New Dog Woes

Speakers:

Dianna L. Santos
Michelle Doram
Michael McManus
Natalie McManus

Podcast Image.jpg

A challenge many experienced Scent Work handlers will encounter, but do not often talk about, is trying to adjust to a new canine teammate. You, as the handler, have more knowledge and experience, perhaps even reaching high levels of success, but your new dog does not.

How can you adjust your expectations, training plan and goals to this new dog? We discuss this, and more, with a roundtable of instructors, Michelle Doram, Michael McManus and Natalie McManus.

Podcast Episode Transcript

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 the scenes look at which an instructor or trial official may be going through a much more. In this episode, we speak with Michelle [Doramm 00:00:13], Michael McManus and Natalie McManus about the woes of having a new dog. Before we start diving into the podcast episode self, let me just give you 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 provide high quality dog training instruction to as many people as possible. We're very fortunate to have a client base worldwide.


Dianna L. Santos:

For Scent Work University in particular, we provide online courses, seminars, webinars, and e-books that are all designed to help you achieve your scent work training goals. Whether that's just getting started in scent work, trying to develop some more advanced skills or getting ready for trial. We have a training solution for you. So should know a little bit more about me, let dive into the podcast episode itself.


Dianna L. Santos:

So in this episode, we have a round table discussion with Michelle [Doramm 00:01:07], Michael McManus and Natalie McManus, but some of the issues that people may have when they add in a new dog, once they've already done scent work for a while with an older dog, let's listen to that conversation. So I think for today, what we're going to be talking about is our young dogs, because we're getting lots of questions about young dogs and how they can do well in scent work, particularly for people who are already experienced in scent work and may have had an older dog that they were successful with. And now they're trying to make the transition of now working with a younger dog, with the expectations that they had from their older dog. So, that's causing all kind of the issues.


Dianna L. Santos:

The very first question we'll ask and we'll start with Michelle and then we'll go to Michael and then Natalie is, how do you recommend that your students balance their expectations of having a dog who is thorough in a search area, against the dogs youth or exuberance just because of their age. How do you balance those two?


Michelle Doram:

I think the most critical factor is recognizing that they are different dogs and no matter how experienced you are, a consecutive dog will have their own working style, even if you've trained them the same. And it goes more beyond training steps. It goes more into expectations on the grand scale of that dog is not your old dog, it's not your last dog, it's your new dog and their needs, their style, their learning process, their methods of problem solving will be unique and embracing that is the most important step. I see it so often I refer to it as second dog syndrome and it's really an overall mindset to me that that dog is an individual. And no matter how many times as you've done it. And if it's your second dog or you're six, they are still an individual. The good news is it makes you better handler because you're starting over. The steps may be familiar, but you have to adapt to different needs and be able to shift and make decisions according to that dog and not, well, this is what I did with my last dog.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. And then Michael, did you have anything to add on that?


Michael McManus:

Yeah, for sure. I find this whole thing really funny to me personally because the puppy stage and the adolescent stage they don't last. And if you don't enjoy it while it's here, it's gone. I saw this a lot in particular in sheep herding where people would fight super hard with their young dogs to push them out away from sheep because young dogs, when they herd sheep, they want to run tight, they want to bite, they want to do all that stuff. And so they fight over it and they'll push them out, push them out, push them out. And then the dog matures and the instinct for push out comes in and now the dogs a mile away and they have to fight to bring the dog in. And if you hadn't fought so hard when they were young, you wouldn't have to fight so hard now to fix all the problems that you're creating, which is going to happen to the young dogs that you rein in.


Michael McManus:

That puppy stage is only here for a moment. And the extra funny thing for me about it is a lot of the noser people I talk to, they get their second dog in nose work, particularly because they're like, "I want something with a little more drive," or "I want to do better than I did before." And then they get the young dog and the dog comes in with more drive. And the first thing they want to do is shut all that down. It's absurd to me in a way. It's like you enjoy it and maximize that right now because that dog's going to age out of it. It's just a maturity thing.


Dianna L. Santos:

That's a really good way of putting it. Natalie, did you have anything to add as far as how we can balance a young dog's exuberance with a handler's expectation that they should be more methodical, particularly if this is now their second dog, after they had an experienced dog that went maybe to title at a higher level.


Natalie McManus:

I definitely agree with both Michelle and Michael, that it is both an age thing and it's an individual thing and we shouldn't expect this dog to be the last dog. Probably in a lot of ways are we're going to end up being better than our last dog, because we know more and we're better and all of those things. And so we should enjoy who they are and let them express that. And it can be very hard for handlers. And so I think it becomes... You have to constantly remind yourself that this isn't the previous dog and I'm going to enjoy who they are. I'm going to try to maximize who they are. Not try to turn them into the last dog, because I do want them to be better than the last dog.


Natalie McManus:

And it may take some patience, but I just reframing it for ourselves repeatedly or helping our students reframe it as instructors so that we can try not to be frustrated by it. And sometimes it's not even a younger dog, I have a student who started her younger dog and then started her older dog and her older dog is actually faster, more exuberant, less methodical than the younger one is just who he is. And that's a hard transition.


Dianna L. Santos:

And that's a really good point. I'm glad that you pointed out. So to go off of that, what types of tips, and we'll start with Natalie, would you have for either students or instructors to help them make that reframing? So where you may have had someone who's been doing scent work or nose work for a while and now they know, okay, I need to cover the search area. I need my dog to check all the containers. I need to make sure get my thresholds and all this other stuff, right? And now they're doing this and they're saying, well fine, you want me to reframe it? But how do I do that? Because, I thought all that stuff was important. So how do you help them kind of bridge that gap?


Natalie McManus:

Yeah. I think one thing is going back and trying to remember who the previous dogs were when they were first starting. What your foundation stage was like even if the personality is completely different? What was your foundation stage and how much time did you spend in that foundation stage? And remembering it probably wasn't a couple weeks and then the dog was perfect or whatever you're imagining a perfect is in the moment. And allowing the dog and making space for the dog to go through all of that foundation training and not trying to rush them through it. Not trying to handle this dog like they're an elite dog because you're going to take away from this new dog's learning if you are treating them like an elite dog now.


Natalie McManus:

Throw away all the good handling that you have. Not all of it, but a lot of it try to leave it to the side so that you can allow them independence and learn and occasionally imperfect or more than occasionally imperfect handling from you so that they can become resilient and build all of those skills and build that mileage and remembering that it just takes time to build mileage. And you know, even two years down the road, they're still going to be mileage for the new dog to build relative to the old dog. And you can't rush that process. They just have to go through it and you have to allow them the exposure and experiences to go through that.


Dianna L. Santos:

Michael, did you have any thoughts?


Michael McManus:

There's a couple things. One, I want to double down on something that Natalie said. It's so important that it needs to be repeated, which is that I think the analysis that most people form when they're looking at their two dogs is just wrong, they're comparing their new dog to their old dog now. When they should be if you were going to compare, which you probably shouldn't be comparing, but if you're going to compare, you should compare your new dog to who your old dog was when he was new. And if you're not comparing those things, you're not making equal analysis and it's not fair. And then the second thing is that people need to understand that they are not entitled to their dog doing all these things that they want. They're not entitled to thresholds. They're not entitled to corners. They're not entitled to the dog moving at the pace they want to move.


Michael McManus:

Those are all things that are earned through hours and hours in the training box. And if your dog's not giving that to you now, it's because you are not there yet. Don't try to skip ahead and use your leash to force things on your dog. You're handling to force things on your dog. Take the time. And sometimes it takes years like it usually did with our first dog. And we just forgot just like most people forget just the general puppy stuff. They haven't had a puppy in a while. They forget all the barking and screaming at night, they forget the accidents and like my old dog's bite train. Well, like this is a puppy it's not bite train. Now take the time and earn it. You're not entitled to it now. You're just not.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. And Michelle, did you have any thoughts


Michelle Doram:

Just to contribute something different and to say that I agree completely with both Michael and Natalie's thoughts on the topic. But in addition, I'd like to add that as time goes on, we learn more about training and odor and what works for the dogs. And sometimes there are things that we did back in the day that maybe weren't the best idea by the time the dog was competing in higher levels and there's progress and change and we do things a little different. And so embracing those differences and sort of different steps along the way in foundation is just as important as appreciating the dog because if we're just convinced that we have to do it the same way, because while I got good results with that dog and I got to champion with that dog, there may be better ways in addition to your dog being different, there's so much more that we know now and things that I, for one personally have not repeated that we used to do with the original dogs.


Dianna L. Santos:

And that's a really good point is that you should be able to be flexible and to be open to what may work for a whole slew dogs. Because the new dog that you get, whether they're a puppy and older dogs may have completely different needs and the more tools you have in your toolbox, the better that is. So I think that's a very good point. So we're going to shuffle things up a little bit. We'll do Michael and Natalie then Michelle. I think this been a really great conversation so far. I think this is really providing people with some good information about how they can kind of adjust their thinking. But the big crux of these questions is really when you boil it down is how do I build a real relationship with a dog when I just spent all this time building a relationship with this other dog, I don't know how to restart.


Dianna L. Santos:

So do you have any tips for clients or for instructors on how they would be able to tell their clients specifically with scent work in mind, how it is they can go about building a relationship with a dog so that it doesn't feel as though they're cheaping out or that they're trying to cut corners or that they're not getting themselves al stuck up in their feelings that they're replacing the other dog. How would you run recommend that someone does that? Because we've had several people contact us with that specific question in mind, how do I now build this new relationship with this new dog when I have this really great relationship with this other dog? I don't know how to do that. So Michael, would you be able to talk about that?


Michael McManus:

Sure. Yeah. And that is a really touchy subject to have with students because as you're touching on some really deep emotional issues for people, for the most part, and you basically have to not just insinuate, but boldly state that the relationship isn't as good as it could be because people want to grow. And if you tell people that it almost sounds like an insult, even though it's not. Its just, everyone has to start from ground zero with every dog that's just the way it works. But the nice thing is that building a relationship is actually pretty straightforward. All you got to do is spend time. It is that simple. And it's not just in nose work, it's out of nose work and it's most important in my opinion, to spend time listening. And it's like the same as building a relationship with a person.


Michael McManus:

The more I spend time with the person, the more I listen to them, we share common experiences, the deeper that relationship goes. And over the years you end up getting to the point like in nose work in particular where you just know when your dog's in odor and not through analysis of the dog gave this head snap at this point and did that no. You just know it in your gut. Like my dog's on odor now you and everyone has witnessed that kind of relationship. And the only way to get there is just hours and hours and hours in the box. There's no way to rush it. In fact, usually attempts to rush it, slow it down. And we all know that because attempts to rush human relationships often slows it down if it doesn't ruin it completely from the onset. So just take your time, enjoy the process. Don't try to skip ahead just because you know what the end product looks like with your last dog. It'll come when it comes and just don't rush it.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. Natalie, did you have any thoughts?


Natalie McManus:

A lot of my thoughts were the same to just spend the time and try to be as patient as possible. And I think that talking through regularly for some people can make a big difference with the instructor because it can be easy to know that intellectually and to forget when we're actually in nose work in particular. And so finding ways as an instructor to bring that up or encourage looking at the dog through new eyes or helping them have patience and slow down, I find can be helpful. For myself, the hardest transition was from dog one to dog two and I really had to actually have some experiences that may just sort of slapped me in the face, this is not the previous dog and I can't treat her like the previous dog because I'm doing her a disservice. Then I was able to just talk myself into seeing her as her own, as an individual. And so sometimes that has to happen. And sometimes as an instructor may be able to set things up in a way that help people see the dog's differences and their strengths.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. And I like the fact that what you just said of as an instructor, being able to highlight maybe even just the strengths of this new dog, because being able to differentiate between two and being able to say, instead of you having this list of, well, this dog, isn't doing whatever it may be, but now they do these things really well or they have these things we can build off of. That's really important. And I think that's important just across the board every now and again for us to think about as instructors to help build up our client's opinion of their dogs, particularly if they're competing, in my opinion, where there's a higher likelihood of them to start chipping away at their dogs' worth as it was. "Well, we didn't get that hide. Wow!", Yada, yada. But if you can sometimes show, but look, your dog actually does this really well. It can help build them up again. So that was really good. Thank you, Michelle, did you have any thoughts?


Michelle Doram:

Again, I concur with Michael and Natalie. I feel like it goes along with mileage that time spent is an investment and that investment pays off in how well we know the dog. And the more advanced we get in skill with them, the more we know them. Referencing what Michael said about knowing your dog in odor, you know the way your dog works. You understand their thought process, their problem solving, that knowledge is bonding. It's really powerful with the first dog that I got to end up [inaudible 00:16:44] elite with. I felt like I had never been so connected to a dog in my whole life. And I've had a lot of dogs and I've had a lot of great dogs, but that which we develop the more time we invest and the more we learn together from each other pays off exponentially. So the thing that happens with second dog syndrome is dog number two or four or six gets shortcutted gets folded into the same class. At some point gets folded into the same practice, is doing the same hides. And just because they can solve them, not necessarily going through the same steps.


Michelle Doram:

That's another thing we forget is how many weeks we spent in class and how much excitement we had with the first dog and the novelty of practice and just pulling over somewhere and being like, "Wow, that looks like a great place to set hides," and the environmental exposure that we gave those dogs. And the excitement of going to trials and especially for people who travel those trips, that's a great opportunity for investment because you can have some play time along the way. And if it's a dog that travels well, it can be an amazing experience regardless of how the trial goes. But all that time and mileage both on your training and on your car is an investment that we often forget how much we had put in with dog number consecutives 2, 4, 6.


Dianna L. Santos:

And that's a really good point. And I hope that people really take that to heart. And it's just a natural thing that happens. If we don't think about it, if we don't stop to think about the way that you just laid it out, it's almost like a natural thing that happens. They are just tagging along. We set something up for dog number one, if they're still with us and dog number two, it's like, "Okay, we're going to do too." Okay. Now we have to go. Whereas before it was dog, number one, we did everything together. We went through this thing together and it was like, you put so well this investment of time. So I think it's very important that people keep that in mind and maybe make a more mindful approach to it where they are putting that investment in specifically for this new dog.


Dianna L. Santos:

So going off of that, we're going to scramble things up again. We'll start with Natalie, then we'll do Michelle then Michael. So Natalie, are there any tips that you have for either students or fellow instructors on how people may be able to adjust their goals that they're setting? So let's say you have someone who had a dog who just suddenly and drastically they passed away, right? They were working towards their detective in AKC or even their elite or summit in NCSW and they were at that high level. They had been working towards it for such a long period of time. And just suddenly it's all taken away from them. They grieved now they have a new dog and it's a younger dog, but it's not like a puppy puppy. How do you help this person go from where they just were maybe a few months ago to now they're making this drastic change where they're basically starting all over again. How can you help that person?


Natalie McManus:

Yeah, I think that's really difficult. And in your example, are you imagining that the new dog is starting like day one of nose work or that they've been sort of playing around nose work? Okay.


Dianna L. Santos:

It's day one, it's brand new,


Natalie McManus:

Brand new. Okay. So I would really well empathize with a student because that's really hard to have that, to lose all of that with the older dog or even sometimes it's not the dog passing away, but you have to retire them because of the dramatic injury or something. It can be excruciating. And so I think you have to find ways to have a lot of fun with the new dog and try not to put a whole lot of pressure on them early because you put that too much pressure on early and you're just going to erode the joy in nose work. But then especially if you're trialing quickly and with a lot of pressure, you're going to with a lot of doctors, I've seen it erode their appreciation of trialing and some dogs like trialing more than others, but I've seen dogs who I think could have been just fine trialing and with a couple of early stressful trial, they just, they get to a trial and they shut down.


Natalie McManus:

And I think it's really sad and unfortunate and some of that is somewhat dog-individual, but I think that we be really careful with those early trials and we probably, a lot of us didn't put as much pressure on our initial dogs in the early trials cause we were new to it and they were new to it and all that. But we go in with more expectations I think and we're better handlers and readers of the dog, but it's a new dog to us. So there's just a lot of complicating factors plus the grief from the previous dog. And so I think finding maybe mock trials and maybe doing more novice than you normally would have, like not just going NW one to NW two, but maybe doing a few different venues of novice stuff to get some low stress trials in there and some games and things and try to let the dog develop for as long as possible before putting more pressure on them, I think would be my main advice.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. And Michelle, did you have any suggestions?


Michelle Doram:

Yes. What I like to do is to talk with the handler about all the magic we're seeing in the new dog. All the baby steps. All the little fascinating it that were fascinating last time as well, but I frame it in the context of helping them learn the individual and fall in love with their way and their enjoyment and their fascination with the game they're playing. When we talk about it as like it's this magical experience that's happening for the dog and that we get to be a part of their light bulbs and their fun and their learning process, it can really help put some endearing moments into those days that they can take home with them and tell their friends about or tell their spouse about, "Oh, my dog learned this thing. It was so cool to see."


Michelle Doram:

When people want to go and share what their dog did that day a that's how you know that the learning was really powerful for both of them. And so I tried to focus a little bit on what's happening in the learning moments for the dog and those little highlight, those little special points in hope that those will be taken home.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. Thank you. And Michael, did you have any suggestions?


Michael McManus:

Yeah. So the two things. So one is that it's very difficult to transition. I've gone through a few dogs now and retired one. I haven't lost my oldest dog, but she's retired from nose work. It's difficult to her goal of being like elite, working on elite or nationals and now I've got a new dog. And it's easy to now just transfer the goal over to the new dog. That's come completely wrong. You need to table that and let that be part of your relationship with your last dog. And you need to start from the beginning and you probably need to reevaluate all your goals because if you haven't been thinking about what goals look like at a beginning stage, you need to remember that because when you first start out in nose work, like a lot of our goal was just do a search without the dog peeing. That's a great beginning dog goal.


Michael McManus:

Like you need to dial it back down and really get involved in and love the foundation building process because that foundation building process is what makes that nationals, lead, detective, whatever it is. That's what makes those goals possible. It's because of all the little goals of the bricks you built in your foundation. So start from the beginning and you might need to sit down with a pen and paper and really start from the beginning. What are our goals? To NW one, what happens before that? Okay. What happens before that? What happens before that? Right? And so goal, maybe a goal should be going on odor. Well, how do I know I'm ready to go on odor? What happens before that really think what happens right at the beginning. So there's that and the second thing is listen to the dog. I'm starting to see this happen more and more, but you get people like, "Oh, he's not really food motivated," and I'm like, your nine week old puppy needs a nap and you've just done three hours of nose work.


Michael McManus:

You don't get to say this dog's not food motivated yet. This dog puppy has barely grown up into a dog, okay. And same thing with toy drive like, "Oh he is not toy drive." It's like have you actually built play yet? Like how many months have you just played with your dog with no criteria with nothing. It's easy to forget that. And if your dog is not showing the drive like you pull him out of the crate and they're like, oh, training and they're like falling asleep. I'm seeing a lot of people doing too much. It's like maybe you need to take a step back and listen to what your dog's saying, that this is too much. You need to give the dog a rest. Especially if we're talking about really young dogs now at an older age, you might be doing too little and the dog needs more and but again, that all stems from listening to the dog and that of saying, "These are my goals and let's do them you got to meet the goal dog," and you got to listen to what the dog says they're capable of.


Dianna L. Santos:

And that's a really good reminder for people to have. And that those things are probably going to change and adjust as the dog ages. Dog training is hard. It requires a lot of flexibility. And when you start adding in mold, multiple dogs into the mix, it's 10 times harder, because maybe you just figured out how to get your sea legs with dog number one. And now you got to do it all over again for dog number two. And then if you have multiple dogs at the same time, God bless you. I don't know how people do it. I think my head would explode. I don't think I'm that talented. So I just wanted to end the podcast with maybe you guys listing off some of the big pitfalls that you're seeing with people with young dogs and maybe some solutions, maybe one pitfall and one solution that you could have. And we'll do Michael, Michelle, Natalie.


Michael McManus:

Trying kind of going on with everything we've been saying so far, the biggest pitfall I see and especially is jumping in too early to things, but especially jumping into competition too early. I think the competitions are just way more accessible than they were when we first started out and probably when [inaudible 00:27:16] when first started out. And you get a puppy and you can already plan their first competition as soon as they, get home and that's not fair. So jumping in too early is the biggest pitfall. And the biggest solution is probably to really invest a good period of time on foundation without even thinking about competition. Just give yourself a period of time with a puppy to not even think about competition at all and just lay foundation. And give it a solid block of time. Even if you think the dog's ready for competition, go a little longer. Competition's going to be there. It's not going away. So don't jump in. It's only going to hold you back really. It's going to hold you back from enjoying competition with your dog later.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. Michelle, did you have one pitfall and one solution for people?


Michelle Doram:

Yes. Something that I've been seeing in addition to people feeling maybe a little bit, even disappointed in dog number two, because either they're not the same or they're not as whatever, they're not as energetic. They're not as methodical. They're not as fast. Name a trait they're not as. But the part that's a little bit tougher is when people are comparing new dog to so-and-so's new dog and maybe you've got a class of veterans who've all got new dogs and in Southern California, that is a thing, it happens. And sometimes people do tend to deliberately get dogs that will have a certain potential for a particular sport. And that happens with nose work too. And some have the companion net, all the requirements on their day to day life checklist. So I see people comparing their new dog to someone else's even more than back with the original dogs.


Michelle Doram:

It's almost like the fascination and the novelty and the magic of watching our dogs learn has been replaced by, well, my dog didn't get that one as fast as someone and says... Intro to odor class, people say stuff like they're comparing each other's dogs and that's really sad to me. I think that it's obvious that that time investment suggestion, it goes a long way for that because we just, we have to fall in love with the new dog too. And the only way we can do it is by not only appreciating them for who they are, but learning who they are.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. And thank you for pointing that out. Yes. Keeping up with the Jones' is very dangerous. Please. Don't do that. How about you, Natalie? Did you have one pitfall in one solution?


Natalie McManus:

Yeah, a little bit piggybacking off of Michael, but once people start competing, because there are so many competitions nowadays, especially if you're doing a variety of venues. I see a lot of people not spending the time rebuilding criteria, precision, drive, and all of that between trials, even if you're only trialing once a month, that's a lot, but a lot of people are trialing even more than that. And so I think a really big encouragement I would have for people is to just spend the time between trials deliberately your retraining your foundation, and spend the time on drive building and precision and drive source, independence, confidence, all of these things that we know we want and we think we have, but if we think we have them and then ignore them, they're going to diminish, especially as we're eroding and eroding and eroding them through competition.


Dianna L. Santos:

Perfect. And it's a very good reminder for everyone. Please do not replace your training, a trialing.


Dianna L. Santos:

All right, guys. Well, thank you so much. This was a great conversation. I hope that everyone enjoyed this conversation that we had with Michelle [Doramm 00:31:57], Michael McManus and Natalie McManus. These topics are very difficult emotionally to deal with a lot of times, but they're important discussions for us to have. Many of us may have started scent work a long time ago. We may have done scent work with another dog for a period of time. And we may be adding a new dog into the mix. Whether that's a puppy or a young dog or just a new dog to us, or if one of our other previous dogs are now getting started in the activity, we need to keep in mind how it is that we can make this experience with this individual dog, just as good as it was with our prior dog.


Dianna L. Santos:

So we hope that you enjoyed this conversation, but we want to hear from you, we'll be posting this podcast episode upon our Scent Work University Facebook page. So please add in any comments or questions that you may have there. We also want to know what other topics that you may be interested in us covering, including these round table discussions like we had today as always. Thank you so much for listening. We've just reached over 30,000 downloads, which we are so incredibly thankful for. Happy training, we look forward to seeing you soon.