Maine’s First NACSW Trials

A big shout out and thanks to Beth Dutton, who hosted Maine’s first NACSW trials!  What a great location (the York Middle School) and so close to home.  And, a great representation of Maine NW students showed up to play, help out, or some of both.  I had a great weekend, even though we were nail-bitingly close on the waitlists both days.  Not only did I enjoy watching my students work, I also got to see a lot of out of towners that I only see at NW events.

I was the Judge’s Steward for Interiors, and traffic control (swapping w/ Shona so we each got to see some Exterior searches) on Saturday’s NW3 day.  Sunday, I was the Volunteer Coordinator, meaning, I assign the volunteers a job, make sure they get to the score room for training, set up the “flow” (path between car and search, search and car), assign someone to set up any EZ Ups or vehicles to block line of sight issues between the parking lot and a search area, set up flags, cones, signs, do a Volunteer walk thru so everyone sees the search areas and their stations, make sure everyone gets to their stations and is ready to go, then watch the first few searches to make sure everything is flowing smoothly.  If there is any way we can shave off time between competitors, or shave off walking for the judge or volunteers, we try to come up with ways to do that.  And make sure people get to see some searches, at least part of the day.  Once the trial gets going, I can bounce around and actually watch some searches.

The results may not be what everyone was hoping for, especially the NW3 day, but I saw a lot of good searches and good, intuitive decision making in a time-pressure situation.  Here are some high lights:

NW3 Interiors

Andy and Panda – Andy was quick and confident in calling Alerts, there were times Panda was tilting her head or ducking her head under a chair (after showing that she was bracketing and narrowing down odor / source) and he called it.  Not waiting for a look, not second guessing, just calling it with confidence.  In the Clear room (yes, there was a clear room) she tried to leave twice, so he called it on the second time – in about :22 seconds.  He moved with purpose, but didn’t rush her.  It was a really nice set of searches (3 rooms).  Lindsey, the judge, commented after he left – “that was a really nice search!  That was REALLY good!”  When I said, “I know, I’m so proud of them, he’s my student” she pointed at the score sheet she was handing me, to show me she had given them a Pronounced for that search.  Nice work!

Kathy & Buddy – Buddy was the perkiest I think I’ve ever seen him, in a trial OR practice.  He came in w/ a bounce in his step, and was clear on his final responses.  Like Panda, he didn’t really want to stay in the clear room.  Kathy made sure he gave it a good sweep, especially after he cast his head upwards, but then saw he was flattening out and not coming up with anything, and called Finish.  He did great in the gym – lots of work out equipment and a couple places where odor was trapping, but he worked it out, and Kathy and he moved through the area nicely.  He didn’t do any of his “Buddy in a China shop” moves, either 🙂  He worked odor to source pretty much like the other dogs had (unusual for him!)

Barbara & Oasis – Oasis did a great job working the threshold hide in the first big room, took some time working through the trapping odor on a nearby table (many dogs did, too)  They got the :30 second call, and Barbara moved her around the area to the back corner.  Oasis worked trapping odor on a chair (next to the chair w/ the 2nd hide)  She was all over and under the chair, Barbara backed up to let her work it out and not crowd her, but I think due to her mobility issues, Oasis just couldn’t back up out of the corner she was in.  She looked at Barbara – was it an Alert, or plea for help backing up?  I’m not sure, but Barbara called Alert (remember, they had already heard the :30 warning) and got a No 😦  A few other dogs either got hung up there, or false alerted (well, I’d call it a fringe alert) on that same chair.  Bummer!  But the clear room was good, and the gym was good – rubber mat flooring – yay!  I think Barbara has adjusted well to Oasis’s condition – being near enough to step in and give her a lift when needed, but backing up and letting her work out an odor problem.  It shows me that Barbara’s eye and feel for the entire search is so much more fine-tuned than a year ago.

Jeanne & Tyrah – Very nice searches.  Tyrah, like Oasis, found the first hide off the threshold, then took several seconds working out the trapping odor on the nearby table.  She was REALLY showing a lot of interest in the table, then finally began following odor down along the wall back to the first hide.  Jeanne realized she was working odor from the hide she’d already found, and moved her along.  And like Oasis, Tyrah worked the chair next to the hot chair, but then moved to get to source.  No problems with the clear room, and nice work in the gym.  Tyrah was clear in her alerts and moved with purpose.

Sarah & Max – Like many dogs, Max found the threshold hide first, but then spent several seconds on the table just down from the hide.  After working and working the table, he worked odor down the wall back towards the first hide.  Sarah moved him on around the room, and he got hung up on the wall of chairs.  Clearly in odor, he’d start working to the back corner, then peel off and come back toward where the judge was standing (farther away from the 2nd hide)  :30 seconds was called, and he was in limbo, chasing the odor trapped in all those chairs.  Sarah tried moving parallel to him, up and down across from the chairs, but the closest he got was the chair NEXT to the hot chair.  Another fringe alert 😦  I’m sure if they’d had a few more seconds, he would have worked it out.  Nice job in the clear room, and nice job in the gym.  I think he enjoyed running along the treadmills and under the gym equipment!

Linda and Ella – Nice job on room one – Ella was having fun, Linda was having fun, Ella did her trademark happy spins after the first find, and after the second find, and I think they called Finish before the :30 call, if I remember correctly.  Then room 2…  we won’t relive that one, but let’s just say, in INTERIORS, there are 0-3 hides in each room.  There may or may not be a clear room.  Every other Element has 1-3 hides.   One of the founders of the sport, Jill Marie O’Brien, said that when she goes into a search, her mindset is “I don’t think there is anything in here – prove me wrong.”  The gym: Linda was a little flat – it’s hard to recover from room to room when a mistake has been made! – and in turn, Ella was a little flat.  But once she found one hide, both perked up, and after the second hide, got their happy dance back.  It is one of the hardest things about nose work, forgiving and forgetting, moving on with a clean slate and clear mind.

NW3 Exteriors

Thank you Shona, for swapping places with me so I could watch pretty much all 6 of my students do the Exterior search, along with some others in between.  For the most part, all the dogs looked pretty flat.  It was late, it was a huge search area, it was misting with a cold fog moving in off the ocean, I think both handlers and dogs were starting to wish it were over.  Just about every dog worked the wall to the left of the start line, then did a sharp right angle turn to the first picnic table.  Some dogs began working odor, then walked off… most went back to it and alerted.  Some spent some nail biting minutes around a tree (but maybe I’m just paranoid after my first NW3 trial when Quattro… well, we won’t go there), some spent a lot of time by the school doors, and all looked pretty flat and slow on their last lap along the building wall.  I think it was a combination of being tired, and having a large area without much odor.  If you think about the size of the search areas we normally do, they are relatively small compared to that one, so there is odor available almost everywhere in the search area.  In this area, there was not much going on, and the dogs showed that.  Of course, not knowing the number of hides, you start to second guess your dog – why are you so slow?  Are you even hunting?  You see some interest, and all of a sudden it becomes more important.  My advice?  If it doesn’t FEEL like an alert, don’t call it!  I’d rather miss a hide than false alert.  The false alert erodes trust, the miss, well, you walk away wondering how you could have helped your dog source it faster, what type of hide it was that caused your dog to miss it, and maybe try to set something up in the future.  Many times, what you think you missed, ends up being nothing but passing interest.  Again, if it doesn’t FEEL like an Alert, don’t call it.

What makes me happy, was watching those who bombed the Container search (the first search of the day) come into Interiors with a smile on their face, lots of praise for their dogs, and having fun with their dogs, so that I had no idea things had been ugly in Containers.  Many times, one false alert leads to more throughout the day.  The trust is broken between dog and handler, the dog feels the handlers disappointment, and most react with a hesitant step, leading to a downward spiral of broken communication.  In those I saw on Saturday, that was not the case.  Everyone looked like they were still having fun, still in the running for a title, and called Alert with certainty.

Since there was really no one pattern of why we had no NW3 titles, I think I have different action plans for each of you!  If you haven’t already, get the videos!  Even the ugliest of searches will tell you something, about your dog, your handling, and where the break down occurred.  Although sometimes, there are mysteries of the mind our dogs do not let us in on… (Panda in Containers!)  And for those times, well, what can you do?  You continue to practice and train and mentally move on.

Sunday – Level 1 Vehicles

I didn’t see as many of these as I would have liked, but I did get to see a few first-ever nose work trial searches:  Lacey, Nevis and Sakara, plus old pro Teddy… I missed Catcher, Panda, Aspen, and JJ’s runs.  From what I saw, the wind was a huge factor.  Some dogs had a big gust, others had steady wind, others had calm then a puff of air.  So it’s hard to compare apples to oranges, since the searches were all pretty different from dog to dog.  I hope everyone had fun working some unusual vehicles – from a giant trailer, to a 6 wheeler, to 3 vehicles in a * pattern, to a lawn mower and trailer (that last was more what I practice at home, using any wheeled thing I have, wheel barrow, garden wagon, tractor etc)  I hope everyone felt good about what they did, and what their dogs did.  Again, video will help you see what you may have missed in real time, and you’ll get to see when (time wise) you called Alert.  Since you don’t get score sheets at an Element trial, you may leave a search thinking you were getting close to letting the clock run down, when really, you had 40 seconds left.  Or, you may see that you could have called Alert sooner, and that you really let the clock  run down because you didn’t believe your dog or you missed their signal.  Congrats to all who titled, and for those who missed, think about what you would do differently next time.

Unfortunately, no one got into the L2I, but thank you for all who stayed to help out.  Quattro moved up from 4th on the NW3 wait list to 2nd place, and then moved from 4th on the L2I wait list to 1st, but ended up spending Sunday in the score room.  It would have been fun to see he and Andy work.

I hope you all had a good weekend, regardless of the outcomes, and can take away some things to work on, as well as many moments of pride.  Thank you to all who stayed after your trial to volunteer or came out just to volunteer and lend a vehicle.  It was really nice having a knowledgeable crew, who was there to learn, help out and support their friends in equal parts.

Wish I’d taken a picture of the lobster rolls Beth served the volunteers both days – delicious!  Hopefully we see another trial in Maine sometime soon!

PS – for anyone who ordered videos, feel free to send me the links.  I’d love to see and replay the searches.

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