Agility Trial Day 1: Lessons Learned

Mocca doing the weave poles
Mocca doing the weave poles

We were looking forward to another great weekend of agility competitions! Saturday dawned gray, cold, and wet, but thankfully our trial was being held indoors and it seemed like a great way to fill an otherwise dreary day. We got to the event pretty early and caught the second half of the Excellence group doing their Standard agility course. It’s beneficial to observe some dogs in your height group running the level above you, as then your level sometimes has similar patterns & obstacles.

In addition, I still have to have Mocca measured each time we go, so we need to get there and get measured in between classes. Thankfully, though, this was our last time being measured! It was the second time we had an official measurer as a judge, and we will now be able to get our Height Card from the AKC and not need to be measured again. The height of your dog determines what height class they are in. Mocca measures 21″ officially.

Our Standard course looked pretty good. There were a few traps set up, but I felt I was prepared after walking the course. We were about mid-way through the group so were able to watch others as well and get an idea of what might work or not. What I learned from this course is:

My Body Cues: Mocca relies almost more on my body position & handling than she does on my voice commands. We missed a tunnel entry because even though I gave her an “out” command, I held my arm close to my body. Had I said “out” and firmly held my arm out to the left, I think she would have made the entry. Instead, she stuck more by my side and missed it the first time.

Sample of the WRONG side to be on!
Sample of the WRONG side to be on!

My Position: The second thing I learned is that WHERE I am means a great deal to Mocca. At the end there was a jump – jump – tire jump combination. They were set up at slightly different angles and the last jump the dog is heading RIGHT upon exiting the jump. The tire jump was more towards the LEFT. I was positioned on Mocca’s right, so she flew right past the tire jump, even though I was saying “OUT JUMP”. I realized then that if I had been on the LEFT, she would have been pulled right towards the tire jump at the end and hit it perfectly. We were .10 over the time allowed, so didn’t Qualify. However,  I sure learned a lot and felt good about that.
So after our Standard course, I was all set to really excel at the Jumpers With Weaves. And what do you know? We did!
I was very conscious of where my body was and what directions I was giving. I was quite proud of some of my fast saves and front crosses, and a particular move where I ran ahead while Mocca was in the tunnel so she saw me and exited properly & navigated the next jump without me having to be right next to her. I knew if she saw me ahead of the jump, she’d take it. Good for us – we were the ONLY ones to Qualify in the entire Open Jumpers! I was really excited and very proud, and looking forward to the 2nd day of the trial. We now had 2 Qualifies in Open Jumpers, which means that we need only 1 more Qualify to get our title in Open and move on the Excellence!

Thanks goes out to Camp Bandy in Amherst Junction, WI, and the Timber Ridge Obedience Club of Wisconsin for putting together a great trial.


About the author: Melissa is owned by an active Border Collie named Mocca, and 2 cats, Zoe & Kai. Melissa and Mocca compete in AKC Agility trials monthly, with the hope of continued advancing and further training. She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.