Becca’s first Nose Work Trial

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

Jill and Connie’s Most Excellent Adventures

Connie shares her and Jill’s experience at the NW2 trial on Friday in Clackamas…


I had no idea how nervous I was until I heard that last “yes” from the judge and then I knew we had passed NW2. I felt this rush of emotion and relief come over me. I was so very proud of what we had just accomplished.

Jill took me on amazing ride that day!
Part 1 – First up was the Interior, 2 rooms with 1 hide each. She seemed to be in odor quickly in the first room but took a while to pinpoint the hide behind a switch plate. The 2nd room went much faster and again the hide was behind a switchplate….so I’m told. I could not for the life of me remember where the hide was in that room. Nerves!!

On to Vehicles! We had a nice breeze blowing at us and she hit the first odor fairly quickly on the trailer and then turned and bee-lined for the vehicle. The odor was up in the wheel well. She had her nose on it once and backed out to check the front of the truck and then right back to the wheel well and alerted. First 2 elements down and now time for a long break to contemplate what we had just done and what was to come.

Part 2 – We started with Containers. The walk through in the morning had me concerned, mostly about the amount of containers, luggage in this case. Jill is not a methodical searcher she is a scattered searcher. How was I going to keep track of where we had been and make sure we got back to those unchecked containers? Not only did I fear the amount of luggage out there but I also knew there was a food distraction. Jill is the ultimate chow hound and we hadn’t done a lot of practicing with a food distraction so I had the fear of her alerting or at the very least tearing into the container to get the tasty morsel. Nope, she was all business. The famous words of “Trust Your Dog” rang loud in my head and in 29 seconds we were done and passed that element! What had just happened? Maybe we lucked out, as I learned later that we never approached the food distraction. But I’d like to think Jill knew what her mission was and stuck to it.

OK, one more element to go. The Exterior search was a concern to me also, as Jill tends to bolt into the area when given her search command. She could easily drag me down to the ground if I’m not on my toes. Thank goodness, there were no face plants. With the way the Exterior was set up I decided early on to run her on leash again due to her searching method, as there were areas accessible that were not in play. Jill seemed to pick the odor up fairly quickly but again had a hard time pin pointing and alerting. I had a good idea where it was by her search and could have called the alert but really wanted to be sure since we were so close to passing NW2. She finally worked it out and I called alert. The “Yes” coming out of the judge’s mouth was the sweetest sound. Jill and I celebrated all the way back to the car.

The awards presentation was a sweet surprise as we received 2 first place ribbons, one for fastest Vehicle search and one for the dreaded Container search. I was so proud! We collected our books and judges sheets and learned that we had received 3 “P’s”. We also learned a valuable lesson. Somehow during the interior search I had dropped some food. I had no idea it happened. This gave us 1 fault and knocked us down from 2nd fastest time overall to #18. I let Jill down but you know what, she doesn’t know or care! She had a blast and so did I!

Now on to chasing our NW3 title where i have no other choice but to Trust My Dog!

Connie and Chocolate Lab Jill

Cindy and Rigel’s NW3 Adventure

What follows is Cindy Franke’s report on her NW3 experience with her English Bull Dog Rigel Orion. Cindy is a fantastic student of K9 Nose Work. She really studies her dog and his movements and has worked hard to get to this high level of trialing. I’m incredibly proud of her and of Rigel as well. Cindy also spent 5 full days at the trial site, helping set up, break down, and being there to work first thing in the morning, every day of the trial, even working between her runs [not recommended but she pulled it off very well]!

There is no one on this planet higher than I after this weekend at the first NW3 trial in the northwest. I am one end of a most amazing K9 Nose Work team. My partner, the incredibull Rigel Orion is the smart end of our team. For those few people in this universe that don’t know, Rigel is an incredible English Bulldog; typical in his mannerisms, focus, and gait, but remarkable in his loyalty and generosity of spirit and cooperation.

Rigel and I earned our NW2 title in late February this year in Enumclaw, WA. Knowing of all the complexities and criteria of NW3 trials made me unsure of our readiness for this level but the opportunity to trial in our own backyard and gain invaluable trial experience overruled my cautiousness, so enter we did.

The weather was cool and wet, and we were the first team in the running order of 21 dogs which eliminated all the waiting at queue up stations which typically cuts into Rigel’s enthusiasm.

Our first element was the Interior. Three rooms. The first was a storage closet about 7×9 feet and cluttered with storage items. Rigel and I bravely entered the room behind the judge, timer, and videographer and began our search. After a solid alert on one find, I called “finish” and we exited that room. We worked the second room (classroom full of tables and chairs) off leash and Rigel did a great job of covering the entire room and letting me know there wasn’t anything of interest there so I called “clear” and we were politely escorted from there to the third room. I chose to work the third room on-leash to assure that I could get Rigel around to all parts of the room. He quickly alerted on one hide which I called successfully, and we continued to search. After covering the entire room pretty well, Rigel started to show some disinterest so I chose to end on our high
note and called “finish” to end the search. There was another hide so we didn’t qualify in that element but we were enormously successful just by the fact that we covered the room so well. I was thrilled beyond words in our effort.

Our next element was the Vehicle search. Two cars, a horse trailer, and two utility trailers were in this search. I let Rigel choose his search direction from the start line. He headed along the passenger side of one of the cars where his head snapped in passing and he quickly alerted on the first hide (on the hinged seam of the door that was revealing odor from inside the car). After the “yes” from the judge, we moved around that car to the second car and then on to the small utility trailer. He alerted on the trailer and again, we heard “yes” from the judge. After working around the remaining sides of the utility trailers and cars we started to work around the horse trailer when Rigel alerted on the hitch.

Hearing “yes” again, I gave Rigel his reward and called “finish” to end the search. The only vehicle that we didn’t end up searching was the horse trailer so again I was ecstatic about our ability to get around the search area within our allotted time. We had successfully passed the Vehicle element.

Our third element was Containers. There were 31 bags (luggage) arranged in rows and in one pile of about 5 bags. I approached the start line with Rigel on my right side (nearest the containers). He chose his direction from the start line and I kept moving him along that direction to start a search pattern. After searching about three rows of bags Rigel alerted on a piece of luggage. We got the “yes” and moved on. With two rows of bags left I heard the 30 second warning and started walking backward and “presenting” bags to Rigel on both sides of the walkway. We heard the ten second warning with about four bags to
go. I continued to keep Rigel moving toward the last bag as I counted down from “10”. At the last bag and with about 2 seconds remaining in my countdown, I called “finish” to end the search. Of the 21 competing teams, seven (7) passed the container element. Rigel was among those seven AND we earned a “P” for pronounced. JOY! Most teams false alerted on the distracters (a muffin and some toys).

From the Containers we moved directly to the Exterior element. This element was conducted in a considerably sized, bark-dusted playground area. Time limit was 5 minutes and the area was secured which allowed handlers to work off leash if desired. I chose to keep Rigel on leash and again let him choose to start his own direction. From there, I continued on to a perimeter search. We quickly covered ground and Rigel successfully alerted on a swing set seat. After checking the last two swing seats Rigel snapped his head upwind and followed an odor back to a play structure shaped as a fire engine. There he alerted on a second odor which we also “got”. I continued to move Rigel around the search area and “presented” several areas to him that he dutifully “sniffed”. After covering most of the ground in the search area Rigel began to show less enthusiasm so I ended our search with a “finish”. I was SO happy with our ability to cover so much ground and keep motivated that I really didn’t care if there was another hide; which there was.

From that moment, I was on a high that I still haven’t begun to come down from. In the overall standings Rigel actually ranked a remarkable 11th of the 21 teams.

NW3 turned out to be very liberating for me. I am finally “getting it”. Not knowing how many hides there were in an element forced me to have to turn total control over to my dog. I gave him the reins and put my total trust in him for the first time ever. Though I had thought I was already trusting my dog and not trying to “think” during our searches, I realized how much chaos had been going on in my mind before that. My confidence in my dog and clearness of mind transferred to Rigel and he responded remarkably.

Although we did not “title” in NW3 this weekend, in this handler’s heart, Rigel earned a title of heart worth much more to me.