Choosing a trial location for an NACSW™ sanctioned trial is an exciting and rewarding process as the trial location can really make for a memorable, fun and challenging experience for competitors.


When a potential trial site is submitted for review the Trial Site Advisor (TSA) will look at a number of different factors to determine whether the site meets our criteria for trials, how many days and what levels it will support.   Some of the factors are listed below:


Search Areas: The number of search areas required is determined by the type of trial (NW1/2/3, Elite, Summit, or Element Specialty) along with the levels and number of days being requested.


NW1/NW2/NW3 trials:  The site will be required to have a minimum of one of each of the search areas for the four different elements.  For NW2 and NW3 the site will also be required to have enough of the four elements to allow for the required number of searches per level/trial day (NW2 = 5 searches, NW3 = 6 searches).


Interiors:  At least one unique inside room per trial day.   For NW2 and NW3 the TSA will evaluate if there are more rooms available to allow the CO to choose additional searches.  


Exteriors: At least one unique, separate area for each trial day.  For NW2 & NW3 the TSA will evaluate if there are more areas available to allow the CO to choose additional searches.  Preferred Exterior areas would already have some objects that would be hide appropriate so the CO does not have to “stage” the search area, although it is not required.


(Please note that for Interiors and Exteriors, the Certifying Offical (CO) may opt to reuse an area when they arrive at the trial site for the trial based on many factors, however it is required that they at least have the option to have a separate area for each trial day).


Vehicles: At least one area large enough to park a minimum of 3 vehicles for NW1 and up to 5 vehicles for NW3 with adequate space in between.   At the NW1 level pavement is preferred but other surfaces may be appropriate.  For NW2 & NW3 the TSA will determine if there are other potential vehicle search areas to allow the CO to choose additional searches.

(Please note that for Vehicles, the same parking area may be used for multiple trial days).


Containers: At least one area large enough to accommodate a minimum of 15 containers with adequate space between.   At the NW1 level an indoor space is preferred but not required.  NW2 and NW3 may be indoors or outdoors.  For NW2 and NW3 the TSA will evaluate if there are other potential container search areas to allow the CO to choose additional searches.


(Please note that Container search areas may be reused for multiple trial days, if there is enough space to accommodate different set ups without overlapping odor placement).


Elite level:  The Elite level does not require the four elements and can have a variety of different types of searches.  Some Elite sites may lean towards more interior searches, others may have more exterior search areas while others still may have some of both.  They can include aspects of all four elements including vehicles or containers.


At the Elite level we look for 4 to 6 search areas per trial day.   Search areas should have variety to them including larger areas, complex areas, unique areas and small areas.


Summit level:  Like the Elite level the TSA will look for a number of different search areas that will allow the CO to challenge competitors in a variety of ways.  There should be 4 to 6 search areas per day for a two day Summit level trial.


Element Specialty Trials:  Element Specialty Trials (EST) differ from NW1/NW2/NW3 trials as they require that the site have a minimum of four of the same element of search areas for one trial.  For example, a Level 1 Interior site would need to have a minimum of four different interior search areas.


EST search areas do not need to meet the minimum guidelines of NW1/NW2/NW3 trials but instead may include areas not generally approved for the regular trials.  This allows sites that might not be approved for NW1/NW2/NW3 trials to be approved for ESTs.


Two EST trials are generally run in one day so a trial site must be able to support two full sets of search areas per trial day.


You may run ESTs and regular trials together in one trial event but they must be on different days.


Logistics:  Logistics consists of the other areas that will be required to run a successful trial.  They include:


Bathrooms:  Competitors will need access to bathrooms throughout the trial day.  Competitor bathrooms should not allow handlers to see or hear search areas.  At no time should competitors not be allowed to use the bathrooms for any extended length of time.  Competitor bathrooms may be moved during the trial day to accommodate line of site or auditory issues.  Porta Potties may also be placed in the competitor parking area if bathrooms are not accessible due to line of site or auditory issues.


Volunteers may use the competitor bathrooms or may be allowed to use other onsite bathrooms that are within site or auditory of search areas.


Parking:  Competitor parking – Cannot be street parking unless approved by the TSA.  The parking ideally should be in one area.  Depending on the trial level a site would need space for up to 40 competitor vehicles.


Volunteer parking – Should be enough space to park 20 volunteer vehicles.  Volunteers may have street parking and may park within sight of search areas as long as volunteers do not have dogs in their vehicle.   Volunteers may also park in competitor parking as long as there is enough space to accommodate all of the competitors.


Score Room:  A room away from other activity for the Score Room personnel to be able to work.


Volunteer Hospitality:  A room (or outdoor area in nice weather) to accommodate volunteers and officials for lunch and hospitality.


Other Events:  Depending on the size of the overall site, you may need to ensure that the trial is the only event onsite.  The public would need to sign the waiver and access of non-participating dogs would need to be restricted.


Flow and Lines of Sight:  Movement to and from the search areas.  Competitors must be able to move to and from the search areas without closely encountering another dog team or being able to observe searches at any time.


Competitors must not be able to see or hear searches being conducted at any time while in the parking lot.


Other Restrictions: The location cannot be a business where dogs are on site daily such as a dog daycare, training facility, shelter etc.

Proximity of search areas to public access areas: A fundamental principle of NACSW is that dogs feel secure in their search areas without the intentional presence of other dogs. With that in mind a key criteria for selecting trial locations and/or search areas is proximity to public access areas. Keeping this as a priority when evaluating prospective trial sites and search areas is not only for the safety of competitors and their dogs, but for the neighboring community as well. 

We know that there can be unpredictable situations like a neighborhood loose dog that makes it onto the trial grounds, however we can do our best to minimize the risk of such events in our selection of search areas.

Since we do not have the ability to restrict or control the movement of the general public in public access areas, search areas that are in proximity to public access areas such as sidewalks and roads without a physical and/or visual barrier should be avoided.

In considering locations for events, here are some additional guidelines that may help clarify what is important to us in our mission to create the best overall experience for competitors and their dogs.

Factors to consider in approving search areas near public access for use:

Distance from the search area [50 yards if no visual or physical barrier]

An ideal barrier would be solid fencing or a wall. If there is a barrier like a chain link fence for example, it would be challenging to have that border be part of the search area if on the other side of the chain link fence was a dog walking through there or past there. If it were a solid fence, it may be less problematic, unless it bordered a neighbor’s yard with a dog on the other side.

  • Is there a physical barrier that will prevent the public from approaching?
  • Is there a visual barrier that will minimize the searching dog’s view?
  • How busy is the area? Are you in the country or in a city neighborhood?
  • Is it near a roadway that vehicles may need to access?
  • Be aware of search areas along fence lines that might have a dog behind the fence. 

Other Important Considerations:  Cost of trial site rental.  The NACSW recommends $500-$1000 a day or less to stay within a budget.  You can, of course, go over that but it will mean a tighter budget.