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What is Failure?

When it comes to training and trialing in Scent Work...what is failure? Is there such a thing a complete and total failure? Or, is how we react to how something went while we were training or trialing affect our emotional state and that, in turn, feeds into the possibility of a total failure? Meaning, if we react horribly to how something went, does that reaction then lead to failure as opposed to what we are reacting to? Should we be shying away from failure or should we be including it in our training, to inoculate ourselves from that negative emotional response? If so, how do we go about doing this? Are there pitfalls doing this? Could we be souring a relationship between the handler and their dog? And if it is an instructor doing this, could they be potentially pushing their clients too far and souring that relationship?

These are some of the questions we discuss with Michael McManus in this podcast episode. At the very least, it will get everyone thinking about what their perceptions of "failure" may be, whether they need to be adjusted or not and how it is important to be mindful of our approaches with long-term consequences in-mind.

Podcast Episode Transcript

Dianna L. Santos:

Welcome to the it's All About Scent Work Podcast. In this podcast we talk about all things scent work. That can include training tips, behind the scenes look of what your instructor or trial official may be going through, and much more. In this episode, we're going to be speaking with Michael McManus to talk about what is indeed failure. Before we dive in into the podcast episode itself, let me just do a very quick introduction on myself. My name is Dianna Santos. I'm the owner and lead instructor for Scent Work University, Dog Sport University, Family Dog University, and Canine Fitness University. These are online dog training platforms that are designed to provide high quality dog training instruction to as many people as possible and we're very fortunate to have a client base that's worldwide.


Dianna L. Santos:

For Scent Work University in particular, we provide online courses, seminars, and webinars that are designed to help people throughout any stage of their Scent Work training career. Whether you're just getting started, developing some more advanced skills, or preparing for trial. We also have a regularly updated blog and podcast episodes like what you're listening to today. So now that you know a little bit more about me, let's dive into the podcast episode itself.


Dianna L. Santos:

So you had an interesting topic that you wanted to cover about failure in dogs. So since this is your idea, I want you to first, let me know what you're thinking about that, as far as what we're going to talk about today, and then we'll go from there.


Michael McManus:

Okay. I've noticed that people's attitudes seem to be supremely important in dog training and nose work is definitely no exception to that. And the way people come away from a tough trial, or a failed trial, or a bad training experience, or a bad workshop or whatever it is. I have seen people have the same exact experiences. Objectively the dog found or missed the same number of hides, the dogs falls the same number of times or whatever it may be, but come out of it with a totally different perspective. And so I always have this question for my students and for people I work with, "What is your definition of failure? What does failure mean to you? Is there such a thing as failure? Is failure a bad thing?" All these questions, I think it's just a framing in our own minds, but it seems to make a huge difference to our experience of life in general.


Dianna L. Santos:

Okay. So for me personally, when I am "framing failure", when I'm talking about exercises or training, it's always in the light of try not to set something up that's way too difficult for the dog to do at the moment that they are in their training. Not that you shouldn't be stretching them, but you shouldn't be setting them up to fail. Correct me if I'm wrong, if what you're basically talking about is something slightly different in that when you are going through an experience, particularly with trial or with doing an exercise that did not go the way that you were expecting, to then think that that was a failure that you are then internalizing and turning into an emotional response that then affects your dog. Let me ask you two things. One, is that a correct assessment of what you mean? And two, are they different at all?


Michael McManus:

Yeah. Well, I mean yeah those questions are... I don't even know because there are so many questions to this. So your example of training the dog and trying to set them up so that they don't fail. What does that mean?


Dianna L. Santos:

Right. So for me personally, whenever I'm trying to, and I probably have not done a very good job, is avoiding having a student particularly in the very beginning. Try to rush to step Z when their dog is barely understanding step A.


Dianna L. Santos:

So when a dog is first starting out and they're like, "Oh, I'm going to put the height upon my food, just hide food on top of the ceiling blade for my ceiling fan." To me, the dog is not going to be able to get it. And then if they don't understand?


Michael McManus:

What do you mean by get it? Do you mean get the food physically or understand the concept?


Dianna L. Santos:

Well, depending on the dog, both. So not that dogs do not understand that squirrels and trees are there, of course they do.


Michael McManus:

Yeah. It doesn't seem to, no one is looking out for the dog being able to get it with squirrels.


Dianna L. Santos:

Right. Exactly. So in the context of training though, particularly when we're talking about students, particularly if they don't have any formal background in dog training and knowing that people like to rush ahead, or they don't know what they're looking at, and we'd also don't know who their dog is, where their dog may have all of these insecurities, or there may be undue pressure from the person, the person doesn't know what they're doing, yada, yada, yada. That if you were then to set up that exercise for that dog and the person is expecting the dog to do something, but they don't know what. And the dog is like, well, it's up there, but I can't get it. And I don't know what I'm supposed to do. So the person doesn't know what they're supposed to do. The dog doesn't know what they're supposed to do. And it can spiral from there.


Dianna L. Santos:

To me that would be setting the dog up and also the person as an instructor to fail, because there was no setting of clear expectations. Does that mean that the dog is going to completely break and there's no coming back from it? Probably not. But there are also those certain cases where you could diminish the trust that the person has in you, the trust that the person has in the dog. And then also the trust that the dog has in their person, as far as this weird game is concerned. So that's what my brain always goes to as far as setting things up for failure, understanding that yes, dogs understand squirrels and trees.


Michael McManus:

Yeah. Well-


Dianna L. Santos:

And that's fine. Go ahead.


Michael McManus:

And that's interesting to me because part of where I'm coming from is that I'm not sure that situations like that. That a lot of people would call failures, failure in terms of us as a trainer setting up an environment that's beneficial to the dog. I'm not 100% sure those are total losses. I really think that the dog is still processing information, is still learning, is still... When I set up a search and the dog absolutely is nowhere near finding it. They still took an information about that environment that sets them up for more success in the future.


Michael McManus:

Now, I have seen dogs come away with bad concepts of, for example, starting to false because they learn that something else is reinforcing, right? Like something the handler's doing, they can earn an easier reinforcement by working the handler versus working odor. I've seen that happen. But I also don't think that comes from setting up a difficult environment. I think that comes from bad reinforcement. It's the moment that pays the dog that's the danger. It's not putting your dog... Just like, that's why we don't have the same problem with dogs false alerting on squirrels. It's because there's no false reinforcement moment. There's no reinforcer for anything other than finding a squirrel.


Dianna L. Santos:

Right. And I would agree with you with that in that people's attempt to want to help can absolutely be problematic. And you'll see that for dogs particularly who already have issues and are already looking towards their person for assistance. And then the person feels bad because whatever the concept may have been to them it feels like the dog's been working for a million years. The dog's only been working for five seconds. And then they decide to do something. That I think is entirely true. And you'll see that I've seen that in classes. What I'm concerned about and what I'm always trying to stress is that just understanding human nature that people do not and nor should they as clients fully appreciate all of the intricacies. Even though this is an instinct sport of who their dog is and what their dog is doing at any given moment.


Dianna L. Santos:

So the reason I use a ceiling blade example, because it actually happened to one of my clients and her husband stuck the food box up there. And she was freaking out because her dog had spent who knows? Three minutes trying to find this thing. She didn't know where it was. The dog didn't know where it was. And now there's all this conflict between her and her husband. And now the dog was all, "Oh my goodness." Because of that now could the argument be made that simply because of their reaction? I guess.


Michael McManus:

But I think that seems eminently obvious to me at least.


Dianna L. Santos:

Yeah. But the problem is that you can't dissect that piece. I can't make those people as an instructor not do those things. The only thing that I can do is try to walk them through doing an exercise that will prevent them getting there in the first place. So that when they and their dog already have a reinforcement history, that's however long when they do hit a situation they have something in the bank that they can fall back on. This was literally, I think like week two and they were practicing at home.


Dianna L. Santos:

So now as far as the wife was concerned this was a complete loss of an activity. The dog didn't want to play anymore because it just turned into such a big thing. And it was just a nightmare. It took like months for us to build that back up again. Could that have just been a one off? I guess it could have been. But it is I understand your point and I think there's validity in it. However, it's just understanding that if I was just working with the dogs and sure. You put something out, you've pulled a wrong gun, right. You just sit in your chair and you're like, figure it out, and we'll wait here.


Michael McManus:

Okay. So hang on because I have a couple thoughts that could help parse this out a little bit. So let me try to, I got two separate thoughts that I want to throw out there and then hear your responses to. So the first is that we're coming at this problem from two completely different perspectives and they're both valid. One is the perspective of an instructor instructing people who may or may not have a certain level of expertise or understanding. And the other perspective, which is the perspective I'm coming from, which is I'm trying to figure out if there's a set of attitudes and ideas in our own head that we can have that allows our dog to extract meaning and information from even the worst case scenarios. Right? So if we throw 100 different handlers and dogs into that situation of the food on the fan blade, not every dog and handler will be coming out of it the same way.


Michael McManus:

Some of them will come out with like this appreciation that they saw their dog lift its nose in the air and wank, "Wow. Could they have possibly noticed it up there? That's amazing." And others of them will be like that where this is ruined, my dog is destroyed, right? So we're going to have a whole spectrum.


Michael McManus:

And I wonder what attitudes can I use in my own training to extract value out of bad situations. Now, the second thing about that hide up in the fan blade is it's funny because it's not unlike a lot of experiences dogs have coming home. And it points again to handle psychology in the way we feel in the moment, because I think almost everyone does this with their puppies within the first week of coming home. They take something from that puppy and put it up as high as they can so the puppy can get it. And most puppies don't get upset and mopey over this. Most puppies get crazy and driven to get whatever that item was that you hid from them up high. And some puppies even learn to find that thing up in the shelf. And you're not even trying to teach them that, but they're figuring it out on their own. So those are the two things I kind of want your feedback on.


Dianna L. Santos:

Sure. So I think that absolutely the psychological piece from the handlers definitely play a role. And even from my own standpoint of working with my own clients of seeing someone who is so concerned about their dog, their dog is blind. Their dog is reactive. Their dog is fearful. Their dog has curly hair, whatever the case may be. That they're so worried all the time that once they're able to shave that off a little bit, then you're able to see both the dog and the person blossom a little bit.


Dianna L. Santos:

Once they're able to kind of take a breath, the exercises will go absolutely better. Even exercises that I had set up specifically for that team when the handler is so incredibly worried about it without having a better word to describe it, they will still struggle as a team. Even though I'm fairly 99.9% certain the dog can do it. And I also know if the handler just believed in themselves they could do it, they do still struggle. So I completely agree with you that if they were not going into that situation basically expecting to fail that they would be doing a better job. And once they allow themselves to feel as though they're actually capable then they do better. So I believe that is absolutely accurate. What I am struggling with is that instructor piece.


Michael McManus:

Yeah. And I think it's valid. I think we need to teach people how to instruct people so that they don't go down that dark path of feeling betrayed and ruined. But also it's part of that instruction might be teaching our students how to have the right attitude as well.


Dianna L. Santos:

Right. And that is complicated because you have the person's own personal background. You have their background with their dog, their background with anyone else they may have worked with. And also quite frankly, how they are comparing themselves to other people and other dogs, which complicates things even more.


Michael McManus:

Yeah, it does.


Dianna L. Santos:

Because now you have someone who may already have very low self-esteem. Very unsure of what they're going to be able to do. A lot of this is based off of just not understanding and knowing that they don't understand and then seeing someone else in their dog and they deemed them to be perfect when they're probably not.


Dianna L. Santos:

And now there's this added pressure of, I need to be perfect too, but now I'm so far beyond that. I can't even, so then it just exacerbates itself. So again, the way that I approach everything is from a very macro level is particularly with things like this is conversations that other people are going to be listening to is okay, so someone listens to this and like, okay, this is an interesting conversation that Michael and Dianna are having. I'm an instructor. What am I supposed to? I'm I supposed to take physiology class? Am I supposed to now deconstruct my clients? And how am I supposed to do my exercises now I don't know if I'm doing anything right?


Dianna L. Santos:

So that's how I always try to approach things like, okay, I think this is valid, but then how are we able to apply it knowing that there are these pitfalls set along the way. And when would you be doing this? Is it better to do it when someone already has a certain amount of experience where they can then trust in your expertise and they can trust in themselves and their dogs a little bit. And then you can say, hey, let's stretch this a little bit. Let's stretch your expectations. Let's challenge the way that you've been thinking about this. So let me know what you think about that?


Michael McManus:

Yeah. And I think that bleeds over into the discussion about competition as well because that discussion about when you should be doing these things, it's so critical. And one thing that I've noticed as an instructor is that I've had a variety of students go through a variety of different paths. And one path that I've seen happen over and over again is they got a really nice dog. They're a pretty decent handle, maybe they come from other dog sports. So they kind of have a clue before they began. And they pass their first levels. They pass their second levels, flying colors, flying colors, flying colors. Then they get to that end of E3 or that master level or whatever level it is. And they crash and burn. And I've seen a lot of those people completely disillusioned and quit the sport. And then I've seen the other people who failed at the ORT, the most basic level, who fail at that level and who do better.


Michael McManus:

And so I ask myself that question, is there an appropriate time for failure? I think we would both agree that in the sport of nose work, it's not exactly like agility or obedience. That this kind of a failure is unavoidable because we're playing with real environments that change, that do things that... You're going to set things up that you had no idea what you set up. There's no way to avoid failure but how much I think it's also dangerous to try to avoid it too much that you become super fragile when the failure happens.


Dianna L. Santos:

Right. And I agree with you. So then the question still is how do you do this in practicality? So how do you do this so that I'm just trying to think from a class stand point. So you're teaching an in-person group class. You have people who... I'm going to talk about people on primary. We're going to talk about they did primary for your first intro class. They all were rockstars, their dogs are good. They're good. There's no big worries. So now they're working on odor. And we'll even give them they've been on odor for six weeks and now they're like, "Oh, we'd like to try an ORT set up. Can we do an ORT setup?"


Dianna L. Santos:

Okay, great. So how are you then going to tie all that in so that you're balancing I want them in their dogs to approach ORT and apply all of the same skills I want them to have. But at the same point, if they get a no I don't want them to fall apart. So from a practical standpoint are you doing an ORT setup where, it is what it is, you come in, you do it. And if you do well then great. And if you don't, we'll talk about it. And then do you do one where you're purposefully setting it up where you're pretty much pretty sure that they're not going to do well so that you can talk about it later? How are you actually applying this?


Michael McManus:

Yeah. Okay. So I'm going to lay out basically how I do it and also kind of how I prepare my students through this, through their intro classes. Because I may run my classes a little differently than some people. And it's worth mentioning that before I tell you what I would do in that scenarios, what prep I would have given my students ahead of that before that.


Michael McManus:

So one thing is that I don't have level classes. I don't have a beginning, an intro, NW1, NW2, NW3 class. I have topic classes where people of all levels are doing the exact same material. So in the same class, you might have a dog doing elite division who is also, and another dog who's on primary doing the same lesson material, but on primary. The other thing is I do believe so once we get through several weeks of this, now, of course I'm altering lesson material to each individual dog, just like I would in a normal class.


Michael McManus:

But there are certain hides that work well with odor that don't work well with food and vice versa. So there are alterations. And I should say that I don't do a lot of, I guess what a lot of people would consider elite division challenges, just because I don't think you need to do them to get a good dog.


Michael McManus:

So I make really hard problems, but the odor and the fan blade, it's funny because I just did that the other day with a student intentionally. And the dog never found it in the 20 minutes we let the dog search for it. But we talked about observing the dog. We talked about reading and what the dog noticed about the odor and didn't notice about the odor. It was a really great lesson and how to set the dog up next, like what to train so the dog can find this in the future. So it's really funny that I did this just like yesterday.


Michael McManus:

So that's kind of the preliminary stuff. Now, the other thing is I do think as a trainer, that it's important to set up scenarios where there's not a safety net. Where here's a search, here's a blind search and there may be some learning objective in it. And it's not saying I'm trying to get them to fail, although in the right scenario I'll do that. But you have to know what you're doing before you do that of course. But I do think it's important for the trainer to know what are my students going to do if I don't bail them out. And sometimes you can do this just by letting them build trial, because there's not that safety net of the trial either.


Michael McManus:

But personally, I like to be right there ready to recover it right after it happens, rather than sending them to trial and then getting a phone call back of how poorly they did and then saying, "Oh, I'll see you in five days to help recover you." I want to recover them right then and there. Right?


Michael McManus:

And then the next thing is that I do more regularly than that especially with this group of, let's say people who are well perspective or ORT people. I will set up games and I love games. Games are my thing. So set up games where the objective of the game, at least behind the scenes is for people to take a look at their own perspective on their own failure. So for example, and I know I'm giving you a whole lot to respond to in a second, but an example of a game like this is we do a game called watch and learn. I think we talked about this recently.


Michael McManus:

So you're not allowed to move at all. We time the dog, when they call into the search area, timer starts, when their nose hits that odor, timer stops. Okay. And the fastest dog wins. And what we talk about inevitably during that is that some people feel like losers, even though the whole time the dog's found the odor. There's no failing from a dog perspective. From the dog's perspective, each dog found the odor, right? But from a handler perspective, some people feel like, well, my dog took longer and that person did it faster and their dog did this and that. They're comparing themselves. And so we talk about that. It's like, you don't have a right to inflict on your dog your own feelings of failure. Your dog may be slower and that may cause you to have a lower time on this, but maybe that's not a bad thing.


Michael McManus:

Maybe that's going to help you later on and your dog's going to be the one who always nails the threshold coming into the search. Maybe your dog's 14 years old, and your dog is doing a great job and they're happy and they're having fun. So why judge them on being slower than some other dog? That's a young dog. And so we do have this heart to heart talk where we discuss their own feelings of how their dog performed or didn't perform. And that goes for the fastest dog too. It's like, look, hey, you were the fastest dog here, but there may be dogs out there that are faster than you. And so you shouldn't necessarily puff yourself up for this moment. You should be happy with this search because your dog's having a good time. And you think your dog is performing at their peak potential, not because of how you relate yourself to other people.


Dianna L. Santos:

So that is a fantastic game. And I love the fact that you basically nail on the head what people A, are going to do as far as comparing with one another. And B, helping them I think develop or hopefully develop the skills at least think about how they can kind of bar themselves from that.


Dianna L. Santos:

I think that is wonderful. What I am concerned about is again because I know that a lot of people listen to this is that they're going to listen to that first piece, not taking the second one and basically going to perpetuate. So that's my concern. And that's my concern also just from clients. It's just people who give it a try. So to throw something out as far as an example is working with distractors. For me, this is a big bugaboo, and it's just a personal bugaboo. I could be completely wrong about it, but I don't think it's appropriate to place a dog who's working brand new on distractors in a situation where you're basically begging them to bother the distractor, particularly food.


Dianna L. Santos:

So for me, I think it makes a hell of a lot more sense to make the hide much more obvious and then incrementally introduce the distractor in such a way that the dog is basically you are urging them to be correct. It bothers the hell out of me when I see people setting up searches where there is like a piece of pizza right next to the start line and the hide is 15 feet away. And then they're mad at the dog for getting the pizza. That's the kind of thing that just drives me up the wall. Could I be wrong? I guess? I don't think so. It just makes me feel gross. It makes me feel gross on behalf of the dog, because what's the point of that. I don't understand the point of that exercise. To me the point of the exercise is to basically ensure the dog makes a mistake so you can correct them. I'm not done with that. I don't think that that's appropriate. I don't know if that falls within our discussion at all.


Michael McManus:

It absolutely does because that's a training failure. Right? So you could leave that training example and feel like your dog had failed or that you had failed. And I would say that's partially right. Right? But let me ask you this about that example because I agree like that example that you described it like fits the saying, if you play stupid games you win stupid prizes. That's just stupid. You set yourself up for failure. So guess what you got? You got failure. But however is the problem that you provoked the wrong response or is the problem that you didn't have control of the situation.


Michael McManus:

So let me clarify that. The way I typically introduce food distractions. I know that's not really what we're talking about, but it'll help clarify is I play it's your choice. So I have food in my hand. I have odor in my other hand and I'm provoking the wrong response because the food is right here next to them. The only difference is the dog goes to the food, I just closed my hand. Eventually the dog goes to the odor. At some point they will go to the odor and then I reward them. But that's still, it is teaching the dog through failure. Right. Or do you have a different perspective on that or do you think that's not a fair exercise to do?


Dianna L. Santos:

I do not think that that is the same because you are still not giving the dog access to the food. So if you were sitting there and you had that same setup and if the dog went to get the food, but you kept your hand open and said, "What a dumb dog." Then yeah, I have a problem with that. But the fact that you're closing your hand-


Michael McManus:

It's still a punishment.


Dianna L. Santos:

Right. Yes, absolutely. It is still a consequence, but it's not the same emotional response.


Michael McManus:

Yes. And so there we get back to that original point which is doesn't it always come back to the emotional response of the handler?


Dianna L. Santos:

Absolutely. But what my concern is, is knowing that those types of emotional responses are reinforcing to the person. You feel really good when you tell someone off.


Michael McManus:

That's true.


Dianna L. Santos:

It's super reinforcing. And it's also reinforcing which is why it's such a problem to feel crappy about yourself. When you are prone, speaking from experience of really not liking yourself very much. And you're given an opportunity to feel that way again, and to provide all kinds of examples of why you suck. You're very happy in that space in a kind of very strange twisted way. So I could absolutely see someone even subconsciously setting something up so that they could once again prove, see, we can't do this. That it's almost, if my dog is proven to be capable now I'm not able to get these brownie points because I thought we weren't capable. Does that make sense?


Michael McManus:

Yeah. Well, in fact, I've seen a lot of people in that exact mode and it's depressing and upsetting for everyone. And you can see it from a mile away, like spectators at a trial can see that attitude just in a 32nd run, right? And something I've noticed is in a way you have to set up those handlers for failure. And what I mean by that is you have to make the dog successful. And then when the handler expects failure and then get success show them how wrong it was to expect failure from their dog. But yeah, it's funny. I've seen so many handles like that and it's a really terrible attitude have.


Dianna L. Santos:

Yeah. I agree with you on a lot of this, where I'm struggling is how to apply it so that you're avoiding more problems. Because as an instructor you can only control when they're there with you, right. You can't control what they're doing at home. And what I always am very worried about is what's happening in between when I used to teach a person what was happening in between those times that we were together. What's happening when they walk out the dog, walk out the door. What's happening when they're at home. What's happening when they're practicing with their friends.


Dianna L. Santos:

And if I am inadvertently perpetuating a worst state for them and their dogs I would feel terrible. So I don't know how to walk that line. I don't know how to do that for the wide range of people where I think that what you're talking about is similar things that I may have already done just may have called it something different where you're pushing someone, not even the dog. You're pushing the person, you're pushing their envelope to show them that they can actually just, I mean, that their dog can do something.


Dianna L. Santos:

But there are other people that I wouldn't even bother. There are other people I wouldn't dare because I would think that it would just totally ruin the whole thing. And I also know that none of this stuff in a bubble. That I can do some work until I'm blue in the face, but the very same things that I'm saying them up for, they're going to be bleeding over to how they deal with their dog day to day.


Dianna L. Santos:

So if I keep poking that bear it could then blow up in my face. So now them and their dogs are more miserable than before. So that's what I'm struggling with. I think that the overall concept that you're talking about is absolutely valid. I just don't know how to apply for the large swath of people that are available for clients.


Michael McManus:

Yeah. And all of that it makes total sense to me, it's completely valid. And I think that as a trainer I think the key to a lot of this is to actually form relationships with your clients and your students. And so that you know who they are and where they're coming from psychologically. I think it's very dangerous to play with people that you don't know. And so I have to work differently with people at a workshop than I do in my normal classes. I don't know where they're coming from. I can't set them up the same exercises that I would for my students.


Michael McManus:

And I definitely think anybody who's an instructor, who's teaching people should do everything they can to learn about psychology and learn about temperament and learn about teaching people and take classes and that kind of stuff, so that you can find your path forward. Just like with dogs, you're going to make mistakes. Have I ever pushed someone or a dog or a handle or too far? Oh yeah, I've done it. And it's not fun. It's really a bad thing. And some of those relationships were ruined and will never be recovered. And some of them we made through it and we laugh about it now. But I became a better trainer for it. And I definitely think that there is truth on both sides about not pushing and about not pushing enough.


Dianna L. Santos:

Right. So just to try to wrap this up. So I think for people who are like, "Oh my God, this is just so big, I can't wrap my head around this." I think that a way to kind of bring it down a little bit is the overall concept of being A, okay with failure as so... We'll, split this up into categories. Most of the people who will listen to this are handlers, they're people who own dogs and maybe playing for fun or a competition. So if you want to build on any of this, by all means go for it. So for that category of people that it is okay for both you and your dog to fail at something that you should not be falling apart if you were to get a no at a trial. That it should be a learning experience. And that both of you should have been developing through training and practicing and whatnot. The mental fortitude in order to get through it to the other side, would you say that's at least a fair statement?


Michael McManus:

It is. I would only go one step further to say that the only thing... And this is what I really want to get across is that I really believe that a positive attitude will take you way further in the face of adversity. That you're going to face that adversity at some point, and the way you feel about it will change everything. It will change whether it's a redemptive experience or a totally horrible traumatic experience. So if you can even come at it where that failure becomes a good thing, where you go, I've seen people come out of the trial and say, "Wow, we found a big hole that we need to go home and train." Living with that attitude as opposed to, "Oh, I hate nose work. I hate that seal. I'm never going to trial under them again." Those two different attitudes, one propels you forward and one knocks you backwards.


Dianna L. Santos:

Okay. I think that's a very good thing that people can walk away from, is difficult. It's not easy to do. And I also think that it's okay to grant yourself some pity time.


Michael McManus:

Absolutely.


Dianna L. Santos:

Particularly if this is new to you. If you have fallen apart for five years straight, every single time somebody doesn't go right, now you listen to this. You're like, "Okay, I'm going to do better now." It's not going to happen overnight. This is a learned behavior. It's a learned shift. So give yourself a couple of days. And I think the way that you worded it was perfect of, okay, I learned something at this trial. There is something that's missing that we have to work on. And now I have the given this information where I can actually do that now. I don't have to sit here spinning my wheels and walking in circles. I have information that's actually actionable. That's a good thing. So I think that is very helpful for people.


Michael McManus:

Yeah. And I want to add one more small thing. And this is a rule I learned from my dad that it's a rule that I give to all my students as well. Which is when you go and compete, the day of competition, you are only allowed to celebrate. And I don't care how bad of a day it was. You pick one small thing that was good. Like my dog pottied on command once. Okay. And you celebrate and you're only allowed to celebrate that day. And tomorrow you can criticize all you want. You can tear that down. You can feel bad, but the day of competition, you're only allowed to celebrate.


Dianna L. Santos:

And that's a really good piece of advice too. And I think that that would really help a lot of people. I personally did not have a lot of trialing experience, but the ones I have gone to it's just so sad when you see people completely distraught.


Michael McManus:

It is.


Dianna L. Santos:

So I think that those two pieces of advice are very helpful and that overall it's not being successful. But having a failure, I guess, it's not as heavy as that word may imply. It's not the end of the world and that it will be okay. Did you want to add anything else before we wrap up?


Michael McManus:

No, I think that covered a lot of... I mean, opened a huge can of worms, but yeah.


Dianna L. Santos:

Well, I'm always open to cans of worms. I mean, these kinds of discussions I think are very helpful and I really do appreciate it.


Michael McManus:

They're interesting with nothing else.


Dianna L. Santos:

Yes, absolutely. And I think that it's good for people to think about these things. And it's not as though while I think that you are brilliant. I don't think that you're the only person on the planet who thinks, you know what? Maybe we should be doing this a little bit more. I'm sure that there are other people who also, at least in the back of their minds are going, "I think that we should be talking about this, but it's a really uncomfortable thing to talk about." So I appreciate you doing these with us so that we're able to get these kinds of conversations out into the public.


Michael McManus:

Absolutely.


Dianna L. Santos:

So thank you very much. So I hope you found this podcast episode interesting and helpful. At least getting you thinking about the concept of failure and how our own emotional response may actually be affecting our dogs and our performance overall. Thanks so much for listening, happy training, we look forward to seeing you soon.

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