Mickey and I are now training to enter NW3 trial. My training sessions have been a bit overwhelming. I wanted to observe an NW3 trial so i could learn and study. Watching an NW3 trial in Santa Paula, CA on Sept. 1st, 2014 made things much clearer about certain techniques. I'm ready to train!!
This is only one trial. Another trial I will see different things. Some of the things i listed that worked for a team and many dogs, doesn't mean it will work for your dog. It is something to try, but it may not work for your dog. Nose Work is an ever evolving skill building sport.
Some things I've learned by observation:
1. Practicing patterns is very important. Know where you have been, know where you haven't, and know if your dog has already alerted on an odor.
2. In containers, the containers were laptop carrying cases/book bags, Suitcases and small bags. All containers were black. There were only 12 containers. I saw many people get caught in a circle. They kept circling on the outside a few times. The handler was walking in the center, body blocking the container that had odor. One dog darted across the handler to get to the odor, which was in the center. Good little dog, but many of the other dogs did not. The handler actually had to get out of the way and present the middle for the dog to find the odor. One container had a distraction of balls, one dog did a beautiful strong alert, handler called it, but it was wrong.
3. It is interesting seeing people not know if they have all the odors and found 2. With containers, it was only 2, so they go and check all the containers. With only having 12, that allowed the handler to carefully have their dog check each one in time. You can tell the uncertainty of the handler when they are looking for that third odor that isn't out there. The vehicles had 3 odors and the relief their dog got all the odors and you now can say finish is the best. I now see how having 3 odors is a lot less stressful than 1 or 2.
4. Every dog spent more time on odor than anything else, with the exception of one dog that alerted on a distraction. I did know where the odors were located, but I saw a significant change in behavior when the dog was at odor. Very distinctive. They hardly spent time on areas that didn't have odor. Obviously these dogs are NW3 dogs and they are obedient to their odor. Some handlers were waiting for a more distinct alert. The ones that called it early didn't wait for the alert, but knew the behavior of their dog that they knew they were at odor. If you want to be a fast dog, you need to learn that behavior the dogs show they found it and not wait for an alert. Time is precious in an NW3 because you have to spend a lot of time making sure you covered your area. In the exteriors, I felt the dog covered the area pretty well and got the odor, but the handler wasn't sure and took about minute to search the area. This is a catch 22 because sometimes a dog can miss an odor and going over again does pay off. Key learn your dog's behavior more than their super super clear alerts.
5. Many handlers waited while their dog was at odor before they called it. They were not convinced yet and wanted a little more time to make sure. Many handlers would walk around the dog at the end of their leash and then called it. A very small number worked very fast and called it it immediately.This is most likely what i will do when I do my first NW3 trail, being cautious.
6. Some handlers methodically had their dogs search, others just let their dog go. Letting the dog go makes it harder to know where you have been. Some let their dog lead the way and go all over the place, then if they were not sure they used the rest of their time methodically going through their patterns. I thnk the dogs that were a little pattern got their odors quicker. But it all depends on the level of the dog.
7. A technique that has been good for me, that I saw worked for some competitors really well in this trial, if you are not sure, take your dog away and bring them back. The second time a few dogs gave a more distinct alert. This can be tricky because a few other dogs once their handler didn't reward them and were not sure, walked away, the dog did not alert when coming back. This is a matter of practice some sourcing drills and that if I don't treat you the first time around, I will the second time.
8. The exterior had part grass and part asphalt. Many of the dogs loved that grass, but no hide was there. I was impressed how the dogs would be interested, but all handlers knew it wasn't odor. Good JOB!! They read their dogs well. The hides were relatively easy, but what was hard was there were only 2. Most dogs searched their area well. With some dogs, they kept going back to the odors they alerted, that was when the handlers said finished. They were correct. It seems when a dog keeps going back to the other odors, not because it is easy, but that there is nothing else out there and they are trying!!!
9. When the dogs had found the 2 odors and they were looking for a possible third odor, I could see that the dogs really couldn't find anything. they were searching and sniffing, but not "in odor". It was interesting how you can tell the difference between "in odor" and when they are sniffing and searching.
I saw some vehicles, most of containers and all exteriors. I did not see any interiors. Due to the trial ending late and not enough sunlight for me to drive to where I was staying, I didn't get to hear the debriefing.