Sun 06 Dec 2020, Finmere

Levels 2 & 6: Judges - L2 Lynn Bell L6 Chris Gregory

Finmere Village Hall, Water Stratford Road, Finmere

Start: 9.15am L2, 1.30pm L6
Entry Fees: £26 per dog.
Contact: Heather Donnelly

Trial Manager and Judges Reports

A cold and foggy morning was probably not the conditions that those attending the trial were hoping to find. But with trials being few and far between, any opportunity cannot be missed. A great group of Scentwork enthusiasts made it an enjoyable for me and I hope for them. I want to thank Heather on behalf of everyone for gaining permission from the local authority for the trial to take place. Of course, I must give a special mention to my incredible Scribe, Yaz Whitehall, who performed the task very professionally. And I was delighted to see she did so well at her trial in the afternoon.

My goal was to set up searches for handlers to see how far their dogs had progressed from L1 and in spite of the challenges that the last 9 months have brought with scentwork training. It was good to see a selection of breed types out there working for their handlers – although probably the Norwegian Buhund was thinking it was summer compared to the Whippet and Cirneco dell Etna were no doubt unimpressed with the external searches! What did impress me was that owners were very aware of their dogs’ capabilities and managed their dogs is a sensible way.

Car and Wall Search
The vehicle proved to be comparatively easy for all the dogs, whilst the wall less so. For many this was a new experience and obviously an area to work on for the future. Many managed it well with their dogs, refocussing them and being aware of the impact of cold weather. This is not always the easiest first search area for everyone as dogs do need to settle and many who were not on their best form during this search really upped their game as the trial continued. I was impressed by many handlers great use of the leads and standing back allowing their dogs to work.

Tables and Chairs
A search area not designed to trick, but needing a straightforward search. The result, everyone found the hides. Some in amazingly quick time. Handling marks were lost as some dogs were a bit too excited about being in the Hall and were having a great time and not getting down to the job. Some handlers missed the sign their dogs had spotted it. Whilst others stayed back too far from their dogs and l was looking for a level of teamwork.

Exterior Search
This one probably gave most the biggest challenge. As mentioned cold weather drags down the odours and dogs have to work a bit harder. There were environmental odours as well as locals and their dogs in the vicinity. I was delighted that even those worried that their dogs might just let them down – did not! The sled was the most popular find. My contribution to give a festive spirit to the day. The roll of plastic garden sticks took a little extra work. Their location did mean that handlers had to make sure they covered the whole area and on the first sweep many overlooked them.

Boxes and luggage
This can be the handler’s worst nightmare. But every dog managed to find both items. A few dogs showed interest in the wrong items and handlers held their nerve and waited for the true alert. Our over enthusiastic Stafford did find the experience fun, and of course a trial search should be fun. But hopefully he will calm down. In this search those who worked on lead did use it well.

Lynn Bell
Apologies for delay – home hub crashed this week and delay in replacement coming through.

Heather Donnelly

The trial at Finmere was again an eventful one as it was only a few days after the rules regarding covid changed again. After several frantic phone calls to Cherwell DC I was given the green flag that the trial could go ahead with a few new additional restrictions. I thank the competitors for braving the cold damp weather and having to remain outside during all the searches especially the L6 competitors in the dark at the end of the day. I received more messages of thanks which was lovely, and I do feel that the majority of people who turn up to trials come because they want to have just a bit of normality with their canine companions and that qualifying and gaining a ribbon is just the icing on the cake. A really big thank you to judges Lynn Bell L2 judge & Chris Gregory L6 for setting a test at the right level giving all the competitors a fair chance. Also thank you to my scribes Lyn Bowers L6 and Yaz Whitehall L2, who also had a superb win in the L6 twice in a row which is quite an achievement.

Thanks to Heather for the invitation to judge L6 . Lyn Bowers was my scribe, in charge of the score sheets, participating in one one of the searches and I’m very grateful for her help and efficiency.

Level 6 introduces a new odour but I also wanted to include elements that may be encountered in 7 and 8.

Interior 1: 5 hides, 3 rooms, 4 minutes. 3 hides were relatively close together, this may have created a converging odour puzzle but also alert handlers to the importance of preparing themselves and their dogs to restart the search immediately after the previous find. For the teams that missed one of the 3 it was the middle one that was overlooked.
The time proved to be more than enough for areas to be well searched. 5 teams found all 5 hides.

Exterior: 3 hides, 3 minutes. Lyn stood close to the first hide, which was also a threshold hide. My instructions to Lyn were to move if the handler asked her/or if the dog attempted to work behind her. The majority of handlers chose to ignore Lyn. This may have been a contributing factor in only one dog finding that first hide, this handler did ask Lyn to move from the area before she started her search – well done Yaz. I think too that the weather had a serious impact on the success rate. It was very cold, damp and still. That coupled with the environmental distractions meant that even for the dogs that were on top of a hide they gave no sign that they were in odour. Just one team found all 3 – well done again Yaz. Teams that had done very well in Interior 1 could find only 1.

Interior 2
4 hides, 3 rooms, 4 minutes. The largest room had just 1 hide, I also constructed a small area of chairs, this did prove a bit of a lure. Just one team found all 4, well done Laura and Peanut!

There was some good handling on show today. All the handlers were really nice with their dogs, taking time out to reward their partners. I don’t think that it’s an accident that my top 2, Banjo and Dolly are high energy but perhaps more importantly, find the opportunity to search innately rewarding, characteristics that make life that bit easier as you rise through the levels.

At the end of the day, 10 dogs ran and 4 dogs qualified.

1st Yaz and Banjo; just one hide missed, fabulous work
2nd Peter and Dolly; lovely quiet handling of a power packed spaniel, well done Peter
3rd Kate and Kiwi; Kiwi is a calm but detailed worker, the only team with no false alerts!
4th Laura and Peanut; A team in harmony, loved the way you took time mid search to reward her and still cleared Interior 1 with time to spare.

Thank you to all the competitors for giving me the chance to see your lovely dogs and accepting my decisions in good grace. Good luck in the future.

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