First off, I have to start by congratulating Sarah and Roxie for obtaining the elusive NW3 title in Foxboro, MA on Sunday December 7th!
3 days of NW3 trials, and out of 75-ish entries, only 11 dogs titled. So getting that title, especially this weekend, is a huge accomplishment! AND they came in first place in their Vehicle search. They cut it close – 3 seconds close – in Exteriors. Knowing there could be 1-3 hides, in the typical NW3 brain tease, THERE WAS ONLY ONE HIDE! Hard to believe it when you’re out there searching, because you always think you must have missed something. But good dog that she is, Rox didn’t false alert to please Sarah. She continued searching, desperately trying to find the other hide Sarah thought was there, but the one with the nose knows… and said no, there are no other hides. Sarah called Finish at 2:57 (having a 3 minute time limit!)
Some features of the Saturday and Sunday searches: The Interiors were challenging, a laundry room (long and narrow) and a Mens and Womens room with lots of stalls (toilet stall opposite a shower stall, in all about 6-8 in a row), also long and narrow. The rooms were heated, and had all sorts of currents and whooshes of air as the door opened and closed as the judge, timer, videographer and competitor filed in and out. The Container search was small, by NW3 standards (wait, there are no standards at NW3) and on carpet. The Exterior was long and narrow, an enclosed outdoor space with a corrugated plastic roof over it and lots of junk in it. Because it was enclosed, there was an off leash option – how cool! Saturday there were 3 Exterior hides, Sunday only one. The vehicles for all 3 days featured one lone vehicle, with the others some distance away.
Friday’s Interior searches consisted of 1) a small enclosed porch type room 2) a cabin with a kitchen/seating area on one side, a narrow hall, and a small bedroom on the other side of the hall and 3) another very small enclosed porch area. The Exterior search area was a large enclosed grassy area, with some plastic chairs and tables, and a large stack of picnic tables, almost like bleachers. Since it was enclosed, this also had an off leash option – yeah! Similar vehicle and container searches to Saturday and Sunday.
Why the low pass rate? I had a lot of fun at this trial. The location was gorgeous, heated bathrooms and lunch area (nice change from a few days earlier in NJ!) and the search areas and set ups were a LOT of FUN. I loved the off leash option – it’s how I practice a lot at home in my yard, so it was familiar to Jinxx and I. However, thinking about Tuesdays Exterior search in NJ, where I called Alert when she was just sniffing a sawhorse (duh), I waited her out when she alerted on a chair right off the bat… and walked her off it. I did bring her back and she re-alerted, but poor Jinxx. I didn’t trust MYSELF to call Alert, never mind trusting your dog. I did feel like she spent some unnecessary time sniffing an object outside the fence, and our criss-cross up the middle of the big space wasn’t super smooth, but we passed it, and she seemed to have fun, working way farther away from me than our 12′ leash would have allowed. The vehicle search was fun – I liked having the one car by itself, then boogying over to the other 3 vehicles. There were 3 hides – yeah! You actually could call Finish with absolute confidence here! I really let Jinxx do what she wanted as far as going under the vehicles to chase odor. I figured I’d take a fault (I didn’t get any) but let her work it the way she wanted. The last hide was inaccessible, and she sure did go under the wheel well to make it accessible! The Interiors – this was the killer. The last room was blank… only 3(!) teams passed – one being Holly and BoomBoom! They came in 3rd place in Interiors – yahoo! Most of the rest of us false alerted on a bundle of campfire wood. Jinxx and I also missed a hide in a bureau. The Containers on all days posed a challenge (don’t they always?) Jinxx and I were doing a nice smooth search, she was working independently in front of me, I was planning on calling Finish once she had touched every bag (there were only about 7 bags and 6 boxes) She alerted on a white box right off the start line, and was coming around and sniffed at a bag and started to lay down. I called Alert – NO. I think I called too quickly. Ah, well. I had already heard NO on the firewood bundle.
On Saturday, several teams got to the last element (Containers) without having heard “NO”. They were still in the running for an NW3 title, at least one person was in the running for NW3 Elite going into Containers. No pressure -haha.. Mike and Logan were one of the teams who were still in the running for their first NW3 title as they entered Containers.
There were 2 Container hides. Dogs got the hide farthest from the start line, but missed the hide closest to the start line. If the dog (only 4 passed Containers this day) sniffed the bag from floor up, or top down, they got it. If they just skimmed the top, they missed it. A big issue was it was the last element of the day – MANY people were afraid of a false alert after they found one hide, so they were in and out in only seconds, some practically pulling their dog off odor as they called Finish! Most saw their dog do a quick sniff atop the bag, assumed they hit it well enough, and were then focused on getting their dog to cover the next 2 bags leading into a corner. If they had paused to let their dogs work that bag, they would have gotten it. I loved that of the 2 that did pass, one was an Akita (not a speed demon) and the other a 13 year old Golden. So who’s to say you have to have the fastest dog to earn a ribbon? Mike and Logan ended up false alerting after finding one hide, and missed NW3 by ONE hide. A great showing – but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as my dad always says.
I’m proud of Holly, Mike and Sarah and their teammates BoomBoom, Logan and Roxie – did I mention Roxie is the first NW3 dog in ME, and the 2nd Brittany in the country to obtain her NW3 title? While the next NW3 trial is far away (geographically as well as in months), the 3 workshops I did in December and all the volunteering have given me lots of new ideas for things to practice come January. I’d also love to hear from you all – what have you felt has helped you most during a trial, that we’ve done in class? And what would you like to do more of? Think about it during the break… I hope you and your dogs ARE taking a little break, after much practicing for the Nov/Dec trials, I think it will help your dogs come back refreshed and re-energized. Another side benefit I’ve seen is my dogs are skinny! A month of no training and they are lean.
I had thought Foxboro would be Jinxx and my last trial. She was so pokey in October and November, not working hard to get to source once she was in odor, not being very efficient in her searching – doing a lot of barking and walking and looking at me. She looked old, tired, bored, not interested in (or able to?) solving the problem(s). She did a little better in NJ – not great, but more enthusiastic, from the drive down, walking around the hotel, to the trial site. And Foxboro she seemed very close to her old self – pulling me towards the search areas when she was on a potty break, going under the vehicles to work out the scent problems, sniffing like crazy trying to track down that bureau hide we missed (I should have brought her back into the bedroom, rather than letting her stall in the hallway) So I don’t know… I’d like to have her finish out her career with an NW3 title, but only if she wants it. We’ll see. I still have Izzie to work on (I think Craig has retired himself from trials!) and a puppy is in my not too distant future. We’ll see.