Importance of Reusable Foundation Exercises

Jul 25, 2023

Importance of Reusing Exercises

In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, we are beyond fortunate to have such incredibly talented instructors share their expertise with us. Through a variety of online courses, seminars, webinars and eBooks, clients from all corners of the globe have learned from them. A common theme of all our instructors is their stressing the importance of a solid foundation. Without a solid foundation, all your more “advanced” skills and behaviors will simply fall apart.

What I especially appreciate is how these instructors will stress the usage of specific exercises, or types of exercises, multiple times throughout the entirety of your dog’s sniffing journey.

That’s right, your exercises can, and should, be recycled and run through multiple times. Who knew?!

You do NOT need to, and I would argue should not, approach your training exercises as a “one and done” sort of thing. You should NOT tackle an exercise once and throw it away, blocking it from your mind, never to be revisited again.

Worst still, simply going through the motions of an exercise does not equate to LEARNING and GAINING the BENEFIT from said exercise.

Our training exercises should assist in obtaining, building and perfecting specific skills, either on behalf of the dog, the handler or the team as a unit.

To accomplish this, repeat after me: I shall practice mindful training and hide placement, not simply slapping hides around!

Thus, assessments should occur following every run of an exercise.

  • Was the goal reached?
  • Do we need to break anything down?
  • Perhaps we need to make things more involved or add to the exercise to allow for proper progression as we want to avoid stagnating.
  • Maybe we simply need to run the exercise again to ensure the dog truly understands.

However, none of this is possible if we are not being mindful, thoughtful and leveraging our exercises to their fullest potential.

“Fine, whatever, but what does this have to do with reusing an exercise?!”

Let’s say that you have an exercise which stresses the importance of source, meaning the dog must get as close to source as possible to be correct. We can all agree this is an extremely important skill in Scent Work. With that in mind, it would behoove us to pull this exercise out the week before AND after a trial.


Using a motivating exercise which stresses the importance of source before a trial can absolutely help the dog remember what they are expected to do at the trial.

“But why do I need to do it again AFTER the trial?”

Do you know exactly where the hide is at a trial?

“…Well, I got a “YES” from the Judge…”

Sure, which means that your dog alerted in the acceptable “YES” zone, but that doesn’t mean that your dog got as close to source as they possibly could. Worst still, you may not be rewarding at source. Thus, it is possible you rewarded your dog AWAY from source. Doing so changes the definition of the game to the dog.

Remember: our dogs are GUESSING what the game is all about. They use what WE tell them to DEFINE the game. This includes our reward timing and placement.


Wouldn’t we then want to clarify for our dogs, “I know we traveled over the weekend to that new place and some of the rules for the game seemed different, but I really DO want you to get as close to source as possible and then awesomeness will happen.”

All this to say, we should take a closer look at our foundational exercises, determine how we can continue to use them, build off them, modify and leverage them throughout the entirety of our dog’s sniffing journey.

Fortunately for our clients, this is a common theme laid out in all the presentations offered by our instructors. In particular, this was expertly explained in Michele Ellertson’s latest The Dog-Driven Container: The Why and The How Webinar, so be certain to check that out if you haven’t already.

Can you think of some foundational exercises that you could dust off and recycle to emphasize the importance of a core skill to your dog, yourself and your team?

Dianna has been training dogs professionally since 2011. She has done everything from teaching group training classes and private lessons, to specializing in working with fearful, reactive and aggressive dogs, to being a trial official and competition organization staff member.

Following a serious neck and back injury, Dianna was forced to retire from in-person dog training. But she was not ready to give up her passion! So, she created Pet Dog U and Scent Work University to provide outstanding online dog training to as many dog handlers, owners and trainers possible…regardless of where they live! Dianna is incredibly grateful to the amazingly talented group of instructors who have joined PDU and SWU and she looks forward to the continued growth of PDU and SWU and increased learning opportunities all of these online dog training platforms can provide.

In June 2021, Dianna and her business partner, Sean McMurray launched Cyber Scent Work, Inc., an organization that operates in the gray space between training and trialing in Scent Work. With Cyber Scent Work, Inc., handlers have the opportunity to earn Qs, titles and ribbons while also receiving helpful training advice regardless of whether they qualify or not! Be sure to check out Cyber Scent Work, Inc., you will be happy you did!

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