New Year to Breathe

Dec 31, 2022

As a new year looms, it is as good time as any to look back, reflect and attempt to set the tone for the next twelve months.

“But what does that have to do with Scent Work?!”

A whole lot when you stop to think about it.

The past few years have been, well, trying, to say the very least. The entire globe has undergone a massive trauma event and it felt as though 2022 was a way for everyone to rush to experience some sense of normalcy, catching up on what they may have missed out on the years before.

More people than ever flocked to play the sniffy game with their dogs (a WONDERFUL thing!) and wanted to make as much progress as they possibly could.

Large numbers of individuals and clubs tackled the prospect of learning how to host Scent Work trials, attempting to offer even more sniffy opportunities for dogs and their handlers.

Handlers leapt at this opportunity, filling their calendars to the brim with events of every variety week after week after week.

Trial officials stepped up to fill the demand, having not a spare day for as far as the eye could see.

Instructors worked feverously, finding new and creative ways to provide the training and learning opportunities their clients clamored for.

“That all sounds great!”

It is also exhausting and not overly sustainable.

There has been a fair amount of burnout in 2022 across the board.

Dogs exhibiting dips in their enthusiasm to play, simply due to being tired. Handlers getting stuck in their heads, feeling as though they were “not doing enough” if every waking moment wasn't jampacked with something. Trial hosts were exhausted, barely having a moment to recoup from one event before receiving notices screaming, “WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE?” Trial officials and instructors fell ill or seemed to lose the love for their craft, suffering from empathy fatigue and feeling as though they were failing, even though that was the farthest from the truth.

“…That all sounds bad.”

It is.

2022 was the year of catching up. 2023 should be the year of breathing in.

When it comes to Scent Work, we are living through a Renaissance of sorts. There is a plethora of opportunities to partake in, be it training or trialing. It can be overwhelming at times!

Instead of panicking or rushing, breathe and take a moment to decide: what is going to work best for you and your dog? Trust me, these opportunities are not going anywhere! If anything, there will be even MORE opportunities for you to enjoy!

When you do settle on what you want to do, make a commitment to add in a rest day for every event you sign up for. That’s right, a day when you will do NO Scent Work at all. Yes, you can do TOO MUCH Scent Work and the results are not pretty.

Instead, use that rest day to fully appreciate your dog in some other way. Taking a hike. Going to the beach. Laying around on the couch for a lovely cuddle session together. Practice being still and allowing both you and your dog to fully recoup, rest and recover. Allow your dog some time to themselves to enjoy a chew as you partake in some other activity or hobby. This is not time wasted, it is time savored.

“Fine! Is that it?”

Remember, the theme is breathing in.

Take a deep breath and think through your shortcomings from the past year. How did they undercut your own progress? How can you learn from those mistakes and avoid those same pitfalls in 2023?

For myself, it is all about balance. Identifying ways to address and deal with my own mental hang-ups and self-doubt while not falling into the same old habits that feed into them. Take some of my own advice for once. There is no need to take everything so damn seriously!

That means when it comes to Scent Work, or any type of dog training or dog sport activities, practice and train, but not until “we get it perfectly right”. Submit a virtual entry. Go to a trial. Put myself out there and try. Perfection doesn’t exist. We can always improve but that is the beauty of it – we will never be “done”.

Know that I am a workaholic and will put work ahead of everything else. It is also a convenient excuse to not put myself out there when it comes to training or competing, "Oh, but look at all the work I have to do..." sort of thing. That approach is not going to work anymore now that I am sharing my life with a dog once again. Remind myself how miserable those “dog-less” years were. Do not add to my already painfully long list of regrets. The work can wait, appreciate the dog instead.

My most important goal is to be kinder to myself. This is going to be SO HARD TO DO, but it is necessary. Did I overextend myself and am now too tired to do the million-and-one things on my never-ending list? Breathe. It will be okay. Prioritize what must be done and break the other stuff down into smaller pieces. Have a cuddle session with Ozzie to refill my tank. Have the brownie. Try again next time. Do a fun finding-of-treats search session. Marvel at how awesome Ozzie is at hunting even though he is brand new to this. Allow myself the opportunity to learn from others. Take the webinar or class. Read the book. Don’t be so hard on myself and don't constantly put myself on the backburner. I cannot help anyone else if I am too burnt out to take care of myself.

See a pattern? Breathe. Try my best, know I can always improve and breathe some more.

That is how I am going to head into the new year, breathing, having fun, learning, improving and relishing in the required daily cuddle sessions with the tiny, ridiculously adorable creature known as Mr. Ozzie.

How are you going to set the tone for the new year?

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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