Night Tests

This specific type of competition event is quite popular in Latvia, both among professional dog trainers and dog lovers for over 13 years. After first such event the participants immediately named it as Fear Room for dogs and owners. This is not quite true, since these tests are not held to scare the dog and its owner to death and make them to run away. Just small remark: for all these years, in none of the tests did not suffer any animal and none of the owners got a heart attack! Similar tests are held in several European countries and are quite popular there. The idea and purpose of the night tests is to verify dog’s behavior in unusual and extreme situations also to check the strength and mobility of the nervous system of different breeds and identify their hereditary strengths - both physical and mental. It is almost impossible to prepare your dog for the test and all aspects of the dog’s behavior and character can be seen very clearly as test take place in strange location at night which is totally opposite from normal day conditions. Dogs with weak nervous system at night are even more uncertain and vice versa dogs with a strong and mobile nervous system. Even if your dog has various diplomas in various trainings it will not guarantee that your dogs will be successful in this test as situations given at night test were not teached to the dog before so dog has to make its own decision. Breed also does not matter. (A few seasons in a row absolute winners of competitions were Mexican Hairless, Bulldogs and Cocker Spaniel). It is also very important that the owner and dog has a good contact with each other as when contact is good and dog has full trust in owners action, the test result is significantly higher than in couples where everyone is for himself.
Night tests may be conducted in all possible forms, but should be divided by following classes: newcomers, open class (for those who have participated in these kinds of competitions) and champion class (for the winners of previous competitions).
The test program includes from 6 up to 10 stages and description of each stage can be found below.
Let's start with the fact that the territory where tests are conducted at night should not be at a same place or near where you are walking your dogs. Best place would be a forest-park, where you can always find a suitable site for laying the track. The test should begin in complete darkness. To stay on track mark the route with plastic tape. It is important that the owner together with the dog should get on the route suddenly, without any preliminary studding of the route. Participants should go one by one; so on the route should be only one dog and its owner and judges. Dog must be on a LEASH during the test also dog should have a durable and comfortable collar or breast-band and it is UNACCEPTABLE to use chain collar. It is strongly recommended to talk, praise and encourage dog during the test.
Initially the owner and the dog walks about 30 meters over broken ground, and then gets on a route divided in to different stages. At each stage an extreme situation is played, which is either the psychological trap or a situation which is not frequently encountered in everyday life. This could be a fire corridor or corridor of foil or something like that.

Perhaps you should move towards a drummer or towards a man who spin rattle and so on. These are initial stages of the route further tasks are more complicated but when you prepare the route is it important to alternate more complex tasks with simple tasks in order to give participants an opportunity to overcome the excitement and get together after each stage.
I repeat that stages of the route should be different, for example: when a dog passes by construction of plastic barrels, stacked on each other, the whole construction suddenly collapses a few meters away from the dog.

The dog's behavior is observed and evaluated. Ideally if the dog reacts to what is happening without any fear, without any signs of self-doubt but any other reaction which is not beyond adequate behavior is not a mistake.
Short fear when dog overcomes it itself is acceptable but is valued by its duration. The next stage is about 8-10 meters away from previous.
This can be a narrow passageway where floor is covered with foil (about 120 cm wide and 4.3 m in length) and the walls are formed out of foil strips hanging on the ropes which are illuminated by torches and reflect light. At the end of the corridor is mirror in order to enhance visual effect.
After the stage with falling plastic barrels this stage will be a kind of relaxation, although it is also required by the dog to have self-discipline and certain courage. If the dog is very scared and it is not possible to complete the task than the owner with the dog can get around obstacle but for this stage he will get zero point. It is allowed to calm and cheer up the animal to minimize the negative experiences.
Walking few meters forward we are approaching the next stage. For example it can be a tunnel from which a sledge is coming with mannequin sitting in it or just a tunnel with hanging tin cans above the entrance through which you should go with your dog.

At this stage the dog should not be scared but rather should behave appropriately this situation. Further we complicate the task dog should pass a scarecrow with tin cans filled with small stones or dried peas tied to sleeves.

At that moment when couple caught up with the scarecrow, it starts swinging with his arms and makes a noise. If dog is sniffing and touching scarecrow this shall not be considered as a mistake but rather should be considered as a normal reaction. Short-term attack on the scarecrow for dogs which have undergone a protective training is not a mistake and is allowed (but should not be encouraged) as it is a behavioral response due to the fact that the dog does not have a time to recognize an inanimate object and considering what is happening as a direct aggression towards it. It's more a question of a level of excitability. However badgering is not allowed and may lead to disqualification.
After next 10 meters before the dog and its owner suddenly drops a white screen or a road crosses a man and opens an umbrella in the direction of the dog or appears loud company of people with the classic question: “How to get to a library?” It all depends on a capability and fantasy of the event organizers and the number of those who are taking part in test as figurants.

Detention is held for the dogs which are trained for protective service at the end of the route. From the companion dog of course this is not required but they also must not show any fear when approaching the figurant and should behave appropriately.

Summarizing I wand to stress that stages of the tests should be as diverse as possible and should be divided by visual zones, sound zones and etc. Test should be as more objective as possible in order to evaluate a psycho-psychological status of the dog, as well as the reactivity and the adequacy of its nervous system to unusual situations.