Tana I got back late last night from a really great trial out in California. I'm still sort of waking up and trying to catch up for the next week, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts of this trial out in words before the details start to fade.
The trial was held by K9s Love To Search (Linda Buchanan) at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, CA. Couldn't have asked for a better run trial and the volunteers were fantastic! Our CO was Dorothy Turley and our judges were Pete Stevens and Kevin Olin. The venue was a really special treat and it was such a privilege to be able to search in such a cool space. Check out the photos below!
We started our day a little teary with a really beautiful moment of being able to place roses at the base of the k9 detection memorial at the museum. It was really special to be able to start our day off with a moment of gratitude.
This was our first trial under the new NW3 rules and it definitely felt a little different. I have a whole 1 trial to base the difference off of, but the older rules made interiors much like AKC Master interior searches, so the old system felt familiar to me. The new spread of 6 searches in any element (and at least one of vehicles, containers, interior, and exterior) made the trial much more interesting and less structured. Trying to get through that many searches was a little tougher to do in one day, but the volunteers were figuring it out and things ran quite smoothly.
Although I didn't get a "No", those who did get one were allowed to continue searching in that element. Such a different feeling for those who haven't competed in elite yet! (Me included!). To know that you could get an NW3 leg with one "no" or missed hide or "finish" not called is a very different feel to the day.
One last note about the new rules. Although it's always been frowned upon to discuss searches through the day, I can see the new rules making that even more important. With the possibility of one blank in any search, discussing any searches, even after everyone has run, will cause issues if an exhibitor called an earlier space as blank but then heard that there was a hide after all the dogs ran. That influences how they will call in future searches. With the mental game of NW3 being new to most at that level, it seemed to be something that may be needed to be brought up in the briefing. Finishing all dogs in the first few searches does not mean you could discuss the number found yet! Coming from the AKC world where you know every time you leave a search if you found everything, I can see this being a habit and something not realized amongst newer competitors to NACSW.
We had 6 searches (as required under the new rules) and they were as follows:
Interior 1 - Space Travel / Lobby - 2:30min, on leash - 2 hides
This was our first search of the day and Tana was a little high as we walked in. The room was large and filled with many airplanes that towered above her. The search area was only the first small space as we walked in and into where a small display of space/rockets. The startline was in the middle and airflow was predominately (most easily seen from the dog's working path) from an exit door to the right of the search area. Once Tana's nose got down she was able to find the first pretty well.
The 2nd hide was really interesting from an odor point of view. The CO let us know that the hide was placed in the center underneath of a toy spaceship. The airflow from the door was partially blocked by a half wall that caused some of the air to eddy and pull the odor from the spaceship to the back corner, as well as across the entire display and into a set of stairs. Tana was able to work from the odor in the corner to the spaceship and after a few seconds, let me know the odor was under the spaceship. I could tell it was deep since she had a little trouble deciding exactly where to alert (right side in photo). After calling alert here, I asked her to search the left side of the display area and she caught odor along the steps and swirling. It wasn't until I stepped way out, that I could see it was pooled odor from the same hide.
Vehicles - (3) in L shape - 3:00min, on leash - 1 hide
The startline was along the side of the first vehicle and airflow was moving towards the start from the vehicles. Tana gave me a small change of behavior along the downwind side of the first vehicle, which I worked a little more than needed. The odor was also swirling down the side of the other 2 vehicles and eddying behind the white vehicle. Tana danced in that eddy for a bit and was pretty high compared to her usual searching. I could really see a change in her arousal level once we found the one hide on the farthest vehicle. She found it easily and pinpointed it into the wheel. After that, we were just chasing trails of odor blowing down and through the vehicles. A great search for me to learn and see! I can't wait to see the video on this one!
Exterior 1 - "Picnic" - 3:00min, on leash - 2 hides
The startline of this search was really different - it had a picnic table, a fire hydrant and a post along the middle of it! The air was moving from the front of the plane to the left tail of the plane, so mostly towards the start line.
I walked up to the start from a ways back and let her pick where to start. We chose along the wall, the far side of the picnic table. I was happy with how that start went since as soon as she stepped into the space, she picked up odor traveling along the wall (to the right) and was able to quickly find the hide on the cart's wheel. Although not visible in this photograph, there are a series of mechanics toolboxes along the wall that was catching some of the odor.
2nd hide was on the far tire of the plane. Odor was moving easily into the right side of the search area and it was relatively easy for her to find that. I guess a bunch of dogs were able to get this hide from the startline - my guess is they started along the left of the hydrant.
Containers - 2:30min, on leash - 1 hide
The space for containers was located in a display area with glass-encased displays, hot lights illuminating the displays and a doorway on to another high-ceilinged space with lots of airflow moving into the space from that. Competitors came in from the side and so the air was moving from the left and across the containers to the right. The containers were a mix of plastic shoe boxes (with 4 holes in the lid, filled with paper) and metal paint cans (4 holes drilled in the lids). No distractors. The containers were laid out in a grid with a few extra leading down a hallway, requiring handlers to push a bit to get them to check the additional containers.
Tana entered the space and with a quick moment to allow us adjust to the lighting change, I let her focus forward into the search. After a rather quick check of the 1st container, she settled into a nice pattern around the edge and hit the one container on the fall wall of the space. With one pass and a little extra time to double-check the top corners that she had buzzed by, I felt good about calling finish. The clear air direction helped keep the odor plume distinct.
Exterior 2 - "Firebase Romeo Charlie" - 3:00min, on leash. 3 hides.
This was my favorite search by far. The area was set to mimic a base in S. Asia and it was really neat to be able to search in the area. The airflow was generally moving towards the startline, but from the right to the left. On our startline, most of the search was ahead or to the left, which actually made it nice for odor to catch into the corner of the building surrounding the space and helped us get some speedy finds.
Tana started in odor at the start and with a little pressure on the line to slow her down a touch, she was able to quickly find the first threshold hide on the ammo box. After rewarding, she shot out and quickly ran along the side of the building (with a quick stop to investigate a cool smell) and found the bench hide. Odor was moving through the bench a bit by the time we ran, but it was still pretty easy for her to pinpoint where the hide was. After this one, I pushed a little to make sure there wasn't a hide further up into the corner of the space, much more than I needed to. Once I let go and let her work, she shot back to the corner of the hut covering the helicopter and found the 3rd hide very quickly. It felt really good to call Finish on this one!
Interior 2 - C-141 Plane interior - 2.5 min, on or off-leash. 1 hide.
There is a virtual walk-thru of this space available on NACSW's virtual walk-through Facebook page. The steps looked much more intimidating than they really were and the volunteers were great about holding dogs and helping people up and down. Basically the search area is one long tube with a small door on the far side. Because of the door, the air was moving pretty quickly down the length of the plane and when the dogs started, they were definitely in odor.
I tried playing this one with a little control to check thresholds, but gave up pretty quickly and ended up sprinting to the far side of the space. Tana hit the hide on the base of the steps extremely quickly and held. I couldn't have asked for a more clear and fast find. Very cool. I then tried searching my way back a bit, but she stared finding and licking up pieces of treats (popcorn? leftover from before the trial). Once I realized that she was just hoovering food, I was able to call finish.
Overall this trial was such a joy with so many special treats. It was a super fun day to play with my favorite girl! Tana didn't place in any individual searches (although exterior 1&2 and interior 1&2 were combined so we had "4" searches at the award ceremony), but she did end up 3rd overall! Consistency got us these ones! What to work for the next one? More confidence in calling finish with 1 hide, understanding airflow around vehicles a little better, and still working her arousal levels.
Here is our videos from the day. Big thanks to Annick Loomis and her fantastic videos!!! Always worth purchasing our runs!