Setting Criteria

Apr 1, 2024

Michael McManus and Natalie McManus of Ready Sit Go Dog Training recently shared the following "Are You and Your Dog Ready to Introduce Odor" graphic.

This is an excellent example of setting tangible criteria.

These are the general skills they purposefully build in their own training program as their clients are hunting for primary, ensuring the clients possess these skills before introducing a dog to target odor.

However, we can use and apply this same concept to our own individual training programs.

All of us will have different short and long-term goals with our dogs and these goals may also change and shift over time.

Our dogs have individual needs, strengths and weaknesses we must take into account.

We as handlers also have certain skillsets, strengths and weaknesses we cannot ignore.

Our team as a unit is a crucial consideration as well.

Therefore, we require some data before we can create training criteria of our own.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What are my ultimate goals for my dog, myself and my team in regard to training Scent Work? What skills do we need (the dog, the handler and the team) to achieve these goals? Are there short-term goals that I can use to offer a more incremental and tangible progression toward my ultimate goal(s)?
  • Who is my dog? What is their personality? What do they naturally find reinforcing? What are their dislikes? Do they have any worries or concerns? What is their training background and history? What is their trialing history in Scent Work or in other dog sports? How will all of this play into what we ultimately want to do?
  • Who am I? What is my personality? What do I enjoy? What do I dislike? What excites me in terms of working and playing with my dog? What do I not enjoy in terms of working and playing with my dog? What are my mechanical skills? What is my personal training and trialing experience?
  • Who is my team? What is the dynamic between myself and my dog just living together, day-to-day and then when we are training or trialing together? Are there any disconnections, miscommunications, conflicts or weaknesses we can work on?Where and how does our team thrive?

Once you have a better picture of your goals, who your dog is, who you are as a handler and who your team is, you can then start developing your own criteria.

Think in terms of skills. If your ultimate goal is to compete to the highest levels of Scent Work, what are the skills needed to achieve this, breaking this down to skills for the dog, the handler and the team.

Next, determine how best to build and maintain those skills, while staying flexible. Remember, skills are fluid and not written in stone. We must ensure skills are not weakening or fading over time.

Additionally, we must have a way to make adjustments if needed. For instance, if we notice we are stagnating or backsliding, we must be flexible enough to change course! Essentially, think of a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc.

At this point, you are ready to create a rough criteria roadmap for your training program, all the while remaining flexible and realistic.

Why is that last part important? Well, things happen! Perhaps you notice a given criteria you set was unrealistic or lumped too many skills together. Adjust or lessen your criteria, even temporarily, and then incrementally work your way back up.

Taking a moment to more mindfully think about our training can make all the difference in the world. It can also make training so much more exciting! No longer are we just merely slapping hides around or going through the motions, we are more actively involved in the process.

A huge "THANK YOU" to Michael McManus and Natalie McManus for sharing this helpful graphic which illustrates training mindfully so well.

Are you looking for more resources discussing developing training plans?

Be certain to check out the following:

Happy Training!

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