This certainly has been an action packed trial season! It’s hard to keep up!
Ashby MA NW3 Trials Sept 27
Well, we all had near misses. One missed Vehicle (Isaac was still working to source, when the Alert was called. The dreaded “Where?” and he just wasn’t quite at source. A false alert in Interiors – yes, 26 seconds into our day, I called Alert while Izzie paused to sniff some stockpots in the kitchen. Totally rookie move! A missed container hide – Koda apparently just didn’t get to the far side of the bag, where the odor was stashed. And, a missed Exterior, where Roxie’s ghosts from last year resurfaced in the weird indoor/outdoor exterior search area. So no common themes, which tells me there are no major holes in our training, we each just had a bad luck moment. It was a beautiful day, and probably the most fun and relaxed I’ve been not only hanging in the parking lot with friends, but as a competitor. Izzie and I had FUN, on the way to our searches, in the searches (the first room excluded) and coming back from our searches. Holly and Mike worked their tails off as volunteer coordinators, so the whole trial had a very homey feel to it. And, I got to spend 2 nights at my parents house, only 45 mins away, and drive beautiful country roads both days. Other than not leaving with a pretty ribbon, it was a great weekend.
Spencer, MA NW1 & NW2 Trials Oct 10 & 11
We had some NW1 success in Spencer, MA – Cynthia and Sam not only earned their title, they also came in 1st place in Containers! Really nice job – especially when you think back a few months, and Sam would sort of wander and bounce back and forth between hunting and cruising, from checking the environment to checking the boxes. I think going back to pairing, our treat tossing exercise to keep him at source, and the handler behind the line exercise all built independence, confidence and clarity to his searches. Those are all still going to be valuable skills moving forward, so expect more of those type of exercises to prepare you for NW2.
There were some disappointments, as well… a false alert in Containers (the last search of the day), and some confusion during a vehicle search (the first search of the day). I don’t know which is worse, to bomb in your first 20 seconds, or in your last search when you can taste that title. Having been in both positions, I can say neither one is fun! But, while you don’t leave with a ribbon, you leave with a more clearly defined training plan. Multiple vehicles! Maybe thinking about the weather conditions to put your dog in the best possible position to pick up odor, or taking control of the search, until the dog’s nose kicks in and you hit birch are all things to think about. Containers – going back to pairing, not asking for or looking for a final response for a while, just getting in and rewarding ASAP, and remembering to take your time when under pressure are things I usually take away from false alerts in Container searches.
The NW2 trial in Spencer found a similar Container story… a false alert, on a blank bag. Such a bummer, after cruising through the rest of the searches! So, you can guess what we’ve worked on in class since this trial! Clarity in what pays (ODOR!) and what does not (anything else!), keeping the dog hunting independently and not looking to the handler for clues, working multiple types of containers for NW2/3. Good news: there was another NW2 trial coming up to give it another shot.
Martinsville, NJ NW3 Trial October 16
Andy & Koda made the long drive at the last minute, and again, were SO close to titling… one container search away from that NW3 title. Otherwise, they came in a respectable 11th, 12th and 13th place in the other 3 elements. The good news: there is another NW3 trial on the horizon. Can you guess what we are going to (continue) working on in class? They did go home with a NW3-Exterior title ribbon… meaning, they’ve passed NW3 Exterior elements 3 times. Nice work on that!
Mashpee, MA NW3 Trial October 24
One hide away from a title yet again, undone by Containers yet again! Leaving with 2 NW3 Element titles (NW3-Interior, NW3-Vehicle) sort of makes up for it. And yes, we will be practicing Containers in class.
The big news… there WAS an NW3 title that came to Maine (well, technically NH) Congratulations to Mike and Logan! One of only 3 teams to title that day, they came in 3rd overall, and earned an Element title. GREAT job! For Andy and Beth, who have missed NW3 by one hide a few times, Mike and Logan were in the same boat. So you guys will be next up to title! Earning Pronounced from 2 of the judges is also a highlight.
Hawley, PA NW3 Trial October 24
Well, I wish Izzie and I had as good a day as Beth and Mike. I was looking forward to our search – an elementary school, with crowded, busy rooms, much like the church we’ve been practicing in with Beth. Unfortunately, there was a shooting range not far from the school, so every time I took her out to walk her, you could clearly hear constant gun fire. I had to DRAG her out of the car for our second search. I almost scratched, pulled us out of the trial after only one element. Then I said, it’s a Container search, we’ll be inside, we can do this! We started out well, she searched right away, circled back to get a hot box, but then we ended up false alerting, on a blank bag. Later, in Interiors, I was about to call Finish, when she went back into a tight corner, showed interest, and we false alerted on a filing cabinet behind a teachers desk. Then we missed a hide in room 3. But ironically, we did the best in Exteriors – the gun fire had stopped, either that or you just couldn’t hear it behind the school in the search area, and she did a really nice job searching and alerting. I’m proud of myself for using the wind to get her in a good position to pick up odor, and we earned a Pronounced for that search. At least we ended on a high note.
Mashpee MA NW2 Trial October 25
Day 2 of the Mashpee weekend saw 5 York/Saco students go for NW2. 4 of them titled!
Barbara and Oasis, Andy and Panda (redemption!) Kathy and Buddy, and Sarah and Max. For Barbara, Andy and Kathy, this was at least their second attempt. NW2 is not a gimmee! For Sarah and Max, this was their first NW2 trial, but having done 3 NW1 trials really worked out any kinks. Less trial nerves, more friends, more training and trialing experience for both Sarah and Max all lead to… 2nd place Overall! Plus 2 element placements! Plus earning a Pronounced from the judges on 3 out of 4 of the searches! Awesome job! The road to get there might have had some painful moments (I was personally part of that pain, when I failed to get an NW1 title on Max!) but what great results all that pain and hard work produced. Super, great, awesome job. And for the one who did not pass, again, we know what to work on… and I happened to set up a hide that mimicked what happened at the trial. Pooling odor had Catcher a little unsure of how to follow it back to source, so he would check in with mom, and then sort of give up and go to mom, like, this is the best I can do, can you take this as close enough? Unfortunately, no, it’s not close enough. We ended up pairing the problem hide (after he made a REALLY big effort to source it) and after some more work, he made his way up to source. Painful as it was to watch him struggle, I think we’ve been accepting “oh, he’s close, oh, he made a good effort” for too long. Luckily, a food motivated Corgi will not leave food on the table (or next to it, as the case was) So again, a “failure” will only make you better, stronger, faster in your next attempt. Not to mention the additional training time you will have between now and the next trial.
We have a couple more NW3 trials coming up. In the meantime, more Container practice!
Again, Congratulations to all who titled in the last month, now, get ready for more work as we prepare you for the next level in your NW journey!