E340: Kayla Dever - Balancing Trialing and Training

Join me for a conversion with Kayla Dever as she shares her story - starting in the service dog world, evolving in flyball, and now hosting and competing in nosework!  


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Kayla Dever here with me to talk about her story and a little bit about trialing in nosework. Hi Kayla, welcome to the podcast!

Kayla Dever: Hi. I'm super excited to be here. It's quite an honor.

Melissa Breau: Well, thank You. I'm excited to chat. So, to start us out, do you wanna just share a little bit about you, who you are and your current canine crew?

Kayla Dever; Yeah, I'm like, like you said, I'm Kayla Deaver. I'm from Rochester Hills, Michigan, so that's a suburb a little north of Detroit. I currently have three dogs. I've got two black labs and a Shetland sheep dog. I, my Shelty is 14 and a half little old dude Flynn. He is competing at the elite level. He only needs like less than 150 points to get his elite champion, which is wild. 'cause I started him quite, he was 10 when I started training in 11, when we started trialing. So, wow. He's an impressive little guy. Teaches me a lot. I call my little sensei. And then, and then I've got Brennan, who's my 12 and a half year old black lab. He was my first nosework dog who kind of took me on this wild ride.

He went from, he was my gifted child, you know, he was the first nosework dog I had and the dog that I was like, oh, this is easy. Like, it just comes so naturally to dogs and then I trained a few more, and it's not that it doesn't come naturally to dogs, but I realized like, oh, you were like this, you were good at this. So he has high titles in a lot of venues, but we primarily do NACSW. And he's got, he went from NW one to Elite Champion in a year, which is pretty fast, partly majorly inspired by, he has gulp geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis, polyneuropathy, which is a genetic neuro degenerative disease that affects a lot of Labradors as they're seniors.

So if you've heard of Laryngeal Paralysis, it's kind of the, you know, part of that. So he got into nosework later in life and after he was a guide dog puppy I raised, then did Flyball for a long time, and then when he was eight, we retired from Flyball for physical reasons, and we found nosework.

And anyhow, so he was diagnosed with that and that kind of sped up our timeline. He had laryngeal tieback surgery in June of 21. And so we kind of, I didn't know how long I was gonna have a dog who was actively able to compete at that level. He titled with his first NW three exactly a month after his tieback surgery.

And then I just was like, okay, this is the dog. This is the moment I gotta do it. Like, so we just, I traveled a crap ton. I literally, in that year, I drove 20,000 miles on my car all over basically the eastern part of the country, going to trials and meeting lots of people. And we had a blast. And then it's been a gift that he still is feeling well, he just earned his third and fourth summit titles this fall.

Melissa Breau: Congratulations!

Kayla Dever: It's very exciting for any dog. But for a 12 and a half year old, it's, yeah, really neat to still see him be able to do this and love it. And what other sport could I be competing actively at high levels with a 14 and 12-year-old. Right? And then I've got Davey, who's my younger lab. He's five now. He's actually an active breeding male for a guide dog organization in Michigan called Leader Dogs for the Blind. So he was a puppy my friend raised. I liked him from the time he was young, and I was like, hmm, I need another sport dog. Like, I like him. And so when he was pulled for breeding, I was, I decided to host. So we're a volunteer host family for him. So we basically kind of co-own him with that organization and as long as he is producing Guide Dog puppies for them. And then I get to have a nosework dog.

So he's one trial away from his Elite three, and they're all very different from each other and getting to, you know, trial and train a lot of different dogs as super, super helpful. And they all have, you know, different quirks and different motivators and all of that. So yeah, they're good kids. Yeah. I love them.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, they sound like a good crew. How did you kind of get started in this, you know, doggy world? Doggy world?

Kayla Dever: So I was that dog obsessed child that had dog books and I met, you know, could tell you any dog breed and I, you know, and I was that dog obsessed child that we couldn't have dogs, right? We lived, you know, my parents were divorced early on and we lived in townhouses with my mom most of the time. So we couldn't have a dog. And I was the, you know, when we'd go to my dad's on weekends, I was the kid that would, you know, I had a whole bunch of neighbors who would let me walk their dogs, you know, I'd go get Lucy the Beagle and we'd walk around the neighborhood and, you know, and I ended up connecting with one of our neighbors who was a senior citizen who was puppy raising for service dog organizations and stuck onto him like, this is my opportunity. I can kind of have a dog, right? And so helped him puppy raise four dogs and then kept puppy raising for service and guide dog organizations throughout my young adult years. So I raised a total of 12 over from the time I was, from the time I was 11 until just a few years ago. So it's, that was, you know, my primary background was, was doing a lot of service guide dogs.

I've had certified therapy dogs since 2005. So we visiting hospitals, nursing homes, that sort of thing, schools. And then when I got my first dog, which was a, a lot of my dogs have been career changes, so dogs that I raised that didn't make it for one reason or another, right? So Quincy was that dog. He was a lab golden mix and was just too much dog for service work, but was really a great do it all dog. He was a lab Golden Cross. And so he was, you know, thankfully he was a do it all dog, but I was a broke college student, so I wanted to do it all, but I quickly, we, we were, you know, start, we were training in agility and I started trialing and I did like three trials and I'm like, I can't afford this. So we got into Flyball because there was a local team and it was cheap for me to train Flyball, you know, basically like if I just helped out, I could, you know, be part of the team. So I did Flyball for 10 years as my main sport. And again, it was really just like, that was what I could do. And Flyball was great. I learned a ton.

You know, flyball's great for learning a lot of foundations of training. There's no real way to do train flyball with corrections, like, right. Like, you can't force a dog to do any of that. It's all a lot of positive training. And so learned a lot during doing flyball and then had aging dogs who, you know, Quincy passed. Brennan was getting older, and I was looking for the next thing. Took a local nosework class with Brennan initially just as a, something to do on the off season. And then when I had to retire him that year for, he had some, basically, his times were slowing down a lot, and he was showing some signs of some arthritis that seemed to be flared with Flyball Day-to-Day was fine, but it was noticeable that he was telling me that he, he needed to do something else. So I decided, I lost Quincy that year and that fall right after Quincy, I took my first nosework class with Fenzi, Stacy Burnett's Foundation class.

And up till that point, it was very much just like very casual. Like, oh, this is just something he likes to do. And we would go to class once a month. And I was, I had no competitive aspirations at all. It was very much just a side hobby. And that class really, it was at a real transition point of my life, you know, moving from a sport that I was very heavily involved in, didn't no longer had dogs for, I was kind of in the middle of a transition period with the service organization, you know, side of things. And feeling like after losing Quincy to Hemangiosarcoma, he was 12 and a half. But still, that was kind of it, it came into focus that I wanted to really spend time with my senior dogs that I still had. And so I stopped puppy raising. I kind of made that transition whenever I got Davy to just doing the breeding stock side of things. And so, anyhow, it was a big kind of transition point. And so when I took that class with FDSA, it was like, and with Stacy, it was like this whole, my mind was blown. It was so much more complicated than I had thought. It was so fascinating to really understand what really is happening and how the dog, what the dog is telling us, and how they're able to bring us into their world.

And, so it was really just like that tipping point. And then I was like, obsessed, right? Head over heels. I took, you know, class after class, you know, locally, at least here in the Detroit area, there wasn't a lot of education opportunities for higher level nosework. There was a, there were some foundation cla you know, some basic classes. You know, you get your dog on odor, but there wasn't really a lot of NACSW in Michigan when I started. And so, you know, I did what was available locally, which was mostly like CPE and UKC. And then, you know, I was taking all these classes on Fenzi and with Stacy and was seeing these amazing searches and these real world search locations and how trials were run. And I was like, oh my God, I wanna do that. And this was all like in 2020, right? So the world had stopped. I was just training like crazy 'cause there was nothing else to do. And I had, at that point, I had put all my dogs on odor and everyone was, it was going, and I decided it was in fall of 2020, COVID wasn't really going anywhere. And my real life, I'm a nurse, I'm an oncology nurse. And so I kind of realized, I'm like, I have not used any of my paid time off, like in a year, right? And this isn't going anywhere. And nosework is actually, you know, once kind of things started going again, nosework was one of the things that kind of could happen because really, you know, we car crate, there's, you know, it was easy to social distance. You could really only have, you know, a very essential, like very small crews in a room with you, you know, everyone would wear masks. And they were, and they really did a good job of making it so, so that it was possible.

So it was also like, at that point it was freedom, like, oh, I can, I can go outside my house, I can travel, I can go to a dog thing. And even though I have to wear a mask, and even though we're social distancing, all this stuff is happening, I could still do it. Right? So I decided the real tipping point was driving to Chicago, which is five hours for me, you know, each way, right? So drive to Chicago, get a hotel for the night, you know, pay, you know, 200 bucks. So my two dogs could sniff boxes for like a total of a minute to get their odor recognition tests for NACSW. But it was like, I can travel, I have no reason not to, so we're gonna, we're gonna go.

So that was the real tipping point though. I'm like, yeah, that's, yep. So then it was, then I just kind of went down that rabbit hole, was trialing like crazy with all three and NACSW and decided that I wanted more NACSW in Michigan. I wanted to positively impact the nosework culture in my state and provide more high quality trialing opportunities.

And so I decided that I didn't know what I was doing, but I'd figure it out and developed Every Dog Nosework, which is my training business and a trial hosting organization, and started hosting trials from 2021 through this year, 20 through 2023, we've hosted 11 trials for NACSW trial weekend. So, I don't know, like 17 or 18 actual trial days.

Melissa Breau: That's awesome.

Kayla Dever: And it's been a super awesome opportunity to learn a lot. And like I said, I didn't know what I was doing. I'm a nurse, I'd never ran an event. I'd never, you know, rented porta-potties or, you know, like catered things or organized, you know, hired people to fly in, booked hotel. Like I'd never done any of that stuff.

Melissa Breau: Right. Yeah.

Kayla Dever: And convincing places to like allow you to, "Hey, we're gonna bring in like 50 dogs into your museum, Can we, you know?"

Melissa Breau: Yeah, right.

Kayla Dever: And, you know, or your baseball stadium or your school or whatever. But it's been a super exciting, awesome, amazing journey. And I can't believe it's, I can't believe it's only been three years and I can't believe it's already been three years in some ways. Like it's just like been a wild ride. Yeah. And then, you know, and then, yeah, now here we're, and then we arrive at today, now in 2024. Yeah.

Melissa Breau: So obviously quite a journey, right? So like, if you were to think about kind of your approach, now that you've kind of been through all that training, to teaching, how would you kind of describe your approach to training, to teaching?

Kayla Denver: My main goals when I'm teaching, especially with students, I really want to create clarity with, you know, concepts. I think sometimes we can, you know, the, when you look at nosework, you kind of look at like, oh, well, you know it's easy to get dogs outta odor, but there's, when you actually peel back some of the onion layers, there's like so much that actually goes into really creating a successful searching team.

And, you know, along with creating that clarity, I really feel like not so, you know, it's not everywhere, but I would say with it is not unusual that early in programs that it's very focused on teaching the dog side of things, like teaching dog foundations and teaching, you know, building up all of the dog skills. I really think it's important and really focus on also building up the handler skills.

I think it's easier to kind of, it's easier as a trainer in this sport to kind of, you know, especially early on training, you know, take, do everything off leash and really, you know, or you are the one that's reinforcing or, or anything and just totally remove the handler as much as possible from the picture. And there's advantages to that, right? You're building an independent searching dog and there's reasons to have that. But I think you also have to look at like, that other half of the team and putting the skills into that handler. And also are they coming to you to do the sport? Most people are coming to nosework to have a fun activity that they can do together with their dog that is not, that's really the dog. You know, us going into the dog's world, like every other sport, we kind of bring the dog into our rules, our constructs, you know, you're gonna go over these obstacles or you're gonna do these behaviors, or you're gonna do this or that. And really, nosework is really about like, "Hey, we're gonna do this thing together," but like, "you are really the one that's gonna, you have the nose. I don't". But you know, aside from that, really, like I am a, I have a background in, I have a tag teach level one certification. So I really like looking at, you know, how do I break down just like I'm setting up my dog learners for success.

How do I set up my human learners for success? I think, you know, we don't look at that side a lot always, especially when we're teaching like group classes or that kind of thing. And it's hard. Like, I'm not saying it's, easy to do that well, but it is important. And really that's where you get the buy-in, right? Like, if you can show like the handlers that they're making progress and make them feel good about what's happening, you're gonna get retention, you're gonna have happier teams, you're gonna have happier dogs, and they'll have better results.

Melissa Breau: So I know you kind of mentioned this in passing as you're going through all of that about Flyball kind of being a positive early, maybe early adopter of positive training kind of thing. But you know, you mentioned you kind of started with the guide dog world. Have you always been a positive trainer? Did that come in at some point in the process?

Kayla Dever: Yeah, you know, yeah, no, I have not always been a positive trainer. I am, I do consider myself a crossover trainer, you know, as a kid and coming up in the servicing guide dog world, which has a very large, long history of a lot of corrective based methods, you know, that was what you do. That was what you did. That was how you were taught, right? Like, and some of it is rational, right?

Like you're training dogs to keep someone safe who can't see, and you're training dogs who are, you know, helping someone who has physical mobility issues that they need control. And so it's rational to, you know, to look at, you know, this is what has always worked and this is, and why would we change that whenever we're looking at people's safety, right? What was cool is I started whenever we were using all, you know, primarily punishment based, or I guess you would kind of call "balanced," right? Like most of, at the point that I came in, it was not completely corrected corrections, it was, you know, there was corrections, there were punishment based, you know, tools, but also re you know, a lot of reinforcement. But with the guide dog world, it's been really, I was really able to like come in at a point where it was really evolving in the organization that I was actively involved with. So I came in the main transition point for me going from corrections to pretty much strictl positive, you know, I don't think anything strictly positive, but fair, primarily positive reinforcement was we had a reactive rescued Border Collie who I figured out pretty fast, like any of what I used to know was not gonna help this dog. Like, he needed choice. If he didn't have choice in his decisions, like there wasn't a good, there was not a good way to evolve that. And so he was really like seeing his transformation really was that initial tipping point. And then getting to like see, you know, the guide dog world really evolve and behaviors that we, you know, would correct.

Like for example, like teaching a leave it, right? Like, you know, the historic way you'd put food out, you'd, you know, give the dog a leash correction or, you know, a correction whenever they would go towards the food and eventually the dog would learn to avoid it, right? But the problem with that, with guide dogs is that, you know, they would teach it that way and then it would work for a little bit. But what does the dog do whenever they're with someone who can't see the food, right? The dogsees the food and they avoid the food at first, and then they kind of realize, wait, they're not correcting me before. Or if I start to go, like, start to move towards it, like, oh my gosh, they don't see me. Right? And now the dog starts once they, once they realize that you, you, they'll start back over and there's really not a nice way to do that, right?

Once they've made that transition point. So that was one of the things that we could use positive reinforcement for was really looking at, you know, "leave it" behaviors as the thing is the cue, right? So the thing be, you know, you see the food on the ground, you look, you, you move away or you look towards me and you're gonna get reinforced for that.

And that doesn't, that's a lot easier to maintain than the other way around, right? So seeing like stuff like that evolve and, and really go from primarily or entirely corrections based training to a whole fleet of us within the puppy raising world all got our Karen Pryor Academy certifications and, you know, totally evolved. We were doing all this platform training instead of teaching dogs to go to curbs by corrections. We were teaching them how to go on platforms and they were using that to transition whenever they went back for their formal training. And it all, you know, it works, it all holds up. And now, now that whole industry really has completely evolved, you know, with the work of Michelle Pouliot and those people, like that whole industry has completely evolved. And so it was cool to be able to kind of be a part of that. And really, whenever you are part of that and you see, you know, these people who have been held onto these like corrections for so long, see like, oh, actually this is more effective and it's kinder. So yeah, this is obvious, right? But yeah, it was neat to be kind of at that transition point.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. It's kind of a unique place to be in the history of the particular aspect of the working world, you know? Right. Like trying to think of a word that kind of encompasses what that is, but yeah.

Kayla Dever: Yeah. And I think, you know, I think in scent detection, you know, I think scent detection has kind of always been primarily positive. 'cause again, you, we need the dog to want to do this, right? So you, so there's, and it's less inhibited in general than a lot of sports.

Like really, other than don't destroy the thing. Mostly it's, you know, I'm not, I'm not inhibiting you, but yeah, it was a cool place to kind of be able to kind of grow up in and learn through and make the transition with them.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So I wanna talk about nosework a little bit more. You kinda mentioned in there that you host trials, and I'm guessing you've seen at this point probably the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to trialing a little bit of everything. Right? Can you talk a little bit about how trialing differs from training, maybe even for those teams who really kind of make the effort to turn in novel places regularly?

Kayla Dever: Yeah, absolutely. So it definitely varies depending on the organization that you're primarily trialing with. You're gonna have different trialing experiences. I think there's a place for all of it. I think ultimately it's an opportunity for our dogs to have fun and us to have fun with our dogs. It's all good. So, you know, while I definitely have a strong preference for NACSW, I've trialled and gotten to high levels in AKC, UKC, CPE, you know, and I think there's a place for all of them. I send students to all of them. I think there's opportunities in all of them, but you're gonna have different levels of care within the environment. So, you know, NACSW is very strict as far as, you know, odor hygiene and not reusing locations, you know, within six months.

And for dogs that are more environmentally sensitive, you're gonna have a lot more care taken to, you know, have dogs have enough space from, you know, they're not gonna not see other dogs, but you, they, they do a good job of enforcing those, you know, eight feet minimum. And, you know, generally it's rare that you're gonna cross paths with another dog like on your route. You know? So the, there's that side of things where other organizations and, and definitely it varies a little bit by region too. But there, you know, other, I would say, at least my experience, other organizations, there's less of an emphasis. It's less of an emphasis.

Melissa Breau: Yes. Exactly.

Kayla Dever: Yeah. It's less of a priority, I guess, or more of an expectation like that. This is just how this is. So, you know, if you have a more environmentally sensitive dog, that's definitely a big piece to think about that you are not going to experience just going on training on your own. Training in lots of novel locations is a super important piece of trial readiness, but it's not a trial environment.

Melissa Breau: Right.

Kayla Dever: And, you know, there's the aspect that you don't have is that like human pressure that is, you're going to experience with trialing that you're likely not to experience when you are air quote, just training. Right? It's different. Even if you're training in blind scenarios, you're still, there is a different pressure when you are, you know, you've paid all this money you've traveled 12 hours or that's me. But that's whenever you've traveled, you know, if you've traveled a long way for a trial or, you know, I mean, when I first started, I laughed recently 'cause I drove by a hotel I stayed at when one of my first trials and it was an hour and a half from my house and I was like, oh my God, I got a hotel an hour and a half away from home. Oh, now it's like less than three hours.

It's a day trip, four hours even. I've done it in a day, not back and forth, but I've done four or five in a day. Yeah. Anyways, that was pretty amusing to me. But definitely, you know, it's not you when you have that human pressure side that is very different than what you're experiencing in just your day-to-day training.

And, you know, depending on what your challenges are, like you, you may or may not be able to experience or your dog may have not had access to, you know, extensive aging of hides. Like I would say a lot of people don't consider that. And they, you know, you go set your hides, you run your hides, you set your hides, you run your hides. Where in a nosework trial you might be dog 30 out of 30 and it's a six minute search at elite. And that means that those hides have been sitting for five hours or, you know, or they broke for lunch and they've been sitting for six or seven hours.

That's not common. But you are going to experience different scent pictures that way. You're also gonna be following other dogs, right? So, you know, I remember being at an NW three with my very first NW three, and we're going along, we're moving through the day doing good, and then there's this big grinding halt in the run or in the numbers.

And like, it was really cruising. I don't know what's happening. I'm like waiting, waiting, waiting–time's going by. I'm ready. I've been ready and like, you know, 45 minutes, hour passes and you know, we hear down the pipeline, oh, a dog had a big diarrhea accident in this tiny room. And then I go to actually search it and the whole room just smells like ammonia. Like they, the judge team didn't know and they just were being helpful, right. Dog had a bad accident. You're trying to, like, it's at a college, right? You're trying to like, and of course it was carpet, it only could have been carpet, right? And so they're like trying to clean it up, you know, and they grab the cleaning stuff that's there, but it's strong, like commercial chemical stuff, right? And so do you think my dog smelled the one hide that was in that room? No. And I can tell you that that search, it had like a 80% or 90% pass rate up to that point. And then like barely any dogs found the hide after that, right? So you have these like environmental changes that happen that you have absolutely no control over and you may not even know about it, right? Like, that time I did know that what happened.

But you know, generally, they likely won't tell you if a dog just marked in the search area or you know, you might be following the Newfoundland all day, who's drooling on every box, you know?

Melissa Breau: Yep.

Kayla Dever: And does your dog, you know, has your dog seen that type of scent picture or are they used to being able to work through that?

So there's a lot of things that you don't have control over at a trial that in training, you know, unless you're, you likely are not gonna experience that same thing. Even if you're training in classes, the dogs get used to those dogs, right? Even if you're training with a friend, your dogs get used to those dog smells.

And so, you know, there's definitely different things that are gonna happen at a trial than, than just, than just looking at exposure to novel environments. Once a team does start trialing, is there, are there things that should be, you know, changed or adjusted in kind of how they're training? Yeah, I think honestly the biggest things is that people,

I think, think, I think sometimes people think that it's just like you reach a point and then that's it. Or then you go to the next thing and you're just like, you kind of like get to these novice levels and then you, like, you just keep training, learning more and more and more making it harder, harder, harder. Or, you know, these new concepts or you know, that it, or that you just kind of, well you taught that already, so like, the dog knows it, right? And really I think anyone who's been training for any amount of time knows that like, you're never done. Like, it's not like it's done just because, you know, they have shown that they can do it at that level.

Again, you've got, especially with nosework, like we have huge amounts of variants that happen, just environment, right? Like we have this whole level of, you know, environmental, you know, things happening that we have no control over. Like, you know, we kind of joke like, you know, what are the odor gods gonna do today? Like, you know, I've seen hides essentially disappear in trials or, you know, there's just, there's all of these aspects that you don't have control over.

The other side of it is that if you are trialing frequently, there's a lot that happens at a trial that you don't, that is gonna cause some decay or a degradation and you're in some of those skills that you've built, right? Like you think about that dog as that piggy bank and all of your training, you put all these deposits in, but whenever you're trialing, you are taking withdrawals. Those environmental things that happen that you have no control over, you don't know exactly where source is. Right?

When you are the one setting the hides, you know where the tin is, you can make sure that your dog fully got their nose on it. But if you are at a trial, you don't know exactly where it is. So you think you do, your dog might, you know, but often you are marking and rewarding away from source. Also, as you move up levels, just by nature, your dog is not going to be sourcing fully. So you've got deep, you know, I've seen hides in elite and summit, you know, deep inaccessible of like it's six feet back, you know, or it's eight feet in the air, your dog's not getting their nose on it, right?

And if they routinely, if they are experiencing that enough without a lot of counterbalancing, meaning you can get your nose on it, you gotta keep trying, you gotta get all the way to it. If you aren't making sure that you are counterbalancing that you are going to see fringing, you're going to see a lack of motivation. It's really about that clarity, right? Like if your yes zone or reward zone gets more and more nebulous, how does the dog know what is or is not correct? And what does that then create in their confidence of, you know, I was right or you know, you know, you're gonna see, you know, if their confidence decreases in, you know, this is what I'm supposed to do, just like any of us, right? If you are not sure, right?

If you think, oh, this is my job and I've been doing my job and I've been getting my paycheck and I know I'm doing it right. But then you start to get less clear feedback, you're gonna start to question or you to stop getting feedback where you normally were getting feedback and now there's just like, you know, kind of like radio silence and you're like, oh God, did I do that wrong? Maybe I did that wrong. Right? Like, you're, you're a silly handler who you are. Like it's right here and your handler's nervous and like malfunctioning in that moment and they're looking at you like, show me the dog's. Like I thought I did. Ugh, okay, I thought I did. Okay, so what do I, what do I do now? Right?

And so you can see you, you will see some of that happen. So we've got, we have to make sure that we are, we are putting that back in the bank. We are making sure that yes, that was right. That's what I want you to do. And so, you know, we have to, and, and that never goes away, right? Like my summit dog, I am working on the same foundation skills still that I work on in my foundation classes with my dogs that are getting ready for ORTs, right? Like that it really is not, it doesn't really change.

We just, we do make it harder. Yes. But still most 90% of the hides that my dogs see are accessible hides. They can get their nose right on it. They know what is right. And that's how we maintain that confidence so that whenever I don't know where the hides are, my dog is confident of what their job is and I make sure that we maintain that feedback.

Melissa Breau: So kind of thinking that through for just a minute on my part, some of that is also true when you're searching blind tides, right? Like how does that kind of factor in? Does that, I don't wanna say adequately, kind of mimic a trial situation, but you know, how does that kind of fit into the bigger picture here?

Kayla Dever: Yeah, for sure. So, you know, one of the things that I think a lot of people don't really think about is that all searches are blind to your dog. Your dog doesn't know where it was beforehand, right? So where it gets different is whether it was blind to you or not. And so if we are running it blind for the handler, we are training the handler, not the dog. That's okay. We have to do that sometimes, but we can't think that we're training the dog when we're running blind 'cause we're not, we're training the handler. And so I think what's important if you're training blind one, that you're not doing it a ton just like trialing. We need to make sure that we're counterbalancing that with known hides where we know where it is.

And two, early on when you first start running blind, I highly recommend if people are able to, and what we do with our students is doing facilitated blinds where meaning your friend or your instructor knows where the hides are. You don't, but they're going to narrate what is happening so that you can see, oh yes, they got odor there. Oh, they're working it. Yep. They're getting closer and closer. Yes. Right there, that source, right? And so it's a way for you to start learning how to read that, all of that in the moment without the pressure of letting your dog down. Whenever you don't know exactly what you're looking at, right? So that's kind of how we initially start introducing blinds to the handler is like teaching those skills, right? And then we'll take the wheel, the training wheels off a little bit and we'll run a true blind. But at that point, you know, I'm gonna make sure one, the hide is not overly difficult, right? Like I wanna make sure that the dog, the dog, the dog's job part is gonna be easy because we're working on the human end, right?

And so, you know, if we're running just blinds in an ideal world, you are doing it thoughtfully with some support initially so that you can start to develop those skills without majorly, you know, taking deficits from the dog as you, as you both are growing. You know, I'm at the point now where I do need to run blinds with some of my dogs more often 'cause I'm, I need to be able to kind of be able to make decisions like that in the moment. But I will, you know, tell my training partner step in if, you know, we're struggling. If I am in a dead area and I'm killing it and you know, if I'm not getting out, if I'm stuck here, help me move out, right? Like if you're seeing that, you know, give me 30 seconds, 45 seconds and then tell me move on. Right? So having that training buddy that can help you be your voice of reason is very helpful for you to be able to develop some of those skills.

But either way, you still gotta be thinking about anytime you're running blind, you're not training your dog. So you need to account for that in your training hours and make sure that, you know, in my ideal world for every hide that my dog sees blind, they're seeing, you know, at least two, ideally even more than that of known hides that I know exactly where they are, they're sociable and I can reward. So it's really, you know, being cognizant of all of that. And so yes, like trialing hides are definitely different than just running blind. But there's ways to do that thoughtfully so that you're not, you know, just taking deficits. But either way you still have to be considerate about what's happening. You have to think it through.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So you have a webinar coming up on some of this that kind of digs deeper, happening should be the week after this comes out. Can you talk a little bit about the webinar, particular kind of what you'll cover and maybe who might wanna join us for it?

Kayla Dever: Yeah, so I would say, you know, we're covering a lot, some of the stuff that we, you know, have kind of talked about tonight, but just in a bit more detail. So really looking at, you know, what happened, what does your dog experience in a trial environment, what do you experience in a trial environment? What are, you know, withdrawals that are made to your dog's, training piggy bank, you know, throughout a trial day. And how do we make sure that we're putting those back in, you know, nosework as a sport that, you know, as, you know, seen with my guys, they can do for well into their senior years. And so in an ideal world, we're looking at a hopefully long career of this sport for a lot of reasons.

One, I can tell you it's like I can't imagine what my old guys would look like without this sport. So even if no one ever wants to compete, it doesn't matter. They should be doing those work with their older dogs. 'cause it really, it, it, the benefits are huge. My vets can't even believe how good they look. But two, you know, if we are, we wanna make sure that we're maintaining the dog for that career. And so, you know, we're never done. You have to be looking at putting, you know, constantly balancing this. So we'll be digging deep into a lot of that stuff. And then, you know, talking more really I would say it's for anyone who is currently actively competing or trialing in nosework or has any potential aspirations.

If you're nosework instructors and even, even anyone just doing any kind of scent work with their dogs, whether professionally or not, you're still, this would still apply to people who are going out for deployments or anything else. So, yeah, it'll be, it'll be good.

Melissa Breau: Good Stuff. Excited about it. Any final thoughts or key points you maybe just wanna kinda leave folks with?

Kayla Dever: I think, you know, main thing again is really to not think of you're, you're never done. You're never done. And the kind of picture in my brain a lot is, you know, when I look at my dog and their skills and what I'm maintaining is really like, I kinda see them as like all these little dials and you're constantly turning dials, right? If you are highly recommend that you video as much as you're able to, if you're training with someone, have them video, you get a GoPro, it's not gonna show you everything, but it will show you at least some stuff. Because one of my favorite sayings I heard from Hannah Branigan again is that you can't read the label from inside the jar, right? Like if you're in the moment, you can't see what is really happening. And so you know that that's how you are able to turn those dials. But I think, you know, hopefully this webinar kind of gives people at least some things to focus on of co I would say common stuff that happens whenever we're trialing at any level and how we can be cognizant of that and make sure that we're maintaining our dog's skills and their joy.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Excellent. Joy is always a good place to end a podcast, so.

Kayla Dever: That's right.

Melissa Breau: Well thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Kayla.

Kayla Dever: Yeah, it was great. I'm very, very excited to be here.

Melissa Breau: I'm excited to have you. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in.

We'll be back next week with Janice Gunn to talk about transitions in the Obedience Ring. If you haven't already subscribed to our podcast and iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's Show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Buddy. Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang. Thanks again for tuning in. Happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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