Today I held my first mock element trial, and it was a blast! It was a Level 2 container mock trial, and I got to test out some fun ideas I’ve had.
We had 24 dogs run a total of 5 search areas. Everyone was split into two groups, with one group (the Sloppy Joes) running 3 search areas, while the other group (the Chocolate Cupcakes) ran 2 search areas on the opposite side of the building. We were planning to also have an exterior search, but it was BITTER COLD today so I decided to nix it. Even though it’s good to train in all weather, I didn’t want to subject my volunteers and judges to it. We had crating inside as well. It was a little tight, but everyone was good.
This video shows three of the search areas that we had. The first one was what I called “classroom backpack” search. We set up four rows of chairs, plus one at the front, each with a strapped bag hanging off the back. Most bags were elevated off the floor (some slipped down; we had a hodge podge of chair types and wanted to make sure they were all sturdy). It was quite a challenge for the handlers, and a bit challenging for some dogs who had to figure out “oh hey this is a new picture for container searching.” We had two hides and two distractions. The distractions were both in the front row; one was chocolate chip cookies and the other was a slice of American cheese.
The second area was an all-luggage search (the two distractor items have been pulled in this video; one was in the corner and one was in the middle). This was in a Z pattern, with two rows up against the walls and one diagonally down the middle. This also had two hides and two distractions. We learned that Chex Mix is a very tempting distraction!! The second distraction was white rice, which some dogs also liked.
The third area was an “all small item” search, set in a retail area plus a short hallway. Because the retail area was highly distracting (treats, toys, etc. all along the walls), we did not include any distractions in the containers. It had two hides.
The other two areas, which are not in the video, were the “death spiral” and “big box, little box.” The death spiral was an assortment of items set in a spiral shape. It had two hides and one distraction. The distraction was Cheetos white cheddar puffs, which some dogs really liked. One of the hides was in a tea kettle, and the other was in a small white box. Most dogs totally nailed this search. Upstairs was the last search, in a kennel/daycare area that was also highly distracting for most dogs. We had 1 hide and 1 distraction (I’m not sure what it was, but it wasn’t food) — BUT there was only 1 minute to find it. Many handlers timed out after choosing to run their dog off leash. I learned that trying to do a tight-time hide in a highly distracting area is not such a great idea. We should have given two minutes. However it was a good exercise for handlers to know when it’s a good idea to choose off leash or not.
We did not do a walk through of the areas, but I did give a briefing and a description of the areas before everyone ran. We also ran a dog in white (thanks Ellen!) to get an idea of the times. We were able to run all 24 dogs on all 5 areas in about 3 hours. I probably could have set out a few more hides. We had some really great dogs and handlers!
Thanks to everyone who came out to play, and thanks to our wonderful judges, Karen and Tracey, and the excellent volunteers who helped with timing, stewarding, resetting containers, and video taping for many of the competitors! What an awesome crew. And thank you to Canine Mastery for giving us the excellent space! Looking forward to hosting another mock element trial soon.