Dog Agility Competition, Are You Ready

ready to run dog agilityThe answer to that question for many teams will always be, “No.” Not because the dog isn’t ready, but because the handler is afraid. Unfortunately, the only way you are going to know if your team can take the heat is to get out there and give it a try.

One tip we always give to teams asking this question is for them to attend a trial without their dog. Go as a spectator or better as a volunteer so you can become familiar with the hubbub that surrounds these events. Watch the novice classes to give yourself an idea of what to expect and what your dog may need practice on.

If you have a dog with issues such as lack of confidence or focus, try to proof them as much as you can before adding the element of a competition to the plate. Go to places to practice such as parks where other people and dogs may walk by. Look for “show and go” meets to walk around with your dog and if all goes well, enter a class.

Some other things to consider before taking the plunge:

  • Get Yourself ready. Like it or not your dog will take on your energy and if you are a nervous wreck, you dog will be to. It is during these times you handle your dog differently and they become confused and respond in a variety of ways.
  • Do you have a good foundation as a team?  While “flying by the seat of your pants” may work for some teams, most new comers will be put off if they get completely humiliated and frustrated at a trial because they went too early in training. On the flip side, you will never be ready enough for those first trials. It is a learning experience and one you have to do to learn from. This is why we recommend fun matches as a way to get your feet wet.
  • Is your dog ready?  It’s all about socializing and proofing your dog sufficiently to not panic with new places, sights, smells, and people. If you attend agility classes you are well on your way on this important socialization. You can never do too much proofing to get your team prepared to work under stress.

Starting in dog agility is more about being prepared enough to enjoy your first trial. Go with a plan to learn what you and your dog can do and what you need to work on. Go as slow as your dog will allow and if your dog seems upset, just do a couple of their favorite obstacles and call it a day. Keep those first runs fun, upbeat and positive. Both of you will become more relaxed and be running with confidence in your own time.