Sunday, February 14, 2016

Mock Nose Work Trial

Dozer doing vehicle search. The odor is under the front bumper
of the center car. He's almost there!
Several Saturdays ago it was freezing cold and overcast. It was so cold that we actually had snow flurries. In Florida! And there was a bitter wind that just cut through the inadequate jackets we Floridians have on hand. (Northern readers can quit rolling their eyes any time now.) Smart people stayed at home with the heaters on. However, a group of crazy dog people got together at K-9 Obedience Club to hold a mock NW1 trial.

Nose work has become incredibly popular. Unfortunately, there are more people wanting to compete than there are available trials. NACSW trials are few and far between. Most entries are done by lottery. There's only a short window for people to register. Names go into a lottery and those who win have 48 hours to pay their entry fees. Sucks, hunh?

There are Level 1 Nose Work (NW1) Trials in Orlando this weekend. Six K-9 club members won the lottery, including my friend, Blondie. She and Semi went to West Palm Beach with us. She also owns Dozer, Jedi's brother.

Gunner looks for the scent on this exterior hide.
It's hidden in the crack of the cement.
More exciting news is that K-9 Obedience Club has jumped through all the required hoops and just got the approval from NACSW to hold sanctioned NW1 and NW2 trials right here in Jacksonville. The club has found a place to hold the trials (this is not an easy task) and now we're just hammering out fine details.

So all this good news prompted the club to hold a mock trial. This way those going to Orlando will have some idea what to expect. Also, our club members have an idea how to run a trial so that we do a good job later this spring. We tried to make the trial as real as possible, with volunteers rotating through various positions of timer, stewards, videographer, etc. It was a great idea. I just wish we hadn't picked the coldest day of the year to do it!

I volunteered to help run the trial. Jedi and I won't be able to participate in the real trial since we bombed the ORT last month. However, the trial site is literally 10 minutes from my house so I plan on working it when the time comes. I learned a lot. For instance:
  • A trial consists of four elements: containers vehicles interior and exterior. A dog must pass all 4 elements in one day to earn the title.
  • NW1 uses only birch, and there is only one hide per element. It sounds easy, but it's not. Its just not as hard as higher levels.
  • NW2 uses both birch and clove. The same four elements are used, but there can be up to two hide per element. The hides can be both birch, both clove, just one of either odor, or one of each. You won't be told ahead of time either. Yikes.
  • After the target odor is hidden, but before the participants trial, The judges bring in a "dog in white." This is a dog who has already earned the title. This dog searches for the odor to determine whether or not it is well placed as well as where the dog picked up the scent. Sometimes air currents and odor pooling cause the dog to detect the odor in unexpected places. The dog in white helps the judges determine where an alert would be acceptable.
  • Cold air keeps the odor from dispersing, making it harder for dogs to find it. Shifting winds also make things harder for the dogs to find the target odors. 
  • At an ORT the judge will tell you where the odor is should you call alert incorrectly. At a trial, the judge will only tell you yes or no.
  • If your dog relieves itself on the course, you will be disqualified. This is difficult on an outdoor course with an intact pee freak like Jedi.
  • You will lose points on your score if you drop food on the course. Therefore, it's best to have large, non crumbly treats.
There was a lot more, but I was too cold to remember. Anyway, I'm thinking happy thoughts for all my friends in Orlando this weekend. Hopefully that'll be me and Jedi soon. -- K