Tag Archives: nw1

NW1 Trial in Grayslake

29 May

Ren and I flew from flew from Atlanta to Chicago Midway on Friday, arriving the day before the Grayslake NW1 trial help on May 26th, 2012.  Ren is a great flyer, and quickly settles into her “bag”, not even opening an eye during take-off orRen stretches her legs upon arrival

landing. After a quick break in the Chicago Midway dog exercise area, I picked up the rental car and headed north to  Grayslake, about one hour north of the airport.  We took a quick drive by the fairgrounds just so I knew where to go the following morning, checked into the hotel, and got settled for the night.

Being an “Agility person” for so long, I found the 9am trial start time to seem like a late start! (compared to waking up for agility very often at 5:30 am)  Much to my dismay upon waking up, it was POURING rain, with standing water on the ground.  I checked the weather forecast, and it said the rain would stop around noon, so the later start time would hopefully work in our favor.  Although we had practiced in the rain, Ren is not much of a fan of the whole “getting wet” idea.

The trial site was a now defunct county fairgrounds. It was a area comprised of fields, buildings, and parking lots. The rain had stopped at this point. Competitors arrived and parked in the fairly tight packed parking lot. Reactive dogs had their own lot, although it was right next to the “non-reactive” dog lot. I didn’t hear much barking or upset dogs from either lot throughout the day.  Check-in started at 9am. We got our name sticker, handed in our K9 Nosework Scorebook, paid for lunch and got to see where we were on the running order. Ren and I were assigned to Group D, about 5 dogs in.  After everyone checked in (48 people), we started to gather around waiting for the walk-thru to begin, when the rain started up again. People scrambled for their cars to sit-out the passing downpour. After about 15 minutes the worst was over, and we were able to get started.

The plan for the day was for Groups A and B to start with Exterior/Interior hides, while Groups C and D did Container and Vehicle, then swap those hide locations for the afternoon.  We split into those groups for the walk-thru, and being in Group D, headed over to the container search.  This search area was in one of the large Fair buildings. It had a large door the size of the end of the building that was open.  There were 20 white boxes across the search area in no particular pattern. The amount of surface area that the boxes covered surprised me a little – it seems like a large area. We had 2:30 for that search.

Next was on to Vehicle, which was also in a similar building right next to the container search. Was relieved to see that it was under cover! Would be one less search in the rain if they sky’s decided to open up again.  There were 3 Vehicles in a

Old Lake County Fairgrounds – location of the Grayslake NW1 Trial

“fan” shape, a large white fan on the far left, and the other 2 vehicles being cars.  We had 3 minutes for that search.

Both these buildings were right next to each other. The plan for the actual search was for the competitors to move into a staging area, then do both of those searches back to back, then return to the parking lot.

We then moved over to the exterior search area. It was an area beside a building composed of grass, cement, bricks, gravel, with a concrete “stage” in the middle of the area. The search area was defined by cones.  We had 3 minutes for this search.

Last was the interior search, which was held in an old hotdog vendor building pretty close to the exterior hide area. This was the search area I liked the least – as it was fairly dusty inside. I had hoped that Ren wouldn’t have to breathe in too much dust… There was also a fairly high step to get into the building, with the start line at the outside edge of the step. The step was too high for her to jump on to, so I had to think about how I planned to handle this. We also had 3 minutes for this search.

Since the groups had been split up, we were asked to hold all questions until the briefing so that both groups could hear all questions. After seeing all the search areas, all the groups headed into another large building to  get the briefing started.  Wendy read through a ton of thing that we were supposed to remember, but I was so ready to get started, I barely remember anything she said. A few people had questions which were all answered, and we were then sent back to the parking lot so the trial could get started!

The gate steward did  a good job of getting people staged and ready to go. We were about the 28th dog or so to run, but the time went by pretty quickly.  There were some practice boxes set-up. We took at turn at them pretty early, then headed back to the car to wait. Finally at around 1pm it was our turn!

When we finally got called, I was prepared to still have to wait in some staging areas, but as it turned out we just walked right up and it was our turn to go. Containers was first.  I stepped up to the start line, but Ren down and let her orient, told her to Find It! and she did in 10.67 seconds! She just marched over to the odor box, sniffing a few on the way, and put her paw on the odor box. I called alert, the judge said YES, I started to breathe again, gave Ren her treats, and walked right next door for the vehicle search.

Third place for Interior Search!

Again, we walked up to the start line, which was about 15 ft from the vehicles. I carried Ren across the start line, and put her down right at the back of the vehicle on the far right.  At Nosework camp the month prior she had gotten a little

spooked by the photographer, but she didn’t even glance at anyone in the building watching. After putting her down, she make a hard left turn toward the van and showed no interest in the other to cars, so I just followed. She walked around the van, headed back towards the middle car, then after getting a few feet away from the van did a sharp u-turn back to the van and straight to source and alerted.  46.48 seconds! Again called Alert, and got the YES I was hoping for. So of

course I was totally ecstatic at this point – and headed back to car wait for the last 2 searches!

The weather was now nice, not too warm and a little breezy. Lunch was brought it and we took an hour break .

It was fun being in the parking lot at this point watching for the competitors coming around the building who had finished their last 2 searches – giving the thumbs up or down.  It  was also hard to not discuss anything with anyone!  I tried to let Ren rest as much as I good – this was a long day (although we had done longer at camp, 3 days in a row, which was good practice)

Finally about 4pm it was time for Exterior/Interior.

The gate steward walked us over to the Exterior waiting area, which was inside a building very close to the search area. I suppose we waited inside so we couldn’t hear what was going on with the dog ahead of us. Finally the door opened and it was our turn.  Same routine and the start line – and followed Ren to the front of the cement stage to a big pile of bricks. She kinda got stuck there, doing a lot of searching but I could tell she wasn’t in odor. I stuck to my plan, and after about a minute of her making to progress in the brick pile, took her on a “lap” over the cement stage. She quickly got off the stage, and headed around the stage, past the brick pile. I could finally tell she was in odor, and after a few seconds of reaching

the general area, alerted at crack in the concrete, and she was right! 2:02 was her time on this one.

K9 Nosework Trial Scorecard

Wow – one more search to go and we would have our NW1. I couldn’t believe it.

The gate steward walked us up to the door and said a whole bunch of stuff I don’t remember. She opened the door, and Ren started “sniffing” the air before she was anywhere near the ground.  This search was on or off leash. I had decide to do it on leash because there were some weird old hotdog cooking appliances that wanted to keep her out of. The step was too high for her to jump up onto easily, but I wanted her to be able to orient before she crossed the start line. I squatted down next to the step, and put her on my knees,  which I had level with the step. She walked off my knees, crossed the start line, and when straight to the source and alerted, which was on a shelf in an open cabinet right next to the door.  They steward didn’t even have time to shut the door behind us.  I called Alert and the judge said “which one”. Wow – yikes – did I know???  On the shelf there were 2 tubes, one PVC and one metal. The PVC was further in.. I had to REALLY THINK hard in that moment as to which one she had alerted on… I pointed to the PVC one and said “THAT ONE” and the judge said something, but I couldn’t tell what. I then said “Was that a yes?” and she said “YES”. 7.65 Seconds. We did it! What a thrill. And was so proud of Ren… We headed back to the parking lot to wait for the award presentation.

There was lots of excitement (and some disappointment) in the parking lot. Some people missed their title by inches… Overall though it seemed to me that no matter what happened, everyone had a fun day.

Awards started around 5:30ish? What a surprise to not only get our title, but we got a 3rd place in Interior! Here is a link to all the results. There were 48 dogs entered, with a 55% pass rate. Overall, Ren ranked 9th overall – not too shabby 🙂

She is the first Nw1 Japanese Chin, and I *think* the first dog in Georgia to get an NW1 title.

She got a “Pronounced” on her Container search, with some fun comments from the judges. One of them wrote that she was “K9 Fast”

After the awards being presented with our ribbons, we got to pick up our scorebooks, scorecards and the trial was over.

Thinking back there weren’t too many things I would have done differently. The container search was fantastic. My next vehicle search I wouldn’t start at either end, would make sure to start in “the middle”. Exterior search – it took the longest but she worked it the whole time and I stuck to my plan. Interior Search – if I was ever presented with two possible hide locations so close together, I will make sure I am 100% confident I know which one it’s in before I call Alert!

Super experience, and really fun day and I can’t wait for Nw2.

Ren – The first NW1 Japanese Chin


NW1 Trial Countdown!

20 May

Hanging out in the cabin

Our first crack at NW1 is less than one week away. Ren and I are flying to Chicago next Friday, to complete in the NW1 trial in Grayslake, IL on Saturday.

Even though we have been training in Nosework for over a year, we have been doing quite a bit of prep work in the last month. After attending Nosework Camp, I realized/learned there were some things I should have been doing along, and some of those things had to get squeezed in the past month also.

Camp Coleman was great! My best friend and I shared a cabin, so we had plenty of room. The meals were “OK” – a little too much fried and starchy stuff, but we survived 🙂 The Instruction was awesome. I little jealous over all the fantastic instructors on the West Coast! Some great instructors on the East Coast too, but I feel it’s a little unfair for them to have to prep students for an NW1 trial, without ever trailing themselves.  The only thing that I was really dissapointed in, is that on my registration form I indicated I probably needed the most work and practice on vehicle searches – and we only got to do vehicles once, on the last day, the last class. By that time Ren was pretty burnt out and we only took one turn.

I did walk away from Nosework camp with a good list of what I needed to do before the trail.

The camp was very tiring for Ren, working on and off all day. Before camp, I had only been training once or twice per week. For the few weeks after camp, I upped my training to 4-5 times per week and really kept the momentum of camp going. This last week before the trial, I am only doing a few fun, paired, easy searches.

10 Things I have been doing to prep for the NW1 Nosework Trial

1. Aged Hides – Practicing hides that have sat out for 5-8 hours. If you do this, make sure they aren’t again in an area your dog has access to.

2. Timed Hides – I would advise anyone prepping to compete that they start this earlier than a month before the trial. Having the pressure of the timer running can mess with your mind a bit. Have someone call out time at 1 minute, 2 minutes, and a 30 second warning so you can get used how long that amount of time feels. I practiced on 3-4 minute timed hides.

3. Really Blind Hides – What I mean by this are hides that you truly can’t see, even when your dog is indicating. In a Kleenex box, dustpan, under rocks, etc. For most of the blind hides I did work on, I just didn’t know where the hides was, but one Ren got close I could see the tin. Easy to all “alert” on that. It’s a much different feeling when you can’t see it and REALLY have to trust your dog.

Ren at a Sniff & Go

4. Pairing- To continue to keep Ren’s movitation level up, I have made sure to do more paired hides. This week, the week before the trial, we are doing the pairing with extra special treats

5. New Locations –Looking back, this was a big learning for me. I didn’t work enough new locations over the past year.  Ren was a little off kilter at first at camp, having to work in a new location (but she quickly realized what was going on) With the amount of training I have done with her over the past month, I think she now realizes “new locations” are to be expected.  We have done a warehouse, school interiors and exteriors, fairgrounds, offices, etc in the past month.

6. Box Drills – Just as a refresher, 20 boxes

7. Different Surfaces – Mulch, gravel, long grass, packed dirt, etc etc

8. Different Distractors – People carrying cameras and clipboards, wearing hats, and holding umbrellas

9. Mock Trials – I have been able to do 2 of these. I would highly recommended getting to one if you can. Even if you need to put one together with some training friends, you will probably find it a big help.

10. Have a plan! – This was one of the biggest learnings at camp for me. Before camp, I hadn’t really done any timed hides. I would just let Ren lead, and she ALWAYS would eventually find it. The game changes though when you only have 3 minutes (or however long) I needed to great a plan on how to best work those 3 minutes, and make efficient use of our time. I also had to learn not to panic when the time starts to run out. Your plan can be anything, but this is what mine is.

  • Pay attention to which way the wind is blowing as  I approach the start line. Be ready to adjust plan accordingly. In my mind, catalog all areas she shows interest in but has continued to search past.
  • Let Ren orient a few feet away from the start line (She sometimes will even catch the scent before we start, then just walk right over to it)
  • First 60 seconds or so – Ren gets to go wherever she wants. I pretty much just follow her around and let her check things out
  • 60-120 – If she hasn’t caught odor, do a perimeter walk around the search area, hoping she will pick something up.
  • 120-180 – Go back to areas of interest. Do a zig-zag pattern across the search area.
  • Keep Breathing 🙂

If you want to practice adding some of these things into your training plan, be sure to add one at a time. Don’t set up an search that is timed, blind, with someone holding an umbrella if you haven’t practiced each of those things individually first.