Canine Nose Work Trial, Clackamas, Oregon

I drove down to Clackamas today to photograph a Canine Nose Work Competition. I volunteered to do the Exterior Element, because it was my first time doing something like this and I hoped it would be technically easier than photographing inside or the vehicle search. However, because it was a cloudy day, and we were in a very shady place under the trees, it turned out to be more challenging than I had hoped for! Fast dogs and slow shutter speeds don’t go together very well! But I got a lot of good shots, everyone there was friendly, the competitors were having fun with their dogs, and overall it was a really well organized competition. I would love to train one of my dogs to do this and go back as a competitor next time!

This is the trial area. The judge is standing about in the middle, and I am near the starting line. The dog and handler are behind a tree at the far end of the field.

To start the day a dog and handler team came to try out the element. They headed out into the field…

The dog sniffed around a few seconds and made a distinct U-Turn and headed right to the hide, and gave his owner the signal that he had found it…

And she fussed over him and gave him his reward – happy dog! This was how it went all day, happy working dogs, and clearly devoted owners. One thing I really enjoyed about the competition was the teamwork, and how each owner’s love for their dog came through loud and clear. Unlike competitions where the owner is ordering the dog around, in this competition the owner has to let the dog do his work, and guide them and watch their signals. It was beautiful to watch!

We saw dogs of every size and shape…

 I expected to see lots of beagles, but this beagle mix was the only hounddog I saw!

All excitedly exploring with their noses to the ground…

But even if they didn’t find the hide, the judge guided them to the right place and they let the dog find it and get his reward, so the dogs had fun whether they were successful in the competition or not.

This gentleman and his dog were one of my favorites! The dog was raring to go as soon as he saw the field.

He made short work of it and took his owner to the hide,

They were a fun team to watch!

That’s just a few of my favorites. I ended up taking over 250 pictures! A few came out blurry, but sometimes that worked depending on the shot. A lot of competitors requested no photos because their dogs were distracted by the clicking and people standing around. They did their best to give the dogs the opportunity to be successful by being flexible to their needs. Since they encourage reactive dogs to participate, they go to great lengths to make sure each dog is kept separate an never sees another dog, with visual barriers set up, and volunteers guiding dogs in by one route and out by another, and then if necessary they moved people around at the element so as to be the least distracting to the dogs that were ‘people reactive’. So the dogs stay relaxed and just have a good time doing their work. This was really a special event, and I hope someday I can go and participate, but I’ll definitely go photograph again!


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