Food and The Dog Agility Competition Ring
There are reasons for every rule and in dog agility it is normally to help ensure that every team competes on a level playing field. One of those rules deals with food. CPE and NADAC trials spell it out very clearly that you cannot have food within 10 feet of the competition ring. And while the AKC does not have that specific of wording, it is common courtesy to stay clear of the ring with food.
By the time you are ready to compete you should not be relying on luring to get your dog through a course. If you are, you are not ready to compete. There are “fun matches” and “show-n-goes” that are not sanctioned dog agility events for you to practice at if you are still relying on rewards to get through a course. However, even at these events it is a must that you remove any treats your dog does not eat.
You ask why. As one of our readers shared with us, her dog has severe food allergies. Thus, if she is running the course and her dog picks up a scent, he will have the treat located and devoured before she can intervene jeopardizing her dog’s health and well being should he consume an allergen. It also makes it that much harder for the following dog to concentrate if the field is littered with uneaten food.
Back to trials. You need to remember a trial is a pop quiz for you and your dog not an open book test. If you get to a trial and find out you don’t have as much control as you thought, you go back and study some more at home or at your club. That doesn’t mean you cannot use treats before and after your run, but if you want to temp fate you better be sure you empty your pockets before you enter the ring. It is guaranteed your dog will squeal on you if you forget, letting everyone else know you forgot as well.
And let us not forget that some dogs are bred to have super sensitive noses and others that are highly food motivated. Being within 10 feet of a ring with your burger or turkey sandwich could distract the dog competing and pull him out of his game. This is especially true for the dogs that are new to competition and it is all their handler can do to keep their dog focused on them and the course.
So, remember to pick up after yourself and your dog when “practicing” and stay clear of the competition rings with any human or dog food so your fellow competitors can have a fair go on course. I am sure you will appreciate it when your turn comes to enter the ring with your dog.