Anyone can get burned out. Even if they’re doing something they really really love. Part of life is balance, and if you’re doing too much of anything (even good, fun, stimulating things), you run the risk of getting burnt. The same is true for dogs.
My evidence for these statements is plentiful. Exhibit A is Roo Frank himself. Roo loves nose work – he loves being good at something, being rewarded, revered for his talents, and working. But in December we had a really awkward trial where he seemed over faced, an emotion/state of mind he very rarely gives in to. We were able to make lemonade out of lemons that day and at the end of the day he still left feeling pretty OK about the whole thing, but I was concerned (“concerned” in this context meaning freaked out because I thought I was ruining/had already ruined my dog). He was scheduled to do one more trial in early January and I wasn’t sure what we should do.
I talked it over with our trainer and decided that we would go, do only the classes that were easy for him, and if at any point he started to seem like he wasn’t having fun, I would scratch him from the remaining classes and we would call it a day. Roo felt much better that day (he always tries so hard for me), but I knew it was time to rest him before he decided our fun nose work game wasn’t “fun” anymore.
Ben arrived a few weeks later, and it was the perfect excuse to rest Roo. He still went to class once a week, but we did not practice at home and did not trial. He just did big brother things which was enough – being a big brother and a role model is a full time job!
I noticed something each week as we went to class though: Roo was happier and happier to go. I mean, he’s always happy to go to class – any class – because he loves to be in that environment. But after a few weeks, I was starting to see the old “get out of my way I’m working” Roo come back.
I signed him up for his first USCSS (United States Canine Scent Sports) trial in early March because he seemed ready. The format of this trial mimics that of the national trial organization (NACSW), so I figured this would be a good test to see if we are ready to go for our first national title. Roo was indeed ready, winning all four of his element classes and completing his Detection Dog Classic Novice title.
The more I talk with people actively handling nose work dogs, the more I realize that this brush with burnout isn’t uncommon – it’s not uncommon for people to rest their dogs for a month, two months, four months even at a time. Sometimes the dog is getting burnt, sometimes life circumstances just change and both human and dog have to take a break. And guess what. All of the dogs seem to come back just fine – they don’t forget how to do the job.
On a side note, look how big Ben is getting! He starts puppy K this week. He doesn’t know it yet, but his life is about to get super exciting with a whole bunch of new friends and new skills!
Sioux is also coming right along in her training. Her ORT (it’s a special test the dogs have to pass that basically tests to see if they are actually capable of searching/finding the specific odors) will be in June, but I’m toying with the idea of taking her to do a few containers searches before then. We’ll see!
And last but not least, Bella’s 12th birthday is on Friday. Happy Birthday my sweetest pug nugget!