Saturday, August 2, 2014

Your First Dog Agility Trial: What to Expect

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 Area

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 events.

Judge's Explanation

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 Run

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.

Finish Line

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


  1. Whose dog is this, do you know? Looks remarkably like my Molly - wonder who took it and whose dog - thanks

  2. Hi, I got the photo of this gorgeous tri-color collie on Wikimedia Commons. Here is the link, if you want more details about the photo. Rough collies are such wonderful dogs!