Last weekend was the first NW3 Trial (Nose Work 3) for me and Mom. It didn’t really go as planned for many reasons, but it was a fun time and a great learning experience. We are ready to give it another shot when we can get a spot in another trial! A big congratulations to Bailie and her Purple Team who got their NW1 Title on Saturday. She will be posting about that in a week or two. I’ve got my NW1 & 2 Titles and a couple Element Titles, so what makes the NW3 Trial so special?
For those who are not involved in nose work, I’ll give you a quick run down of the four trial levels, in a very general format. You can read more about each level by clicking on the links.
- NW1 – entry level, searching for only the birch odor, four searches (one in each element), one hide in each search, each search has a time limit. Find all four hides correctly in the allotted time, and you have earned an NW1 Title. In all searches, if you incorrectly alert on a hide, or hear a no, you are done with that search.
- NW2 – second level, now searching for birch and anise, either on their own or combined, five searches, the four elements with a second search in an interior element, the container search can be things other than boxes and can have distractors hidden in a container or two, one to two hides in each search, each search has a time limit, and you are supposed to say “finish” when you have found the hides. Find all the hides correctly in the allotted time, and you have earned an NW2 Title.
- NW3 – third level, now searching for birch, anise, and clove, either on their own or in a combination, six searches, the interior element is made up of three searches, containers can have distractors, the exterior, vehicle, and container searches can have 1-3 hides, the interior searches can have 0-3, but only one of the three can have 0, you do not know how many hides are in each search, meaning you have to find them and know when you are done in that search, the searches are timed and you do need to state “finish” before the time is up.
- Elite – we don’t know much about this level, but it is the top level. In order to reach Elite, you need to earn three NW3 Titles.
I was chilled as always. I don’t get my furs tied in a knot because I have the nose that knows. I’ve got a comfy place to nap, my fan, water, and treats if needed. Mom is the one with the issues on Team Red!
What makes NW3 so hard is the unknown. It is one thing to search a few vehicles being told you are looking for one or two hides, but supposing you have four vehicles, 1-3 hides and 3:30 to find what you can find, and don’t forget to call finish. That was exactly what Mom and I were up for in our first NW3 search on Sunday. I’m also not a fast dog, did you see how she was racing around, practically dragging me along? At one point I actually jog a bit. I prefer to take my time and make sure I have covered everything, which means Mom really has to keep the time limit in her mind. Take a look at my vehicle search video. See if you notice anything missing. The missing actions are what caused Mom’s tailspin after my search.
A few other notes about the search video. The judge was a K9 detection dog handler for 17 years so he knows about dogs and searching. The wind creates lots of challenges causing the odor to blow around which is why I sometimes am looking on the other side of a vehicle from where a hide actually is. The second car Mom brought me back to at the very end had some odor from the hide on the third car, and I had picked it up. I had shown interest earlier, which makes it a good idea to revisit the area one more time to be sure there is no actual hide there. Sometimes a dog will find the hide right away, sometimes we “bracket” the area sniffing out the boundaries and following our noses to the actual source.
The first search was awesome. Mom was confident, I worked hard to find hides, we found two and when the thirty second warning came, we confidently called “finish” because I didn’t seem to find any other hides. What was missing? Treats! Every time a dog finds a hide, they get a reward. Mom had a big pocketful of chicken, but with all the things going on, she just forgot to feed me, and didn’t realize it until the search was over! Really??? Do I look like a dog who would work for free? Lucky for Team Red, I kept working even without being rewarded. All was good until we finished and Mom realized she had forgotten to reward me. It sent her into a nervous downward spiral from which she was unable to recover.
The next search was bad, we got nothing because even though I showed her the hide once, she didn’t call it, and the rest of the day only got more confusing. Mom was calling alert where I didn’t find odor, she didn’t call alert when I did find odor, she forgot to reward me again too. Let’s say, at the last search, I was so confused, I really didn’t know what to do because our team was no longer working as it should.
Doing an entire NW3 Trial was amazing, super fun, and such a great learning experience! Having done it once, the next time should go a bit better. We are proud to at least have nailed the vehicles! I’m sending my mom to a mental management seminar this weekend. Trust me, she really needs it. She tries to just rely on me and follow my lead, but if her head gets off track, we are in trouble. Hopefully, this seminar will help us in future trials. No matter what, Mom and I had a great day with each other, friends, and beautiful weather. Titles are big for us because we are both really competitive, but they are not everything!
***Just a quick side note. Nose work isn’t a spectator sport. The best way to learn about the sport and see how it really works is to volunteer to help out at a trial. You can volunteer for a half or full day. We have a trial coming up on June 4 & 5 here in the Twin Cities. If you are interested in learning more about nose work, sign up to volunteer! An added bonus, I will be competing the afternoon of the 4th and the morning of the 5th. You could have a chance to see me in the furs working my searches!