because, again, that's what this podcast is supposed to be all about and sharing some positivity and love for Scent Work and obsession of all things sniffy game. I'm all for it. All right, guys, thanks so much. Happy Training and we look forward to seeing you soon.

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