Our trial was a good experience... Gimme did very well. I messed her up on the very first search - the exterior. She was working in the dreaded panties and as usual, paid almost no attention to them, though she did get progressively more resistant to letting me put them on as the day wore on. We went up the night before, staying at Motel 6. Susan and I went out for gluten free pizza.
Gimme did well, but I didn't work my plan. The size of the area was reasonable, not nearly as large as at Clackamas. I had noticed the cracks in the black top when we did our walk through, but didn't notice the two drainage grates, so my plan was to do a perimeter search, followed by checking the middle of the area and in particular the cracks. We did the perimeter and then I noticed the grates for the first time... so I had her check them (she was decidedly not-interested), meanwhile checking the cracks flew out of my head. I should have made it a point to have her check the middle ground of the area, with or without cracks or grates. Gimme showed some interest in the edge of the vegetation on either side of where the hide actually was and I basically "sold" her on one spot... part of me knew she wasn't committed, but I was also so close to time, so I still called it. This was a small courtyard, enclosed on three sides with only slight air movement - so she was probably catching odor from the hide where it drifted over and clung to moist vegetation. When the judge had me walk her along the crack she found it in just seconds.
I called the false alert at 2:25.65, with available time of 2:30. The judge's comment was "Search was good & dog indicated a couple of times near hide location - Keep workin' it!" She absolutely did not "indicate" near the hide location... she did show interest, but it wasn't her indication. Given he saw how her indication looks when she actually found it, I don't know why he used those words. Sometimes I think because the judges know where the hide is, they read into the dog's behavior, things which aren't definitive for the particular dog.
I have two things I would change. I had decided since the area wasn't big, to do the search on our 15' line, instead of the 25' line I usually use for exteriors. Had I been using the longer line, I would not have been as close to Gimme's line of travel, working further from her. Thus she might have moved closer to the actual hide location on her own. I'm sure I walked right over it a couple of times, thus making it harder to find. I'm equally certain others had too, so there was a lot of trace odor tracked all over the search area. The other thing I'm thinking of is to make a "sleeve" I can wear on my arm with a plastic cover, so I can slip a list behind it to remind me of things I saw in the walk-through. Even if I forget to check it, I think purposely deciding which reminder words to write might make it more memorable. In this case, I would have chosen: perimeter, cracks, center, finish.
Gimme did a great job in interiors. The first room had one hide and 2:30 in time. Gimme found it in no time (likely 10 seconds), but I fiddle farted around rewarding her, clipping her leash on and was preparing to walk out when I noticed the judge looking at me with his head quizzically and expectantly tilted, and then remembered to call "finish", a new requirement. We aren't faulted for not doing it, but the time keeps running until we do, so our time of 35.83 seconds doesn't reflect Gimme's efforts. For the second room we had two hides and 3 minutes. Gimme nailed both of them and I called finish in a timely way, so our time was just 44.89 seconds. Our total time was 1:20.72 and we got 3rd Place. Given how long I took calling finish in the first room, I was not expecting a placement. It'll be interesting to see how far we were behind the first and second dogs, so I can berate myself for costing us a higher placement. The judge's comment was "Nice job!"
One thing I was especially pleased to see happened with the second hide of the second room. Gimme localized where the odor was, but kept on detailing until she was sure exactly where it was on the swivel chair - and then she marked the exact spot with her paw. Ever since we did the Inaccessible Hides seminar last Fall, Gimme has lacked precision, tending toward "good enough". I always prized her accuracy before, so was really happy to see signs she is getting it back.
A funny thing happened in the second room. As I was rewarding Gimme I knelt down to make it easier to clip the line on her harness. Although she loves her new PB chips, she thought she deserved more and did a nose dive into my treat back just as I was trying to stand up. Gimme has learned to pick her feet up off the ground when she bag-dives, to make it harder for me to dislodge her. In this case, not only couldn't I dislodge her, I could barely get to my feet. Everyone found it quite amusing. I love even the twit in this girl.
There were 24 containers (4 boxes and the rest all luggage and small containers) set in four parallel lines. I did stick with my plan to let her rush in and then gradually become more directive. Gimme squashed a couple boxes stepping on them, but then got fixated on a black bag at the far end. I could tell she wasn't giving me all four parts of her container indication, but was still sticking to the bag. So I said to her, "I can tell you are lying, so lets move on." To which she gave a very audible and theatrical sigh before moving along. The spectators were really struggling to keep the tittering down to a dull roar (people were still talking about the "lying Dalmatian" as I was getting into my car to leave 2 hours later. I guess we all have to have our own claim to fame.
From there Gimme went on to find the real two odor bags. She wasn't locating the second one, until I remembered to make sure I moved her around the outside of the containers (a perimeter) and then she was right on it. Our time was 2:04.08, out of 3 minutes. The judge's comment was "Search pattern might help so you don't miss anything. You might get faults in future NW if dog continues to be overzealous w/container pawing _ Just a suggestion. Otherwise, very nice search."
Personally I thought she should have been faulted - I would have had I been the judge. She did so well with her indicators in the last two trials, so I admit I've been lax about her indicator training since then. Clearly, since pawing is such an ingrained preference for her... keeping up with the moderated paw-hold-nose-bump indication training will be something we need to continue throughout her nosework career. Funny the judge thought we might benefit from a search pattern - he was seeing us with a search pattern. <eg>
Incidentally, there was NOTHING in the lying bag... no distractors, no nothing. However it turns out a number of dogs alerted on it and were quite persistent. Since we were last for being in season, Gimme was catching the smell of their excitement and likely reacting to it. Thank God I can read her and know the difference between what she did and the real deal.
Gimme was brilliant! There were three trucks and a tractor towing a disc grader. The disc grader probably had dead vermin smell on it and they said a lot of dogs were fascinated by it. Gimme never went near it. As we crossed the threshold, she did the head/shoulder wag Dorothy saw at our last class, then turned left between the two nearest trucks. She briefly sniffed the near side of the third truck and then sped around it to nail odor on the back tire. She was moving so fast, I was only barely able to keep up. We called "alert-finish" at the 19.77 second mark (3 minutes allowed). Judge commented: "Nice job." We got 3rd Place for our efforts. There was less than 2.5 seconds between first and third placements, so I don't think we could have improved our time. Gimme was delightfully direct.
I do think Gimme is really liking the peanut butter rewards. It doesn't mean she doesn't try to get me to give her PB while we are waiting, but she is not frustrated if she doesn't get it. And, I can always give her PB chips instead. I actually played Ping-Pong treats with her while waiting to go into the vehicle search, keeping her well entertained. Interestingly, vehicles were our fastest and most focused search, despite being the end of a long day. So I'll be trying Ping-Pong while waiting for all the elements at our next trial to see if it helps overall.
I was very happy with her efforts. I just wish I could get some decent handling and trial strategy instruction instead of learning everything the hard way. Based on my conversations with other competitors, handling and strategy does not seem to be available from CNWIs. Which explains why so many people are spending an inordinate amount of time in NW2.