Zap was able to have another pretty successful weekend of AKC Scentwork. The Irish Setter Club of Greater Tulsa was offering a 3-day trial weekend with elements of containers, interiors, exteriors, buried and handler discrimination being offered. It was offered the weekend after Thanksgiving, so they planned on keeping the numbers low, which was ideal since there were COVID restrictions in place. I wasn't feeling as confident in how Zap would perform. We initially were planning on attending this weekend after our success in her first trial at Springfield. However, Zap went into heat in the beginning of November and dogs in heat can't compete. It was a bit disappointing because we also were wanting to attend a UKC scentwork competition the previous weekend as well. Then, when Zap came out of heat a bit early, it looked like we were going to be able to enter, so she was entered last minute. In thinking we weren't going to be able to attend, I stopped practicing with Zap to the extent I was before because I figured with being unable to attend, we weren't going to be able to go to any nearby trials until February or March of 2021. Now, I was regretting being a bit lax on the practice and training time.
We arrived and were ready for some scentwork, but instead were met with lots of waiting. Unlike our last trial where we had to crate in our cars, we were able to crate inside. This meant Zap was sitting in her crate for a few hours not doing much with lots of pent of energy; this was a learning lesson for later. Eventually it came to our turn to do Novice Exteriors. She already had two qualifying legs from the last trial, so we just needed one more to title. We got set up, I told her to "go find" and she immediately ran and alerted on the very first object placed. I called "alert" and the judge said "no". I asked if I could let her keep searching until we were able to find it since Zap was struggling. She then started to focus in on a spot on the ground really intensely...and picked up an old dried piece of dog poop. I told her to "drop it" and guided her to the other objects where she then alerted on the correct object. No Q this run and Zap discovered some poop in our search area which was a win for her.
Next up we had Novice A buried. This is the only element we continued to practice even throughout her heat cycle, just not as regularly, because it was still the newest to her and the one she struggled with the most. This trial, the buried elements were being done inside rather than outside, and I wasn't too sure how that would impact her since we only ever practiced outside. This time, I brought her towards the start line, calmed her down with a few treats, asked her if she was ready, then told her "go find". She immediately was off searching the buried containers and then quickly gave me her alert. I had her alert twice just to be sure this time. I called "alert" and the judge affirmed "yes" surprised by Zap's speed. She found the hide in 4.58 seconds earning first place in Novice Buried in the A class out of 5 dogs with second place finding it in 20.27 seconds. And it was officially our first Novice Buried leg; woo-hoo!
Next up we had Novice Interiors. This is typically one of Zap's stronger elements when we practice unless there is something really stinky out like a trash can or mop bucket, etc, so I was feeling a teeny bit more confident. It was our turn, so I got her set up, asked her if she was ready, then told her to "go find" and she was off! She began methodically searching the objects in front of her very methodically. She was sticking with sniffing a little bit longer and while there were a few times I wanted to call "alert", I waited to get a more affirmative alert from her. Then she finally found an object, held her nose over it, looked at me, I asked her to "find it" again and she placed her nose over it a second time and looked at me like "figure it out lady, it's here!" so I called "alert" and judge said "yes". I was so excited because that meant we officially earned our Scent Work Interior Novice (SIN) title! Zap found the hide in 9.57 seconds earning another first place in the Novice Interiors A class.
Last we had Novice Containers. I was feeling relatively confident because this is Zap's strongest element in all our practice sessions. Our turn came up, I told her to "find it" and she took off sniffing out a few of the boxes, then decided to go over and smell some of the objects from one of the other levels interested in them instead. I had to call her back over to our boxes and get her to search again and then she immediately darted to a box and held her head over it a little bit longer so I called "alert" and the judge said "no". No Q here.
It was a bit of a mixed bag day. We earned 2 qualifying legs with 2 first places in Novice Interiors and Buried out of the A class and our Novice Interiors title, but we definitely struggled with Containers and Exteriors. I realized that I let Zap's speed from the last trial dictate my alert calls, so I needed to wait for a more affirmative alert before calling at our next trial. We were taking Saturday off since the husband had the day off so we could spend time with him (he worked Thanksgiving, Friday and would work again Sunday). We were ready for Sunday and to hopefully do better than we did today.
We came back Sunday hoping to do a bit better than Friday. We didn't really practice on Saturday, although in hindsight, I wish I did. I tried to think about what I could do better, other than just keeping up on the practicing, so Zap could perform better today. I realized that in the last trial since we crated from cars, I was getting Zap out a lot more and practicing with her, treating her for calm behavior outside of the car, practicing some of her tricks; these were all things that got her excitement level down and got her more focused on the tasks in front of her. Essentially, she needs more warm up time for the environment, not just to come out of her crate, do a quick practice box and go. I also realized I need to work on reading her better and focusing on more affirmative alerts before calling. I also knew that up to the line, I need to feed her and get her calm and focused before just releasing her to search.
With this better strategy, we had Novice Exteriors up first. This time I brought her out and up to the line. I had her sit calmly in her normal starting position, gave her a few treats to calm her down, asked if she was ready, then told her to "go find". This time she looked a bit more methodical sniffing over every object. There were a few times she lingered and I wanted to call alert, but when I wanted to double check, I would say "go find" and she would move on to a different object. Eventually after what seemed like an eternity, she hit an object that looked more like her alert so I asked her again to receive a more definitive answer and she moved a little bit, but still stuck with the same object and alerted so I called "alert" and judge said "yes". We finally earned that last leg to earn her Scent Work Exterior Novice (SEN) title! She found the hide in 38.17 seconds and received first place out of the A class.
Next up we had Novice Buried. Even though she did well on Friday, since it is normally her weakest element I was still a little nervous. We got up to our startline, I got her calm and focused, asked her if she was ready, and then told her to "go find". She immediately started methodically searching alerted on a hide, looked at me and did it again, so I called "alert" and judge said "yes"! She found the hide in 5.57 seconds and received first place out of the A class. We now had our second leg towards our buried title.
Next up we had Novice Interiors. I decided to enter her in the B class rather than move up to Advance since we haven't even practiced any of the Advance skills and I figured this way we can at least work towards the Elite Element titles. I got her set up and released her. She started to methodically search each object. There were a couple of times I wanted to call "alert", but it just didn't look definitive enough to me, so I waited. Then she hit a box that looked like a more definitive alert, so I called "alert". The judge said "yes"! She found the hide in 10.20 seconds and received 2nd place out of the Novice B class.
Last we had Novice Containers. This normally being her strongest element, I wasn't sure what to expect after Friday. I got her set up, asked if she was ready and told her to "go find". She immediately took off towards the left side of the boxes and started sniffing. She stopped on one box and as I called "alert", she moved over to the next box and stopped with her head hovering over it. The judge said, "your dog alerted on both those boxes, so which one is it?" I thought for a moment knowing I had a 50/50 shot of getting it right. I decided to go with the box she was currently hovering over at that moment since she hadn't moved from it since I called alert and the judge said "yes". Not as pretty of a run, but we managed to get that last qualifying run and earned our Scent Work Container Novice (SCN) title! She found the scent in 8.84 seconds and received first place out of the A class!
As we were getting things put away for the day, I wasn't really anticipating a High in Trial this time. Her times were a bit longer than our first trial, so it didn't seem as obvious as the last time. Then our names were called and Zap had indeed earned High in Trial today! I was very pleased with her and shocked that we still managed to pull it off.
It definitely was a learning weekend and other than the fact that we need to practice, I learned that Zap needs more warm up time to the environment to get settled and focused on the tasks at hand rather than getting excited about everything going on around her. I also learned I need to watch for more definitive alerts from her. We still have some work to do, but I learned a bit more about my handling and what we need to continue to practice on.
Zap's weekend highlights included:
- 1 High in Trial
- 5 first place finishes
- 1 second place finish
- Scent Work Container Novice title (SCN)
- Scent Work Interior Novice title (SIN)
- Scent Work Exterior Novice title (SEN)
- 2 qualifying legs towards Buried Novice title
Chaver's Lightning Strikes Twice RN SCN SIN SEN NSD CGC TKA