You’ve decided to give agility a go and are ready to attend an agility trial. What do you need to know about an agility trial? If you have the opportunity I would check out one or two without your dog just so you get a lay of the land.
Trials are different around the country so it is best to know what the environment will be like. Some are held indoors on turf or dirt, others are outdoors on grass. I have trialed indoors on dirt and turf, outdoors on grass, and outdoors under a roof with dirt. Each experience is a little different and the first time can be disrupting to you and/or your dog. The more prepared you are the less stress your dog will feel.
Agility Trial Organizations
There are different organizations that put on an agility trial. You can find events for AKC, CPE, USDAA, and NADAC. There are other organizations as well that may be a fit for you and your dog. Each of these groups has different rules and different courses offered and requires separate registrations.
As a newbie to agility, I selected the organization that offered the most events close to me, and it happened to be AKC. AKC registrations ends about two weeks before the event takes place so you will need to plan accordingly. When you register for your event you may have the option for online registration with a fee or you can mail in the registration with your entry fee.
There are pros and cons to registering for multiple days and multiple runs when you are just getting started. If I had it to do all over again I would look for AKC agility trial events that offer FAST. AKC does not allow for training in the ring or for you to have any treats, however the FAST class allows you to select the obstacles you run for points. With a young or new dog this would mean you could go out and take a few jumps and then come off. You would immediately have some success and be able to ease into a trial.
Regardless of what you decide to register for you will want to be prepared for the first day of the trial. Many trials start early in the morning and your runs may have a check-in time at least 30 minutes before the first dog runs. I don’t know about you but my brain doesn’t function well in the morning. I make sure I have the car packed with everything I can and the rest is ready in one location so I can grab and go.
At the Agility Trial
Grab our handy Agility Trial Checklist so you can be prepared for your first trial. To this day I pull this up and look at it just to make sure I have everything. Some of this you may not need depending on the season and trial location. The more prepared you are the more confident you can be when you arrive. Which will in turn make your dog more comfortable and less stressed.
Once you have arrived at the trial find a location that will be suitable for your dog. I set Miss Millie as far away from the action as I possibly can. She prefers if I’m not around the crate while she isn’t running. Some dogs want to be closer to the action and have their people there with them. It may take a few trials to dial in the right surroundings and they may need to change as they get more comfortable.
You will want to find the check in table where you can get your course maps. If you have any questions the trial committee will be setup there and can help you get your bearings. Your course maps will allow you get a lay of the course prior to walking it without your dog. When you are walking the course, you will generally see a variety of ways to handle the turns and it may help you to make decisions on what to do.
I liked to watch the top dogs at the trial to see how their handlers take a course, and when they made a mistake if it was the human’s body language or the dogs decision making. It has really helped me understand my body and how Miss Millie interacts with me.
As I’m sure your trainer has said, it is 90% the humans fault if the dog does something wrong on the course. Unless you are Miss Millie and used to have a creative approach to agility. Here is an early video of her…don’t feel bad for laughing!
Here we are this past weekend in Del Mar, CA.
Whatever venue you choose and whatever courses you run, remember to have fun. You and your dog are a team and it is awesome to watch the collaboration grow! Enjoy!!
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