Pula NW2 Trial - partial success - long
So, Pula and I were at our Nosework 2 trial yesterday all day. There were 42 dogs entered in the trial, most had been trialing at this level before. As it was our first time at the 2 level and we had done the 1 level on the first try, we (meaning me) are short on trial experience.
We had 4 groups doing each event simultaneously, with different rotations per group. My group was Interior, Vehicles, Containers, Exterior.
Interior - 2 rooms - 2 hides in the first room, 2.5 minutes; 2 hide in the second room 2.5 minutes.
Vehicles - 2 hides, 3 minutes
Containers - 2 hides, 2.5 minutes
Exterior - 3 hides, 3 minutes
I was nervous before the trial, even though I kept telling myself not to be. Pula was relaxed and calm before the trial, and was even saying "hi" to people she knows. A big step for her and our training.
The two interiors were classrooms, with lots of tables and chairs, surfaces, computers, sinks, cabinets, etc. A plethora of hiding places. The 2 hide room was first in the flow.
In interior, I made a mistake that I have made in training before, even though in my walk through notes I had written "be sure to remember to ask to move the chairs if she is working it". Pula was working on the table at the legs, but could not really reach the hide. My brain said "ask the judge if I can move the chair" but my mouth, after looking at Pula - who was staring at me impatiently - my mouth said "alert". DOH! The hide was on the back leg of the table and without moving the chair, Pula could not source.... So 1 minute into the trial and my titling hopes are over. I did this search off-leash.
Second room, Pula does well and accurately gives me her alert signal and we get that one.
Vehicles - after a short 5-10 minute wait, we move to vehicles. - the hike from the staging are to the events was across football field, that is filled with small rodent holes and bunny poo. Pula is not attentive to me (and I think my energy was not good after my handler error) and much more interested in finding bunnies and poo to eat. We get to the vehicles and get to searching. She finds the first odor but does not alert me so we moved on. I had to bring her back to it to get an alert. But, the wind was blowing up a hillside and then over the cars so it was making sourcing odor difficult at times, and was filling the area with bunny and other smells. Pula was very interested in the grass and the drainpipes, etc. and I was having a hard time determining if she was finding odor or something else. We eventually timed out without finding the second hide.
We get a short break for lunch and I was parked next to a woman who ended up with a title and high score for the day, so I was subjected to lots of happy uber-competitive talking as I was sitting there, disappointed. So, I had to think about how to turn the trial around. I sure did not want to go 0 for 4 events... What I decided to do to help with Pula's focus, and really mine as well, was to have her go to a heel position and "work" all the way across the field - the 5 minute or so hike to get from the cars to the waiting area, so that I could keep her from over-focusing on prey/bunnies. I figured I had to change something and see what happens, especially since containers are normally what we struggle with in class (distractions of food and pula's desire to man-handle the boxes can cause trouble).
Containers - indoors, 20 luggage-type items (big and small) - 2 odors, 2 food distractions, 2 toy distractions. Pula went right to the farthest container first, following odor from the start line, but she did not alert. We moved across the pattern and she found and alerted on another container - yes - 1st one found. I took her across all the containers again and back to the first one again - no alert. The third time she alerted me - success. 2 hides found.
Exterior - a tricky area with lockers, stacks of tables, bushes, all in some swirly wind areas (corridors between buildings at the school). Pula was on odor from the start line and went to the source but did not alert, so we continues down the wall. I turned her back along the wall since she had showed interest and got her to alert - it was an inaccessible hide under/behind a cart. We went back to the lockers to work the entry area, then I took her along the wall that she did not search, making sure to keep her from the odor we already did. We go down the wall, past the search area, turn back into it, and she catches odor (this is the down wind area - if you did not go out past the search area, your dog may not have caught the odor at all), she finds it quickly and alerts quickly. Success - 2 hides found, no faults.
So, I think my change of handling to the line, coupled with a better energy (go have fun and enjoy the time and don't be a dork) helped us succeed. Hopefully, next time we will be more prepared. But, I did meet my goal of 2 of the 4 successfully done. When we title, I would prefer to be faster to odor, quicker alert decisions, and try to contend for the top places.. MY next chance to trial is in February, but only if I can get in (lottery draw).
The rule of thumb is that is takes approx. 1 year between NW1 and NW2 titles, and another year from NW2 to NW3 for success. A few folks succeed one the first try at the higher levels, but these folks typically have older dogs who are not new to trialing (they might be tracking dogs, schutzhund dogs, rally, confirmation, etc), nor are the handlers new to trialing.
Thanks for reading if you made it this far. I just wanted to share both the experience, both for me (this is a good repository for reminding me of prior thoughts) and for those interested in the sport.
As an aside, I met another doberman person who is working on the Nationals next year out here so I am hoping to be part of a nosework demo (and maybe something else by then) as well as help out.