With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, Scent Work has not been spared. Group activities, Sniff N' Go's and trials have being cancelled while dog training businesses are closing or suspending their services all in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus. One thing this situation has highlighted that may have otherwise been missed: Scent Work is a social activity for the human handlers.
While it is true that Scent Work focuses on one dog working at a time, it is also true that there is likely a group of people and handlers marveling at that dog doing their thing. These people may be trying to better understand how the odor works in the space or hone their eye on what the dog is doing so they could apply it to their own dog. Or, they may simply be rooting for that dog and handler team!
The point being is that Scent Work is a highly human social activity. Whether it be in-person group classes, practice groups among friends, mock trials, Sniff N' Go's or trials, you will find groups of people time and again socializing, laughing, joking around and just enjoying the company of one another.
They celebrate when there is a thumbs up moment and come together when things do not go all that well. They are elated when a training dragon has been conquered or there has been a significant breakthrough, ribbon or no.
All of this sharing of experiences, sense of community and supportive atmosphere is what makes Scent Work so popular, especially as a dog sport.
Which makes the current situation that much more painful.
It's Okay to Miss It
Mourning and grieving the loss of something so special is normal and acceptable.
It is absolutely, positively okay to be sad and disappointed that you cannot go to your favorite Scent Work class or meet up with friends.
You are completely entitled to be bummed out and even slightly depressed when another notice of a trial you were lucky enough to get into has been cancelled.
These emotions are understandable and justified. Do not get upset with yourself for feeling this way. Part of it is likely feeling sad for your dog, but the bigger part is the sense of loss that YOU feel. You are missing out. It is okay to be sad about that.
Create New Ways to Connect
While feeling sad and disappointed is indeed normal and even expected, I am not promoting that you stay in that space forever!
With an ever-changing landscape, it is time for all of us to come up with new ways to connect with our Scent Work comrades and allow the sniffing fun to continue!
Technology can be your friend here. It doesn't have be daunting or stressful. If you are using social media right now such as Facebook or Instagram, that is all you need. It can be as simple as posting a photo or video of you and your dog doing a Scent Work search at home and then your friends and fellow Scent Work fanatics commenting on it. Invite humor and joking around too, it doesn't have be so serious! Include those bloopers!
Want to take it to the next level? Create a Facebook Group and invite your Scent Work friends to join! Make up a schedule with different types of searches for people to try and then post. Get feedback from everyone including that sought after celebration and encouragement.
At Scent Work University, we are starting a Sniffy Fun Challenge where we will post daily searching challenges and people can post photos and videos of their dogs searching at home. We will be offering this through our Friends of Scent Work University Facebook Group.
The point being, you do not need to lose out on the social aspect of it. You can find a new way to connect with those friends and colleagues while still giving your dog the opportunity to play the game.
These are challenging and strange times, but this community is a strong one. We will all get through this and by being creative, we may even find some joy and fun during this unsettling time.
Author: Dianna L. Santos, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, CNWI
Dianna has been training dogs professionally since 2011. She has done everything from teaching group training classes and private lessons, to specializing in working with fearful, reactive and aggressive dogs, to being a trial official and competition organization staff member.
Following a serious neck and back injury, Dianna was forced to retire from in-person dog training. But she was not ready to give up her passion! So, she created Pet Dog U, Dog Sport University and Scent Work University to provide outstanding online dog training to as many dog handlers, owners and trainers possible…regardless of where they live! Dianna is incredibly grateful to the amazingly talented group of instructors who have joined PDU, DSU and SWU and she looks forward to the continued growth of PDU, DSU and SWU and increased learning opportunities all of these online dog training platforms can provide.
In June 2021, Dianna and her business partner, Sean McMurray launched Cyber Scent Work, Inc., an organization that operates in the gray space between training and trialing in Scent Work. With Cyber Scent Work, Inc., handlers have the opportunity to earn Qs, titles and ribbons while also receiving helpful training advice regardless of whether they qualify or not! Be sure to check out Cyber Scent Work, Inc., you will be happy you did!