What to Expect at Your NW1 Trial – plus NW1 Trial videos

Since several of you are either entered in an ORT or getting ready for your first NACSW trial, I thought I’d post some trial videos of Quattro and Coach.  One is at a school, the other at a camp, which are  both typical trial location atmospheres.  One is in hot, humid weather, the other is in cold and windy weather – also good examples of what you’ll find come trial day!

In an NACSW trial, there are 4 elements: Vehicles, Exteriors, Containers and Interiors.  Back when these videos were taken, Interiors were not allowed to be filmed.  When I ran my first NW dogs, NO videos were available for purchase, so I was very happy to be able to purchase trial videos at all.  Not all trials have a videographer available, so I was lucky on these two.

You arrive to the trial, and a volunteer will tell you where to park.  If you have a reactive dog, one that needs more space, they will ask if you’d like to park with the other reactive dogs.  The thought there, being that the owners of reactive dogs are EXTRA careful when walking by other dogs, and managing the ins and outs of their cars.   You check in, sign a waiver and get your run order #. I typically take a picture of the run order, so I know what dogs are a couple ahead of me.  Even if I don’t know the people, I’ll see the dog breed, and know to look for them crossing the parking lot ahead of me, to know when I should get ready.  They will have a set of flip numbers that you’ll need to keep an eye on.  Do not bring your dog out of the car 8 million times, that will only tire them out.  Yes, you want your dog to potty, but try not to continually bring them in and out of the car, past other people and dogs.  I will bring my dogs to the potty area after I check in, and then a few dogs before my turn, depending on how quickly the searches are moving.  It’s a little trickier at Elite, because there are speed searches and LONG searches, so I usually watch the dogs ahead of us move, to get an idea of how long it’s taking between dogs.

There will be a walk thru, where you get to see the flow / path from parking lot to each element, and you get to look at, video or take pictures of, each element. While we always had a walk thru, we only recently got the chance to photograph and/or video the walk thru. This started when I was at NW3 w/ Quattro, and I would review the video of the element I was about to do before we went in, and then once I returned to my car, I would look at my video again, to remember where we’d found a hide.  As you move up in levels and have multiple hides, it is very common to get back to your car after a search, and say, wait, how many did I find in Room 2? Was that chair hide in Room 1 or Room 3?  It’s a little easier in NW1, but it’s still fun to look back at the search areas and remember what you and your dog did.

After the walk thru, there will be a Judge’s Briefing.  The Certifying Official, who is the one who places all the hides, decides on the vehicle placement, Interior room to use, etc, will go over some reminders and answer questions, and then introduce the judges (2) for the day.  They will ask who dog #1 and #21 are, and ask how much time they need to get ready, and things will get started!

There are warm up boxes available to use right before your run.  Remember, they are WARM UP boxes, not PRACTICE boxes. You’ve done all the practice, your dog knows what odor is and what a white box means, this is just to let them know that Hey, we’re here to do that sniffy thing you like to do!  Please don’t move the boxes around, when people do that, you get lingering odor in the grass or gravel, depending on where they are set up. You can do an approach from a different direction, to make it a different set up.  I typically do 2 passes, and then step away from the boxes! I also reward a quick sniff on the hot box (usually marked w/ a smiley face) – I don’t wait for anything fancy.  The boxes are pretty out in the open on the edge of the parking lot, so there can be a lot of distractions. I don’t worry too much about my dogs performance here, since it’s so different than the Container search they’ll be doing inside.

Typically, they split the entrants into 2 groups, and run say, numbers 1-20 on one element and then numbers 21-40 will do another element. Once the groups have finished their runs, the numbers continue, so dog 21 will run what dogs 1-20 did, and dog 1 will run what the other group did. The judges and volunteer crews will break for lunch once those two elements have run, and after lunch dogs 1-20 will do one element, and dogs 21-40 will do the other element, and switch until everyone has done all four elements.

Please remember, NW trials are based on the honor system! When you come back from Containers, and your friend / parking lot buddy has just done Exteriors, DO NOT give anything away about your search!  Even, He was so fast, he alerted right away! Or, Oh, that was tough, he took forever to ‘tell me about it’.  Stuff like that can get in people’s heads – Oh, it must the a box right up front! Or, Oh, this is going to be tough!  I want to go in with a clean slate and just focus on my dog, I don’t want other people’s opinions and experience floating around in my head.  And if your parking lot neighbor starts to talk about their Exterior search – “I thought he was going to pee on the… ” – plug your ears and say lalala, I haven’t run yet!  If someone asks me if I’ve run yet, and how I did, I just say, We had a lot of fun! or if they press, I might say, “no No’s, so that’s a good thing!”

After everyone has searched everything, you will gather for a Judge’s De-brief.  This honestly is one of my favorite parts of a trial… even if I’m volunteering, I stay to hear what they have to say.  The CO (Certifying Official) will talk about the hide placements, what she was thinking when she chose those locations, and a little about how the odor worked. He/she will turn it over to the judges, who will talk more specifically about how the odor moved and how the dogs worked it, and give some tips, although they are not allowed to go into in-depth training speeches. It is helpful to know, for example, that a lot of dogs had to work thru trapping odor on the red car, just like yours did, or that several dogs worked odor off the tree before getting the hide, like yours did.

And finally, there is the award ceremony.  There are ribbons for the top 3 placements in each element, there is the Harry Award (given to a rescue dog, who the judges get together and choose), and, if anyone gets a Pronounced designation in all 4 searches, there is a Pronounced award (see the NACSW website for details). And finally, there are 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards for the teams who have the fastest combined times.  The first place winner also gets to bring home the hides – all the Qtips used that day are given to you in a metal box as a keepsake 🙂

Here are videos from Quattro’s NW1 trial in PA, back in 2016.  We’ve grown a lot as a team since then! But this is a little of what to expect at NW1.  Back then, there was no Interior videoing allowed, so this is Vehicles, Exterior and Containers. As I recall, this was an early June trial, with sudden hot, 80% humidity weather – yuck!  Looking back, wow, lots of improvement needed on vehicles, on both our parts, but I like how you can see him following odor to source, and not false alerting on the pooling / trapping odor. I liked our Containers search, and he was pretty direct in the Exterior search, although took a few seconds to pinpoint it on the table.

Here are Coach’s NW1 videos from November of 2017. This was a “local” trial, at a Boy Scout camp in Manchester, NH. Coach had turned one years old that day, making him just eligible to trial. I was super relaxed, thinking, who cares? He’s young, we have plenty of time to do another NW1 trial if we mess up. A lot of my students were also trialing that day, so I figured let’s just go and have fun, and hang in the parking lot w/ my friends. Since it was a local trial, several other students were there as volunteers, so it made for a fun day.  You may recognize Cynthia Fox’s voice in the Vehicle search 🙂 And Coach did really well! The Exterior search was the last search of the day, we went directly from Vehicles over to the Exterior search, and it was a cold, windy November day. We actually got held up before starting Exteriors, as about 15 score sheets blew deep into the woods and had to be tracked down!  But this was a fun day, and his focus and drive were a predictor of how he continues to search.

(There are 2 Vechicle video views, it’s not uncommon for the videographers to do that to capture the space, and at Elite, many times there are up to 3 videos, that some videographers will splice together for you)

Quattro was young, not quite 18 months, and had been neutered 2 months earlier.  Coach is intact, and as I mentioned, barely 1 yr old here.  This is different from when I did my NW1 with Jinxx, at 10 yrs old, and my adopted Great Pyrenees at 6 yrs old. They all had various experiences and maturity levels that they brought with them, and I’ve learned a LOT since 2010 and Jinxx’s first trial!  What I like about NW, is that it is you and your dog. Yes, there are placements for each element, and an overall 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awarded, but keep in mind that the environment (sun, wind, shade, etc) can all change from dog to dog, some dogs are in their prime, some are seniors, some handlers have trialed multiple dogs in NW, others are brand new to ANY dog sport, so really, in the end, it’s how you and your dog do in each search that matters.

I hope that helps give you a better picture of what NW1 is all about!  Good luck and have fun!


One thought on “What to Expect at Your NW1 Trial – plus NW1 Trial videos

  1. Thanks so much for all this information. Jax & I are hoping to get into a NWI trial in April. The video was especially helpful since we have no vehicle experience. Thanks again. Michele

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