Last night I did a walkthrough review with my Coaching Community and we covered a VERY cool search from a recent trial. The search had some really interesting hide placements and challenges due to air flow. I was so jazzed about it that I thought that I would turn the analysis into a NEW type of blog!

The Search that we are going to review today is the Clubhouse Search from the November 12 Elite trial in Schaumburg. There were 4 hides (known number) and the teams were given 4:00. The average score was 19.12 out of 23.53 possible points which equated to 81.25% of points earned on average. Teams did well in this search. Mathematically speaking, this means that on average, teams found all 4 hides with one No. Although I don’t have insight into where the No’s typically occurred, I do have some thoughts.

Walkthrough and Debrief Particulars

The link for the Virtual Walkthrough can be found here.

The link for the Debrief can be found here. The start line changed for unknown (to me) reasons from the walkthrough. The seating area near the original start line was taken out of play. If I had to guess, the decision was likely made in order to keep the time on the shorter side and to decrease complexity (thus increasing success rate). I have no actual insight into that decision, only that I know that the CO at this trial is an excellent and experienced CO.

My analysis for this search is based on my understanding of scent theory (I have a Chemical Engineering degree which means that I have studied the science behind air movement in depth… it’s just Fluid Flow Dynamics) and my experience trialing 6 dogs to date since 2013. Disclaimer: I am not a Certifying Official, nor do I claim to know any of the inner workings of the organization. I also did NOT compete at this trial.

Search Area Analysis

Screenshot from Walkthrough… note the windows!

My first impression of this space is the large expanse of windows that covers the entire side and end of the search area. The weather on the trial day was overcast and cold. This information tells us that although there will have thermal effects on the odor in this room, the effect will be a little different than if this was a warm or even just a sunny day. In general, you will find that odor, unless affected by a more powerful force, will move towards a heat source. Windows, even on cooler days, often have enough warmth generated on the air to the inside of a room to pull air (and odor) towards them.

As you head around the corner of the search area, there is a buffet area on the right and behind the buffet area is a storage area with another set of windows.

There are two exits. The stairway door is below the Exit sign and the elevator just next to it are both between the storage area and the buffet area.

Search Area and Air Flow

Potential Trouble Spots

If we think about this search area, you have a section that I call a “Handler Trap” because it’s a Time Suck. Those tables and chairs, if overworked, could keep a team from thoroughly working the entire area in the given time.

The windows in the storage area have “clutter” in front of them. Because odor will move towards the windows, this clutter represents a potential for trapping odor. Given the air flow in this search area, I would make an educated assumption that assuming that there is odor in the back of the search area, that you would see an increase in the potential for false alerts in the storage area.

Search Strategy

Because there are 4 Known hides, my strategy for this search area would be either to go off leash or go completely dog driven with a line that I could easily drop and pick up. There WAS an off leash option in this search. I would NOT pattern this area due to the search parameters. If the parameters were unknown number of hides, I would be more careful with my search approach.

Hide Placement

The four hides converged pretty tightly. Based on the air flow of this search area, you will likely get trapping odor in she storage area. Keep in mind also that in NACSW, there are only 3 target odors. Mathematically speaking, this means that at least two hides are the same odor or are a combo with a like odor. We do not know which hides are which odor (that information is not usually shared).

The other very interesting thing about the hide placement is that 3 of the hides are at ground level and one hide is on a different plane altogether. This theme is similar to the sort of placement seen a few weeks earlier at the Ypsilanti, MI Elite on the Friday trial in the Basement search which I had the opportunity to run. In this search, the two buffet hides and the dolly hide are all at ground level.

Hide Placement Challenges

Another very interesting thing with this setup that could be replicated in training is how the hide from the buffet table closest to the dolly, and the dolly hide are in close proximity with a partition between them. Because of the windows on the other side of the round tables and because of the Push-Pull from the Exit door caused by teams entering and exiting, these two hides will converge on the partition.

The hide on the buffet table on the left and the dolly hide will converge and wrap around the partition.

The other interesting aspect is that all of the round tables, that I call a “Handler Trap” are completely blank. I anticipate that the general air flow over time will gravitate towards the start line. If handlers allowed their dogs to drive, the dogs will bypass the tables completely and work the hides in the buffet area. If handlers decided to work the tables more prescriptively, time would have been wasted before the dogs encountered any hides.

The Storage Area likely contained a lot of trapped odor that would increase as the search aged. The opening and closing of the exit door and any spots of sunlight and then cloud cover could cause a break between the trapped odor and the hides generating the odor. Presumptively, this trapped odor was a probable source for some false alerts in this search area (although I have no specific knowledge as to how much occurred).

Training Inspiration

You can absolutely use searches like this as inspiration in your own training! Things you might want to try:

  • Converged hides all at the ground level with a higher single one nearby.
  • Hides that converge on a wall or partition.
  • A large complicated, blank area, prior to hitting odor.
  • Odor that will trap away from source like the storage area in this search.

Learning More

If you want to learn more about search area analysis and skill work take a look at my December 1 online class: NW525: Achievement Unlocked: Success at the Upper Levels