Quattro’s first full Nose Work trial! We did our monthly practice in Boxborough, MA on Friday, I stopped in at Clean Run on the way to PA and got a new harness (nothing like trying out new equipment for the first time in a trial) and we had smooth sailing to the hotel.
The trial was at an elementary school, snug parking, and SUPER humid, muggy conditions. I was almost late to the trial (thought I misplaced my wallet, but it was in my car the whole time) and actually got a better parking spot because of being one of the last to arrive. I was able to run my car w/ the AC on and not blast anyone w/ my cars exhaust. Although I was debating – was it better to let Quattro acclimate to the humid air, or do I cool him off then shock him w/ hot air when it was time to search? Not sure I came up w/ a good answer on that one.
It was so fun (and funny) being back at a NW1 trial! Lots of green handlers with lots of questions – such a contrast from the previous weekends 2 days of NW3 and experienced handlers. How high can the hide be? Can I lift my little dog up on the tables? Do we get a bathroom break between searches? We don’t do all 4 search areas at once? This was the most relaxed I’ve been at a trial, and completely confident in my dog and his abilities for the level we were trialing at. I hope that feeling stays with me for each level I do, and I hope all my students feel it, too.
We started with Containers, which were in the gym, on the basketball court. Other than Quattro freezing at the very first box (it flashed through my mind that that could be the hot box, but mostly I didn’t believe him… by the time that went through my head, he’d moved on) he moved along nicely, giving everything a quick sniff. And then he went out the doors we were going to exit, I sort of stopped the leash once he disappeared, and he came back in, checked a box he’d missed, did a nice U turn and alerted on another box he’d missed. A nice freeze, a nice Yes from the judge.
From there, we exited the same doors Quattro went out chasing odor, outside onto a step overlooking the exterior search area. I swear he picked up odor from the step, and if he were allowed off leash, would have squeezed through the railings and gone to source. We got down to the start line, he lowered his head, I released him then had to run to keep up. He ran past a picnic table, did a U turn and worked the table – up under the top, along the top of the bench, then finally down under the bench and froze. Another Alert and yes.
Back to the car and AC. After lunch, we did Interiors (a classroom, with a few teachers desks, a few tables and some chairs) and then Vehicles. The classroom had a linoleum floor for about 1/4 of the room, then a blue line right at the carpet for the other 3/4 of the room. Quattro went pretty directly to a little kids chair and sniffed the edge – I thought, that looks promising, but he left it. It also sort of looked like he was sniffing dog slobber. He spent a fair amount of time sniffing the carpeted floor, the back of the room, and finally came back to the front. It looked like he was chasing dog footprints, which is not like him. But being that we were the 38th dog to come through, I suppose there were LOT of footprints to check! He put his front feet up on the 2 teachers desks (near that first chair) and then went to the little chair… worked his way underneath it, and froze. Another Alert, another Yes. Although why he didn’t work it to source the first time, I’m not sure. The heat? The multitude of dogs to work through? Not sure.
Outside to Vehicles. Our start was not pretty… he wanted to go behind the start line, then he wanted to go to the lawn next to the start line. Do I let him go to the grass, which was suggested the previous weekend at the NW3 trials? Won’t that confuse the timer, if he does not cross the start line (I had that happen w/ Izzie once) So, I forced him between the cones, and instantly regretted it… it just didn’t feel right to yank him in MY direction when he had his own plan. So, he worked the first vehicle, even putting his paws up by the sideview mirror (luckily that was not captured on film) We made our way around the rear bumper, he spent some time working odor but not bracketing or pinpointing anything… even going up on the bumper and checking the Honda H symbol, and we moved on to the 3rd vehicle. He got almost to the front tire, turned and came around the backside of the car (farthest from the judge and volunteers) then U turned, picked up speed and sucked the side of the vehicle back to the front tire. Alert… silence. I had an immediate flashback to one of Izzie’s container searches, where I called Alert and heard a loooong pause before I heard No, and then I hear Sergio say “did you just say Alert?” and I had a flash of Andy and Koda’s Container search last summer, where the answer was also No… luckily, he just didn’t hear me, and when I watch it back on video, I was really quiet in my Alerts. Note to self – be loud and clear! for the judge and timers sake.
I didn’t feel like I had my super speedy, quick to decide, go right to the hide search dog, and again, it was tough to tell if it was the humidity, the # of dogs that went before us that he had to sort through, or maybe some nerves I didn’t realize I had. He had to work for each hide, and while speedy is nice, it was fun to watch him figure out the the hides. I felt like I stayed back, let him work it his way (except for the Vehicle search at the start, and when he went up to the lawn a few times) I backed out of his way when he changed direction and came at me, and he worked independently. Never checking in with me, just continuously hunting and doing his thing. This was how I’ve been training him since week 1, so I can say yes, you do at a trial like you do in practice! And the harness worked pretty well – he still does not like getting into it, but was happy enough to pull, with no pressure on his throat (which was what I wanted). I was so psyched to be able to purchase 3 videos – other than me holding my phone, juggling treats and leash and trying to video our practices, it was really nice to have trial video made available for purchase.
Even though we didn’t place in any one element, and came in 12th overall, we got the coveted PRONOUNCED designation! I was really really happy with that. One judge was Sergio, who has certainly seen some BAD handling on my part over the years, and the other judge was new to me, Jerri, a woman with Search and Rescue background. To have them give us a P in all four searches meant a lot. I felt bad for all the new, first time to trial people who heard No… I felt like telling them, there are a LOT of Nos behind this Pronounced ribbon! I’ve learned to take the critiques, suggestions and feedback and apply and try new things, throw out what doesn’t work for me and my dog, and fine tune other things. It was really gratifying to see and feel it all come together! Now on to NW2…