Feature Story                                                                                                                      Friday, October 10, 2014

                                                                                                               

Making Scents

K9 Sentinels Dog Sports a unique club in Chilliwack

Staff/Voice photos

 

A competitor signals the judge after her dog alerts her to a detected scent at the Sporting Detection Trial at the Coast Hotel last weekend.

 

he fishermen at the dog-friendly Coast Hotel had to move over a little bit last Saturday and Sunday to make room canines.

 

Somewhere around fifty dogs pawed and sniffed their way through two luxurious days of timed scent trials at the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack last weekend.

 

Most people don’t think of a dog club as a sport. Tell that to the twenty members of the Chilliwack-based K9 Sentinels Dog Sport Club who travelled from across BC, Alberta and Washington to compete at the BC Premiere Sporting Detection Trial at the Coast Hotel last weekend. The event was the first of its kind in the province.

 

Club Director JP Phaneuf knows all the dogs by name. He's also one of the trial judges.

 

Phaneuf says the hotel is very hospitable to dog owners and allows up to two animals overnight per room. The hotel set the club up in one of the large meeting rooms for some indoor activities.

 

"Coast Hotel manager Tracy Byron was hugely accommodating, just phenomenal," he said. “Chilliwack definitely opened their doors to allow us to have the first competition in BC. As you can see it’s very popular," he said.

 

"We started the club about 3 years ago. We're up to almost 50 dogs now and we have a satellite club in the Lower Mainland that covers like the Surrey area."

 

The Voice caught up with Chilliwack dog trainer and K9 Sentinels co-owner Sherry Luzzi in the parking lot of the Coast Hotel.

 

A strangely coloured dog bounds over and plops down her feet. Luzzi says it's her Dutch Shepherd.

 

"Her name is Ambush and she looks like a Belgian Malamar but she's got stripes," she says while crouching down for a Voice photo.

 

“Basically, we train the dogs to do the same work as drug detection dogs except that we're looking for essential oils from a Q-tip,” explains Luzzi.

 

Once an animal has been trained it’s called “started” dog. From there, they work their way up to more advanced tasks such as locating a scent well above their heads. Handlers use terms like; tell, alert and hide. For instance, the “hide” is where the scent is placed.

 

Luzzi says that one dog missed and one passed on previous tests Saturday.

 

“There are three components that each dog searches for today; a container search; an interior search, and then our final search is the vehicle search, or, exterior search,” she said.

 

On Saturday, a section of the parking lot was set up with screens so the dogs can run through the scent trials without any distractions. Behind, are three cars, and only one has the scent on it. Dogs have 5 minutes to locate the smell and alert their owner.

 

Some dogs were distracted and the owners would prompt them to focus on the vehicles. When they hit on the scent, the dogs are supposed to alert the handler. The handler then signals to the judge by holding their arm up and the clock stops. Their time recorded.

 

One of the things dogs are graded on is focus. False alerts garner demerits. Handlers are graded on things like control and even if they misreading their dog’s behaviour. In other words, they don’t believe their pooch who is always right.

 

The trials aren't about big prizes, fame or fortune.

 

"All they get is a ribbon," says Luzzi with a laugh.

 

Connect with K9 Sentinels Dog Sport Club at www.k9scentinels.com

 

See more photos below.

 

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