Brava has astounded me.
She is 2.5 years old and finished NW3 Elite in three tries, one of which was Overall Pronounced! Now what?
So many people have asked me when I was going to start trialing in Elite… (In NACSW, you are no longer eligible to trial in NW3 once you pass three times and you must move to Elite… where you garner 1,000 points and eventually become an Elite Champion.). My answer to these folks is “Not Yet”.
Brava is an incredibly talented young dog who could easily do pretty well at Elite currently. But… I KNOW she could really kill at that the level with a little more training… and I don’t want to burn through her points while we figure it out!
So I decided to wait… and just train for a while…
An interesting thing happened…
I started focusing on TRAINING instead of trialing and Brava’s capabilities have skyrocketed!
I was having trouble with Brava searching immediately after a find and just this week, she found hides within feet of another hide in a blind search… And her sourcing is …. well… WOW!
But the best part is the FUN…. I am training way more than before and in addition to really great teamwork, Brava and I are strengthening our bond. I feel euphoric after every training session. Since I recently lost my Heart Dog, this euphoric feeling is also helping me to HEAL.
This past weekend I did a workshop with Jacy Kelley and Bill Gaskins. They are helping me to figure out how to get Brava to work in a more methodical manner by slowing her down with handling rather than use the leash. Then I took a class and a private with Karin Damon where Brava rocked the highly converged hides that Karin set. And just today, I took a private lesson with Bob Boyles who focused on MY handling and who helped me to understand that Brava prefers searching to the right. I am getting A LOT of really amazing help…. and my dog is ROCKING IT! I am working more on my own too! Training sessions with training partners has become a regular occurrence.
I am more enthusiastic about every training session and my dog is improving at a pace I have not yet seen with her. Coincidence? Probably not…
We will trial in Elite… maybe not on 2020. I may change my mind depending on how she progresses… but until then, I am loving the training process.
Another side benefit… my other dogs are rapidly improving as well since they do many of the same training activities and searches.
Even though I focus on the long-term with my dogs in training, it’s hard not to think about the next trial and to carry your baggage forward. Training without trialing has become freeing. I am finding that our progress is rocketing forward in ways I hadn’t expected. I am more focused on strengthening fundamentals. Goals are all in perspective and my priorities are leveling out.
Training without trialing is turning my dog into a ROCKSTAR!
I agree what’s the rush!! Enjoy the journey. My girl is 15, she earned her NW3 Elite and that’s where we stopped; however, we are trialing in NOVICE in other venues and FEO and continue training to advance OUR skills and methodology. There are options!
Oh how fabulous!! I love that this sport is so available to our older dogs… Every time I search with Joey (my 12 year old Standard Poodle), I feel a special type of happiness… Enjoy searching with your girlie! The opportunity to still work with our older pups is so special…. treasure every moment!!
I am currently trialing at elite with my 6 year old lab Blake but I have chosen to keep my puppy Hunter on foundation. He is almost 9 months old and he has been exposed to vehicles, exteriors, inaccessibles, converging, multiple hide searches, etc. with food. Being a lab he’s highly motivated by food and he’s showing some really nice odor behaviors. My plan is to introduce odor when he’s a year old and has a really solid foundation. Can’t wait to see what he can accomplish now that I know what I’m doing! And we can enjoy this time without the pressure of ORTs and trialing!
Those second, third, fourth, fifth Nosework dogs are a blast to train! It’s so much fun to know what we need to work towards! 🙂
One of my dogs is in Novice and the other is in advanced. They enjoy the training and do very nice jobs and are focused but I don’t have the same dogs at Trials. I Trial very seldom maybe once or twice a year. But they do not have the same energy in Trials. I’m trying to find a balance and so far can’t seem to find it. I have found that just training has not transferred over to better work in Trialing.
You are absolutely correct that the quantity of training will not affect the quality of trialing… when dogs don’t search as well at trials as they do in training, it’s typically an emotional issue. Those dogs would benefit from building confidence searching in novel locations.
That isn’t really the situation that I’m in… What I’m referring to in this blog is more than switching focus off of trialing has allowed me to work on subtle aspects of Brava’s skillset that will ultimately separate her from being a “good Elite dog” and a “great Elite dog”… I’m able to work on things like strengthening her problem solving, increasing her resilience when exposed to really complicated scenting pictures, and building on her ability to find hides set only a couple of feet apart inside of a large search (meaning can she continue to work in the immediate area after finding a hide or will she be lured away by the excitement of the rest of a large search area to work). It’s actually NOT a function of the quantity of training I’m doing… or even the quality! It’s about having the headspace to dig deep and focus on building her rather than thinking about an upcoming trial… does that make sense?
Your 11:45 pm comment does make sense, Stacy. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences, thoughts and video about this topic. It’s helpful and encouraging. The following statements also really struck me: “Training without trialing has become freeing. I am finding that our progress is rocketing forward in ways I hadn’t expected.” Thank you for sharing this.
With the difficulty of getting into trials the decision to train more is being made for many of us!
I agree, ROCKSTAR! Wow, Brava . . . and Stacy!