The Back Yard Trials – Ocean Park NW2 & Elite **VIDEO**


Here are our videos from the Elite trial!  My least favorite search was our first search, the Dining Hall + 2 side rooms.  You’ll be bored watching!  I should have taken a more proactive approach and moved faster through there.  It was something very different than what we’ve done before:

This next search was the most fun of the day – maybe most fun of any trial I’ve ever done!  He was on fire, I couldn’t even keep track of the # of hides he’d found, I just had fun responding to him and trying to keep up.  The Firepit:

My 2nd favorite search of the day, the Meeting House (I called it the Old Theater, and it smelled like an old wooden building) Again, just responding to him and trying to keep up, without crashing into a wooden chair!

And the last search of the day, the 2 room (but you start in one room, when you think you’ve cleared it, move to the 2nd room, all in 1:30).  I felt good about this one, but it wasn’t as fun as the free runs we’d had in the previous 2 searches.  Ironically, we came in first place in this search, even though I had more fun in the other searches:

Wow, what a fun weekend that was!  Thanks to Beth for hosting another fun, local trial.  Many of you were at Ocean Park (camp name, Oceanwood) for Sergio’s 2 days of workshops back almost 4 years ago.  I’m sure when you walked down the hall to registration and hospitality that you had flashbacks of your dogs running a container search loaded w/ hides and distractions, off leash, while you stood in the doorway and watched them self-reward.  So long ago!  Think how far we’ve all come since then.

While there were only 2 students from Holly / my classes trialing at NW2, I had a really fun day hanging out with all the volunteers, who were almost ALL students from York and Saco.  Thank you ALL for your support to make this a well run, smooth flowing trial.  Even though most of you have your NW2 title, I’m sure you remembered those nerves, between the containers with distractions, the possibility of 3 hides, and remembering to call FINISH.  Poor Neil, I wanted to give him a bag of Ricola – he had to clear his throat all day as a prompt for people to call Finish.  The other judge, Kay, would say, Is there anything else??  As volunteers, it’s so easy to see handler mistakes, to see dogs distracted by the environment, and to see a dog who is following their handler – sometimes past the hide! Versus a dog who is focused on finding the hide and doesn’t even notice the fumbles of the handler.  And I know it can be painfully obvious when a dog is alerting – and alerting, and altering – and the handler just isn’t sure or convinced.  And of course, there were some sad Container searches… quick Alerts and quick No’s seemed to come in a string of dogs.  Then a dog would come in and nail the hides with no problem.  Everyone in the room feels for the handler in those cases, so if you’ve ever been on the other side of that No, please understand that everyone is sympathetic, and has probably been there before, too. Hopefully, all that will help you in reading your dogs when you are on the other side of the start line.  I know it helped me relax when I started volunteering to realize that people aren’t judging my handling or training of my dog, they are just watching that moment’s search, and feel my success or my disappointment almost as much as I do.

Congratulations to Rebecca and Vega on their NW2 title and 1st place in Exterior!  I thought I was timing it perfectly to watch, but they called Alert just in time for me to get in view of the search – in all of 9.07 seconds!  They ended up 5th overall.  Especially nice comeback after a stressful ending to class Thursday night.  And Congrats to Pam and Aspen – although they missed a title, they came in 2nd place in Vehicles (3 vehicles, 3 hides all in 1:01.95) and were the best of the non-titled dogs, in 17th place.

I think the flow from the parking lot to searches (nice and flat, good line of sight to the staging area) with the last search of the day being steps from the parking lot, really helped keep things rolling.  The camp kindly supplied space heaters for the 2 cabins, and allowed Beth to have a fire in the hospitality room.  Between that and Beth’s home made soups, crockpot dishes and hot cider, it was a really cozy, warm, homey trial.

Back to Ocean Park on Sunday, I was on the other side of the start line and in the competitor parking lot vs volunteer parking lot.  Another fun day – lots of old familiar faces and friends to catch up with in the parking lot,  many of whom I normally see in THEIR back yards, MA, NJ and PA.  It was nice to have them travel to us for once!  And so fun to be surrounded by friends on the way to and in every search.  I didn’t feel great about the large dining hall search, and sure enough, we missed one hide (one that many teams missed).   Although it was fun when Quttro picked up the floor hide in the middle of the large, bare room, did a right hand turn, and went right to it.  The large exterior Fire Pit area was a blast – Quattro took off like a shot, and alerted several times in quick succession.  I had a hard time keeping up – behind him, rewarding him and counting the number of hides we’d found!  I left thinking, did we find 5 or 6?  Although we missed one there, too.  I guess I could have paid the fire pit a bit more attention, esp after Kathe (the Certifying Official) made a point to say that the WHOLE FIRE PIT was in play.  I think Quattro thought he was doing a fire walk, since he literally raced over the coals, shooting from one hide to another.  The “Village” search, the theater that looks like it could be used on a movie set, it was so quaint and old fashioned with its natural wood ceiling, walls and stage, and old fashioned wood folding chairs, was also a lot of fun.  Yup, missed one there, too.  I think he ran out of bounds behind a drum set, then flew by a large (double?) table, and I never noticed that he didn’t search it.  I also wasted a few seconds – he alerted on a table in a corner, then went back to REALLY get to source on it.  I should have realized he was working the same hide, and moved him on sooner.  But he worked the room perimeter in a nice counter clockwise pattern, then brought himself to the middle and got a chair hide here and there.  I had him check a janitors broom and some stuff on the wall near the right side of the start, and good thing – there was a hide in the broom (sound familiar?)  Then our last search of the day.  A common challenge in Elite, I’m finding, is that sometimes they will give you a search that once you clear one end, you cannot go back.  So for a dog like Quattro, who likes to blast through the start line to the far side of the search area, and work his way back, I may have to cramp his herding dog style.  In this search, we had a small, crowded room to search.  When we felt we were done in that room, we opened a door to a second room, which was slightly bigger but just as crowded.  We had 1:30 to clear BOTH rooms, and at Elite, you do not get a :30 second warning if the time given for the area is less than 3:00.  So for the first time, I used my phone as a timer.  I didn’t want to time out like I had in the blank room in Manchester at my first Elite, so I decided to set my phone for :40.  Figuring that if Quattro hadn’t found anything in :40 in that small room, we’d better move to the next room.  Just as I was saying to him, “I think we’re done in here, are we done?” and opening the door to the second room, the alarm went off.  So I was happy my internal clock was pretty accurate, and I’m happy I didn’t read Quattro’s hunting as actually chasing a hide down.  Come to find out, the first room was CLEAR – no hides.  I opened the door, and he dove under the twin bed and froze, only his butt and tail showing.  Alert?  Yes.  I got him to crawl out for his treat, and then turned and had him continue working.  He quickly alerted to a bookshelf by the door to the way out, Alert? Yes FINISH!  Phew!  No timing out, AND we found 2 hides.  Many people were worried about timing out once they found the one hide, so called Finish prematurely.  Some spent too much time in the first room, and didn’t have time to continue searching.  And some never made it out of the first room, convinced there had to be a hide there.  Well, I may have fallen for that in Manchester, but every No or missed hide/points is a learning experience, and I’d like to hope I learned that – just be brave and get out of there if your dog is not narrowing any area down.  We came in 1st place for that search 🙂

Sarah and Roxie were there too, and for the first time, Sarah’s parents got to see some searches.  They saw the Dining Hall and Fire Pit searches.  Sarah’s mom had volunteered Sat morning in the Interior search, and is working her 2nd dog in NW, so she had a good idea of what was going on in the handlers mind.  I think Sarah’s dad had more questions – once you know where the hide is, it seems so obvious, and you wonder why the dogs or handlers are just missing it. If you haven’t seen an Elite trial, definitely try to get to one to volunteer at.  They are a lot of fun!  Although I have to say, there is some comfort in knowing at NW1,2 & 3 what you are driving into when you pull in the parking lot.  Your four searches are all pretty consistent.  You may get an industrial Exterior vs rustic, you may get standard cars for Vehicles or you may get buses or golf carts, you could get camp cabins vs classrooms, but at Elite, anything is fair game!   With hides ranging from 0-infinity and some large complex search areas, where you are not always given much more time than NW1,2, 3 trials, and you are given rules like not being able to back track, or multiple adjoining rooms count as one search area, no :30 warning on searches less than 3:00,  it keeps you on your toes for sure.  Sarah and Roxie and Mike and Logan were in the group of people who earned 70 points at this trial, ending up 12th and 16th respectively.  Roxie was just using this as a warm up for CT the following weekend… stay tuned for details on that trial!

As this was our 2nd Elite trial, I started to feel that we were in a groove.  I’m still used to finding ALL the hides to feel successful, and when I think about the ones we missed, they were areas *I* didn’t pay enough attention to to notice that he hadn’t really searched there.  Table hides, for crying out loud!  The fire pit hide, well, I suppose I could have had him do one more pass across the middle.  I’m looking forward to the videos to see how closely my trial memory matches the real time searches.

We earned our ELT1 title that day, meaning, we’d accumulated 150 points.  It’s hard to believe how fast Quattro has come along, when I think back to Jinxx and Izzie and how much we struggled at NW2, and never titled at NW3.  I am always thankful to them for all they’ve taught me, as well as to the judges – in their notes, post trial comments, and hearing them comment while volunteering with them.  And the video from my first NW3 trial with Quattro was also invaluable… they didn’t have videographers at Jinxx and Izzie’s trials.  So many places to gather information, it’s just a matter of being open minded and taking what you’ve learned, and applying it.  Even if it’s not perfect (ask Andy – he was giving me a hard time for my hokey timing system!) and even if you find it doesn’t work for you and your dog, it’s worth being open to some different things.  I wouldn’t recommend trying the new thing IN A TRIAL (do as I say not as I do) but, gather some info and try it out, tweak it or discard it altogether.  It’s all part of the learning process.

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