Today, Iona and I competed in the Valley Hills Obedience Club AKC Scent Work trial in Acton. Overall it was great. It started at 09:30, easy drive, easy parking, lots of space, respectful competitors, low stress, and good hides. This was actually two trials in one, so we were able to get a bunch of runs in. Iona was really spectacular in all her searches. She was super fast and efficient and placed first in at least 4 classes (I did not stay for the results of the second trial). I just wanted to briefly talk about the searches to give a heads up to anyone that might be trialling at this level. There are food and toy and dog smell distractors in each search area but you could always see them.
We did not enter buried hides for a few reasons: Iona and I have not been practicing them, at this level buried hides are in the ground and I have some concern about valley fever, and I suspected that the ground might be super hard, making for near impossible hides. Indeed, the ground needed to be drilled to make burials and for the first trial, no dogs Q’d. I did not stay around for the results of the second trial.
1. Our first search was Interiors. In Excellent, you have two rooms with a total of three hides. There are no blank rooms. That means that one room will have two and the other will have one. You will need to call finish after each room. This was a fun search. The first room was a kitchen, and Iona buzzed through the out of bounds area to pick up odor and work it to an elevated hide (3 -4 feet) on the island. She quickly picked up the next hide which was inaccessible in some cabinets. The second room the women’s bathroom and the hide was in the hinge of the stall door. This one was interesting because I could tell that she was on odor in the vestibule before the start line at the entrance to the bathroom, instead of muscling her to the doorway, I took a step back and said start. She started working the pooling odor in the vestibule and by the time she crossed the start line, she was moving straight toward the hide! If you do try something crazy like this, make sure that you cross the start line as well as your dog! You will get faulted if you do not cross the startline.
2. Containers was two long lines. They consisted of all manner of things, fabric bags, sleeping bags, tackle boxes, I don’t even know what. Iona alerted in three of them pretty quickly.
3. I felt that the Exterior search was pretty close to the buried section and at the start line to exteriors. The search area was an L shape composed of the side of a building bounded by a sprinter van with some chairs and stuff. I could tell that she had caught odor from the buried hides which were about 15 feet away. However, i pointed her in the right direction and she quickly picked up a threshold which was under a pile of wood and then a converging odor hide in a crack of the wall which made up the boundary. She then started working the wall of the building and found another (somewhat) elevated hide (about 3 feet) .
4. Next up was Handler Discrimination. This is self serve, so I take off her harness and I use her regular leash. I also did some practice searches around the parking lot right before we went up to run the real search so she knows that she is not looking for odor. The search area was an outdoor hallway bounded by the building and some big plants. There were two benches in the search area and the hide was under one of them. She just reached underneath and ripped it off and spat it down on the ground. I did not teach her this, but it sure makes calling alert easy.
5. For the second trial, we were the first dog up for Exteriors. I could tell this was going to be a tricky area because there were a three lines of picnic tables pretty close together. Picnic tables are hard for us because she zips through them really quickly. The area had some old benches, some rocks, a shed. She seemed to be lost for a while, but I think she was just a little slow getting into her grove. She had been snoozing for a long time before I got her out of the car and ran her straight over to this search. However, eventually, she did find all three hides.
6. The next interior was a little more tricky, now the vestibule and the men’s bathroom were the search area. She located the first hide in the toilet paper dispenser, though there was a bunch of pooling odor in the bathroom, she stated re working the same hide a few times before being convinced that she had already sourced it. The second hide was an inaccessible on a podium type water cooler. Iona had a hard time sourcing this one and I had to bring her around to the other side to get on to source.
The second “room” was really just half of the big room which was delineated with cones. This was a big circle of about 40 chairs. Iona ran around the circle a bunch without finding much until she finally caught odor as the judge was calling 30 second warning. She worked odor from under a chair, to the backrest and finally to a closed closet door. I called alert and finish with about a second to spare. This was a pretty tough hide and I felt that the times for these interior searches were a bit stingy.
7. This Container search was a long “J” shape. Iona alerted on the first box and after I called it, I blurted “finis…” the judge did not stop the search but I was sufficiently shaken up enough to not notice that when I though she was re-alerted on a box, it was actually a different box! Oh well. This is the beauty of AKC trials, if this was an NACSW trial, I would be beating myself up ruthlessly, however, because all of her other amazing searches still count, I can just chalk it up as a learning experience.
8. The last search was another HD search. This time the cotton ball was stuck to a car. I though that it was going to be tricky, but she found it in three seconds. With this search, she earned her Scent Work Handler Discrimination Excellent Title! Now on to masters!