Quattro’s first NW3 trial. He passed his NW1 in June, his NW2 in October, and I was really hopeful that we would pass NW3 on our first attempt. But, we found another way to not title, something that in all the Nose Work trials I’ve done, has never happened before. All I could say was, “well, there’s a first time for everything”.
Here’s how the day started.
I feel pretty comfortable w/ Container searches. We had a shaky NW1 Container search, where he froze on the first box. I didn’t want to blow the trial 5ft off the start line, and as I was debating if it was a real alert, he moved on (thank goodness, because the hot box was on the opposite end of the room). So other than that moment, I feel pretty good about him ignoring distractions and dog scent, and only alerting on hot bags/boxes/containers. My start was not so hot – I actually released him to search while still wearing my gloves! I always work w/ a treat in my hand, so why I didn’t get myself ready before releasing him, I don’t know. I kept one glove on and carried the other in my leash hand. I called Alert, and went over and fumbled for a treat (not like me!) and he was off. He alerted on another bag, and this time I was a little more prepared. The only trouble was, I couldn’t quite figure out what he had searched, what he had skimmed by, and what he had skipped altogether. I ended up sort of standing in one spot, and he circled around the edges, eventually searching chairs stacked on the side of the room. It was about then that I called Finish.
Trial video was available to purchase, and I gritted my teeth and bought them. I knew *I* didn’t do a great job of handling the Container search – he circled and circled, and although I left fairly certain we’d found the only 2 hides out there (we had) it was just not a very smooth, efficient search. So, here is the video. Watching it back, I wasn’t sure where I was trying to get Quattro to search. I think I wanted him to check a white box, but I was standing very close to it, so he ended up spinning around me. Why didn’t I step back? Another time, I want him to go right, he goes left, I decide to follow him just as he decides to follow me. Awkward! You be the judge:
In a novel twist, we got the option to work off leash! It was a long, narrow area. Keep in mind, this was 4 days after our big snow storm, yet NJ had NO SNOW. So we worked on grass for the first time in months! As usual, Quattro ran to the back of the search area, and pretty quickly alerted to a wheelbarrow. There were several “objects” around the edges, a milk crate, garden hose coiled in a ceramic container, a plastic thing on wheels w/ a garden hose rolled up on it, a grill. As I was thinking about the objects I wanted him to cover, he pretty much hit everything, criss crossing the middle of the search area several times. The center of the search area had some plastic things stacked up, and a pile of old hay behind a chicken wire fence. He paused to sniff it several times as he criss crossed the search area. He got back to the start line and checked it on his own (again, this was in my mind that I needed to get him back there, since he had run through it) and I felt pretty good. I was just about to call Finish, when he made one more pass to the hay in the middle… sniffed carefully… tilted his head to the side… and lifted his leg! NEVER have I had that happen before. That is a big E (Eliminated) for eliminating. We got no points for the hide we found – the only hide out there – and we got full time for that search. I hooked him up and did the walk of shame, past the crowd that had gathered and collectively groaned when he lifted his leg. I think in his mind, he had found the one and only hide, he had passed by lots of dog odor (apparently 6 dogs had peed in various places in that search area) and finally decided since there was nothing else to find out there, he may as well add his scent. Arghhhh! Here is the search: When would you have called Finish?
Another search that was AWKWARD. Mary says watching me run Quattro is like watching me fly a kite – well, this was like a 50lb kite in gale force winds! Actually, there WAS a stiff wind at our backs at the start line. The hide ended up being on the far side of the middle vehicle – we had a car, a truck and a small bus to search. The challenge for us, was that there were 15 other cars parked BEHIND the search cars, and the wind was blowing directly into them. That meant that the odor was all over the other cars, which were out of the search area. Try telling that to Quattro. At one point, I thought about not even searching the front side of the bus, since any odor on the bus would be blown to the far side, which we had searched. But, I’ve been burned in the past by missing a hide by not covering one side of a vehicle. And when he alerted on the hide, I was wondering for a moment if it was blowing under the truck, and he was alerting on the wrong side of the truck. But he was really stuck on it so I finally call Alert. The thing I see in the video, that I felt in the moment, was that I was not in control of the search. I mean, I want HIM to lead to an extent, but then I need to take some control and be sure we cover the vehicles in an efficient way. This was the only search where I got a :30 warning. See if I covered every side of each vehicle, or if I covered some sides more than once?
No video available for purchase on these, but a run down:
Room 1: A women’s room – ironically, we had just searched 2 bathrooms at our practice the week before! Quattro ran in, checked the one stall, zipped around, came back to the door we started from, did a mico-freeze on an electrical outlet, then zipped off. He checked under the sinks, and I decided to call Finish. As I called it, and started to reach to hook him up, he froze on the electoral outlet again! I didn’t buy it the first time, and while the second time left me with a small doubt, I was pretty sure it was a blank room. Yes, it turned out to be blank!
Room 2: A teacher’s lounge / break room. I honestly don’t remember too much about the next two rooms – they each had 2 hides, he went in and found one hide, then the next pretty quickly. He criss-crossed the room twice, and I called Finish. Not much detailing or direction by me, but I decided to trust him.
Room 3: A computer lab, that was open to a hair dressing salon! It was separated by some book shelves, but was pretty open. There was blue tape on the floor letting you know the boundaries. Quattro alerted right away on a stool – yay! a threshold hide! then I think alerted on a blue recycling container. Criss crossed the room a couple times, and I called Finish.
So, I felt good in that a) we didn’t false alert and b) I really didn’t think we missed anything. He was so clear when he got to the hides, he was fast and moved independently through the search areas, covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time. I DIDN’T feel good about my lack of direction / control – even if that means just turning and taking a step or two in one direction, flowing along with him, turning when I wanted him to turn – it was very herky-jerky and we felt at odds with each other in Containers and Vehicles. Ironically, I felt the best about the way we worked the Exterior… until the final fatal moment. Next weekend we are doing an agility workshop which features the OneMind agility handling principles. Maybe I’ll pick something up there that I can apply to NW!
So, I checked the results, and was surprised to find:
Even given full time for the Exterior element, we would have come in 3rd place Overall. If I had called Finish just before he lifted his leg, which is what I was thinking, we would have come in 1st place Overall, and 1st place in Exteriors.
We came in 14th place in Vehicles
We came in 5th in Interiors
We came in 9th in Containers
Even with how awkward that all felt, I am confident that my dog is odor obedient and can be trusted with finding what’s out there. I just have to be brave and call Finish sooner. Not for time or placement sake, but to keep him focused and his confidence up. When I kept him searching too long (gosh, it was probably less than 30 seconds) in the blank room, he decided to pick something to alert to – luckily I didn’t buy it. When I kept him searching too long in the Vehicle search, you can see him look at the spectators, he sniffs the ground behind the bus and looks like he’s going to pee again, looks disinterested in anything other than chasing the only odor that was out there. And we all saw what happened when he was kept searching too long in the Exterior search. Looking at the video, I can see how long he took to get to each hide… his average is 20 seconds! He found both Container hides in 25 seconds! So when I see my total times as over a minute per room and in the Container search, and over 2 minutes for the Vehicle search, that’s a lot of dead time for him. Searching with no more hides. We don’t really do that in class, and I’m sure I don’t do that in my practices, since it’s mainly me putting the hides out. That is one reason why I let you know your times, when your dog finds the hides, so you have an idea of how long it takes your dog to get to source. Now I just have to be more in the moment and aware of my internal clock, as well as watching to be sure he’s covered everything.
I’m hoping the next time I say “There’s a first time for everything!” that it’s not in reference to what I/we did to NOT title, but is in reference to my first NW3 title!