Updated: Aug 9, 2021
You've worked hard at training your dog to sniff out birch and feel like your dog can do it!
You are ready to test your abilities! If you're lucky, you have some classmates or a good teacher that can walk you through the process.
When I started doing dog sports, there were so many pieces that I needed to know! And most of them I didn't know about them until I went through the experience.
Here are the things I wish I knew when I was entering my first competition.
Find the Premium
To enter a trial, you have to fill out an entry form. The entry form will be included in a document called the "Premium". The Premium will have the date and location of the trial, opening and closing dates, list who the judges will be, what elements will be offered, and any other important information you would need to know about the trial. The premium for AKC can be found in 2 different locations:
To find scent work competitions, first select "Performance Sports" and click on scent work. Then select your state (typing it in when on mobile, or clicking on the map on a computer), and verify the dates include the days you would like to search. When you click "retrieve events" a list of all trial dates in that state will be listed.
The listing (below) will have the club name, location, date, when it opens and closes, entry fees, as well as acceptance method. This listing also has the link to the premium! You can click "Premium list" and get a copy of the premium :)
In recent months, it appears that AKC has been changing slightly and hasn't been automatically posting the premium for clubs. As a result, not all premiums may be available through this method... but it still is a possibility and makes life easy!
Through the club or secretary's website, or facebook!
If the premium isn't available on AKC, it will have to be available somewhere else. It is extremely rare for paper copies to be mailed out, but some secretaries will send out email links to premiums when they come available. If not here are some places you can look:
The club's website - Google the club and try exploring the website that comes up for "trials" or "scent work", chances are you can find it there.
Take a look at the trial secretary (found when you click "View Complete Event Details" on the AKC event page). Sometimes it is someone who will secretary several trials.
Check regional listings of trials - example - Southern California has their own page for events called "socalscentwork.com"
Facebook - AKC friends of Scent Work sometimes has listings, but many clubs or regional areas will have their own pages that will have premiums posted. Here in Arizona, we have "Arizona Nosework - Events and Discussions" and most premiums can be found here (as well as lots of other good information!).
Understanding the Premium
The first page will have your opening and closing date, entry limits, and the location of the trial. In the following pages, you will have information that is important about:
The trial site - Check out the trial site using Google Maps! You can view it from the overhead view to see exterior spaces, parking situations, and how to get there. You can also use Street View to get an idea of what the building looks like from the street. Please note, it's never acceptable to visit or contact the trial site prior to the trial. Many times, these places are used for other purposes and it is a privilege that we are able to search!
Judging assignments - What element/level each judge is assigned to judge
Entry fee information - the same rate for all classes?
Refund information - Do they offer refunds? Good to know if you have an intact female or what if your dog gets sick or injured? What about pandemics and civil unrest? Usually refunds are not issued in the case of civil unrest or other events outside of the host's control. This hasn't been a thought in the past, but recently might be something to be aware about!
Waitlist information - The same rate for all classes? How are you informed about moving down the list?
Crating information - Most crating is from your vehicle, but sometimes there are other options. Inside/outside? Arrival times? It's not uncommon, especially now, for trials to run a sign-up system where you run all your runs in a row then leave the trial site. This allows for less people onsite (something the trial site might require).
Hotel information and directions to the site
Entry form - 2 pages!!! You must fill out the entry as well as sign the 2nd page to have it be "complete".
Novice A or Novice B
According to the AKC Scent Work Regulations (October 2019 version): " Novice A Classes are open to dogs who have not completed any title for that particular element, who have not completed a comparable title with another organization, and whose handlers are neither Scent Work judges, nor have ever worked as professional detection dog handlers. "
What is the difference? Placement. Dogs from both classes are run together, often intermingled, and run on the exact same search with the same time limits and requirements to qualify. The only difference is placement - dogs in Novice B are scored only against dogs in Novice B.
If you are completely new to the sport and your dog has not titled in that element in the past (containers, interiors, exteriors, buried, handler discrimination), then you are eligible for Novice A.
If you have competed in another scent work venue, it's possible that you have titled in containers, interiors, and exteriors! Also, I have heard it considered that a title in Utility means your dog has a title in Handler Discrimination.
You can be penalized (loose a qualifying run) if you enter in Novice A incorrectly, but you will never be penalized for entering in Novice B.
First Received vs. Random Draw
There are 2 different types of entry methods.
First Received - Entries are entered into the trial in the order received up until the maximum number of runs has been reached. Once the max has been reached, a waitlist is formed in the order received. Clubs are encouraged to use this method if entries do not fill in the first few days of opening.
Random Draw - Entries are received between the opening date and the date of the end of the draw period. If these entries exceed the number of runs available, a number is assigned to each entry (usually envelope) and they are randomly drawn to enter the trial. This method is used when clubs can expect to fill within the first day of opening. If it does not exceed number of runs, then all entries are accepted as first received up until closing.
Either method does require you to be aware of the opening date. Scent work is still new and it's not uncommon for trials to fill quickly!
Double Check Your $
Before sending your entry, it is extremely important that your check (or money order, cash, or other accepted form of payment) is correct! Double-check the number of classes you are entering and do the math a few times.
When the first run is more than all the other runs, this usually means the first run of each day of the trial! AKC considers each day as a new "trial".
Checks need to be signed. The totals written must match. Double-check WHO the check is made out to! When you sign your check, be sure that the signature does not dip over the numbers at the bottom of the check, the computers at the bank WILL NOT accept these checks and they have to be entered and deposited manually.
Incorrect payment may mean that your entry will be returned and you will not be entered in the trial. This is especially important if the trial may fill quickly!
Some banks don't accept checks in colored inks, so use blue or black to be safe.
Checking Your Confirmation
A confirmation will be sent to your email provided on your entry. Be sure to check this confirmation thoroughly! It will have information that includes what classes you selected, the level you selected, and your dog's AKC number. It's these pieces that are most important for you to check!
The confirmation can be sent out soon after the trial secretary receives your entry, but more commonly it will be sent out sometime closer to the trial closing.
If you haven't heard from your trial secretary - first check your junk mail/spam folder. Usually, it has been sent here. It is also possible that your handwriting was unclear and the email address included was incorrect. Send your trial secretary a polite email asking about the status of your entry if you can't find it.
That's it! These are the major pieces about entering a trial!