Wait Lists, Winners and Whiners

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 ~


Fun match-2008

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.ย  <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.


Emmy-NW3 Elite-2011

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.


Oscar-Fun match-2008

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 areDSCF5313a “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! ~


8 thoughts on “Wait Lists, Winners and Whiners

  1. I can only imagine the frustration level in some regions of the country, where getting into maybe one NW trial out of six is the norm and hanging out on wait lists, just hoping for a chance to trial … well, that has got to get old fast. ๐Ÿ˜•

    Still, I suppose it’s one of the many “growing pains” of a super-popular, fast growing dog sport. Hopefully there are great minds tasked with coming up with solutions. I can’t even imagine those conversations, and I’m sure nothing I could come up with would be new or helpful. ๐Ÿ˜”

    I’m not sure if my situation is any better in the overall scheme of things (and I’m sure there are plenty in my shoes as well. If we’re lucky, we have access to two trials a year – and one of those is a 6 hr drive and a couple of nights in a cheap motel. Period. Odds are still pretty good of getting into those two trials, but we now have wait lists even for those, so no guarantees. Two chances per YEAR to enter – and no guarantee.

    Yep, I’d like to see restrictions ease up on potential trial sites and I’d SURE like to see more trials, but since I know there’s a lot more to it, I sit back and hope for the best like so many other Nosework enthusiasts.

    But Kim … as part of a team still fairly new to NW3 competition, I do know I wouldn’t want to be the person making judgements on who was READY to try trialing at ANY given level. ๐Ÿ˜ž

    Heck, I obviously wasn’t ready my first try at NW3. Baxter probably was, but as a TEAM? Nope! I was a bundle of nerves and flubbed 3 out if 4 elements. ๐Ÿ˜ BUT … what if I hadn’t TRIED? What if I’d gotten talked out of trying because I thought maybe I was depriving someone “better” of their chance at a title? I didn’t know I wasn’t ready – I really hoped I was. But it turned out I needed to get that 1st NW3 trial behind me in order to focus and hold up my part of the team our next time out (6 months later!)

    We *did* get our first NW3 title on our 2nd try – with 3 “P’s”, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I actually DO get where you’re coming from tho – I know (or know of) teams who may never make their next title level, no matter how much they might wish it. And yeah, it would/WILL be frustrating when I end up on a wait list behind them, you or anyone else. But they love their dogs and they love the sport – how can you (or anyone) think to tell them they aren’t as important as some other team just because they might be less likely to earn a title?

    Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Still … a rant now and then is good for the soul and I fully support your need to vent. Here’s a warm Christmas hug – just because. ๐Ÿ˜Š See you in June!!

    • Hi Deb – Good points! I will say that folks like you in Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, etc., who have very little opportunities to trial SHOULD take the chance if you think you’re ready. You are where we were 5 years ago!

      I’m not here to say anyone is not ready, I’m posing the question for people to ask themselves; Is the team strong enough to work through the challenges and if things don’t go as planned, can the team survive the disappointment? Does the handler stop trusting the dog? Does the dog stop trusting the handler? It’s a tough cycle to break – have experienced it myself! – so it’s important to have a support network to work through the holes in your teamwork and to reinvigorate the training to be more prepared the next time.

      What I often see is handlers with newly acquired NW2 titles who have NOT been training for years start testing their dogs in the foreign land of NW3 when they don’t have enough experience as a team. It’s not life or death, it’s not brain surgery. But if the dog and handler feel defeated afterwards and the trust suffers that’s sad for everyone and it’s really not fair to the dog.

      People these days have such a desire to compete they don’t understand where we came from and how important it is to enjoy the process and path of getting there. Trialing is the icing and titles are the cherry on top. I want them, too, of course but I really love working with my dogs to learn from them so we can get better at this silly little game!

      JMVHO ~ ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I am one of those folks who believe that you need to experience the trial environment to know if you are ready – and you need to have a strategy for handling “failure”, because that will happen.

    Hunter & I had our first attempt at NW3 a few weeks ago, and we started the day with a “failure” – our first ever NW3 search and within 7.41 seconds we were excused for a false alert. Turns out later that Hunter was not the only dog who confidently alerted on the box collecting the odor from the two sources at opposite ends of the room. It is very possible that box really was the strongest odor in the room – but it was not source, and that is a training issue we need to work on (Sniff of the Month Club exercise?).

    However, after that first “failure”, we pulled it together and passed the other 3 elements. ๐Ÿ˜Š So, we were not perfect that day, but I sure think we were ready to be there. It may be another 6 – 12 months before we get another chance to trial, but I will surely enter when I can, because I know we will have success, even if we do not title – every “failure” is a lesson learned and offers a window into training plans.

    Now, the team that falls apart after a “failure” and cannot find something good to take away from the trial – those are the people that should not trial. I don’t want to hear all the negativity in the parking lot. You can discuss “failure” without being negative, but please no blaming the dog, the judge, the CO, the wind or whatever else for your failure to prepare for that particular problem. Learn from the miss and move on, and please be supportive of your dog and colleagues.

    • Kathryn, having worked with you and Hunter “virtually” I am certain you were ready for your first trial, win or lose. ๐Ÿ™‚

      My post was mainly asking people to ask themselves if they are ready as a team? Some are entering NW3 trials as soon as they get their NW2 title when they know they’re not ready. In the past when we had no wait lists it was easy to say, “Hey, just give it a shot!” What we saw were some teams who then got into a rut but others proved to themselves that they were right to enter. Now with the wait lists as long as they are one really has to really evaluate the team’s readiness. And you’re right, if you don’t have a good support system or know how to take the good parts and learn from a trial it’s not helpful to have the “Negative Nancys” in the parking lot.

      I’m going to try and do my part by hosting a trial or two to give those statistics a whirl and maybe I’ll get into more trials, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Oh Kathryn!! Dar you, girl! ๐Ÿ˜„

    Now I’m going to spend the entire night humming Carrie Underwood … “Lessons Learned”! How very apt. ๐Ÿ˜‹

    See you over yonder …

  4. Although this won’t be very popular, I believe a team that isn’t ready shouldn’t take a space from a team that is. Throughout the training process, I think it is essential to do a self-assessment of the strengths as well as “areas of improvement,” and I certainly do not want to set my dog up for anything but success. Yes, there is something to be said about gaining experience, trying hard, and learning much. However, as a Midwesterner originally, I was raised to never waste anyone’s time–a quality that Prim’s tracking teacher shares.
    Overall, there should be a level of trust built not only by the nose work team (human and canine), but also that of instructors,peers/friends/family members. Before ever entering a trial, I ask the people who train with us if they believe we are ready, always respecting the answer no matter what it may be. I then have a heart to heart with my teammate, my canine companion, as well as myself: Can I promise to have fun no matter what and accept the outcome? Are we truly ready? For this team, there is no rush, although there are only two trials each year in Alaska. My approach is as methodical as Prim’s search pattern, and it has worked thus far ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It is a hard choice, sometimes. One of the things I like to say is “You don’t know what you don’t know!” So a team may or may not be ready but the handler may not know. It’s unfortunate that less prepared teams can take the spots when others don’t have an opportunity but I can see both sides. I still think if people KNOW you’re not ready or haven’t seen a trial to even know what it is all about it’s not fair to the dog to put them in that situation. JMO ~

  5. Each trial experience is so different … Our first trial was a disaster because of a thunderstorm and other circumstances. Our second trial, Airyn got all of the hides and I let us time out in Exteriors. Our third time, we titled in Santa Paula. Our fourth time, construction noises ruined Vehicles but we took 1st and titled in Containers. Our fifth time, I called finish too early in Containers but we titled in the other three Elements. Our sixth time we titled in Wrightwood. Our seventh time, we didn’t even feel or look like a team in Interiors in Billings and missed THREE hides. Our eighth time, we titled in Pamona. Airyn was ready to trial NW3 in all 8 of the trials. I learned Waaaaaaaaay more in those nontitle trials and I wouldn’t give up those experiences for anything. Here’s a funny one though, I was really torked when some east coasters got into a Colorado trial and I stayed at 21 on the wait list. I felt like I had helped fund a lot of Colorado NW, only to have a foreigner take a spot I SHOULD have! HA!, glad that happened, it eased my guilt over taking those spots in the SoCal trials! (Sorry.) Now we are onto Elite trials … Am I ready, probably not. Will I enter and take someone’s spot, d@^^n Skippy I will!! Will I enter Chy in her first NW3, yep. This is just the way it is with a lottery system…

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