You’ll Fall Many Times, But Who’s Counting

Even Olympic medallists eventually take a fall. Some are more catastrophic than others, but how they recover from failure helps determine future results. There’s a lesson for dog handlers and trainers who require constant perfection and suffer as a result.

Kaetlyn Osmond took a fall for all to see, and then inspired. She fractured her leg in a training accident in 2014 and considered retiring but she wouldn’t be satisfied with not continuing to try. She told CBC Sports “I felt strong and in the best shape that I’ve ever been in my entire life … I can’t believe that I ever thought about retiring”(1). In her debut performance at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, she helped Canada win gold in the team figure skating event.

Next, in individual figure skating, she almost fell, stepping out of a Lutz jump, but quickly refocused and went on to win bronze (her 3rd Olympic medal). Afterwards she said that “my biggest thing that I learned in the last 2 years was that I wasn’t aiming for perfection, I was aiming for excellence and that allowed for a little bit of a mistake and to be able to refocus afterwards. Um, a Lutz mistake is not one that I usually make – but the middle of my program is usually what I struggled with the most, and I wasn’t going to let that happen next time”.

Falling hurts, and sometimes failure hurts more. I’ve failed with every one of my dogs at some point, and sometimes I fail without the dogs too. Friends who know me well have watched me fall on skates, running the dogs in winter, and just sitting in my chair while holding the leash of an enthusiastic Golden. I’ve stumbled and fallen so many times I’ve lost count. I have felt disappointed by failure, like a long trip was “a waste”,  embarrassed, demoralized and I’m sure my dog recognized my feelings. That’s not a good place to get stuck.

But I can always count on my dogs to help me find my groove again. We overcame those failures and have had many wins since. We love scent detection. The puppies are at their most energetic when they wake up. I’ve noticed that just cutting up the food rewards for our training session gets me started smiling. What a blast to build our bond and see them progressing as bed bug detection candidates and canine partners. Today is a good day to enjoy together.

When was the last time you fell in dog training or failed to live up to expectations? Did you bomb and feel overwhelmed? Could you shrug it off, get back up and find the joy again with your canine partner? Instead of bashing your head against negativity, can you notice what went well and make a plan for what to work on next?

Dogs follow their keen noses to perform the technical part of scent detection, but for the handler it’s all in your head! Learning to play the mental game better can become a competitive advantage in scent detection, should you make the choice to do so. Learn about the mental game of dog handling with Kathy Keats’ free resources(3). Or join us to bolster your scent detection skills in our 1 hour drop-ins (this Saturday or Monday) or our next set of nosework classes starting Wed. April 18 (at Kayenna Kennels, Calgary

You will fail, but who’s counting? There are no perfect handlers. There are no perfect dogs, but they sure are resilient. The Brittany pup in the cover photo recovered from his fractured leg. It required a lot of work and time, but he trusted me even after I accidentally stepped on him. Whether you blame a mistake on you or your dog, don’t let one failure determine what happens next. In upcoming blog posts we’ll explore common scent detection mistakes, why they happen, and learn how to address them to win the mental game and achieve success.

May your falls be small and your bounce resilient.


  1. CBC Sports
  2. “I’m happy everyone got to see that.” Kaetlyn Osmond (@kaetlyn_23) talks to Paul Martini about how she was able to focus to win
  4. Info/Registration for Hunter’s Heart Scent Detection at Kayenna Kennels Calgary

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