Content to Scent Program

The bigger picture in scent work…training dogs with sensitivities and environmental challenges.

So you have taken classes, put in training time, maybe even started trialing and earning titles. But now… your dog is struggling to search away from home, out of her comfort zone. He is worried or distracted in different environments. She can’t focus. Maybe anxious or too excited by the surroundings, etc. And what about you???! You spent a lot of money entering a trial. Or you anticipated a fun field trip with your best buddy, spent time finding a great spot and setting your hides, but now your dog can’t search! This is NO fun for YOU either!

What do you do now? How can you fix this…What have you missed in your training???

First you need a plan, with strategies and tools to implement it. It IS possible to improve your dog’s ability to play the scent game…to be a team with a dog that truly is “content to scent” when and where you want.

Who this is for: The Content to Scent program is designed to address peripheral issues affecting scent training and performance, such as:

  • distractions (prey, motion, sights, people, dogs, etc.)
  • anxiety & safety concerns
  • environmental sensitivities/discomfort
  • stressing up or shutting down in training or searching
  • sensitivity to pressure
  • sudden environmental changes
  • focus and engagement
  • low confidence
  • motivation
  • resilience

This course is appropriate for dogs and handlers who are already training in scent sports of any kind, either for competition or for enrichment/recreation.

Who this class is NOT for: This class is NOT for dogs with aggression issues, severe generalized anxiety, severe noise phobia, major fear issues, or similar issues at a level that require intervention by a veterinary behaviorist

About Content To Scent

Fact: Compared to other activities, scent sport offers more natural benefits and greater chance for success to dogs who are sensitive and/or environmentally challenged. But in spite of this fact, many dogs still struggle and remain impeded in performance. This is often because their individual needs have not been addressed outside of scent work, and have now become ingrown issues of training, performance and associations within the activity itself. I developed the Content To Scent program over time by putting my continuing education into practice with my own dogs, and teaching others what I learned. My purpose and hope is that the information I am presenting will enable more dogs and their humans to enjoy scent activities by overcoming these common obstacles of environmental sensitivities and related issues.

About trialing, testing, or not, etc. : While scent sport competitions are hugely popular, it must not be overlooked that scent training does not require competition or trials to realize the extensive mental, physical and relationship benefits this activity provides. Informal scent training and enrichment activities have the advantage of offering all of the benefits and none of the pressure that comes with trials and competition- and this is best for many dogs, at least for a while until issues can be trained through and resolved. Video titling options are also available if you desire to test your training with less pressure than in person trials. (NACSW and Fenzi TEAM Nosework both offer video titling). This is also good transitional step if you intend to trial with your dog.

Remember this: While all dogs may not be suited for scent sport competition, all dogs can train in the sport of scent work! Training the dog in front of you by recognizing and prioritizing their unique needs for learning, will reap rewards in one form or another.

Aptly named, Content To Scent is a program emphasizing clarity, consistency, structure, and empowerment through dogs’ choice training. By applying simple steps based in positive conditioned response within familiar routines, we can greatly improve our chances to develop a dog who is indeed, “content to scent” in varied and novel environments. Topics covered include:

  • Foundations of Focus and Engagement
  • Maximizing reinforcements and motivation
  • Marker specifics for clarity and arousal modulation
  • Conditioning the positive emotional response-a dog who stays in the game!
  • The how and why of start buttons & dogs choice
  • Creating a comfort zone through familiarity, consistency and choice.
  • Clarity in differentiating acclimation from work.
  • How to assess your dog’s optimal work zone.
  • Work flow for confidence- how to create a smooth transition from acclimation to working session to finish.
  • Games for acclimation and building confidence in new places
  • Games for motivation in searching
  • Strategies and setting criteria for progress- how to effectively implement the 4 D’s in scent training.
  • Selecting environments-balancing peripheral challenges with appropriate level of scent skills and progression.
  • Coping skills and management for things like SEC, (sudden environmental change).
  • How to design, plan and evaluate your training sessions for success

Note: My personal goal in training scent work with my own dogs is overall enrichment. In addition to building our relationship it provides a safe and fun outlet for their hunt drive, including naturally appropriate mental and physical challenges. And for me as a trainer, I personally find the unique training challenges of scent work to be highly rewarding. I encourage people to try it- whether or not your goals include competition, you will be rewarded mightily either way!

THANK YOU: Thanks to Fenzi Dog Sport Academy and Clicker Expos for major inspiration, learning and evolution of dog sports training. Special thanks to Dr. Deb Jones PhD, Denise Fenzi, Leslie McDevitt, Melissa Chandler, Julie Daniels, Shade Whitesel, Michele Pouliot, Ken Ramirez, Kamal Fernandez, Sharon Carroll, Stacy Barnett and Lucy Newton. Also thanks to all of the trainers worldwide who continue to evolve and share the message of training our dogs through relationship built with benevolence, trust and empowerment through choice.