Last weekend, I spent Saturday shadowing two expert judges at the San Gabriel Foothills AKC trial. This club runs really amazing trials, and I am proud that Iona earned her Masters Interior title on Sunday! It was really neat to go behind the scenes and ask the judges all the questions (like yes zone sizes and what type of food is in the distractor boxes).
I saw a lot of teams run the same searches and saw some phenomenal team work! However I did note some interesting patterns in these searches that might be of interest.
BURIED: I watched excellent and masters buried classes and it seems that most dogs were able to pick up odor from the water containers. I am pretty sure that Iona will pick these up after practicing a few times. After watching several searches, it was pretty apparent that odor was only leaving the boxes along one side and if the dog did not go down that side, they missed the hide.
EXTERIOR: The excellent exterior search was a med sized area bounded by grass and a planter. There were 2 accessible hides and one inaccessible in the corner under a jumbled stack of chairs. Many dogs missed the inaccessible in the corner. Although they caught odor, they deemed in unsourcable and and moved one. Some handlers noted that this was their first inaccessible and that they missed the call because there dogs were not exhibiting their normal alert. Obviously it is important to practice inaccessible (sparingly) and know what your dogs looks like as they bracket this type of hide. I also saw dogs that just could not even find the scent cones, because the handlers held them rigidly in the search area rather than letting them stray into the grass/planter to find odor.
CONTAINERS: This masters search consisted of a large matrix with several different types of boxes, etc. Most dogs found all the hides, however many handlers kept their dogs in the search area for too many passes, resulting in false alerts.
INTERIORS: For this masters search there were three different rooms, each with different time limits. The rules have changed and now there is no 30 second limit. I saw a lot of stress from the handlers as they attempted to keep track of the time. Also, many teams missed a hide in the last room because they did not re-check the threshold over where the judge/steward were standing.
Of course each search is different and requires a different set of skills. Hopefully these observations will help you prep for your next trial.