Rules on Food at Dog Agility Competition Rings
Rules, rules, rule, believe it or not they are not there to make your day miserable. Rules have been put in place for the safety and fairness of a dog agility trial. They help to ensure that every team competes on a level playing field. One rule that helps with both safety as well as fairness is food near the ring. CPE and NADAC trials spell it out very clearly by stating food within 10 feet of the competition ring is not allowed. And while the AKC does not have that specific of wording, it is common courtesy to stay clear of the ring with food.
There are several reasons for these limiters, one being that 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.
One serious reason for this is food allergies. One reader shared that her dog has severe food allergies and if she is running the course and there is food anywhere on course, he will have the treat located and devoured before she can intervene. For her dog it could jeopardize her dog’s health and well being should he consume an allergen.
The other reason is that it makes it that much harder for the following dog to concentrate if the field is littered with uneaten food. This gives unfair advantage to the dog running the course for the food and unfair disadvantage to the dog running after as they are distracted by the food.
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.