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Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
The following piece was written by one of my students after her first Nose Work trial with her little toy Schnauzer Becca:
The night before the trial I heard Becca barking from a distance. What was she barking about? Finally discovered she had gotten herself locked in Mom’s old bedroom. Was this an omen? Nah. But I loaded myself up with all the good luck charms I could find. We made it to Enumclaw in under an hour with no problem until I discovered we had left the brand new metallic car cover at home. You know what they say, “If a little something goes wrong, that’s a good sign.”
We were #5 in group B in the running order. Everyone got together before we started and walked the 4 events: indoor was a small room in the school with tables stacked on top of each other and 2 sets of office furniture. Two desks and 2 chairs, rubber waste baskets. Outside the building there were 3-4 vehicles (can’t remember exactly). The containers were in an X pattern ( you were expecting them to be patterned like an ORT? Not here), and finally the outside search was in a tiny courtyard with a walkway and some grass on either side. Nothing that we haven’t seen before except for all of the wait stations that you moved systematically through before the event. Later after the walk through, at the briefing the judges and officials answered questions and were told that if the judge asked you were the hide was you had to be exact as if you had to retrieve it yourself. Close only counted in horseshoes. This freaked me out a little. I believe the man’s name was Bob and he was a former policeman who trained and worked with German Shepherds. He supposedly wrote the book on nose work.
When #4 was flipped over on the stand, Becca and I approached the test odor boxes. She wanted nothing to do with them. Very odd. We finally started on the trail of wait stations. Our first event was the inside room with the office stuff. We walked in the room she took 2 whiffs at the chair and desk next to the entry and turned around and wanted out. I tried to move her through the run, but she stuck close to me and sat down 3 times. I was working my way back to the chair when the 3 min time was called. If you put a gun to my head and asked me if the 30 sec warning had been called I would have said no. Otherwise, I would have made a beeline for the chair again. Zero faults but we ran over the time limit. Zero points. The judge said she had no odor obedience. She is a pleas-or and was unsure in the new environment. He said she went right to the odor, touched it and wanted to go. He told me not to get frustrated and when I reward her go over the top. I wonder how our other dog, Jake , will take this since he is on a diet.
Next we went thru the waiting stations to get to the vehicles. Becca caught the scent (yes, you go girl) and began sniffing the running board and the corner of the front fender. I called the alert in 38 sec and 57 hundredths of a sec. The scent was on the exact spot except on the other side of the vehicle. The judge said she knew her odor she caught scent of it quickly but it was on the other side of the car. More experience with gusting wind will help and good trust in the dog’s odor recognition. I couldn’t believe it. We had never missed on vehicles before. Zero points and 2 faults.
Back to the car to wait for all 48 dogs to finish before lunch break. A nice volunteer named Terri, from Oregon, came over and loaned us her metallic cover and a small battery operated fan for the dash board. The match started back up around 1:30pm. I walked Becca over early. There was a young oriental girl sitting there with a pencil and a book busily scribbling something. ( Maybe she was Japanese and went to this school) I asked her if she wanted to give Becca a treat and she was very excited. No problem with Becca here. Then the girl handed me the cutest drawing that she had done of Becca. I should have had her sign it. You never no, Picasso may have started this way.
Everyone wondered what kind of dog Becca was and said how adorable she was. Now we started the maze of hall, stairs and wait stations. Our first event here was the white container boxes. We went in and she was working until she saw an exit door and she wanted to leave again. I told her no, we still had work to do. She finally caught the odor and sniffed one box on 3 sides. I called the alert and held my breath. Yes! She had gotten it right in 1 min 17 sec and 77 hundredths of a second. Thank you God. The judge told me always positive comments towards the dog. They never let us down, we let them down. Becca has lots of potential. No faults and 25 pts. We went outside where she was given a chance to pee and have water and she refused both. Now back thru the maze inside the school and to the waiting areas. When we got to the final door before entering the final event, the outside hide, we were introduced like we were at a royal event. “Presenting Pamela and Becca.” Again Becca wanted to leave the event area but I brought her back and was trying to work her. I stepped into the grass and her nose made a beeline to sniff the grass. Oh, no. She’s tracking to mark and I tried to pull her away as she squatted and peed in front on the judge. The judge said she was sorry. Peeing is an immediate disqualification. Yes she had potty breaks all day long and before each event. On our trek back to the car she peed 3 more times. Everyone kept asking if we were having fun. Yeah, I love working my dog in 86 degree weather, trying not to drop a treat (another disqualification), climbing hill and dale and stairs and mazes without being very successful. Well, I guess since Becca and I have only been working on this since March. I guess we can feel really good about getting one hide. Also a lot of the other contestants had handled dogs in other sports. So this was our maiden voyage for the two of us.
Carla and I chatted and compared results. Between us we had one perfect dog. The events Becca missed Gimme got and Gimme blew the containers Fringing, (smelling the odor one box off). We couldn’t decide to call this new wonder dog Becme or Gimca. Finally at 3:30pm the trial was over. Now the long wait for the debriefing. I lost $1.00 to Carla as we bet on when it would start. It took over an hour. When it began they were giving individual times for placement. In one event third place was 6 sec. Six seconds for third. Holy banana oil , Batman. The fast time in one event was 2 seconds. I can’t walk thru the door in 2 seconds and the all around best time was a little over 1 min. Darn those border terriers. They also awarded the Harry Award to a rescue named Apollo. He also took a gold ribbon in all around and got several other awards. We honor Harry because he was a rescue who was going to compete and was bitten by a snake and died 3 days prior to the first event. But as the judge pointed out he might have competed and peed in the outdoor search. LOL. Everyone who passed got a ribbon plus there were the placement awards. Finally it was over and we couldn’t wait to get out of there. We got Terri’s stuff back to her and left. I was trying to program the GPS with Becca asleep on my lap and Charles asked if we turned on 400St SE. Not wanting to break my record for the day I said no. This led to a detour around the river and through Geyser Park. We got home at 6:37pm to be met with the silver car cover where we left it in the kitchen, two dogs, and absolute exhaustion.
Pamela and Becca
Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
This is what Lola had to say about her successful hunt for her NW2 tittle. They are an awesome team, and Zita has overcome many of her sensitivities through her pursuit of Nose Work. Congratulations to Lola and Zita.
It was another exciting time in Enumclaw. The day started off with a surprise. They were power washing the roof at the school as we all arrived. Thankfully, it did not turn out to be a big issue since the side where the exterior element was at had been washed the day before. Once Zita figured out where the noise was coming from, she was fine.
I was sweating the container element since it was the one we missed at the Clackamas Trial. Wouldn’t you know….. it was the first element of the day! But, thanks to Joyce and all of the container practices we have been doing and also the workshop Zita and I participated in this past month, Zita’s alert was much stronger this time around.
Vehicle was kind of a blur. I only remember the 1st hide which was underneath a truck next to the tail pipe. Zita got grease on her nose as a souvenir from that element.
After lunch, we did the Interior and Exterior elements. Zita really worked hard around the first hide, which was under a table. She even put her paws up on top as she worked her way around and around before she stuck her nose underneath where the hide was. I am proud of the growing confidence she is building from doing Nose Work.
Zita’s alerts were strong on the exterior hides as well. One was in a drain grate in the middle of the search area. Zita did a whip back to the grate when she caught odor. Again, thanks to the practices we have done in class around water and drains.
It was a long warm day and I know Zita was getting more exhausted as the day went on, but each time we entered an element she put her game face on and was ready for the hunt. I never doubted any of her alerts except for one at the exterior element(not the grate). She knew where it was but it took me a bit longer to come around.
Always need to remember to “Trust Your Dog”. As one of the judges said in her speech at the end of the trial, “Your dog is at a higher level then you and YOU need to bring yourself UP to your dog’s level. Never try to bring your dog DOWN to your level.”
Can’t wait to start training for Level 3. Happy Sniffing!
Lola and Zita
Sunday, August 12th, 2012
Carla Baker was at the NW3 trial in Renton on Friday and wrote this great account of her experience:
Yesterday I went to Auburn to volunteer for the Nosework 3 trial and it was very interesting. Nosework 1 is pretty simple, level 2 gets harder and level 3 is like real scent detection work. Because it takes so long to do the searches at level 3, they can only trial 20 dogs in a day, versus 45 in level one and two (thus the entry fees are higher). They do random draw to determine who gets in at level 1 and 2… level 3 entry is based on how long its been since the dog passed level 2. The pass rate at level 3 is about 1 in 7, many dogs take a lot of attempts to get there. Keep in mind, the dogs must pass each element all on the same day and not have too many cumulative faults to get a title.
There are food and toy distractions and the odor challenges (birch, anise and clove) are sometimes hidden in spots where there is less scent escaping. Also all the elements require the handler to call “finished” and since the handler doesn’t know how many there are, they need to really read the dog. The interior element has three separate rooms, one of which may be without any odor in it – so the handler has to be able to read the dog and call “clear” if they have a room without odor. Also, at this level you have to submit with your entry a description of the dog’s manner of indication. The judges have that information and are watching for it, so if the dog’s indication is different than what you wrote and you call alert, even if you are correct, you can be assessed a fault. Many of the judges they recruit come from the detection field.
I got to watch about half of the container drills. They don’t use boxes after you get past level 1… instead its mostly suitcases, backpacks and some other containers. In this case, in addition to the suitcases and backpacks, they had an odd shaped cardboard mailer, some new paint cans with holes in the top and several wooden boxes with holes in the top. In addition to the hides, there are food and toy distractions in some of the containers. A few of the dogs were really attracted to the oatmeal cookie distraction. A false alert is the kiss-of-death, so handlers at that level really have to be able to read their dog and know when they are working odor versus when they are after something else.
I also watched the corresponding half of the exterior searches. Most of the dogs seemed to do really well there, though there were a few false alerts. A couple dogs were attracted to the air conditioning unit. Made me wonder if it was blowing air out, in which case it could have been emitting weak odor from the interior search rooms. The handlers that called alert there had dogs with indicator styles that are open to interpretation, like the dog-looks-at-handler that some people are using. Many handlers don’t seem to have a clear idea of when their dog is working and when they are just coming along for a walk, so they are late in calling “finished” which affects their time.
I was timer for the vehicle search and that was educational too. Even though from where I sat I couldn’t see much, there were still things to see and learn. I noticed the handlers that kept moving, even when their dog was detailing an area had cleaner alerts. This was very late in the day and a couple of dogs were just too hot to work effectively; some handlers were clearly tired too. One lady would have had the fastest time by six seconds, but after finding the third hide (the handler knows they are done because there are never more than three) started to walk away without calling “finished”, so she pushed her time up by another thirty seconds before she caught herself. The judge said he had known people to walk away and forget entirely and in that case they time runs out until they are over time and despite finding all the hides correctly, they still fail the element (and lose the title that day). Many people upon calling their third “alert” and getting the “yes” from the judge, proceed to reward their dogs and only afterward think to say “finished”. They could save about ten seconds on their time if they said “finished” the moment the judge says “yes” and it wouldn’t impact their ability or timing to reward the dog. That’s a multi-tasking issue.
The other big problem in vehicles was that handlers loose track of where they are in the set of vehicles and so they miss areas. Keeping in mind that the scent is strongly affected by the wind or lack thereof (really variable direction and speed this day), its important to know which vehicles you have been around and in which approach direction. Sometimes the dog will go one way and not catch the odor and then approaching from the other direction, they home right in on it. Many of the failures in vehicles were people that lost track of where they were and called “finished” before they’d found the last hide, while still having plenty of time.
This business of not keeping the search area and where you’ve been and from which direction in your head was also an issue in containers. One of the hides was in the handle of a brown suitcase on the outer edge of the search area. For some reason, many dogs didn’t scent it until they walked outside that suitcase and most of them (except 2 out of 10) didn’t do that unless their handler moved outside with them. So if the handler didn’t know where they’d been with their dog, they could miss that entirely and a couple did. One person missed a group of four containers repeatedly, fortunately the odor wasn’t in one of them, unfortunately she had a false alert on the oatmeal cookie.
It was very clear that having a clean and precise indication style on your dog is very important. Most of the errors in calling alert came with dogs that had that look-at-handler style. Level 3 is much more handler dependent than 1 and 2. Level one is mostly about the dog, probably 95%. Level two is a mixture. With the exception of resisting distractions and somewhat more subtle hides, the dog’s job doesn’t change. At level three, its at least 90% handler knowing and reading the subtleties of the dog’s behavior and having your own job clear in your head.
Although it was hot and I was really tired on the drive home, it was a great day and I learned tons by watching.
Monday, July 30th, 2012
It is always nice to hear from a happy client!
Thank you so much for the time yesterday with Sarah [granddaughter] and Jackie [her 2 yo Parsons Russel Terrier]. She really loved the session and promised that she would continuing with her training with Jackie.
When her dad came to pick her up she really got after him as when Jackie would jump on him he would grab her head and rub her ears and encourage her. Sarah explained to him how to keep Jackie from jumping on him and others and hopefully it will sink in. SJ
Friday, July 20th, 2012
We did container work in most of my classes this week. I’m thinking I haven’t been offering them enough. And I have a new answer when someone asks me if they are ready for an ORT. It is that they are ready when they can walk a circle around their dog and the dog remains on the box. When they can keep moving as the dog works, whether the dog stops or not. This criteria is to eliminate the inadvertent communication that is transmitted to the dog when we know where the hide is. We stop when they do. They notice our attention to the box, and darned if they don’t decide ‘it’ must be the one. Bingo, false alert or fringe. When the dog is confident enough to stick the box with the handler walking around them on a parallel path, and the handler is confident enough to do the walking, than they are ready for the ORT. This is especially for the dogs that are less sure of themselves, are more people obedient than odor obedient, etc.
Gimme the box trashier was in class today. I put the boxes upside down so she would not so easily destroy them. that worked, but she still tried to trash many. Carla’s homework is to do 2 boxes and reward big time when she alerts on the right box without trying to trash the other one first. If she goes to the empty box first, the treat when she gets to the correct box is small. When she can be direct without trashing another box first, she will go to three boxes, etc. Interestingly, when she worked off leash on containers today, there was very little pouncing. I’m thinking that she feels a bit encouraged to pounce by Carla.
Looking forward to the Match this weekend. Weather should be good, not too hot