Open Field Test with Aaron and Grom

-Aaron P.

Grom has begun his testing, and his first obstacle is a big open field.

The test criteria is pretty easy for this one. He has to work for an hour minimum, has to listen to the handler, and he has to find the subject by air scenting.  The biggest obstacle for most dogs at this point is getting them to stay focused for at least an hour. The test for the me is a little more involved, but not much. We have to pretend that it’s a real search where we receive a briefing from the responsible authority (the evaluator in this case.) We have to look at the map and create our search strategy taking things like weather, wind, terrain, and the subject’s behavior and condition into consideration.

Since we’re pretending this is an actual search, I have to look at my evaluator/escort and say fun things like “Base this is Team Grom.” He gets to say fun things like “Team Grom, this is base, go ahead”. This is followed by looking him strait in the eye and saying, ” Base this is a radio check” even though he’s not base, and there is no radio.

So the morning starts out at Great Meadows at 8.30am when I get there and meet my evaluator/escort.

Grom gets to come out of the truck and take care of his personal business before he goes back into the crate where he stands by while I receive his orders. We are to cover the 60 acres of three fields at Great Meadows in a search for the owner of a truck that the staff found on the grounds after an event.  I ask (Hopefully) pertinent questions about all thing things I am going to need to know to construct a search strategy, I look at the map, I draws some lines that may or may not be helpful in the future and I try to talk too much so the evaluator actually has something to do other than sit there and watch me sweat.

After we have a strategy worked out, I go to the truck, get my gear together and strap on my pack.

This is where I realize that 1) the dog is still in the crate and 2) that it’s next to impossible to climb in there with a giant pack strapped on.  This is where the my evalutator starts to wish he had a camera out and that he could cue the 3 stooges music. But it doesn’t take long before Grom is out and ready to work. I am geared up and ready to work.

We’re Off-

Since the wind is coming out of the southwest, we take go through the north east gate and begin our grid pattern into the wind. It’s a beautiful day and we have a nice strong 5mph wind right in our faces. Since this is actually a closely cut equestrian grounds we don’t really need to cut short grids through the field to cover everything, but in the interest of showing off how good my navigation skills are we’re cutting grids about every 35 meters, and we’re making sure they’re STRAIGHT!

This is the boring part, we walk back and forth across this field, watching as Grom does the one thing he loves to do more than anything else in the whole world. That would be running as fast as he can in giant circles around us as we walk our straight lines in the morning sun. He sprints from tree to fence, stopping and sniffing. Then he’s off to an obstacle with his head high in the air sniffing for who ever is out there to give him his play reward. This is a dog doing what a dog lives to do. (As a handler, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching him working really hard and loving every single second of it.)

In the map you can see the area and how we covered it.

The black lines are the borders around our area of responsibility and the red line, starting in the top right side, is the path we took. The first part of that line with the three narrow grids is pretty boring, but we soon cut south into the area with the creek running through it. Grom has a great time checking out the sides of the creek as I and my escort/evaluator pretend to talk on the radio, discuss what would actually happen in a real search with the large trailers full of chairs and tables stacked next to the creek, and check the wind to see if the wind still favors the search strategy.

Now the one thing about testing is that they try to make similar to actual searches, but some things you just can’t plan.

Like the fact that right in the middle of this test, were I and my evaluator are watching the wind move and judging distance covered vs time, and if we have a good….. OH MY GOD! WHERE DID THIS EXTRA PUPPY COME FROM!?!

That’s right, out of nowhere a 7 month old black lab/dachund mix came screaming up to me and laid a vicious Puppy Kiss Attack on me! Luckily my evaluator/escort was on top of his game and tried to grab and control Mystery Puppy. Unfortunately by this time Grom had returned from scouting the creek and bushes only to discover that his skills as Puppy negotiator were needed. So he inserted himself and sternly asked some serious questions. Loosely translated from Puppy Body language they were “Who are you?” and  “What do you think you’re doing with my people?”. Followed by the most important question, delivered after a piercing stare and some sniffing “…… Do you want to PLAY?”

As handler, at this point, I figure the test is wrecked.

We have to get Grom back on task and his head back into the game. After we corral Mystery Puppy and give him back to the woman who was chasing him, Grom goes back on the lead, and walked to the other side of the creek where we take a moment to call out for the subject, and restart the search. I silently hope that Grom doesn’t just go back to the puppy and play . Luckily Grom has his game face on and gets back to work. We finish up the big field in about 10 minutes, doing another cross before heading to the south gate where we can cross some marshy banks and get over to the east field.

Unfortunately the east field has a pond that we have to pass which is filled with geese and nests.

Now Grom has to check the banks of the pond which mean that he’s got a chance to chase geese, and if there are any, goslings. It’s time for another silent plea for Grom to resist temptation. After a couple of calls to leave it, I and my evaluator start  heading north east up the creek so we can move south down this field into the wind. Grom, like a champ, follows along checking stands of trees and bushes. As we reach the north end of the little field Grom is diligently working bushes and shrub, checking where other dogs have been, and we pass the “abandoned” vehicle.
At the north east end of the field I see his ears go straight up in the air and his nose goes into the wind.
He has the look. I look at my evaluator and say “He’s got something. “

Grom has the 1000 yard stare, looking up a hill he can’t see what he can smell, but he knows it’s out there.

So he takes two steps backwards, lifts his leg to pee on something and then lights out up and over the hill. My evaluator is smiling big and says softly, “watch the magic happen now.”

As I reach the top of the hill I can see Grom working the scent in a cone pattern that could have come out of a book as he closes the 60 meter gap to find his reward. When he gets to her, he sticks his nose into the subjects arm pit and comes screaming back to me to deliver a three bark indication like he’s just found the coolest thing ever. I give him the go ahead to lead me to her. Only problem is that he’s four times faster than me and I’m only 30 meters closer when he gets to her, so he runs back to me and delivers another loud and proud indication and makes me swell with pride. With my permission he continues to lead me to the subject.

Once I’m finally there, and only when I’m finally there, does the tug come out of my pocket so he can get his well earned  reward from the subject.

“That”, says Grom, as he tries to tug the arms out of the subject, “is how you pass an Open Field test!”

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One Response to “Open Field Test with Aaron and Grom”

  1. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

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