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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Some info from my recent experiences that may be useful to others.

Background is I've been training my spoo in nosework for nearly a year, interested in the sport because it draws on a dog's natural skills. My boy is very "sniffy," excels at barn hunt, but it is a challenge in obedience and rally-O. So, go with his skills, right?

Our first odor recognition test (ORT), which is required to run in NACSW trials, was in November 2018. The next day was our first UKC trial. We've since finished all 3 ORTs--advice from others was that once a dog figures out that they're sniffing for something different, it is easy for them to pick up anise and clove, even if they've only trained with birch. We completed the ORTs the difficult way, one at a time, meaning three separate Saturdays spent driving to distant clubs.

My instructor's main venue is NACSW, but she trains all venues and trials in at least UKC, that I know of. She says that her students participate in all venues so she needs to be knowledgeable. She is also a judge in other venues and hosts NACSW trials several times a year.

I mention this because I've asked her about participating in other venues and she's advised me based on her knowledge and experience with the hosts (not the titling organization). I'm thinking of Skylar's recent experience with AKC.

UKC has mainly been a positive experience. We've achieved the novice nosework title and just need advanced vehicles to earn the advanced nosework title. There is one site that holds exteriors in their back parking lot which is adjacent to a large and noisy freeway. We NQ'd in our very first UKC run there, which happened to be exteriors. I wasn't prepared for my dog's reaction to that noisy environment. We've been back to that location since and qualified, now that I am aware of his vulnerabilities and potential solutions. One of the UKC trials used the 'magnet' system that Skylar described. It went okay, the site was fairly small, as was the number of entries. But I'd rather have a set run order. We're entered in another UKC trial in a couple weeks, and perhaps one in May.

Our only AKC trial was well organized. There was a set run order, plus the elements were staggered to enable participants to not miss their run due to schedule conflicts. The crating area was pretty noisy and I wondered in retrospect if I should have crated out of my car, not typical for me at rally, obedience, and barn hunt, but a requirement at NACSW.

For NACSW, the downside is definitely that there aren't enough trials to satisfy the demand. Entry is on line and limited to a couple day period several months prior, after which a lottery system is used to determine the 35-45 participants (depends on the level). A waiting list is developed and it is common to make it into a trial after others achieve their titles elsewhere and withdraw. My instructor suggested that I enter 3 separate trials within a 2 week time frame, in the event that I didn't qualify in the first.

As it turned out, we needed the second trial. Our first NACSW NW1 trial was quite the adventure. About 40 miles into the 2 hour drive we hit a blizzard. I'm serious. HUGE snowflakes, with about an inch accumulated on the interstate with no plows in sight. There were few drivers (thankfully) inching along at well below the speed limit. I was pretty stressed about this, as well as the possibility of arriving late, and I think that this was a factor at the trial as my dog is sensitive to my moods.

The trial organizers were adjusting to the circumstances, even changing locations of hides to accommodate first the snow on the ground, then water dripping from roofs. I was even more stressed after we NQ'd on the first run, which was interiors, one of my dog's strong points. By lunch I was okay, hearing other handlers describe their experiences.

I won't go into detail on all of the hides, but say the highlight of the day was the judges' wrap-up at the end. There was an introduction by the certifying official, then a description of each element by judges, explaining what search strategy would help, etc. This was so useful as to outweigh us not earning the title. Plus we took 3rd place in containers and won the NQ raffle of a free entry at a future trial. Overall, 21 of 45 dogs qualified. I was surprised that it was so low, and thought maybe the weather was a factor, but only 23 dogs qualified at the next trial (and about 1/3, I was told, at the third trial that I didn't attend), so this may by typical for NACSW.

Soooo, we drove 3 hours the next weekend for the second try at NW1. We earned the title, with no element placements this time, and the forecast rainstorm was at most a drizzle. Again, the trial organizers worked around the expected weather, holding exteriors and vehicles in the morning before any rain arrived.

The soonest that I could participate in an NACSW NW2 trial is in June, based on the timing of the entry method. I'm at a point (again) where I'm reflecting on why I choose canine sports for my dog, and how much trialing I should do. Is it fun for the dog? Is it worth the weekend given up to driving?

Both of my dogs love training. NW at home is hilarious as one dog is confined to the kitchen while the other plays, and they're vying for more time than the other. Going anywhere by car to train is cause for celebration. Just reaching for my training vest begins the happy dance. But the time and effort to travel to trials is worth considering. (Somewhat because I have less time left, and how do I want to spend it?)
 

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I am so impressed that you're competing in NACSW. It's the most difficult to compete in because their standards are set higher than AKC and CWAGS. CPE is apparently adding nose work too. For those who don't know nose work (scent work) each organization has their own twist on tests and NACSW is the most demanding.

I'm also so impressed that you drove through that blizzard to get to that trial and you came in 3rd in containers.

I've made the decision not to compete in NACSW. I'm sticking with AKC and CWAGs because I can go to local competitions and they are reasonably close so I don't have to stay in a hotel. Since I'm registered with CPE, I would consider competing there if they are close too.

Lastly I'm impressed that you have the patience to compete given how difficult it is to get into NACSW trials and that it's a lottery.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks, the title is only difficult in that you need 4 Qs in a the same day. We had 4 Qs at the AKC trial last weekend, however, they require 3 Qs at each level to title.

If I had known that snow was expected, I likely would have stayed home. This was only 2 weeks ago in Northern Illinois, and the snow was short-lived and melting by the afternoon. Yet it was frightening to drive through, especially on the back roads at that time of morning.

My instructor emphasizes how well the NACSW trials are run, especially with regard to odor handling.
 

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Congrats, that sounds great.
Can you start scent work with a puppy? I remember we started tracking super early with our last dog (They mostly just had to put their nose down and eat the treats, so it's not too demanding I'd say)
 

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Congrats, that sounds great.
Can you start scent work with a puppy? I remember we started tracking super early with our last dog (They mostly just had to put their nose down and eat the treats, so it's not too demanding I'd say)
Absolutely. The AKC club where I train, they introduce scent work in one of the puppy level classes.
 
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Man, Illinois got slammed this year. A blizzard in November, -28 without the wind in January, every river flooded in April, snow two weeks ago, ping pong ball sized hail last night, Illinois weather has been a horror show. I understand your reluctance to travel. It's proof you're sane. But, the thing is, you're really good at training scent work. And your dogs love it. (They do, I asked). Trials are a huge emotional rush for all of you, and that's a good thing.

June should be safe for travel. I've decided not to enter any trials between January and March. Noelle and I were in Loves Park when a snow storm hit and it was -9 outside. Noelle couldn't potty because it was too cold. No thank you. Once was enough. The trial should be the stressful part, not the drive there. I wish you the best of luck. Keep up the good work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, Click. We skipped a recent trial in Elmhurst that I’d pre-registered for when it snowed 7”. Even my instructor “decided to be a grown-up” and stayed home. Last weekend was another UKC trial, in Joliet. No weather problems! Though it started drizzing during exterior searches.

We finished the advanced nosework title and started superior. That’s two hides, one is clove and the other is either birch or anise, plus a distractor that can be either a treat or a toy. We succeeded on half of the runs in containers, interiors, and exteriors. That was on par for the trials. We took 2 firsts, 2 seconds, a 4th, and a high in trial (that included 2 advanced vehicle runs). If you have the chance to attend trials run by TG&TB, they are well run. They’ll host another UKC in Joliet in August, and an NACSW NW1 & NW3 in the fall.

I’m on long wait lists for 2 NACSW NW2 trials in June but made it into a container element trial in July. That requires 4 Qs in containers over a half day. Since it’s novice level the odor will be birch.

The summer is busy (both work and play) so the element trial and the August UKC trial are all that I’m planning. However, we have a 3-day barn hunt in June and I’m excited to get back to that. I’m curious if the nosework training will affect my dog’s barn hunting.
 

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scooterscout99, I'm impressed with how well you are doing.

I'm not willing to travel. Getting into even the local trials for AKC is impossible. I have no idea when we will earn a title. We have Qs in interior and containers, but I couldn't get into those in the upcoming trial - so we're doing runs in exterior, buried and handler's discrimination.
 
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I think the trial in Elmhurst is at the school where I train Noelle. Man, they are super into nose work over there. If you end up trialing anywhere in DuPage/Kane county, let me know. I'll get you a coffee after the trial.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks, Skylar. I’m starting to feel that way about traveling to trials. If it’s stressful to me, that will be transmitted to my dog.

Thanks, Click. I’ll let you know when I head up north again. There are a few possibilities in the fall.

Yesterday I volunteered at an Elite trial (NACSW). To be clear, I signed up before realizing that the location was a 2 hour 20 minute drive from my home. So many small towns in IL and I assumed it was closer to the host’s training facility.

I volunteered to time so that I’d be in the search area, rather than check-in or sheet runner, etc. The judge that I worked under was at 2 trials that I’d competed in, both an NACSW and a UKC. He’s a really nice guy and I chatted with him all day, asking questions about why dogs reacted to certain areas, trying to figure out the air flow (very little inside). That part of the experience was valuable. Other parts grueling: 6+ hours on my feet on concrete and my dogs crated for a very long time, left home at 5 am and returned at 8 pm . . . ugh.

What I learned . . . At this level competitors are allowed to time themselves. Many wore stopwatches around their necks and turned them on at the start line. They set alarms for various times, halfway through, 30 seconds left, and 5 seconds left. As official timer, I was to call out when there was 30 seconds left on the clock.

There were 4 search areas, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. I worked half of them and another judge and team of volunteers worked the other half. The first search area was a very large fire truck assembly room. The perimeter was full of machinery, tools and parts while the center of the room had vehicles in the assembly process. There were 6 hides with a time limit of 5:30. Noone found all 6, however, the scoring method is different here. There are points for each find with deductions for false alerts. Two false alerts are allowed with the 3rd being an NQ. Noone called a 3rd false alert. (BTW, handlers are told that there are, for example, between 4 and 6 hides.)

This looks like a lot of fun, much like barn hunt masters is, reliant on a dog being active at searching because of the very large area. But still the handler needs to make sure and cover the entire area. One search was on-lead and I believe that the other was handler’s choice, though all ran on lead.

The second search area was about 2/3 the size, fewer tools, etc. and though it also had 6 hides, had a time limit of 4:00. This was a lot of fun because all of the placements were on ladders, some free standing and one on the back of a firetruck. At least a few handlers figured this out after a few finds.

New to me was handler stopwatches, search areas all indoors, being able to false alert and not NQ. I’ll likely review the rules on elite for the details. It seems so far away! It was great to be indoors. I’d brought rain gear because, yes, it is still raining nearly every day in the midwest . . . farmers are having a difficult time getting into the fields.

There’s an opportunity to volunteer at a NW2 trial in Geneva this weekend. Part of me wants to see what’s involved before we trial at that level. But my weekends are so precious that I haven’t committed (yet!). As time goes on I’m less inclined to travel for dog sports.

A non-NW note, we’ve started back with obedience training. After achieving some titles last year (BN, RA, UR02, and RL2), my dog started sniffing in the ring and I didn’t want to deal with it. We’re in an open/grad novice class and he’s made great progress in 7 weeks, with much improved attention. When we started he wouldn’t hold the retrieve article for more than a second and he’s now retrieving over a jump. It helps that the other dogs in the class are mostly ‘obedience dogs’ and pretty well behaved. I’m not going to enter the June obedience trial because it seems premature (it would be novice class, at any rate), but am aiming toward fall and will continue with this training venue through the summer.

I’m impressed with the others on the forum that are forging ahead in obedience!
 

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Just so you know, Great Lakes Poodle Club has a show in New Lenox in October for obedience. Noelle and I will be running rally. It's a one ring trial. Noelle got her first two rally legs in Novice there last year. We NQ'd in obedience, but it was still fun. All poodles all the time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks, Click, for the obedience show tip. We’re in our second session of Open class at the home club and making progress. I posted in another thread about problems with the dumbbell. No longer. With only short, positive training sessions at home we have a complete retrieve sequence, including over the jump. So glad that I didn’t try any of the harsher methods that well-meaning people suggested (holding my dogs mouth shut around the dumbbell . . aaahhh!). The instructor, a long-time field dog trainer, was surprised at our proficiency, to say the least, though he’s seen poodles perform admirably in field trials. My goal now is to enter Novice in our next obedience trial in November. To do that I plan on taking the Fall novice obedience class so that we can practice the group stays realistically.

Back to nosework, yesterday we participated in our first NACSW element trial, in containers. We haven’t practiced much lately due to another dog’s health issues and family visitors. It was level 1 containers, requiring 4 Qs in a morning for the title. We were lucky to draw a ‘good’ number and were second on the line. They ran two searches back to back, then waiting for the other half of the dogs to complete the second pair of searches to run those back to back (that is, numbers 1-17 started on the first two searches, while numbers 18-34 started on the second set of searches). Thus we completed 4 searches in less than an hour.

While crating in cars is required for NACSW, this trial host allowed cars to be run for AC to keep dogs comfortable. Many people didn’t do this but I wanted my dog to be as stress-free as possible, not to mention safe in the 90 degree temps. We made it into two more NACSW trials in August and I need to research the cooling options there, particularly with bringing the second dog with, which I didn’t do yesterday.
 

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I'm glad AC was allowed yesterday. It was crazy hot in Northern Illinois. You were in my neighborhood, just so you know. If the trial is in Kane County or in DuPage county, let me know. I'll bring you a Starbucks!
 

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Do I understand correctly that you can't come as a spectator to scent work competition? Sounds like only judges and staff/volunteers are allowed inside. I was hoping to go as spectator before we go to our first competition (still far away, just started training 2 weeks ago).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Spectators are allowed. There were several spouses watching at the NACSW trial yesterday. Don’t know if you can generally watch anyone that you want . . maybe check with the trial hosts where you’re interested in watching. There are requirements aimed at spectators who are minors, but nothing else specifically called out in the rule book.

One excellent way to observe is to volunteer. Volunteer as a timer or videographer in NACSW and you’ll see every dog run. Plus you’ll be with the judge and can ask them questions. I learned more from watching 30 handler and dog teams run in a row than from running my own dog. You can see different ways of handling, observe handlers pulling their dog off of odor, and benefit from watching the really good teams.
 

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Do I understand correctly that you can't come as a spectator to scent work competition? Sounds like only judges and staff/volunteers are allowed inside. I was hoping to go as spectator before we go to our first competition (still far away, just started training 2 weeks ago).
Babette, I was just at a C-wags trial and they encouraged everyone to come watch, even those who just run their dogs. You would have been very welcomed there.

I volunteered to work the first day of my AKC club’s trial, then I ran my dog the second day. I was a timer: as a timer I got to watch the dogs and handlers in action. I also was a timer at a C-wags trial for the more advanced levels. In the AKC trial there were two spectators in the handler discrimination trial.

I’m guessing that if you ask ahead of time they may allow it. But you would be more welcome if you come and volunteer. Ask to do something such as a timer which puts you right in the action rather than being a gate steward. I learned a lot about handling the dog and some of the clever places they hide scents as a volunteer timer.

Edited to say Scooter and I have similar recommendations and experiences.
 
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