Arthur Ashe famously said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” Let’s explore that philosophy in the context of search dog training.
Reward-based dog training is based on the simple premise that establishing a linkage between a desired behaviour and a positive consequence will motivate the dog to perform that behaviour. In the obedience context, the dog sits and gets a treat. In the SAR context, the dog follows the track and earns a game of tug.
At first glance, the dog seems focused on the destination (the reward), not the journey (the behaviour). And that is generally true as a new behaviour is being introduced. But depending on the behaviour, the motivation of the dog (and handler), and the alignment of the stars, something cool can happen. The behaviour itself can become rewarding. Which is a beautiful thing.
Retrieving is a great example. When learning this behaviour, the dog is initially rewarded for performing some or all of the retrieve sequence (run to the ball, pick up the ball, return the ball to the handler, drop the ball). But eventually, most dogs will perform the retrieve sequence in the hope of doing it all over again. And again, and again…the reward for the retrieve is another retrieve.
The journey is the destination.