So, you and your dog have been training for months or even years for your first agility trial. You feel you are ready for the competition ring and just thinking about it gives you butterflies in your stomach. Your first agility
trial can be
nerve-wracking but understanding what happens at the trial helps alleviate some of your fears. Try not to be concerned with
earning Q's your first time out and stay lighthearted to prevent your dog from getting anxious.
Waiting between agility events is harder than competing because you and your dog have time to stress over
the situation. Having a comfortable waiting area will keep your dog comfortable and help you remain calm. Bring a crate for
your dog to rest in between events and a chair for you. A crate cover works wonders if your dog becomes nervous from all
the sights and sounds of other dogs and cheering crowds. The cover gives your dog his own safe area, making him feel
grounded and secure. Your dog can stay in the crate while you observe other competitors or volunteer to help with the
Before you begin your first agility event, all the competitors gather at
the ring to hear the judge's explanation of the rules about scoring, handler behavior and dog behavior. You can ask any
questions you might have about the run at this time.
Walk the Course
Take advantage of the time
allotted for walking the course. The more familiar you are with the course layout, the less anxious you will be during your
run. As you walk the course, figure out which obstacles require a front-cross or a rear-cross, so you do not
find yourself on the wrong side of your dog during the run. Look for patterns in the course layout to help your remember
the order of the run. Although the agility obstacles are numbered, it is difficult to watch for the numbers and watch your
dog at the same time, so following patterns can help.
Agility rules require your
dog to run the course without a collar or a leash. A leash runner takes your dog's leash and collar at the start line and
hands it back to you when as you cross the finish line.
The event timer begins as soon as your dog crosses the first
obstacle, so take your time settling your dog before starting the run. Once your dog crosses the first obstacle, there is
no turning back and restarting.
Stay positive during your run, smile at your dog and use an upbeat voice. Keep your
dog happy, no matter if he knocks off a jump bar or misses an obstacle. The main thing is to keep your dog's first agility
trial fun. A dog that has a negative experience the first time around is less likely to perform any better the next time.
Once you cross the finish line, put your dog's collar and leash back on. Immediately go
to your dog's treats and give him a jackpot. Agility trials strengthen the bond between you and your dog. It doesn't matter
if your dog qualified, as long as you worked as a team and had fun.
North American Dog Agility Council
Steve Schwarz, "Learning Front
Cross," Agility Nerd