Sun 02 Jan 2022, Hethe

Levels 3 & 7: Judges - L7 Christine Gregory, L3 Emma Conlisk

Hethe Village Hall, Hardwick Road, Hethe, OX27 8EY

Start: 9am -L3 & 1pm – L7
Entry Fees: £28 per dog.
Contact: Heather Donnelly

Trial Manager and Judges Reports

Good day out , i just need to get my head around the times being a rough guide per scent , but im sure i will bounce back .
Many thanks to all involved in setting this up and to all those that took part , no doubt i will see some of you at another 7 test soon .

Chris Gregory Level 7
I know what it’s like to compete at this level and jumped at the chance to experience it from the other side, so thank you Heather for the invitation to judge. These higher levels bring all sorts of different pressures, for both competitors and judges, and it was a learning curve for me to watch how teams dealt with the tests as the day unfolded.

In my mind I pictured handlers effortlessly clearing areas, their only challenge being when to call “clear”. Ha Ha, silly me, I should have known better.

The first Interior search maybe affected the handlers mood for the day, it certainly did mine. There were 2 hides, one in the corner created by an open door, the second a couple of metres further along the wall wedged in a door frame. 3 mins allowed. This area isn’t large and is quite tight. It has a busy area at one end and a loo at the other, both proved to be great time wasters. What is it about loos? I think, without exception, all the dogs searched it as if they were just about to make a find. The cluttered area at the other end was a big pull too. Out of an entry of 10, three teams found one hide each. Neil was close to getting both but Oscar didn’t have enough time to settle into his usual indication.

The Exterior search had 4 hides, 3 1/2 mins allowed. 2 hides were on 2 wheelie bins very close to the start, 1 in a door hinge and 1 on a plastic drain cover. I liked the bin hides. Some handlers tasked to it immediately which was good if you were confident that your dog was switched on from the start line, not so good if they needed a moment to settle into search mode. Some moved on when they made one find not completing the search of the bins (four teams got both).
The door hinge proved problematic, (four teams found it). Although only four didn’t find the drain cover hide it was noticeable that the dogs that missed it were drawn to to the drainpipe to the left of it.

The weather hadn’t been great during the afternoon and we were losing daylight so it was good to get indoors. 6 hides all around the perimeter, 4 mins allowed. Teams did well here. Jo and Ehren got 5. Alison and Dylan did brilliantly and found all 6. I won’t go into the “ins and outs” but suffice to say that if Alison and kept her game head on, and if she’d called “clear” she would have qualified!

Many, many thanks to Yaz for scribing and Sue McAuliffe who shadowed her in order to learn the ropes of what these higher levels entail. You were both a really great help, thank you for giving up your time.

It was disappointing to not have any qualifiers. Some teams need more experience at this level and perhaps need to think about how to work with their dogs in order to get the best from them. Some good teams fell by the wayside too. It’s very easy when you’re standing there with a clipboard in your hand to ask “why did you….” or “why didn’t you….” but L7 and 8 are tough and I didn’t see anything from the experienced handlers that I wouldn’t have done myself.
Good luck to you all for the future.

Firstly, thank you Heather for asking me to judge today and Yaz for scribing and helping with so many things throughout the morning, your help was very much appreciated.

Well deserved qualifiers today, for two handlers in the top three it was their first level 3 and their handling was excellent. My notes are full of lovely, positive comments about their teamwork, positivity and super searching from the dogs. Pauline let Maddy have time to settle on the odour without rushing, a really confident pair for the future and no surprise at all that they took first place. Sarah and Loxy searched beautifully all morning. Sarah is so positive and this gives Loxy the enthusiasm to keep working and trying hard which is what dogs need to develop as searching becomes a bit trickier, they too k second place today. Rioja is a very young dog, so much potential and so much to look forward to seeing how he develops, I’ll look forward to seeing how they work together through the levels, they took third place.

We started with tables and chairs, the hides being under a chair on the far side of the table and under a drawer unit in the right hand corner. Most dogs searched nicely and were fairly thorough although the drawer caused a few to miss as they raced around the corner to the radiator or plastic play unit. Some handlers spent a bit too long focussing on the bookcase rather than the rather plain wooden unit next to it which is where the find was. Only two dogs found both, Maddy and Rioja, both of whom ended up in the top three. Milo worked well and Lucy made a good decision to put the long line on part way through to help him focus. Maggie and Evie were another partnership that looks really strong, lovely calm, confident handling, I’m sure that they will be back another day with better luck, just work on the gun oil.

Next was the vehicles/fence search. Overall the dogs searched the fence well, most finding the clove fairly easily, even with the wet grass and weeds at the base which could have provided a big distraction. Disappointingly quite a few didn’t search thoroughly enough and pick up the gun oil on the door seam of the vehicle right in front of where they started. Many skipped past it or were asked to repeatedly search other areas of the vehicles which was a shame. Two dogs that worked really well here were Loxy and Bertie, both finding everything beautifully, Bertie cheering himself on all the way! Crosby and Mortimer worked nicely, the handlers of both dogs keeping all of their handling marks, well done!

The third search was bags and boxes, most dogs searched confidently and moved around the search area well, picking up the clove scent in a box on the right hand side fairly quickly. The gun oil hidden in the clasp of a black bag proved a bit trickier for quite a few dogs and a variety of other items were incorrectly called instead. Maddy, Rioja and Lady showed everyone they could recognise the gun oil and found both really well. Melinda really kept Lady working well, motivating her between searches by rewarding and heading back in. It was a really good strategy for them, well done both of you.

The final search was exterior items. Again, the clove scent in the heavy metal door stop to the left drew a lot of dogs quickly to find their first scent. Most dogs started really well in the outdoor search , confidently moving around the search area. The second find was in the garden spray, tucked into the nozzle. This proved a bit trickier for some of the dogs although most showed some recognition as they passed it. Heston and Time flew round this search, finding both well. For both partnerships I felt their overall place didn’t reflect how well they worked together as my notes for each search commented on their teamwork, quiet confidence in each other and excellent searching. I know they will continue to do really well in the future. Maddy and Loxy also worked beautifully and found both in this search.

It was a pleasure watching some super teamwork today. Calm, confident teams worked together with handlers giving their dog space to search and settle on the odour. There was some impressive handling on the long lines which isn’t always easy, in fact the results for some teams don’t reflect the standard of handling that we saw today. Work on gun oil in particular so that the dogs search and have greater value for it.
Thanks everyone, I really enjoyed judging this morning.

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