Friday, November 2, 2018

The Sniffin' Sisters

Last weekend, the girls and I did C-WAGS scent trial. When we did our summer scent league, our friend who owns the training center told us that they were going to have halloween ribbons at the October trial and being a sucker for all things seasonal, I wanted those ribbons!

It was a two-day trial with two runs each day. Barley needed two more qualifying scores after our summer league to earn her Level 2 title, so we entered in all four runs in hopes that we'd qualify in at least two.

This summer, we struggled with communication. Three minutes seems like such a long time when you're out there--but in real life, it seems like a really short amount of time, so I was rushing us many nights and not giving Barley as much time to explore all of the containers. I tried really hard not to rush us this time. On our first run, it seemed like Barley had found it pretty quickly, but we'd only passed two boxes, so I walked her around the whole room before coming back to that side. Eventually, we did find both hides although we had one fault (thankfully, in C-WAGS, you're allowed one fault) and we did qualify. 3 down, 1 to go. 

Our second run wasn't as successful. We found one, but had two false alerts, so we didn't qualify. For some reason, Barley didn't even want to go near the second hide--we walked by it several times and she didn't even sniff at it, so I was convinced it wasn't the hide. We had two more shots on Sunday, though. 

Rye also got to come along on Sunday for her very first scent trial. In C-WAGS, you can start in Level 1 or Level 2, but since this was Rye's first time ever sniffing outside of our house, I wanted to start with the most basic level. Since they don't reset the courses between dogs, you can only run one dog in one level anyway, so I couldn't have Rye and Barley in Level 2, which was another good reason to start with Level 1. We practice with Level 2 set ups at home--boxes and other containers, two hides, and birch and cypress hides--so I wasn't worried about Rye having only boxes and only one hide. Barley was not thrilled about having to share the spotlight with Rye, but I was excited to see how things would go for Rye.

I was a little worried that Rye wouldn't know what we were searching for because the trial was at the training center where she does barn hunt. She did want to look for the rats at first--they had the corner of the building with the stairs up to the room where the rats live blocked off, but Rye did run over to the barrier and sniff around it. Then she realized what she was looking for and she took off for the box. She was higher than a kite, so she was zooming around the room. She started to alert on several boxes--her alert is a down at the hide--by bowing in front of them, but since she didn't get her belly down on the ground, I waited for her to give me a clear alert. Eventually, it came and she ran to a box and pounced on the ground in front of it. I called alert and we qualified with no faults--and all of that took place in 12 seconds!

Our second attempt wasn't quite as successful. Rye was so pumped up after her first run that she bounced all over the room. She knew how happy I'd been when she finally laid down at a box in the first run, so she alerted on two boxes that were not the hide and we didn't qualify. She had every laughing with her enthusiasm, though. 

Barley was up next with her third Level 2 search of the weekend. We took our time and had a clean run (something that's only happened twice now) and earned our title. I'd told Barley that I just wanted her to do as well as she did on Saturday and get one qualifying run so we could earn the really fun Halloween ribbon--and she listened to me! 

The training center where the trial was held is a little small, so there isn't really good indoor crating space and dogs are crated in their cars. I had both dogs harnessed in and buckled into the backseat. Barley had been so good about tolerating that on Saturday, but by Sunday, I guess she had had enough. She stayed where she was supposed to during both of Rye's runs and while I did the briefing for her first run, but when I went in to the awards ceremony to get her ribbon, she unbuckled herself and climbed into the front seat. I had 5 bags of different types of treats--and when I got back to the car, I had one handful of treats left in our treat pouch. I'd really hoped that the front seat of our new car would remain dog-hair free for a few weeks, but now I have dog hair, treat crumbs, and I keep finding tiny pieces of treat bags all over the place. Maybe one day Mother Nature will give us a dry day so I can break out the shop vac and make the front of the car look pretty again.

Since that was our first run of the day, we were able to move up to Level 3 for our second run. That meant we had about an hour to kill while they took a break for lunch. I took the girls out for a quick walk at a nearby park. 

We got matching glow-in-the-dark bandanas when we checked into the trial!

We did our first Level 3 run when we got back. Level 3 is even more challenging than Level 2 because all four odors (birch, cypress, clove, and anise) can be used, there are 3 hides, and the hides can be in containers or on objects. We were the last Level 3 dog to go and all of the dogs before us came out saying how difficult the course had been. We found one of the three hides, but had two false alerts and didn't qualify. 

Overall, I was really proud of both of my girls. Barley and I communicated a little better than we did this summer--although we still have plenty of room to grow!--and Rye was her typical spitfire self and threw herself into working from the second we walked through the door onto the course. 

Our training center is going to have another trial in January or February, but before that, we'll be trying our hand paws at AKC scentwork in December. I have both dogs entered in the trial, so they'll alternate classes with one dog doing containers and the other doing interior so they'll each get 4 runs with 2 attempts in each class. Both dogs will be in Level 1--or novice--since we've never tried AKC scentwork before, so we can simplify our practice at home for the next few weeks and just focus on the birch odor. We're so looking forward to another weekend of fun--and since Barley will still have to be crated in the car (she had a bit of a meltdown and broke out of her crate at a scent seminar at this location in September), I'll be creating a treat fortress to make sure that we don't have the same sneaky behavior this time around! 


  1. We do NACSW as our main sport, and just started in AKC Scent Work. Madison has her first NW2 today. We are hoping Emma is with us in spirit to guide us along. So far they have 2 AKC trials behind them and 2 more to come. Sniffing is so much fun, but challenging, isn't it. Congratulations on your good work...sniff on.

    1. Good luck today! I know Emma will be there rooting Madison along! We haven't done any NACSW just because there weren't any trial near us for a long time and we just aren't interested in traveling more than an hour or so from our house to trial. Now that they are offering some more a little closer to home, we're already happy with the fun of C-WAGS. We're only trying AKC because one of our agility friends is organizing it and we wanted to support her :)

  2. It sounds like an up and down weekend, but still good overall, and your girls (and you) look happy! Plus you have something new to look forward to - hope the AKC trial goes well!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. Overall, it was a great weekend. We all had a lot of fun even when things didn't quite go our way :)