Congestion at the Gate

dog3Planning ahead is the key to a stress-free trial, and a stress-free trial means a better run!  Many people who are new at agility trials (or even hard core competers) can find the start gate area stressful, and depending on how organized the club is, sometimes confusing.  Here’s a list to get you started on keeping this part of competing stress-free.

  • Plan with the Catalog.  One of the things you can utilize is the catalog you get when you sign in.  Bring a highlighter and mark your name in the running order.  Tear out the sheet and keep it in your pocket.  You should then be able to stay away from the congested area near the gate steward (where the sign is showing the running orders) and simply keep an eye on the dogs in the ring (comparing to the list in your pocket) to quickly get an idea of when you’ll be called to run.
  • Early Check in.  Check your dog in before his or her division starts!  Don’t last second sign-in, it’s not fair to the steward or other competitors. 
  • Dog Protection.  If you are in the congested area, it may be a good idea to tuck your dog between your legs, (Train this at home, though some dogs take to it naturally) or leave your dog in his crate so he doesn’t get stepped on and frustrated.
  • Stay clear of the stampede.  Come early to the trial, get signed in and figure out where you are in the running (see tip one!) and then get away from the stampeding area.  Go for a quick walk with your dog if you’re late in the running, or have trick time ringside if you’re early in the running.
  • Buddy System.  If you have a cohort (and personally I love to trial WITH someone- we can talk about the course and Q’s and NQ’s and… I like to have an agility buddy!) pick which one of you goes and gets things in the trample zone, while the other stays with the dogs!
  • Warm up Jump.  Don’t hog the warm up jump.  It’s discourteous and adds to the chaos.   5 or 6 times, a few minutes at best, should be sufficient.
  • Socialize elsewhere.  No socializing in  the high traffic areas!  You’ll make things harder on everyone else, and isn’t it a pain in the butt to have to walk around a large knot of people in front of the Stewards’ table? I know I get annoyed with it.

Share your tips with us!  We’d love to know how you avoid bruised toes at trials!

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4 Comments on “Congestion at the Gate

  1. The problem I have is exiting the ring. 2 weeks ago an Old English Sheepdog just turned and bit my dog on the shoulders. And the owner blamed me for not announcing to her I was exiting the ring. We had just completed a run. My girl is a newby to the ring and stresses easily. After that I become more nervous as well as my dog. Is there a way I can handle exiting in a non stressful manner?

    • That’s a great question! I think sitting your dog as you put on her collar and lead, and then heeling her out of the ring should protect both of you (and keep you both calmer) until you are well away from the ring and the aggressive dogs! Aggressive dogs at trials are a big no-no according to most trials regulations’ (I know for sure USDAA has that rule)… that may be worth checking out if the dog ever causes you and your dog any trouble again. Try not to stress, and make leaving the ring a good experience for your dog, one that earns LOTS of rewards.

  2. I trained my Jack to go between my legs for his start line behavior. We rehearse this behavior while we are waiting in line. This helps keep him focused and calm and I always know right where he is!
    The buddy system when you can do it is a great help also!
    Thanks for the tips.

    • That’s probably a good, safe place for him, too! 🙂 Thanks for sharing! I like to put my dogs between my legs when we’re sitting awhile or in a congested area. And agility is always more fun with a buddy! 😀