As I embarked on my dog training career, there was one thing that stood out to me above all else: people will use excessive mimicry throughout the training process.
They will stare unblinkingly at their instructor, trying to take in every minute movement and detail, and then replicate it to the letter.
“What is wrong with that!? The instructor knows what they are doing!”
In truth, instructors will oftentimes invite their students to do mimicry. For instance, luring a dog into a sit. The instructor will mime the motion, have their clients repeat the motion on their own and then practice with their dogs.
Although, there is inevitably one student who struggles to get their dog to sit. They anxiously look around the room, seeing all the other handlers beaming at their promptly sitting dogs, as their pup is doing everything but the requested sit! Their dog is scooting backwards or jumping up, trying to snatch the treat out of the air. Frustrated and embarrassed, the handler feels a knot form in their chest. They desperately try to find the detail they must have missed. They are positive they are doing the exact same thing their instructor did…why isn’t it working?!
If only this poor handler understood WHY the instructor held the treat and moved their hand a certain way. How it was meant to get the dog to slightly lift their head up, gently invoking the dog to push their center of balance backwards, thus urging them to sit on their haunches.
This simple “why” explanation would have prevented the client from slowly circling the drain of despair. Armed with this crucial information, they would have adjusted their hand positioning to ensure their dog successful sat.
“Sigh Santos, what does have to do with Scent Work?!”
The level handlers mimic Scent Work instructors, speakers at workshops and seminars, trial officials or other teams they see at trial, is ten-times worse than what you will see in any basic obedience class.
This mimicry can have problematic results.
Ever heard of “It depends” as an answer to a Scent Work training question?
Essentially, mimicry is a single-learning event for the handler and spreads like wildfire throughout the entire community.