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Discussion Starter #1
I’ve been training my spoo and beagley mix in canine nosework for about 5 months, a few semi-private lessons a month and practicing on my own. This past weekend was a trial sponsored by my instructor and I agreed to help out. We haven’t trialed yet so this was my first time at any nosework or scentwork venue.

I really wished that I had sought this opportunity earlier. It’s so valuable to watch others run their dogs no matter the sport. Trials offer an opportunity to see a range of handling styles, to focus on the dogs as the handlers sometimes don’t, or can’t, given their location.

What I learned:

- trust your dog! I’ve heard this many times, especially in barn hunt. The dogs’ noses are so much better than ours.
- take advantage of the wind. Both hides were upwind so that many of the dogs could smell the odor from the start line. Yet handlers rushed upwind, taking their dogs away from the scent cone.
- don’t assume that the hide is on an object. Many handlers led their dogs away from a post, when the hide was at the base of it tucked in the metal support. They focused on barrels and picnic tables when the dogs had already identified the hide.
- train your dog with hides near the start line (also for ORTs, in the first box). This was from the judge who said that many dogs rush off the start line because they haven’t been trained that the hide can be close.

Volunteering at a trial earlier in training would have offered a crash course in nosework and increased the value of the lessons. I feel especially fortunate to have spent several hours with an experienced judge. Bonus is he is sending me information on NW training gleaned from his experience as both trainer and judge.

This extends to other dog venues as well. Attending a trial is a concentrated class in a day, weekend, or for me this past weekend it was just half a day of time. (Had I volunteered for the whole day on Saturday, I would have seen the #1 NW dog in the country.) Volunteering is an education in the rules of the activity and a close-up view of how it’s done, and sometimes, how it’s not done. This can be a confidence booster when it’s time to bring your own dog into the ring.
 

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I really appreciate you posting about your experience and what you learned. We’re heading to our first trial next month. While there are quite a few people here training for NACSW, none of their trials are remotely close enough to volunteer. However we are getting ready to enter our first trial which will be a local C-WAGS nose work trial. We will be entering the first two levels which are only run on Saturday I’m volunteering all Sunday so I can see the more experienced entries. You are right about volunteering, it’s a wonderful experience and you learn a lot.

We’ve been practicing start lines and working with hides immediately at the start line in class and at home. I didn’t go to the recent AKC nose work trial that was held but my trainers did and they saw so many experienced handlers and dogs miss them. One was underneath the door and another was wrapped on the door hinge of the room right as you passed the start line.

If you think of anything else, please post, I would find it helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Sounds like you have really good trainers. I had another lesson last night and learned the term for it, threshold hides. We, too, are not trialing NACSW next month, but UKC. NACSW trials are few and far between, and entries are by lottery with long wait lists. One of the volunteers on Sunday had just been accepted into a NACSW trial in New Hampshire! She’s not going because it exceeds her 8 hour limit for dogs in the car.

Our UKC trial in November has containers and exteriors on Saturday, which we are entered in. Depending on how it goes, I may try interior and vehicles on Sunday as they are accepting day of show entries.

Last night we worked on learning how persistent my dog is on odor if I don’t respond immediately. He’s alerted on residual odor before, and did last night, so I don’t want to false alert. In Sunday’s trial most dogs wouldn't give up even when their handlers didn’t believe them. Last night my dog scratched at the hide if I didn’t respond right away.

An interesting hide was on the side of a file cabinet. The odor travel along and underneath the drawer handle on the front of the cabinet. I need more experience with different hides and how the odor moves. And I need to practice more on my own, also to adhere to my ‘trial routine,’ start line behavior, calling alert, how and where I reward, and praising the dog (the judge really emphasized this, thinks that too many handlers rely on treats, and doesn’t like it when people drop their treats near the hide!).

One interesting note is that judges do have a certain preference for where they hide. (I was relaying to the instructor that I like to watch other competitors in barn bunt before it’s my turn to get a feel for how the judge hides the rats.) She commented on how one of the local judges hides similarly each time, and it has also influenced how my instructor hides during her trials because they train together. She has successfully guessed the locations.

BTW, the instructor is also entered in the UKC trial. Some people are particular about the venues that they compete in. She knows the people running the UKC trials and trusts them. It’s all about practicing for me. We’re running NADAC agility this weekend because my boy does things in trials that he doesn’t do in class (duh) and we need more trial experience to amp up the stimulation.
 

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Good for you for volunteering at an event. I don't know anything about NACSW but it sounds fascinating. Keep posting, I'll be reading with interest.
 

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I totally agree that volunteering at any sort of a trial for the sport you are interested in is a fabulous opportunity! I learned so much about upper levels of obedience from stewarding.


It sounds like this trial was a wonderful opportunity to gain great insights.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I totally agree that volunteering at any sort of a trial for the sport you are interested in is a fabulous opportunity! I learned so much about upper levels of obedience from stewarding.


It sounds like this trial was a wonderful opportunity to gain great insights.
The first time that I volunteered at an obedience trial, I was assigned the utility ring steward position. I fell in love with that aspect of obedience. If not for the group stays, I would have aspired for utility with my beagley girl—she was bit in a group stay so we stopped at BN.

If my spoo settles down it would be fun to give obedience a try. We play with ‘go outs’ for other sports, he jumps (boy does he jump!), and hopefully all of this odor training could be applied to articles.
 

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For sure nose work would lay foundations for scent articles! I hope you do it.


Each sport has its own wonderful aspects. Nosework and tracking are about the dog leading the way and the handler trusting that they understand the job. Obedience is a wonderful and well choreographed dance where the partners are incredibly connected even though they don't speak the same language and agility is control unleashed (to borrow from Leslie McDevitt).
 

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Discussion Starter #8
This past weekend we participated in an NACSW Odor Recognition Test (ORT) and a UKC Nosework trial. The ORT is required in order to enter an NACSW trial. UKC has an equivalent, called Pre-Trial (PT) which is held at the beginning of the regular trial. UKC also recognizes the ORT, so that’s why we chose that option.

The ORT was held on Friday evening and was very relaxed. Quite a number of people were first timers like me. I ran only Birch, which is the odor used for Novice level in both NACSW and UKC. The dogs were run in alphabetical order, not sure if that’s typical. There was a board similar to other performance sports so you could see how many dogs were ahead of you, and a volunteer was letting us know a couple dogs in advance, as we were waiting in a separate room.

Three boxes were set up between the waiting room and ring and one was marked as containing the odor. This was the warm-up for the dogs. My dog wasn’t excited about the warm-up box for the ORT, or the warm-up boxes for the trials. Not sure what to think about that.

The ORT contains a double row of boxes (12 total, I think) while the PT is one long row of boxes. In lessons my dog had been quite exuberant in indicating, scratching or stepping on the hot box, where my instructor said we might have to work on that so he wouldn’t be assessed a fault. He was more subdued at the trial though quite clear about which was the hot box. I didn’t really consider what I would do if he hadn’t passed the ORT on Friday night, when registering for Saturday’s trial. In NACSW you must pass the ORT several weeks in advance of a trial, however, not in UKC.

On Saturday morning we had 2 trials, both with a container and an exterior hide. We were #1 novice dog for exterior in the first trial and it didn’t go well. I thought that my dog was thrown off by the interstate right behind the building where the trial was held. (It was also cold and windy, but had been at home as well during our practices.) Talking to a training friend today, she thinks it might just have been the effect of a different location. He was super at the two container hides (earning two 1st places for the fastest time and compliments from the judges) and did well on the second exterior hide. His time was slower than it could have been because I didn’t call it the first time he indicated. Again, his indication wasn’t as strong as it had been in lessons and I wanted to be sure rather than risk an NQ. He earned a 3rd place for that trial. UKC requires 2 Qs in an element to earn the novice title thus we earned the Novice Container (NC) title.

I had wanted to wait on the decision on whether to return on Sunday to see how we did at Saturday’s trials, however, Sunday’s trials filled ahead of time, so they were not taking same day entries. Interior and Vehicle elements were being held on Sunday and we have trained for those as well.

My dog has a talent for sniffing sports (he’s also a super barn bunter) and I’m going to enjoy continuing this activity that he so obviously enjoys. We have another ORT later this month (it will be Anise, which is used for Advanced level hides). There is another UKC trial in January that I’d like to enter. The first NACSW trial that is close enough for me will be in March. It is being hosted by my instructor’s training facility and she thinks they may not need to use the lottery system for entries as there are other trials the same weekend that will compete for participants.

One of my agility friends is coming to my next nosework lesson. She’s struggling with her dog’s fear over crashing into a jump during a trial and is looking for another activity to bridge the gap until she works through it. This is such a simple activity, requires very little to train in the way of equipment or room. While preparing for this trial I simply packed the dogs in the car and brought the prepared odor in a jar along with some treats. A nearby church offered several interesting exterior locations for hides. The only negative aspect of nosework is that interest in the sport seems to have grown faster than the number of trials.
 

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Nosework has exploded in popularity in my area too. It tends to be really hard to get into trials if you are at all of a procrastinator and I doubt that even for venues with day of entries that you would be able to get in. There are so many dog sports to choose from that it unfortunately seems to have taken a toll on obedience, which is and always will be my favorite. It is a beautiful dance when done well.
 

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Congratulations - what a great start in this sport.

It's so hard to get into trials here too - and getting into classes. We're entered in a WAGS trial next month - I hope I can read my dog when she signals. The trial is in a club where we have gone for seminars and competitions - so I'm hoping that she will signal the same way she does at home and in class bopping it with her nose. But my trainers have warned me that her signaling can be much more subtle in competition.
 
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Discussion Starter #11
Congratulations - what a great start in this sport.

It's so hard to get into trials here too - and getting into classes. We're entered in a WAGS trial next month - I hope I can read my dog when she signals. The trial is in a club where we have gone for seminars and competitions - so I'm hoping that she will signal the same way she does at home and in class bopping it with her nose. But my trainers have warned me that her signaling can be much more subtle in competition.
Thanks, Skylar. Please share your experience with CWAGS. There’s a CWAGS trial in the near future near me and I am not particular about venue. It all seems like fun for the dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Nosework update:

We participated in another UKC nosework trial this past weekend. It was a last minute decision, but they had room and were accepting day of show entries. My spoo went 6 for 6 in his trials. He earned Novice Interior, Novice Exterior, and Advanced Container titles. I was just notified that he was HIT for Trial 2 Advanced. I’d already entered another trial at the end of January, so will have to submit ‘move up’ applications.

I wasn’t able to watch many other participants. They used the ‘magnet’ method for run order, though they used stones painted in a Dr. Seuss pattern, the theme of the weekend. Each dog was given a stone with their armband number and name painted on it. Each element trial had a white board, set flat on a chair, with room for 3 stones that indicated running order. The stones were placed by the handlers when they were ready to run. When one team left (and took their stone with them), the remaining stones were moved up and another handler could add themselves to the bottom of the running order. I’ve heard of this being done at another club for their AKC nosework trials. It helps to eliminate conflicts when a handler has multiple entries.

Of note, many dogs in novice exterior urinated in the grass of the search area. The judge marked these spots with cones but it was a distraction. My exterior training will now include areas that have been frequented by dogs so that my boy learns that these odors are not in play.

My beagle-rat terrier earned her Novice Pre-trial, but was unenthusiastic and I was lucky to have noted any indication. She previously didn’t pass the birch ORT because the site was bordered by a well-traveled railroad track. Poor girl, crating for the ORT was in cars and she was hearing train after train while I was checking in and listening to judge’s instructions. This is the dog on xanax (and now CBD) but she is still challenged by noise. She may never trial in NW, but I continue training both dogs because they truly enjoy the competition at home.

For NACSW, we made it into a March trial which is about an hour and a half away (not my instructor’s trial that is 45 minutes ?). That will be substantially different from UKC. We must qualify in all 4 elements at the same trial (container, interior, exterior, vehicle) to earn the novice nosework title.
 
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