When I first started trialing I used to get more nervous during the vehicle searches than anything else. My mouth would go dry, my legs were wobbly and I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Needless to say I often had no memory of the specifics of the search once it was over. I’m not sure why they made me so nervous, I think it was just that vehicle searches seem to have challenges specific just to them.

But now that I’ve had more experience and many chances to learn from my mistakes, I tend to enjoy them more than any other element and I’m motivated to get as many teams as possible to enjoy them as much as I do.

Here are the four main reasons I think vehicles can be challenging to search:

First, we never seem to get enough practice on vehicles. Without practice we tend to get nervous when we trial and make mistakes we tend  not to make in other elements. With more practice, more of our handling becomes automatic and more of our mind is available to assess and analyze what your dog is doing.

Second, the handling when you search vehicles can be really challenging. Get too close and you could push your dog off of odor; too far away and you risk being left behind as she rounds the corner. How do you find the right balance? How do you approach the search area and how do you decide in what order to cover the vehicles? Or do you let the dog decide? Or do you do both?

Third, the scent puzzles posed by vehicles are sometimes very complex–especially as the day goes on. So it’s important to configure the vehicles so that you can practice these puzzles when you know where the hides are and see how your dog works them out.

Then there’s the challenge of searching unusual vehicles. Some are much larger and more open than passenger vehicles, some are smaller and trap odor differently. Some are covered in unusual and interesting smells (to your dog anyway) which can be distracting even for very experienced dogs.

So, if you’re like me and love vehicle searches or if you’re like I used to be and get sweaty palms just thinking about vehicle searches, join us for this class and boost your confidence, get some good practice and see how well your dog can find odor on vehicles.