Yep, I’ve been a member of each of those categories! I try to stay positive but it is challenging when my current NW3 dog is wait-listed once again so there is no chance of us getting his Elite title any time soon. Well, that’s not really true, we could potentially get into another trial that just hasn’t announced yet, they do pop up occasionally and if statistics bear out we’re due soon. However, we do seem to experience a lack of trials in Southern California which means a lot more potential travel and expense or more waiting. Ironic since this is the birthplace of K9 Nose Work.
Just a bit of history ~
Those of us who started playing in nosework before the dawn of time didn’t have trials. There were no competitions to go to, it was just a fun class for our dogs. Then we had a “fun match” and our competition juices started flowing! The first “official K9NW trial was in January of 2009. No levels, just K9NW and there were “a” and “b” searches so those of with two dogs could enter both! We had 6 titles that day out of a whopping 24 total competitors. My dog, Oscar, happened to be one of the 6. My other dog, Emmy, peed in her Exterior search. Yes, Emmy, first dog to NW3 and NW3 Elite, peed in the first ever K9NW trial. <sigh>
As it happened, we had another trial in June of that year and the first 3 NW2 title-holders were born. Imagine, a whole trial for 6 dogs! Fortunately, Oscar was one of the 3. We had another NW1 trial that same day so we had many more NW1 dogs title in June and then a stand-alone NW2 trial in September with 7 new NW2 titles out of 8 dogs trialing that day.
The first “All Level” trial was in November of 2009. For various reasons I had no dog to trial that day so Emmy’s first NW3 trial was in August of 2010, 9 months later. No titles that day but 11 of us gave it our best shot.
It was May 6, 2011, another 9 months later, when we found success and my amazing Emmy earned her first NW3 title. And of course, the rest is history.
Trials today ~
There is such a frantic clamoring for entry into trials these days. Where once upon a time we didn’t even have enough entries to hold a trial, now we don’t have enough trials to host the competitors who want to trial. NACSW tries hard to be fair and help the process but without enough trials we will never have enough space. (This is a given and without beating a dead horse, I think everyone knows this.) Things can change and the selection process may or may not adjust. But one thing I would ask that people consider is whether you and your dog are actually READY for your first NW3 trial?
I was talking with NACSW/K9NW co-founder Amy Herot the other day, as I was lamenting my position on another wait list. We talked about those of us who started this whole crazy thing and how we and our dogs *were not ready* for what NW3 was to become. Heck, we didn’t even know what we didn’t know! And it’s only through hind sight that we can now recognize the skills we were missing as handlers and the lack of experience of our dogs. We were fortunate to have the founders as our teachers so we were well supported as we licked our wounds and moved forward.
I wonder how many people who newly acquire their NW2 titles have trained for 3-4 years to get there? And are they really prepared to step to the next level? The biggest challenge we thought we were going to have with NW3 was refining the dog’s indication. (Really!) Learning to read and actually LISTEN to your dog who has gained EXPERIENCE in hundreds of situations is by far the hardest task. Many of us are still struggling through this with our current dogs at all levels but NW3 relies on TRUST with the unknown number of hides.
People who are quick to throw their dog into a situation of trialing NW3 are taking a huge risk and potentially eroding that trust when they don’t listen and don’t believe their dogs. What comes first, the dog who “lies” or the handler who doesn’t “believe” their dog? It’s a bad cycle, IMO, that too many have fallen into. And yet people are afraid to NOT enter a trial because they may not get another chance any time soon. Take a coveted NW3 trial spot, do not qualify and then vie for another coveted NW3 trial spot. You see the dilemma?
What I would *hope* is that people really evaluate if they’re ready to trial. Have they spent enough time finessing that teamwork. Does their dog have the experience. Are they consistent when they are “tested” in training so “testing” in a trial is just another day of training? I have had my share of trial failures which revealed training holes that I’ve worked very hard to fix. Nerves get us all on occasion but you at least need to feel confident in your teamwork so you don’t let your dog down on trial day. If you’re going into a trial to just “see” what will happen, please, let someone else take your spot who is ready for the challenge!
~ Just my rant for the day! ~