Monday, January 28, 2019

A Winter Wonderland Trial

When Barley and I started competing in Scent Trials, we started with C-WAGS trials because they were offered close to home and we quickly learned that the focus was really on having fun with your dog rather than the competition aspect.

About a year ago, one of our agility classmates opened a scent work and barn hunt training facility, so we had yet another place to compete close to home. It's quickly become our favorite place to trial because not only do we get to spend time with our friends, but they always have seasonal trials. During our summer scent league, which started in July, we got red, white, and blue ribbons and in October, we got Halloween-themed ribbons. They also give each entrant a bandana, so Barley and Rye are expanding their wardrobes with matching bandanas!

When we saw they were holding a Winter Wonderland trial, we had to sign up! Of course, Mother Nature also wanted to show up to the wonderland. My weather app and all of the local weather sources were predicting 12-20 inches of snow for the weekend. I went to bed on Friday hoping that we'd be able to make it to the trial in the morning. 

Thankfully, there was minimal snow when we got up and the roads were clear, so we made it to the trial with no trouble. 

Rye is in Level 1, having only done two searches during the Halloween trial, so she was up first. In Level 1, you have two minutes with several identical boxes and the dog searches for either birch or cypress. The last time Rye was at this location, we were in a barn hunt trial and she was in rat hunting mood when we walked in for our first search. There's a divider that separates the barn hunt area from the scent area and Rye spent the first several seconds running along the divider to see how she could get to the rats (who were actually snuggled up in their nice warm cages in a different area of the building). Eventually, she alerted on the box and got her second Level 1 Q.

I thought we'd have more luck with our second search since she knew what we were there for, but she was even more excited for the second search. She ran along the divider again and eventually realized she needed to be by the boxes. She alerted on one and I called it--but it was wrong. In C-WAGS, you get one fault, such as a false alert, so we moved on. Rye's alert is to lie down by the odor, but after her false alert, she flopped down directly in between two boxes. I walked her around again and she flopped down a little closer to one of the two boxes, so I called it, but it wasn't right, either, so we didn't qualify.

Barley is in Level 3, so we had about 2 hours before her searches while the Level 2 dogs ran and the judges ate lunch. Another thing we love about our friend's facility is that it's around the corner from one of our favorite parks, so we went to get a quick walk in while the weather was still ok.

Rye was not crazy about the walk. When the world is covered in snow, we have to start all over with getting her comfortable on trails. There were also several groups of people out walking and she gets very nervous when she can hear people on trails but not see them, so between dealing with people and trails that looked a little different than the last time we were there, she was one nervous puppy. 

We got back in plenty of time for Barley's searches. I was a little nervous because we'd only done one Level 3 search before this and it hadn't gone well. In Level 3 C-WAGS searches, you have four minutes to find three hides that can be in boxes or other containers as well as on object; they can also be closer together than in Level 1 or Level 2 or elevated and you can have birch, cypress, clove, and anise hides. I've been trying to be patient and watch Barley carefully because her alert is so subtle (unlike Rye who does nothing subtly). Unfortunately, we had two false alerts on both searches and walked away without any ribbons.

On Sunday, Mother Nature almost kept us away. Not because the roads were bad--they were mostly clear with just a few icky patches where plows had trouble keeping up with drifting snow--but because all of the snow we'd gotten on Saturday after we'd gotten home had drifted behind my car! I'd shoveled before going to bed on Saturday night, but on Sunday morning, the snow behind my car was up to my knees while there were blades of grass poking out of the snow covering the yard. 

Thankfully, I woke up early enough that we still made it to the trial about 10 minutes before the first Level 1 searches began. Rye hadn't wanted to eat on Sunday morning, so I had low expectations for the searches. In her first search, she was trying to work, but kept stopping and stretching and it was clear she was a little uncomfortable. She eventually alerted correctly after a minute and 19 seconds, so we did get our third Level 1 Q. She was still off her game in the second search and we walked away with two false alerts. But for her second C-WAGS trial, and third scent trial ever, I think she did a great job for the weekend.

There were a lot of Level 1 and Level 2 dogs who weren't able to get out of their driveways, so Barley's Level 3 searches were going to happen earlier than the day before. It was also in the teens with a lot of snow on the ground, so I didn't think it was worth it to go to the park for such a short amount of time in such cold temperatures. 

I was worried about Barley's searches after she'd spent so much time cooped up without a walk, but that girl amazed me. Up until this point, we'd only had 2 clean runs with no false alerts. That made finding all three odors seem almost impossible, but we took our time and she found all three odors with no false alerts in a minute and 32 seconds. For the second search, we walked in and she found the first odor and I reached into my pocket to get her treat--and realized too late that I'd forgotten to take my gloves off when we came inside and several treats fell on the ground! Dropping food is a fault, so we'd used our fault after finding the first odor. I took a deep breath and we went back to searching after Barley had gobbled up the extra treats. My best girl worked hard and found the other two odors with no faults, so we got our second Level 3 Q in 3 minutes and 23 seconds. 

The girls both had a great time and it was nice being out of the house despite the weather. Our friend hasn't announced the dates for their next C-WAGS trial yet, but we'll definitely be there since Rye is one Q away from her Level 1 title and Barley is 2 Qs away from her Level 3 title.

We are scheduled for our second AKC trial next month, so we still have plenty of sniffing practice to do while we wait for the next C-WAGS trial to be announced.


  1. Nice work. Containers are hard for so many teams in any kind of nose work. Glad you found a type of sniffing that works well for you and the dogs.

    1. I think that's why Level 3 went so much more smoothly for Barley than Level 2 did--even though Level 2 containers were more than just boxes, she loves sniffing objects more!

  2. We love the way you focus on what went right with the trials. Such a great approach to keeping it fun for all. And that's what it's all about, really. :-)

    Chris from Boise

    1. That's probably the biggest thing our agility trainer has taught us--even when it seems like nothing has gone right on one of our runs, she makes us find one positive thing to focus on, so we try to apply that to all of our activities. Both dogs had a blast no matter what the outcome was!

  3. It sounds like it was quite the challenging weekend between the weather and everything else! I love that having fun was the most important thing though.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. The weather was definitely the most challenging part--plus Rye having to deal with the park looking different than the last time we were there, but it was a really fun weekend!