Elite Trials are a whole different kind of game, than the NW1, NW2, and NW3 Trials. In the lower level Trials, the searches are specific Elements: Interiors, Exteriors, Vehicles, and Containers. In an Elite Trial, anything goes. The search can be any of the above Elements, or any combination of Elements. As an example, you can have an Exterior search that also includes one more more Vehicles, as well as perhaps Containers.
In an NACSW Elite Trial, there will be a total of 18 to 22 hides for all searches combined. There can be 3 to 5 searches; generally there are 4. For any individual search, there may be any number of hides, from zero to, I suppose, 22. The competitors may be told the specific number of hides in each search, they may be given a range, for instance, 3 to 6 hides, or the number hides can be a complete unknown.
Another difference is, in an Elite Trial, teams are not expected to earn a perfect score of 100: finding every single hide, not finding any "extra" hides (calling hides that aren't really there), and always calling "Finish" before time runs out. If the team scores 43 points or more (find half the hides, and no more than 2 "extras"), the points count toward the next ribbon.
Videos of Elite Trials
Dave and Bodie in Orange, CA
Bodie and Dave had 4 minutes to find as many as they could. There were not hold how many there were. In fact, there were 5 hides, and they found them all. Bodie is so happy, look at her wagging tail!
Linda says, "What I love about this search is the fantastic teamwork between Bodie and Dave. Dave prefers Bodie to run a pattern, but every time she catches a whiff of odor, he responds quickly, lets her follow it to source. Dogs like Bodie, that move quickly, can be challenging for the handler. Dave does such a great job of giving her space, getting her to every corner of the search area, and supporting her. It's lovely."
Dave and Bodie in Sacramento, CA
The time limit was 2 1/2 minutes, and the competitors knew that there were 5 hides. Bodie found them all! Some of the hides were very close together, and you can see Bodie working hard to sort them out.
Dave and Bodie in Pasadena, CA
This was an exhibition Trial, not an officially sanctioned one. The searches were just like "real" Elite Trials. The search area was quite large, and one of the hides was elevated. It was a very hot day, which made the elevated hide even more difficult. Bodie polished off all 3 hides quickly, and then Dave worked to make sure Bodie had cleared the area. The competitors had 2 1/2 minutes, but they were not told how many hides there were.
Dave and Bodie in Reedsport, OR
The competitors had 5 minutes to find an unknown number of hides. This is a large area to cover, even in 5 minutes. Bodie did a great job of finding all of the hides. Dave and Bodie took turns leading the search. Dave needed Bodie to cover all of the areas. But when Bodie caught odor and took off, Dave followed her until she found source. Dave and Bodie have wonderful teamwork and communication with each other.
If you look carefully, you can see that Bodie is wearing shoes. The NACSW allows dogs to wear just about anything that contributes to their comfort and health. In this case, Bodie wore shoes to prevent her from sliding and falling on the slippery floor.
Linda and Tigger in Pasadena, CA
This was a different kind of search. The teams had the option to run their dogs off-leash, even though it was outdoors, because the area was completely enclosed. Linda took advantage of this option. The competitors had 4 minutes to find an unknown number of hides. Turns out, there was only 1 hide.
At the time, Linda thought Tigger must have missed a bunch of hides. It is very unusual to only have 1 hide in an Elite search, particularly in an area this large. However, upon review of the video, Linda says, "I realized that Tigger did an awesome job, starting with a complete perimeter search, only leaving the perimeter to go to the only hide at about the 1-minute mark, and then a quick survey of the middle of the area. By the 2-minute mark, he's pretty sure he's found everything. Near the end of the search, I put Tigger on leash, to have him search areas he may have missed. Tigger already knew there was nothing else to find, so he just trotted along beside me."
Linda and Tigger in Reedsport, OR
The competitors had 3 1/2 minutes, and knew that there were 4 hides. 3 of the hides were very close together, and most teams did not find them all. Tigger makes it look easy! Linda says, "This was our last search of the day. I could feel Tigger's enthusiasm droop during the day as I asked him to check all the nooks, crannies, and corners. I knew he wanted a search on his own terms, so I gave him one. My plan: Take him off leash, stay out of his way, and let him have fun. And he had a blast! Mission accomplished!" Fantastic luck! It turned out to be the perfect strategy -- they took 1st place in this search.
Linda continues, "I love how Tigger found the 3 close hides one after another, and then checked out the far corner to see if he'd missed anything. Next, he made his way back to the threshold, picking up speed as he went, and I knew that he was about to source the last hide. I was so excited, I barely contain myself."
Linda and Tigger in Vancouver, WA
The competitors knew they were looking for 3 hides. There were several challenges to this search: the extremely slick floor played with the odor, the swimming pool changed the scent dynamics, some of the containers were on bleachers or against walls, and the containers were actually stuffy toys! Linda says, "This was such a fun search! I love how Tigger worked out the blowing odor on that first hide. There was clearly odor traveling across that slick floor and collecting on the stuffies near the actual source. He worked it out carefully, and didn't Alert until he was sure."
This was an exhibition Trial, not an officially sanctioned one. The challenges presented were just like those in "real" Elite Trials.