Gone (Back) to the Dogs: Scent Workshop

It’s about 2 1/2 years since I started my self-imposed exile from dog training. There were a lot of reasons for my dropping out: mild burnout (if that’s possible), facing up to personal and logistical limitations, and discouragement about some of the people in the animal community, which is something I need to learn how to deal with. It’s one of the personal limitations I ran up against.

One of my adorable students.

I’ve done some substituting over the past year or so; but that’s different. Subbing means teaching someone else’s plan. It’s easy to run a class when someone else makes the hard decisions for you. Helping people train their dogs for an hour and then leaving class is easy compared to planning a class, running a school, and of course taking responsibility for the students.

Yesterday I ran a 90 minute Scent Work Workshop at Our Gang in River Vale, NJ. I was intimidated at first, since it was material I hadn’t presented in a long time and there was a lesson plan I had to create myself. Getting in front of a class has always been stressful for me, and doing it after a long break was worse.

But the workshop worked out wonderfully. The humans and dogs both learned quite a bit and everyone had fun.

There’s a visceral aspect of training that I have missed for a long time, probably for longer than I have actually been away from training. It’s that moment when you feel like you made a connection to a dog, or better yet that moment where you help someone else make that same connection.

It’s a brief moment: seconds at most. It’s marked by a shift in the dog’s body language, indicating that the dog “gets” what you are trying to tell her. I can’t really explain, at least not without treading too close to Arnold in Pumping Iron.

I got some of that yesterday. I have another workshop coming up this weekend and then…we’ll see.

This is a busy week, with some travel for the day job. I have another post planned about my Grandfather, but it may not be edited in time for this week. Please stay tuned, and consider signing up for my email list.