NW1 Trial in Dighton, MA

Well, I thought I’d start with Sunday’s NW1 trial, and go back to Saturday’s NW3 trial in a different post.  Because Sunday was outstanding!  6 teams from York/Saco classes competed, and ALL 6 came home with NW1 titles!

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For some, it was a second shot (or 3rd, if you count the dog who has done 3 NW1 trials w/ 2 different handlers)  For another, it was their first trial with that particular dog, having attained a NW1 title with a different dog, for another, it was their first NW trial, and for one person, I believe it was their first dog trial experience ever!  So a range of handler and dog experiences.  Sometimes, your second or 3rd attempt helps you be calmer, and you and your dog are more prepared than your first time.  You get a routine, you know what to expect, maybe you’ve even been to the site before. However, it also comes with the baggage of the mistakes you’ve made in the past.  In your mind, the Interior was what got you last time, so you dread a repeat performance of THAT.  For others, they remember how close their dog was to source, yet not quite close enough for the judge to say Yes that sticks in their mind.  Or they remember that gymnasium where their dog pushed and played with the boxes, and fringe-alerted that has them wondering when to believe their dog when the time comes.

For the first timers, they don’t have have those demons playing in their mind, but the nerves that come with the unknown can be just as rattling.  When do I get my dog out?  Should I treat my dog while we wait, talk to him, get him to do some tricks, or just hang here passively?  Should I do the practice boxes one more time?  Should my dog – or I – potty one more time?

Well, none of those questions really matter now, because everyone made the right decisions for their team on Sunday… whatever you chose to do in the parking lot, before the search, and during your search all worked to bring home the title!

I had the pleasure of being Judge’s Steward for Interiors, and saw all 39 dogs work it.  Neil Raymond was the judge… one of my favorite judges, as he has seen Jinxx and I from our very first trial, to our last.  While I had set up a “classroom” for the York classes to practice, thinking maybe that would be a search area used, they ended up using a room in the basement.  It had tables, chairs, bookshelves, boxes of stuff, generally, a lot of junk.  A unique feature were the indoor trees – bark-less logs with branches that almost covered the ceiling.  Many people were worried their boy dogs would feel the need to water the trees, but no dogs peed.  Ironically, the bushes were out of bounds on the Exterior, so the only trees were INSIDE. They kept the room door open, although per Neil’s suggestion, another door was closed once I led dog and handlers into an outer room/basement area.  So if the dogs bolted from the search room, they were enclosed in the basement.  I also stood in the doorway.  Only one dog made a slight attempt to leave, all the others worked the room. The hide was under a table in a stack of drawers. There was a tall stool nearby, and opposite the hide was a wall with shelves.  Many dogs showed a LOT of interest in the shelves, so I believe the odor was drafting to that wall and the open door I was blocking.  A few false alerted there.  Several dogs also worked the stool – it was close to the odor, and the seat seemed to act like an umbrella, capturing pooling odor.  One dog worked the stool and worked the stool, and the handler closed in for a better look (we all know what that means, right?) and yes, the dog looked up at the handler and the handler called Alert 😦  It was interesting to see who opted to go on or off leash. A few people commented as they approached the threshold why they were or were not going to leash, at that stage of the game, I did not feel it was my place to influence them either way.  We all know what Sergio would say!  I understand the reasoning – maybe my dog will pee on a tree, maybe my dog will focus on Pam or the others in the room (timer, Judge and videographer), maybe my dog will run out and we’ll waste time.  One person started off leash, felt like her dog was not searching (he is a timid dog that spent a lap just feeling comfortable in the room) and she was just about to leash him, when he got in odor.  She recognized his change of behavior and held off leashing him – thank goodness – and he gave a nice alert.  Another person had their high energy dog on a pretty short leash, and the dog kept trying to go under the table to get to source.  Poor guy tried 3-4 times – this is where doing it off leash and standing back would have really helped the dog – he was finally focusing on odor (instead of people) yet was being restrained from it.  He did get to it and Alert.

Donna was one who did it on leash, and handled the leash beautifully as Teddy worked his way around the tables and chairs.  She gave him plenty of leash, yet held it up so it was never snagged or a hinderance.  Teddy gave the timer a quick sniff, and Donna said “You can socialize later!”  Neil said, “that’s not in his genes!”  Very true!  A few dogs had picked up odor on that far side of the table, and Teddy probably did, too, but then set his sites on Martine, the videographer.  But he quickly moved on, (had me nervous in the corner for a few seconds) came to the front side of the U shaped configuration, checked the stool briefly, then worked the table leg down to the drawers.  He gave his nice little freeze/bow/paw/tail wag.

Janis and Catcher did it off leash, and Janis really held herself as far back and close to the start line as possible.  Catcher worked the shelves, stool and then the drawers – I don’t think he went any deeper in the room, that I remember.  When he was a the hide, I had a moment of, “how is he going to tell Janis?  This isn’t Billie Sue, who digs a bit at source” but he gave Janis a nice look that was clear and easy to read, when you combined it with the closed-mouth sniffing he was doing and detailing he did.  Really nice – Sergio would be proud!

Sarah and Max – similar to Janis, in that Sarah really held herself back by the start line for as long as possible.  Max, the busy terrier, did go up the left side of the room, and I think he picked up odor on the tree near the table… he came around and then spent time at the bookshelf.  I couldn’t see that wall, but I could tell he was on his hind legs climbing.  I was holding my breath, and had to tell myself to exhale and relax!  Just like Ramona said in the debrief at the end, and what we’ve seen a lot with the small dogs in particular, is that many times they will work the pooling odor on a wall before turning around and going to source.  Max turned around, worked the stool (again, had to hold my breath) and then made his way to the table… worked the leg, then up under the table above the drawers on his hind legs… worked the table leg down to the hide, laid down, tail sped up and 1-2 slight paw touches.  Beautiful.

Barbara and Midnight – Barbara has come a long way in trusting her dogs, letting them work out in front of her, and not being on top of them.  Midnight was busy in the room, but worked quickly and efficiently.  I think she spent a short amount of time on the shelves, but was pretty quick to get to the drawers and make her decision.  Sorry I don’t remember anything more specific about her run!

Kim and Bailey also opted to go on leash.  Bailey had to check things out, much of her time in the room was spent being inquisitive and curious, but when they rounded the U and got to the stool and table w/ the drawers, she was clearly showing different behavior – now we’re hunting!  She didn’t do the freeze that she’s started to do in class, but she did pause then look up at Kim.  I almost thought she might bark!  But similar to Catcher, between the change in behavior and detailing she did before the look, you could feel confident calling Alert.

Kathy and Buddy – I feel badly that the dog ahead of them scratched, and my run order wasn’t updated.  They had told me in the parking lot, but by the time I got the the Interior, I had forgotten.  I had handed Neil that dog’s scoresheet, so when Kathy came to the line and Neil said “Hi, X” we had to tell him it was Kathy… I scrambled to get him the correct scoresheet, but by that time, Buddy was already pulling Kathy into the search area.  So their start was a little clumsy, no thanks to the help!  Buddy, like Bailey, had to do one round being inquisitive, but did some nice sourcing and change in behavior at the drawers.  I think he checked the stool first, then moved down… he nudged the drawers so hard he dislodged them… but then he walked away!  He came back there and sniffed around and Kathy called it.  I guess that exercise where we encouraged the dogs to push through obstacles to get to source really stuck with him!

So, I knew everyone had passed Interiors.  For those coming to Interiors having already done Exteriors, I never ask them how it went as we approach the start line – I never want to distract anyone or bring up a negative if they did not pass.  But on the way out, I would ask “how did your morning go?” Most times I got, “oh, pretty good”.  So I was pretty sure everyone was 2 for 2.

In the afternoon I got to play traffic cop.  I could just see down the hill and the top half of the 3 vehicles.  I was pretty sure the hide was on the middle car.  I think Catcher worked the first car out and around, then came to the middle car, worked the bumper, then got to the hide and Alerted.  Bailey paused briefly at the first car, then went right to the second car.  It looked like an Alert from where I was standing, and another CNWI that I know walked by right after her search (she owns red Golden Retrievers) I asked her how the Golden did, and she said “Really well!  That was the fastest dog so far!”  Then Max… I could just see his back and tail… he went from the start line directly to the car, and all I could see was his spring loaded tail!  Alert!  Teddy, Midnight and Buddy were interested in the goose poop and fields around the cars, but all made it to the hide.  Teddy was great – I could see his beautiful tail waving back and forth when he was at the middle car.  The fun thing w/ NW1 & NW2 is that when you know it’s someones last element, and they pass, you can ask if it means a title… when they say yes, everyone cheers!  I miss that w/ NW3.

So YAHOO – everyone passed EVERYTHING!  What a fun day.  I loved being able to see you all en route to the Interior and get to see that search.  Everyone did a great job letting their dog work, giving their dog space, not blurt alerting, not panicking, not moving in when their dog was in odor.  I believe Janis got a Pronounced for Interiors, and Sarah and Max got Pronounced on **3** out of 4 elements!!!  The only one she did not get a P on was her first element, Exterior, where I’m sure she was nervous, Max probably fed off that and was probably slower than normal (just my guess)  I would have LOVED for Sarah to get the Pronounced ribbon, but 3 out of 4 is pretty darn cool!  As it is, Sarah and Max came in 2nd place for Vehicles!  So a TOTALLY different experience than trial #1.

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Donna and Teddy also had some redemption – this was the same site where they missed in October… I know that sting was still there heading into Sunday, so it’s nice to come back and turn things around.

It was also fun for me working w/ the other volunteers – almost all are long-time NW friends, and we’ve been through a lot together!  I hope everyones overall trial experience was a good one.

There was a high pass rate, but there were also folks there who are on their 2nd, 3rd and fourth NW dogs.  In other words, some very experienced competitors.  Lindsay and Neil both commented on how the handling has gotten SO much better than when they began judging… so I’m glad you guys can benefit from everything I’ve learned each time I’ve heard “No” in a trial.  I told Neil when he said that at lunch (how the handling is so much better) that he should be proud – he, Lindsay and the other judges have all taught us a lot.

So NICE WORK to all of you, in class, in your practice at home and with Beth.  Speaking of, a BIG THANK YOU to Beth Dutton for finding locations, organizing and setting up NW practice sessions in the last 2 months.  I think this really helped.  I am SO glad the time and money you’ve invested in classes with me has paid off.  It is such a good feeling when you and your dog work together and hear Yes.  I hope you met some new folks – chances are, you’ll see them at the next trial, since as you’ve found, NW is addicting!

Congratulations!  We’ll start working on NW2 stuff shortly, since there’s a trial coming up in… ok, just kidding, but we will start working on NW2 stuff!

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