Can it really be a month since I’ve last written anything?? My little red friend with a tail has been a big distraction! I’ll have to post some video of him doing his puppy NW for breakfast 🙂
NW3 Trial in Cobleskill, NY March 21 & 22
Co-COs Wendy Kreibel & Troy Mills
Judges Neil Raymond & Sergio DeRojas
Saturday – Roxie and Sarah and Izzie and I both trialed… and Sarah and Roxie obtained their 2nd NW3 title!! I’m so excited for them and proud of them. Roxie has come SO far since she first started, spooked by her tag hitting a metal pail back when she was still searching for just food. She’s super quick, focused and has a beautiful final response (such a great point!) Izzie and I did fine, except for false alerting in the first :22 seconds of our day!! Not a good start, but our last search, Vehicles, we missed 3rd place by 3 seconds! to come in 5th. And we got everything else. In hindsight, the hides were all very straight forward. I mean, 12 white boxes with NO distractions for our container search? 3 rooms, 2 of them TINY, only *2* vehicles in our vehicle search? An exterior with NO grass or dead leaves? The challenge was not so much the hides themselves, but the conditions of the environment. The Container search was pretty straightforward (Izzie!!) but had a grate in the floor, and a row of boxes heading towards an exterior door, creating some movement in the odor (at least, that’s what I’m going with) The 3 rooms were really really warm, with heat blowing hard out of wall vents, one room had a dog crate and wall to wall carpet (so much for not having lots of dog odors in a trial environment!) and the larger room had rows of tables and chairs, making it potentially challenging to cover. The exterior, while mostly concrete with few of the normal outside distractions, was elevated (it was a high 2nd floor patio, with wire fencing on the edge) and extremely windy. There was only one hide, but lots of dogs found something of interest in the L of the building… whether that was environmental distraction that became greater with each dog who sniffed it, or odor from the hide pooling against the building, I’m not sure, but I’m glad we didn’t false alert there, too. The vehicle search was in a barn, with a large open door. There were doves roosting in the rafters, and a pig barn next door… so lots of good animal smells for the dogs. The 2 vehicles were farm vehicles, with their own distracting smells. So overall, the hides were straightforward yet the environment presented some challenges. No one I spoke with, even folks who titled, felt great about their searches that day. That is the other challenge, the not knowing. Izzie walked into the first room, took 4 steps, and alerted. If that had been NW1 or NW2, I would have been psyched! But since you don’t know the # of hides, you try to make sure your dog has covered everything – with the heat blasting, it was tricky to tell if she was hot, distracted, or truly done (i.e., no other hides) Roxie and Izzie both beelined it to a hide in the large room, again, probably within 10 or 15 seconds, and again, if we had known the # of hides, you would leave feeling good about that search. But with Izzie shuffling her feet and looking like I was watching snow melt, I called Finish wondering if she had found all the hides or just got hot and quit (she did find both hides). Sarah and Roxie felt good about their Container search, which was a nice start to their day, and maybe set them up for success the rest of the day. Even though Roxie was distracted by the heat blasting (after she found the hide, mind you) and distracted by the boundary flags in the exterior, she did her job and Sarah went with what Roxie gave her. Although they do have to work on leaving a little breathing room when it comes to running down the clock! Oh – and Sarah and Roxie earned their NW3-C title, and Izzie and I earned our NW3-I and NW3-E titles. We have yet to pass a NW3 Container search!
Sunday Beth and Isaac and Holly and BoomBoom ran. It was really really cold and still pretty windy, so the vehicle search was in the same barn as Saturday (along with the same distractions) and the exterior search was in the same barn, just on the other side of the wall from the vehicle search. The barn door was left wide open, so there was plenty of wind gusts to make it feel like an exterior search, along with a giant ceiling mounted heater, that made a lot of noise. There were also freezers running – some were out of play/bounds, others were in the search area. There were 2 hides, one on a conveyor belt bench type thing pretty much off the start line, and another in a dustpan at the back of the search area. The wind was blowing hard into the search area, so many dogs went to the back of the search area first, then made their way back to the front. The challenge here was again, environmental. Some dogs did NOT like the loud blower, and others showed LOTS of interest in the freezers. A few dogs sniffed up and down the doors of the freezers, one sniffed under it, and several false alerted. A few dogs showed interest in some blue plastic things at the back of the room, between the two sets of freezers. I think there was some pooling odor from that front hide, depending on how the wind was blowing and gusting. One dog showed a LOT of interest, and left, the handler brought her back and the dog didn’t even sniff it. So my guess is a gust of wind brought odor there on her first pass. Two dogs false alerted in that area. It was interesting to see some dogs show interest in the freezers, but not alert, and other dogs show interest, and give a full blown alert. I was timing, so got to see it all, and got to hear Sergios’ comments and feedback. His big take was that when handlers get in their dogs line of vision, or do a physical cue like step forward towards their dog, this distracts the dog from odor — the handler ends up competing with odor. The dog looks up to see where the handler is going, makes eye contact, and you’re all done (false alert) There was one handler who had her dog come back to re-check the freezer, and simply rocked forward on her feet – the dog turned to look at her, turned back to the freezer and pawed. Alert! No. BoomBoom had my heart racing – he stayed in an alcove that I couldn’t really see from where I was standing, and spent some time in there… then at the freezer, did a LOT of HEAVY sniffing, cheeks flapping, up and down the door, before walking away. Holly brought him back – who wouldn’t? it was so similar to what Logan does near source – but good dog BoomBoom – he walked on. Beth and Isaac weren’t so lucky 😦 Holly and BoomBoom had some challenges (i.e., heard No) later in the day, but did go home with their NW3-E title. For Beth and Isaac, their first NW3, I think it was a good introduction to this level… nothing crazy hard in any one element, but put all the environmental distractions combined with the not knowing the # of hides, and you get a good idea of what NW3 is all about! I think we all left with things we need to work on, and some good ideas for a re-vamped training plan. I had a fun weekend catching up with many NW3 friends I hadn’t seen since December, as well as the judges and trial site host “Doc” Steve MacKenzie.
Next up: Holly & BoomBoom, Sarah & Roxie, Andy & Koda and Jinxx and I trial in Dighton for NW3, while Donna & Teddy (York) Kim & Bailey (York) Kathy & Buddy (Saco) and Janis & Catcher (Saco) will go for NW1. Sarah and Max (York) are still 2nd on the wait list – fingers and paws crossed that they get in! Dighton will be a familiar trial site to many of us, having been host to several trials and Element trials over the years. It is a nice compact site, not a lot of walking or waiting at staging areas, it is similar in a way to Cobleskill this year. The compact parking lot does make it cozy – easy to socialize and meet people, sometimes tricky to move your dog around, but easy on the gate stewards who call the numbers out! If anyone is NOT in the trial, I encourage you to come down and volunteer – cheer on your fellow classmates, see what a trial is all about, meet fellow competitors. The volunteer coordinators make every effort to rotate volunteers, so that you get to see some searches. And don’t worry – you’ll get training if you are asked to video or time, or even be a box setter.
I’m looking forward to hanging out with friends again, being able to rehash the search areas, and being able to silently cheer for my NW1 students from my volunteer position. Should be a fun weekend!