Are you ready to Trial?

Hey…I remember the days. I’ve trained your dog it seems forever and you just want to get out there and see how it goes.

Quite frankly it all depends on you and your dog.

Trialling too early can scare off some dogs, trialling too late can make training seem ho-hum to some. Is there a perfect time? I don’t know, but it’s a matter of knowing yourself and knowing your dog. Talking with people who know the two of you just might help.

Here are some guidelines: NOTE, these are not all from me, most comes a person named Robin. 🙂

1. What are your goals for your dog? Do you have any? If you don’t,
you should.

The best goals are are performance oriented. Good goals are “I want nice fast sits on the table.” “I want a happy dog in the ring.” “I want my dog to do 2-on 2-off.” Adapt your goals to your dog. You should make short-term goals (this weekend, I want a good start-line stay), and long term goals (I want to be able to do 3 jump lead-outs). Your short term goals should never be discarded if they will adversely affect your long term goals. So letting the dog break the start-line “because he might Q anyway” is a bad decision.

2. What are your goals for yourself? Do you have any? If you don’t,
you should.

Again, not title oriented. “I want walk a course smartly and run like I walk.” “I want to be a team with my dog.”

Once you have set your goals, think about ways to accomplish them. And where you are on the journey to accomplish your goals will also help you know when you’re ready to trial. But here are a few more tips, some concrete things.

1. Is your dog crate trained? He’ll need a nice, comfy, quiet place
to hang out at the trial. Keeping him out all the time will exhaust both
of you. Doesn’t need to be a crate, can be safely stowed in your car, can be tied to a tree while you both take a break from the busyness of life, can be lying quiet under your chair, etc. My dog stresses in a crate so I work around it all. 🙂

2. Is your dog used to riding in the car? if not, you may wish to work on this as many trials need to be driven too.

3. Has your dog been exposed to the shows before entering? It’s a
really good idea to take your dog to some shows before you actually
enter so you can get him used to the noise and smells. Check all the rules first, some trials don’t allow unentered dogs on the grounds.

4. Do you understand all the basics of the sport and feel confident
of the rules? One of you needs to know what they’re doing out there, and you’re the only one that can read the course maps. That makes you team captain. You don’t want to spend all your time fumbling around the course, you want to know what you’re doing and convey that to the dog.

5. Does your dog understand all the equipment, and is he relaxed
and confident in his execution? If your dog is tentative on the teeter
or can’t do weaves at home, it’s going to be worse at a trial. It’s
ALWAYS worse at the trial. It’s never better, so think about that before
entering. 🙂

6. Can your dog work on both sides, does he know how to switch sides,
and can he read your crosses? If not, he’s not ready to trial and
neither are you. Even novice mandates side switches! NOTE: I have seen some owners do some creative things that have resulted in clean runs. so it all depends on just how creative you want to be. 🙂

7. Have you practiced in more than one area? Yes, I know there are
stories of how some dogs do fine at a trial after only having been
trained at home-but those are the exceptions not the rule! Remember that if your goal is for your dog to be relaxed and have fun, then your job is to help him figure out that agility is something he can do (and have fun doing) anywhere.

8. Do you feel confident about entering? If you aren’t confident,
don’t enter. I don’t mean confident you can get all clean runs, but
confident that you and your dog can have a GOOD TIME.

8. Finally, do you have a positive attitude? Are you prepared to
laugh at mistakes, not cry? Can you put agility into the right
perspective–that it’s a fun game we play with our dogs? Can you be
absolutely, positively sure that when things go wrong out there and
everyone is watching, you will NOT get upset, and you will NOT start
blaming your dog? If you’re not sure, please do not enter. Though I have to admit, at times it is your dogs fault….and all you can do is laugh about it. 🙂

If you can answer yes to these questions you are ready to enter an
agility trial. Remember there’s no huge rush to title. This is a game
you play with your dog, and having fun at the trial is an end goal, no
matter what your score ends up as.


Agility Dog Dictionay

Agility Dog Dictionary

A-frame — a long slinky-like pipe that is fun to run through.

AKC — an agility organization that also has beauty contests, though
no one knows why.

Chute — what your human says when you take the “long slinky-like
pipe that is fun to run through” once too often.

COME! — go immediately to your human as soon as you’re finished with
the next three obstacles.

Contact — what your human says to get you to start your engine and
take to the skies.

Damnit — a dog title similar to Dr. for humans, or MACH for some
dogs: e.g., Dr. Smith, MACH Fifi, and Damnit Rex.

Quiet! — means you should cheer on the dog running the course. In
the spirit of good sportsmanship, cheer louder for those dogs you
don’t particularly like, but cheer loudest of all for the dogs that
live with you.

STAY! — an agility command that means wait until your human turns
her back on you, and then quickly take the first few obstacles while
she tries to catch up.

Table — one of the few shady spots on the course.

Teeter — a long slinky-like pipe that is fun to run through.

Touch — what your human says to get you to jump over the yellow zone
on contact obstacles.

Triple — a long slinky-like pipe that is fun to run through.

Tunnel — a long slinky-like pipe that you run through anytime you
don’t know which obstacle your human wants you to take. Can also be
taken because you prefer it to the obstacle your human wants you to

USDAA — a government organization that employs people with really
good noses. Their job is to decide if meat should be eaten or rolled

Keeping a dog Focused on the course

Dogs can be funny, they can train perfectly at home or at a training club…but add the excitement, noise and bustle of a trial…and that self same dog can turn into a completely different dog.  A dog that barks, that doesn’t listen, that acts like it has NEVER seen a tunnel before it’s whole entire life.

What does a trainer/owner/handler do?

Some things to try:

Here is something I was told to do with my high drive agility crazed PWD who
would fly off, well, still does once in a blue moon..

  1. exercise well morning of trials
  2. For the next several trials do not run the entire course – Run just long enough to have your dog be successful and then leave on a high note.
  3. do not attempt to go from crate to ring, you must spend time with the dog before going in the ring first – warm up, then let the dog blow off some steam, then work on fun focus ringside
  4. change your expectations for this dog – this may not be the dog that gets the big ribbons.   Maybe this one is one you have fun with in the ring as a team and  live with lots of NQs Maybe this dog should only run jumpers and not  Standard. After all, are you running agility for you, for the dog, or to do something together?
  5. use some Rescue Remedy and / or some lavender oil to help calme and ease  the dog’s nerves. (I tend to recommend that a person try all other options before turning to medication).  — -that’s just me though
  6. ask other people what they see.  Perhaps you are not trialing the same way that you train. Perhaps you are getting louder/softer/more vocal/less vocal/more active/more demanding etc.   The old adage holds true…trial like you train, train like you trial.  Be consistent.
  7. Try doing some fun runs.  You know…those mock trials that trainers put on to help green dogs chill out about the bustle and wait of the trial setting.  Not quite the same as a trial, but helps.
  8. Try training at odd  places, busy places, quiet places, places with odd things going on and so forth.
  9. if your dog is getting reactive at a trial perhaps it’s time to step back from trialing and just get your dog used to the atmosphere.  Go to a few trials.  Teach your dog to chill out.  that is lay down and relax.  reward good behaviour and then ignore or correct inappropriate behaviour.   Take your time .. as much time as you need to.
  10. Consider if your dog is a trialing dog.  Not all dogs are.  Some dogs just can’t deal with the whole trial thing and for the good of your dog… should you require them to do so?

Inexpensive Weave Poles and Jump Standards

Cindy found an inexpensive make-do weave pole set! I found some electric fence plastic 48 inch tall step in plastic poles that are perfect for me to use for training at home. A good picture should be at Deer Fencing.

She only paid $1.85 each at TSC (Tractor Supply), so a set of 12 was inexpensive. They have metal spikes on the end, and they are “step in.”

These fence posts can also be used as jump standards.

You can also use them for the sides for Jumps . Just cut the 3/4″ 10″ PVC
pole in half. Cut a notch on each end and rest them on the tabs that are on the
poles. Jump for about $4.00!!

And to make them look more regulation, try adding some PVC

I use the step in electric fence poles as well, and get PVC pipe in a diameter that slides over the top of the fence poles. I tape the poles as well.   That way the dogs get the same view of the weaves as they would have at a trial.  The diameter is a little bigger than regulation as it needs to go over the  wire holder tabs on the fence poles. But it is worth it, in that they go into  the ground easily with the step on edge. I actually turn the step on edge in  the direction that I don’t want the dogs to travel in on the weaves. This also  keeps the edge out of the way of the dogs feet.

Some Issues you may want to consider:

  • do you have rocky ground?  if so, inserting them may be a challenge
  • can you put them in a straight line?
  • can you build a line to help you make consistent spacing?  I.e. use a rope, tie knots it in at the appropriate intervals
  • will you remember to move them before the ground freezes?  If not…they will stay there until the ground softens again.   This may or may not be an issue for you.
  • Do you have the strength to pull them out again?

Dogs Weaving in Poles

Dogs who know how to do weave poles tend weave either by single tracking or hopping.

Dogs that single track go through the poles using their front feet individually as they go through the poles.  Dogs that hop, well….they hop!   They use both feet and alternate hopping back and forth between the poles.

Of course then there are the littlest dogs who just run around the poles.

This page shows dogs that are single tracking.  It also talks about how to help train them.

I’ve searched for pictures of dogs hopping through weave poles but have been unable to locate one.  If you know of one, let me know please. 🙂

Any method is fine for getting through the poles as long as the dog is able to be consistent the whole way through on a consistent basis.   Some prefer to train their dogs to single step, other trainers prefer to let their dog choose how they will negotiate this object.

This page talks abit about how to go about figuring out how to train weave poles.

Here’s a good site

Instant Agility. It’s a blog that talks about agility equipment design and how to perform the obstacles.

Most dogs love to work, and agility gives them a challenging and fun “job” to do. It can be a casual way for you and your dog to have fun in the backyard, or an intense activity performed on an official course against other competitors. In either case, you will need obstacles that your dog can jump over, jump through or climb on. That’s what we’re here to help you with.