Sun 15 Jan 2023, Finmere

Levels L1 & L7: Judges - L1 Lyn Bowers, L7 Justine Steele

Finmere Village Hall, Water Stratford Road, Finmere, Bucks MK18 4AT

Start: L1 – 10am & L7 – 1pm
Entry Fees: £30 per dog.
Contact: Heather Donnelly

Trial Manager and Judges Reports

Thank you to Heather for inviting me along to Judge and a huge thank you to Liz Ormerod for scribing, was lovely to work with you.
As usual, I started thinking about the sort of tests I might set, way before the day, I felt reasonably sure that most teams may well have been frequent fliers to Finmere! How will I use the space? Can I make the search areas fresh? And of course, where will I place hides and which scents and combination of, shall I use?
I hope I provided an interesting, fair and enjoyable trial on the day. (Thank you for nobody falling over within the exterior area!!!)

Interior 1
Splitting the main hall lengthways, the first search included the infamous fold out tables in the top corner, the meeting room, and large, beautifully tidy storeroom and the entire long side of the hall down to what would be the normal hall entrance doors.
This area definitely was the largest to search with the most detail and with some umming and aahing, the time I set for 4 minutes with 3 sources of odour to find.
1. TRUFFLE On right side of heater, back of meeting room.
2. GUN OIL Under the open door to the storeroom (by the door stopper).
3. CLOVE On the little ledge on right hand side beneath the kitchen shutter.
The decoy was placed under the box by the small, white folding tables in the corner. Interestingly (for me), this is where I had placed a decoy on a previous excursion to judging at this level here at Finmere!! Again, it proved tricky for the teams, and this definitely was the problematic decoy through the day catching out 4 teams who called it, but those tables also created interest for some dogs, and an alert in that little space was called by many! With only three hides in this area and only one team managing to find all tim3 (Chris and Jubbly in the nick of time!!) I think a lot of teams may have had a pessimistic view of their early start to the trial. Whereas, the reality was that even if none were found in this area qualifying was still a possibility.

A symmetrical search area split by the end of the building provided an unusual search area. Time allowed was 3 minutes with the clock being stopped to allow teams to pass from one side to the next safely.
There was a total of 6 target odours, 3 on each side.
The decoy was placed at the point where the plastic pipes crossed beneath the kitchen window and thus didn’t really pose a problem.. some interest in it ensued but dogs seemed honest as they attempted to find source on the first two targets, both of which were open to airflow either side of the decoy.

1. TRUFFLE on first metal downpipe
2. GUN OIL on next metal downpipe beyond the decoy
3. CLOVE in the seal between the bricks and the post for the large roller shutter
4. TRUFFLE on the left hand side in the pile of bricks
5. GUN OIL on top of the pile of bricks at the first level on the right hand side
6. CLOVE oil squeezed around the left-hand screw of the mesh cover of fan.
I don’t think teams expected there to be 6 in this area, was a shame that more teams did not get more success here as I feel it would have been a lovely morale boost following the first search area and going into the last.

Interior 2
Using the other side of the main hall and through to the entrance hall, no loos in the search!!! This time the chairs that created the hall split were now included and provided the placements for the 3 hides in this final area.
1. TRUFFLE First chair on left TOP
2. CLOVE Last chair in the straight line MIDDLE
3. CLOVE Final chair by hatstand BOTTOM
Who would’ve thought… all 3 hides on chairs? I guess that’s L7 for you!! The Decoy was on the central wall heater and fooled no-one!
3 minutes was given for this search area. Albeit reasonably large there was far less detail and I felt the time was fair.

So, huge congratulations then to the only qualifier of the day, Hazel and the gorgeous Cedar. I think this was their first L7, so that makes it even more wonderful, such a lovely team.

And why were there no more qualifiers? No one could ever be sure, but I will put my thoughts forward here…
* A trial day can be very different to training days or even white dog experiences of the same or similar level of difficulty. I do think our emotions affect our dogs hugely and we shouldn’t underestimate how our disappointment and body language may well take the edge off a four-legged friends performance.
* Scent moves, it’s invisible to us humans and by no means will the target odour always remain within the search area. Therefore our dogs may well need to stray from the confines of the search area in order to pick up the scent pool and then work back to source. Sometimes I think us handlers need to be more patient, and understanding of our dogs, seemingly bizarre actions!!!
* We should also remember that in order to indicate our dogs may need to show interest and investigate many things within the search area in order to correctly identify target odour, and importantly, disregard these other interesting ‘things!’ What subtle differences are there in your dogs behaviour or perhaps stance that could help you avoid calling those Wrong Alerts??
* Finally, have we got a plan? Can we remember what has been searched adequately and what has not? Do we need to step in? Teach patterns? One thing is for sure, all our PET dogs are different and even the same dog can differ from one search area to the next…are we setting them up for success? Do we put the too much pressure on ourselves?!

Hope everyone enjoyed the afternoon and the challenge… Thank you all.
Justine (+ white dog Chumley)

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