The sport of ARSA - Lionheart K9 - Dog and Puppy Training in Carroll, Frederick and Baltimore Counties in Maryland

ARSA Directional Search Seminar with Pat NolanBack home from my adventure learning about the sport of ARSA over the last couple days, excited from making new friends, and spending time with old friends.

I was excited to have an opportunity to see Pat Nolan at a seminar hosted by the American Rettungshunde Sport Association in Virginia over the weekend on a spectacular privately owned grounds in Leesburg.
Besides being a brilliant, compassionate presenter, Pat is absolutely bottomless when it comes to the depth of his knowledge and his willingness to share it.

I worked for Pat years ago, and that experience changed my perspective considerably. The opportunity to have learned from him first-hand was a tremendous gift that continues to yield benefits, and the opportunity to see him for the first time in years couldn’t be overlooked.

The ARSA sport leans heavily on many components found in other disciplines- (IGP, field trials/hunt tests, tracking, obedience, even top-level herding), focusing on the dog’s ability to function independently of a handler in simulated search and rescue operations. There are a lot of elements that can be applied to practical, every day work with dogs, and anything that gets people motivated to do things with their dogs should be welcomed.

There was a nice cross-section of dogs; GSD, Mals, a Wirehaired Pointer, a short-hair, a nice little Pit, all capably demonstrating fairly high levels of obedience and ability.

The one thing that impressed me about this weekend’s seminar was the prevalence of camaraderie and the absence of ego. A really nice atmosphere for dogs and people to occupy the same space without the warring factions of dog training politics muddying the waters of learning.

Pat was able to extract performances out of dogs that were reluctant to offer them by aligning what the dogs wanted with the goal. It was impressive to see the dogs respond so readily, without force, and quickly.

Training -in drive- helped the dogs achieve the goals faster once the components were broken down in microscopic detail for each of them.

That was the theme of the entire weekend for me, at least, making it easy for the dog to succeed, by incrementalizing every component into pieces small enough for the *dog* to visualize his probability for success and create a more beneficial outcome.

One of the attendees joked about a particular scenario- “Watch Pat fix it in 30 seconds!” It took a little longer than that, and it simply relied on the realignment of the reward picture (the importance of conditioned reinforcers) and helping the handler understand how not to put the cart before the horse by reinforcing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

One of the hosts had expressed concerns about the weekend having turned into a “problem solving” seminar instead of focusing on the sport of ARSA, and I responded that most seminars tend to become problem solving events because folks already have the goal (ARSA) in mind, but what they need is to climb all the rungs of the ladder in order to get there.

There was so much to offer from this seminar that had nothing to do with directional control, ARSA or any other disciplines directly, but applicable to all of them, as it should be.

There was so much more of value for anyone involved with dogs either vocationally or avocationally, that I would make a seminar by Pat Nolan an absolute destination, and the sport of ARSA a serious consideration if you are looking to tap into a sport that offers opportunities to explore some of the more cerebral components of many training disciplines all under one umbrella.

I am interested in learning more about ARSA for the reasons stated above, and think it is a worthwhile endeavor for folks looking to do something with their dogs that can help them expand their understanding of scent work (tracking, trailing, detection) the obedience component without the bite work (IGP) agility with purpose, and the directional work required for the more advanced levels of the retriever sports.

I can’t forget the after-seminar magic- throwing bumpers for Pat’s dog Blaze, star of “From the Pup, Up” and I believe Pat’s new online Ecollar course.

All I could think of was a cold February day in Miller’s middle field a thousand years ago, bopping myself in the head with a frozen duck.

Thank you, Pat.

Thank you members of ARSA!

As an aside, if you are interested in learning more about the spot, you can contact Melissa Stagnaro directly at

The Sport of ARSA
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The Sport of ARSA
Back home from my adventure learning about the sport of ARSA over the last couple days, excited from making new friends, and spending time with old friends.
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Lionheart K9
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