Monday, December 17, 2018

Sniffing Success

This weekend, the girls and I participated in our first AKC Scent Trial. One of our agility classmates was the trial secretary and it was the club's first trial, so I think I felt a little more nervous than usual because I knew how nervous our friend was and we wanted everything to go smoothly for her.

I was also nervous because both dogs were entered and I wasn't sure what to expect. The last time they were both entered in a trial, Barley and I had been in several C-WAGS trials and we'd been to the trial site several times, so I had an idea how it would go. This time, I had no idea how things would go.

Surprisingly, things went beautifully.

Since they weren't resetting any of the courses, I could only run one dog per class. For the morning trial, Rye was entered in containers and Barley was entered in interiors. 

Rye found the hide in just over 9 seconds, so we qualified, but we ended up in 6th place, so we only got the qualifying ribbon. For interiors, they had a space set up like a laundry room with an ironing board, a few benches, a couple baskets with blankets. Barley loves to stick her head in laundry baskets and rub her face on clean towels, so we spent quite a lot of time sniffing the basket. Eventually, she worked her way over to a bench and found it. She wasn't speedy--finishing just under a minute--and we finished in 12th place.

The next trial would start at noon, so we had about two hours between getting our ribbons and our next courses. The week before, Barley and I had checked out a park with a memorial to Smoky, the first certified therapy dog, and it was only 15 minutes away, so we took Rye to see the statue and take a quick walk.

The afternoon was equally successful. The dogs swapped classes, so Barley ran containers and Rye ran interiors. Barley doesn't love containers. She doesn't find sniffing boxes all that interesting. The afternoon courses were a little slower than the morning courses, so Barley and I had a long wait before our turn was up. There were a lot of other dogs around and Barley was working really hard to stay focused on me. By the time we got into the containers course, Barley was exhausted. We crossed the start line and she had no interest in the boxes. The novice container's course is set up in two equal lines of boxes that are equally spaced, so I walked Barley down one side and up the other. She didn't even look at them. She just trotted along beside me and grinned at me. Occasionally, she'd sniff a box, but she was not into it at all. We got our 30 second warning and I pointed at a few boxes and asked her to search again. With 15 seconds left, she finally alerted on the correct box. 

Rye was up next in interiors. For this trial, the interiors course was set up in the Club's office. I had no idea how Rye would do. The only time she's ever searched outside of our house was our C-WAGS trial in October--and she was a little nutty then! I worried for nothing, though. She got in the office and went right to work. The hide was on a rolling desk chair with a trashcan right next to it. Rye spent a long time sniffing the trash can, but her alert is to lay down near the hide, so I waited her out. After several seconds, she moved on to the chair and quickly laid down. The judge praised me for my patience--which is something I have always struggled with when Barley and I are working. Our time was just over a minute, which was fast enough to come in 4th place.

On Sunday, we were up bright and early to head back to Cleveland for our second day of trials. In the first trial, Barley was up first in containers and Rye was in interiors. For the containers course, the start line was almost immediately after crossing the threshold into the room. Barley did start sniffing almost immediately, but she stopped in front of a box and wouldn't budge. She hadn't given it much attention, so I didn't really think that was the correct box, but she wouldn't move. I tried to get her to keep searching, but she planted her feet and grinned at me. She made it very clear that we were not going to look at any other boxes, so I called alert and she was one box away from the hide.

Rye's interiors search was set up similar to a garage. There were some chairs, a ladder, a bucket, a fan, and a few other random items. The hide was on the fan, and Rye went right to it and did a lot of sniffing, but she didn't lay down. After the trashcan the day before, I waited her out. She did a quick lap around the room, came back to the fan, and flopped down. We ended up in 6th place.

We finished even earlier with Trial 1 than we had the day before, so we went back to the park. We had a lovely 3+ mile walk on a section of the trail near a golf course and along the Rocky River. 

There was an overlook of a wetland area and the overlook had some incredible metal railings.

We got back for the afternoon trial with Rye searching containers and Barley searching interiors. Rye went in for her containers search and she got right to work again. She sniffed the row that the hide was on and she started to alert, bowing at one of the boxes. Then she went along the line and sniffed a couple more boxes, stepped on one and started to alert again. Then she did a wide arc back to the correct box and did her alert. All of that took about 18 seconds, and we ended up with 4th place again.

Interiors didn't go quite as well for Barley. This search was in the office Rye had searched on Saturday and there was a trashcan with some plastic wrappers of some sort right across the start line. Barley stuck her head in the trash can and did some serious sniffing. Her tail wasn't wagging, though, so I was pretty sure that wasn't the hide. I called her off the trash can and she sniffed a few other things, including the chair that Rye's hide had been on, but then she went back to the trash can. She still wasn't wagging her tail, but she was so into the trash can that I called an alert again. The hide was actually under a cabinet about a foot away from the trash can. 

Sunday just wasn't Barley's day. But she still walked away from the trial with two qualifying runs, ending up with one leg in containers and one leg in interiors. 

Rye got two legs in containers, two legs in interiors, and two fourth place placements.

Both dogs had a lot of fun and we're looking forward to trying another AKC trial soon. This was our last event of the year, so we're also looking forward to a few weekends of not setting an alarm. 


  1. Congratulations on your first AKC Scent Work successes! In the 4 trials we have done, they run both searches back to back, trial 1 and 2 for container, then 1 and 2 for interiors, etc. It makes the trials really go fast, and we like it much better. Mom always gives us each an element for the weekend so we can hopefully title with 3 of 4 legs. We rarely get placements and it is really not important to us, just a Q is what we are there for, so don't worry about long searches. You guys did great and hope you can find another trial in your area soon. Coincidentally, we are posting about our Scent Work trial today too.


    1. Our trials went really fast, too. They ran containers and interiors back-to-back for dogs who were doing both, so those dogs did their container search and then immediately moved to on to their interior search. C-WAGS doesn't do any placements, so we're used to just getting the Q--but Rye's gotten me used to bringing home placement ribbons with agility, so it felt strange to bypass those bins of ribbons for most of the searches! I like your mom's method with the single element per dog per weekend--I think Barley would mutiny if I made her do 4 container searches in one weekend, though. For the next trial, we'll probably do the same method we did this time since the club won't let you move up between same-day trials and I wouldn't want Rye to have to do another novice search if she titled in her first one. Then I think I'll just do one dog per day and let them do all of the searches for that one day. We still won't be able to title in one weekend, but it will give both dogs a day for a one-on-one adventure. Our next trial will be in February! (But we have a C-WAGS trial on the calendar for January).

  2. Sounds like it was a lot of fun.

  3. It sounds like it was such a fun weekend, with some successes and some nice walks in between too!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets