How To Keep Dog Agility Trialing Fun

DogPilePlanning ahead is always the key to a more stress-free trial. And the less stress you have at a trial the better your runs will be. Not many people, even seasoned competitors, find trialing completely stress free. Even if they are prepared they cannot prepare for what happens at the trial around other competitors who are new to the game or stressed for other reasons themselves.  Plus, depending on how organized the club is, that can add a substantial amount of stress and confusion. You can do your part to lower the stress level and here’s a list to get you started.

  • Early Check In.  Check your dog in before their division starts!  Waiting to the last second to sign in not only stresses you, but it is undue stress for the gate steward and other competitors.
  • Plan with the Catalog.  At larger trials you will receive a catalog when you sign in. At smaller events you may only get course maps. Keep a highlighter in your equipment bag for marking your name in run orders when you get them. Tear out or keep the sheet in your pocket for quick reference. This will help you stay away from the congested in gate helping both you and the gate steward as well as the competitors next in line. By keeping an eye on the dogs in the ring you can keep tabs on when your run is approaching.
  • Protect Your Dog.  If check in areas are congested it may be best to leave your dog in a crate or x-pen while you sign in. If that is not an option you should have a back up plan such as teaching your dog to stay between your legs at home for use in these cases. It helps protect them from being stepped on or snapped at by other dogs.
  • Stay Clear of Stampedes.  Arrive at the trial early so you can get signed in, find your run order and set up camp. This will also allow you time for your dog to settle in his style. Take him for a walk, do some tricks and warm ups for you and your dog.
  • Buddy System.  If possible it is great to be able to trial with a friend. It gives you someone to resound off about course maps, run errors, Q’s and NQ’s. Plus, if it is a crowded event one can stay with the dogs while the other checks in. But don’t distract each other from your trial preparations. Give each other room to do your course map study and walk through.
  • Warm up Jump.  Most trials will provide a warm up jump for competitors to use. Learn to time it so you are not rushed to your run, but not too early that your dog cools down. Most of all don’t be a jump hog.  It’s discourteous and adds to the stress and chaos. Try to go five or six times or a few minutes. If there is room you may be able to set up your own warm up jump. Check with the organization first and be sure to pack one or two if they do.
  • Socializing.  Dog agility should be a social event, but with common curtsey in mind. Don’t clog up high traffic areas by chatting with others! And don’t make yourself a nuisance to other competitors by taking time from their routines as well.

These tips will help you and others have a smoother, more stress-free experience at your next trial. Remember, we are all there to have fun and compete, but we have to have common curtsey and respect for the organizers as well as other competitors.