Monday, November 10, 2014

First NW3 trial

     Competing at the Nose Work 3 (NW3) level is such an honor. I competed with several who have been to many trials, one has competed in 70 NW3 trials. The people were really friendly at the Eugene, OR trial November 9th, 2014. As I pulled up in my parking spot and crawled out of my truck, people were walking around asking if anyone needed help with their canapy. I shouted, "I DO!" So nice not having to go around and recruit people. This trial had several competitors from Southern California that they were joking and calling it the southern California Pacific north West trial.

     That day was overcast with rain that was going to come soon. A light chilly cold, grey sky, you knew rain was coming. I had four layers of cloths on and a jacket. That was two long sleeve t-shirts, a sweater type cover, a sweat shirt and a fleece jacket. I never felt hot.

     I put two pads and a blanket in Mickey's crate and covered it with my shade cover to keep him warm. I don't think he was ever cold.

      I was number 7 in the running order, group A. this means i was running exterior and vehicles first. Exterior was a huge patio lined with a low brick wall. Five fold up tables in the center, a trash can, a cart with about 3 mop buckets put in strange formation, a small shelf and a 2 or 3 things around the wall. Two punkins marked the start line. Mickey went for the pumpkin when I told him to search, had to pull him off it and restart his search command, he then got into scenting. Mickey first worked the parameter. It was a huge area so I was running behind him. I probably took 1 1/2 minutes to do the parameter (we had 3:00 minutes total). Once I secured the parameter, we went for the center and bang, he got the odor on one of the tables. I heard the 30 seconds, went a little more and called finish with 0.63 seconds left. Yikes that is too close for comfort! I better start working on my 30 second finish call and make it sooner!

      When I got my score sheet for the exterior, I got all the hides! YAY! Jude made some great comments and gave me a Pronounced.

The next element was the vehicles. 5 vehicles in a not so pattern configuration. A small pick-up, three cars, SUV and a tractor on a trailer.  I was proud of myself for working the area well. I got both hides, then my inner voice said, you better call "finish" and my brain said, "you didn't hear the 30 second warning." My inner voice said again, you better call "finish" and then thought again, I didn't hear the 30 minute warning. Then all of a sudden the judge said "thank you!". WHAT? I didn't hear the 30 second warning! I was shocked and knew I lost my title right then. I told the judge but I put my hearing aids up so I could hear it. He said, I have hearing aids too and I heard it." His face was really sincere and because i was in such trial fright mode, I probably came off frantic when i found out I didn't call "Finished" in time. Bless his heart for the wonderful comments he gave.My score sheet showed I got the two hides. So Mickey got them! And I knew we were finished, but too scared to call finish. Ok, something to work on!

      I heard the 30 second warning in exteriors, but changed my hearing aids to the program that is a more open configuration. What I found, my regular setting heard the 30 second warning better than my "open" setting. What I mean by open is it doesn't block sound behind me. Blocking is designed so you can hear people in front of you without background interference. My hearing aids will need to be tweaked more to address these issues.This was the very first trial my hearing had interfered. I've been lucky in the past 3 trials I had no issues, but these are very new hearing aids. Going to the hearing aid person in 1 1/2 weeks and we can tweak them again so i can hear the person call the 30 second warning and I can hear Mickey's breathing.

       My score sheet showed a lot of good comments and I did work the area very well. I had one lady come up to me after and said your exterior and vehicles were so good. You read your dog well! She was incredibly impressed.

       Lunch time has passed..........

       Next up was the interior. Three rooms. These rooms were cabins that were either identical or a superimposition of another. The steps were rather high and although they reminded us that the step was high and be careful, I tripped going in after I let Mickey go off leash. Got my footing and started watching Mickey. Mickey trotted around checking out everything. He had to go between bunk beds, went into the bathroom area and searched around. He found two odors and I called finish. The next room, I let Mickey go, went in the room and was proud I didn't trip in the threshold of the door. Mickey snorted at many points, but I called finished, I never called alert. I was hoping i called it right because of his snorting it was hard if he was doing a "drive by" alert, or there was nothing there. Ok, time for the next one....The third room, Mickey ran in, I was stepping in, with my attention slightly paying attention in stepping in the room, Mickey nosed the corner of the bunk bed made of metal pipe, snorted and looked at me in an excited look and I called it too soon. It was not an alert. He might of looked at me not because he found the hide, but that I finally made it in the room. Mickey tends to look at me often for connection. What i learned here is if my attention is not completely on the dog, have him come back later or search the area. he will go there again if there is odor. Allow him to source it. The judge mentioned on the score sheet it was a memory thing. the first room had hides in the similar area on the bunk bed. It turns out that I got the first two rooms correct. I called the blank room correct and the two hides in the first room. That made me feel so good because i was SO unsure! Again, I did better than I thought. That mantra of all my teachers "Trust your dog" was something that was appropriate there.

           A long wait. I changed my headlight on my truck during this time. Nothing like having a project to do while waiting. Then it was my turn for containers. This was in a gym, on strange square pieces of about 8 inch by 8 inch. Gave it more of a cushion feel for the floor. Walking on it was a bit different. I sent Mickey and he got the first odor, but was goofing on the other containers. It was in a blue duffel bag, size of a day bag. He missed it three times. looking back, I should have pulled him away and walk him slower. I heard the 30 second warning. What I learned, work more containers with bags. Slow him down. I had some decent comments. 

     I did better than I thought. I thought I have worked well with not psyching myself out, but losing the vehicles (the second miss) kind of dampened me. I know logically this doesn't help since i have more practices and possible element NW3 titles to get.  The more on your game you can be, the better practice.

Looking back, this was another great learning experience. When I let two days of the sting pass, I then can think better and analyze for the next plan of action.

Looking back at the trial, if they would have taken the blank room out of the equation, and replaced clove with Birch or Anise, this trial essentially was a NW2 trial. No element had more than 2 hides in each search area. Purely a mind game on the handler. Amazing going through two NW2 and then now NW3. I'm more stressed and pressured in NW3 for the pure fact that I don't know how many hides are in the search. Amazing.

What I did really well:
1. Covered my area well.
2. Leash handling had significantly improved.
3. Read Mickey much better.

What I learned:
1. Get a vibrating timer, and work better with time.
2. If distracted, don't call it, come back and if there is odor, he will go back again.
3. Work more on containers, specifically flat bags and bags.

     Less than three weeks for the next trial.

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