Gathering on the campus of Escalon High School over the weekend, two days of activity brought dozens of canine owners together to put their dogs through the paces of scent work.
Known as NorCal VICE, the local group trains dogs to find scents in Vehicles, Interiors, Containers and Exteriors, making up the VICE acronym.
“I’ve been doing this for eight years,” said Pleasanton resident Suzanne Edholm, working this past weekend with Ellie, her two-year-old Golden Retriever. “I have two others dogs I compete with as well.”
Ellie is relatively new to the activity and is considered a ‘Level 1’ dog, whereby she looks for one scent while searching the various areas. In this case, she was looking for a birch scented Q-tip and, after sniffing it out in the different locations, would turn toward Edholm to indicate the find.
Level 2 and Level 3 dogs look for more scents and the group uses birch, anise and clover, with the Q tips dipped in the scents for the dogs to find.
Escalon residents Bob and Sandra Magee are members of the group and worked with the school district to set up use of the buildings and grounds for the trials on June 9 and 10.
“I’ve been involved for three or four years,” Bob explained. “I did herding for 27 years but I needed something new to do with my dogs and thought this out to be fun.”
The dog sport of scent work was developed in Southern California and now is statewide here along with groups scattered across the country.
The trials in Escalon were hosted as part of the National Association of Canine Scent Work, NACSW, group. Sandra Magee noted that some of the dogs that start with the scent work go on to be trained as detection dogs. Others do it just for fun with their owners.
“I enjoy that the dog leads the search and gets to be in control,” Edholm said.
Ellie was able to sniff out the birch Q-tips without any problem and then enjoyed getting a treat after for finding the right location.
“We’re learning how to work as a team together,” added Edholm. “She’s just getting started.”
The trials were expected to see 20 canine participants in Level 1 and Level 2 on Saturday, with another 21 dogs at the Level 3 event on Sunday.