Sun 20 Nov 2022, Finmere

Levels 4 & 6: Judges - L4 Yaz Whitehall, L6 Lynn Bell

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

Start: L4 – 9am, L6 – 1.30pm
Entry Fees: £30 per dog.
Contact: Heather Donnelly heather.donnelly6@btinternet.com

Trial Manager and Judges Reports

Level 6 Trial
It was a pleasure and an honour to be invited to judge the Level 6 Trial at Finmere. A big thankyou to Yaz for her excellent scribing and to Heather for keeping us on our toes.
11 teams started the trial – and so we had a lot to squeeze in before the light went, the scheduled rain arrived and the cold set in. Never much fun waiting outside in the cold and dark for the last search.
Overall impressions.
When I set up the search areas, my goal was not to catch people out, but to test that the dogs could detect the last odour they are expected to find – Truffle oil. So whenever there was more than 3 hides, an extra would be truffle oil. Plus, I wanted to see teamwork – dog and handler working together. For me there is nothing more pleasurable than to see dogs working. A far better way to spend the day than listening to the sounds of the FIFA World Cup echoing through the house!

One of the overriding factors that cropped up was that many of the dogs were not ‘on form’. Dogs that I know just weren’t working to the levels which they can achieve. I’ve been there and got the T shirt. Sometimes things can just go like clockwork and suddenly for no apparent reason things go pears shaped. We plan for many ineventualities in advance, but when you are in that room, the stopwatch ticking and you are trying to work out what to do, remember where you have been and see what your dog is going. Hey juggling balls is probably easier.
To be eligible for a Level 6, as a team you must be of a high standard. It was just an off day – so it is not something to beat yourselves about.

Trials at all levels do bring out a great deal of apprehension for the handlers and Yaz and I tried to make things as stress free as possible. But I do think those who were struggling did affect their dogs.

Another observation and it is something that we all do is try to interpret how the judge’s brain was working when they set out the hides. As a result, spending too much time in an area, where the dog was obviously suggesting to their handler they were idiots at making them search that spot again. This did create some of the wrong alerts. So tough being a judge when inside you are pleading – no, no don’t call it

On a positive front, there were some great moments to enjoy for me as a Judge and hopefully handlers as well. Dogs working the area perfectly. Just loving what they were doing and demonstrating that they were going to make easy work of my search areas. And that was not just those that got the top spots. Although, I try not to single out anyone as everyone, whether in the top spots or not, had some great moments during their searches – however, from an entertainment point of view McGee and Magic had to rate tops!

Interior 1 search. There were 5 finds in the area which included part of the hall and the store room. Hides were in the first corner under the dado. It was interesting to see how many dogs picked up the cloves from the ground and worked their way to source. With the handlers taking it steady and not rushing to call. Something several handlers did on other hides in this search area. The next was on a ‘switched off heater’. Low down. This seemed to have mixed results. Some dogs seem to knock the odour, but were unsure, so left it. Others worked their way to source. The store cupboard seemed to give the greatest challenge to the teams. Yes, there is a lot to check and so many objects to catch handlers and dogs’s attentions. Those who methodically searched found the odours hidden on the ‘Henry’, the toy car and in a bottom corner of the last locker.

The exterior search. For this we used an area to the rear of the Hall. I know that often the area in close proximity to the recycling area is used. But having had an irate local moan at me where my car was parked and seen a steady flow of locals laden with bottles crashing into the bins. I thought obviously a big party n Finmere last night. As I wouldn’t want the sound of smashing bottles and random villagers in the area when I was mid search, I wasn’t going to inflict that on the trailllists. The area did have a lot of environmental challenges, but the first hide was on the gate post, the second in one of the air vent to the left of the bin and the third low down at the end of the wall. The white dog zoomed through this and so we set the time at 2 minutes to allow for those dogs who had a more methodical approach or were vertically challenged!

Interior 2. This was the remaining part of the Hall and the Committee room. 4 to find. One located in the ‘new’ fire door. And for those who ventured there, it seemed to be a straightforward find. The second was on the ‘chair lifter’. The third located in the centre area under the zebra mat. This seemed popular. I was delighted that the temptation of the chairs were totally ignored by all the dogs – less so by many handlers. The last one was in the Committee room, under a table leg. It was so good to watch many of the dogs working out the exact spot.

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