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I went to a trial this past weekend and watched for a couple of hours. It's funny- last year I went to this same trial and saw the more advanced dogs run and they all did so well. But this time I saw the novice dogs. And a lot of them didn't pay attention- a lot of them would get nervous and just trot off sniffing everything, or start running around in the ring, or do the wrong obstacles, and two even escaped from the ring and had to be caught.

I can imagine Delilah doing ALL of those things. My trainer said Delilah's not going to have any issues with the obstacles- it's the staying focused and listening that we have to work on.

And after this weekend I can see what she means. I just imagine Delilah running out of the ring and no one being able to catch her- just running around and wreaking havoc.

There are like, 2 or 3 trials in VT every year, and I know for a fact that two of them don't allow dogs that aren't competing. How do you prepare your dog for a trial? We're no where near ready to compete, but I'd like to start working on this ASAP because it's going to take a while for my ditzy, reactive little terrier.
 

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First of all expect green young dogs to be green young dogs. ;)

It really depends on the dog. My papillon was 9 when she entered a trial and it was fine. She was just like in class, no weirdness at all.

My cattle dog x terrier.... Ahahahahaha lololol. Nothing is more humbling than a terrier. I am sure glad I got him because he is absolutely forcing me into a better trainer on account of being so vastly different than a sheltie or papillon. But really no more terriers. Except I can see myself maybe getting bored without one once he's gone. I feel like everyone needs at least one terrier in their life to make them appreciate their other dogs. :p

Suffice it to say it was a verifiable DISASTER trying to trial with him. He rocks classes like Wow. Super focused and incredibly fast.

In a trial (at the place he trains!) we got zoomies. It was so bad he ran out of the ring we were in and zoomed around the other empty ring for about 5 minutes. He also noticed the people standing and watching him and freaked out a bit. Then our fun run he was mortified of ceiling fans.

It's really come down to a few things. Age being one. I think I tried too young. We also worked HARD on relationship and believe me that's been hard. Recall!

The big thing though was getting him used to working when he knows I don't have food/toy on me. There is no tricking him and a lot of people suggested to try to trick him. He's not stupid, he knows I don't have food. We started working especially in rally with me rewarding him from food that wasn't on me. That took a looooot of time for him. At first he would have total brain meltdowns knowing where the reward was and knowing I didn't have it. We regressed then it all came back together.

We are doing AKC in a few weeks and my plan is to go the day before and let him get comfortable. He ran NADAC a couple weeks ago and did stellar. Some zoomies, which are a stress release, but he came back and focused and had fun the rest of his runs. I actually think most the zoomies were because OMG DIRT!

It also helps him if he can see his dog and people friends beforehand so he knows they're all happy and not stressed. I don't like kenneling him much, he relaxes a lot better if we can just cuddle and hang out together before the runs.

Rally has helped the most. Its set up well where we can work off leash with distractions and work on delaying reward and building a 'routine' of taking off his agility leash then doing our thing, putting it back on and running together to his reward.

A lot of people like to tug on the lead but Hank is much more of a foodie so I decided tug wasn't worth it. Might as well work with what he likes.

I think the rest is just experience. I could see the trial experience 'clicking' with him this last time instead of him shutting down.
 

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Also try not to compare with other dogs. I sometimes forget that Hank is ONLY a few months older than 2 years. And I got him as a young adult from who knows what background (he's from animal control). He's not a sport bred puppy that has had foundation work since he was brought home. There's no race to get in there!
 

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FDSA has some classes about ring readiness and also fading the reward out. I think some dogs (like Summer) don't need specific work on fading the reward off the handler but Hank sure did. I have found most in person classes will increase duration of exercises before giving the reward but not work on physically removing the reward from the handler.

We will see how AKC goes, it may be a disaster but we're learning.
 

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I did a very quick search for agility trials in Vermont and found 11 in one year. :D Often people who are new to the sport aren't "plugged in" to the full agility community around them. Check out the websites for CPE, NADAC, USDAA, AKC, UKI, and UKC. You will find tons of trials in your state. Plus Vermont is a tiny state, so it's nothing to travel to a neighboring state. I used to live in Mass., and it was just one to two hours drive and bingo, we were in another state.

There are lots of agility opportunities in the NE. You need to go plug in and find the fun runs and matches in your area. Fun runs are where you can get your "trial like" atmosphere and training BEFORE you set foot in the real ring. If your area really doesn't have any fun runs, then you go and take private lessons with other trainers in your area or nearby states. This allows your dog to see other equipment and learn to focus in different environments. I don't start trialing until my dog has seen about a dozen different places and sets of equipment. Allowing a dog to "act out" in the ring by losing focus, etc. teaches the dog that it's OK to act like that in the ring because mom can't do anything about it. You can't pick your dog up and start again. You can't repeat obstacles, etc. I get all of that training out of the way BEFORE I head in the ring.

Some venues like NADAC (and maybe CPE) do allow some training in the ring in the very beginning classes. They are great places to get some experience before considering yourself "really" trailing. :D I look at NADAC as my "fun runs." Not to put NADAC down, but the training in the ring allows for a great "fun run" opportunity.

When I head in the ring, I want my dog focused and read to go. I want to walk in with both of us feeling nothin' but confidence. I want to leave the ring with success and FUN!! I want to make the ring a place for play and joy, BUT if my dog is running off, not focusing or working, it becomes a place of stress as I try to chase my dog around the ring and get my dog back to work.

Here's my take on why it's important to be ready, confident and feeling in charge when you first step into the ring. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/When-is-Your-Agility-Team-Ready-to-Trial-The-Pitfalls-of-Competing-too-Early-in-Dog-Agility

Every team I can think of that has followed this advice has had success in the ring with minimal issues. It's a proven winner. :)
 

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I think it is a fine balancing act. Getting training to that level is not really possible for many. It took a lot of effort to just find five rings where Hank could practice. That helped but I'd have sure done more if more fun runs were offered. So far we've found...2. Since last summer.

You also just can't know how a dog will handle a trial till you try a trial. I was 100% blindsided by Hank's stress at trials because he just doesn't stress in other environments. Once we tried I saw immediately the breakdown in our training and we took ~8 months to fix and work on that before trying again.

I think it's a know your dog. Hank ran off the first run but progressively got better and better each run this last trial. He is often pretty high and I think just needed to release some of that. (Plus dirt makes him zoomie in everyday life in general) The last runs were very focused and fun. He really needed some time to be in the ring and realize that people watching him is ok and no treats is ok. I find with anything he has trouble with he just needs to work them through in his own head a bit before it's then totally comfortable.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the advice!

Laurelin, I always think of Delilah when you talk about Hank. Your posts are always helpful! I'm definitely enjoying the terrier experience, but I never fully appreciated how easy a dog Mia is until I got Delilah xD I'm definitely going to have more though! They're... fun.

Agilityk9trainer, I might have been thinking of AKC trials. How many different venues is average for a team to compete in? I saw the CPE ones- they're about 2-3 hours away. I might see if I can bring dogs that aren't competing just so Delilah can be exposed to the environment. Definitely want to expose her to something closer to home first to see how she does. My training facility does some "fun run" type events so I'll look into that!
Your article really helped clarify- I wasn't sure when teams should typically start competing (when I used to race XC/nordic, take music lessons, ride horses, you practiced a lot yeah, but there wasn't so much emphasis on "being ready" in the same sense because the competition or performance itself was considered part of the learning/training process, at least ime).
 

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revolution,

Some people would agree that the early trialing process is part of the learning process. I don't simply because you aren't dealing with the human alone. The added component of a dog who doesn't understand what showing is about and who often gets easily stressed in the ring from picking up on the nerves of the handler, the tension of the environment and the lack of usual rewards (treats, toys, play) makes trialing early a mistake. I have seen team after team go in too early and develop issues that take years to train away. I'm sure they're out there, but I can't think of a team who went into the ring ready and confident develop an issue (other than physical) that nagged them for years. For instance, you often see dogs who were shown early develop fear of teeters as the dog may have only seen one to three teeters in its training. Suddenly they get on a teeter that makes noise and tips too fast in the ring. You can't put the dog back on the teeter and the dog develops a fear of the teeter in the ring.

After refusing to do teeters a few times in the ring, the dog quickly learns you can't make them do the obstacle in the ring, and so they quit doing the teeter in the ring. It's called becoming "ring wise," and it is avoided by being prepared before you go in the ring. If you dog has seen a dozen teeters, then a strange, rickety teeter isn't going to cause them to get scared.

Others think going in the ring early gives you information, and indeed, learning from your mistakes in the ring does give you information. However you want to learn these things only AFTER your dog is prepared for the stresses of the ring. You want to go in the ring with confidence running back and forth along the leash. You don't want to go in the ring with anxiety, stress, fear and uncertainty running along the leash. Fun Runs are great opportunities to get out those willies because you can train there over and over and over.

There are lots of ring wise issues that can develop from showing too early. Loss of speed is very common. If your dog slows down, one place to look is showing early. Any avoidance of an obstacle is another. Start line stay issues re another. Running amok. Lack of contact criteria. Table issues. Velcro dog issues. (You get the idea.)

It's VERY much worth waiting six months to finish getting your training down to avoid ring wise issues that can haunt a team for years - if not the entire dog's career. JMHO.
 

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Laurelin,

There are a lot of great training opportunities in your area. Tons of back yard equipment now exists. Back when I started here, there were maybe three sets of agility equipment in the city, and one was so bad it was unusable. Now within a two hours drive you can get to well over a dozen (probably two dozen) great places to train on novel equipment in novel environments. You don't need a true "fun run" to get some of these issues trained away before you step into the ring. Getting on a dozen teeters is so doable anymore. :) There's also UKC trials (several) within a two hour drive, several NADAC trials within a two hour drive, some CPE trials within a three hour drive and several fun runs within a two hour drive (way more than two a year, but I agree not enough.) These are easy day trips and well worth the effort. If you use UKC, NADAC and CPE as "fun runs," then you are good to go. USDAA nursery classes are good "fun runs" too. You have to truly not care a whit about qualifying in these venues to truly count them as "fun runs" because any stress to "do well" negates the positive emotions fun runs produce.

With all of the local equipment available and all of the fun run/training in the ring trial opportunities available, it's pretty easy to get a dog prepared in this area now. Years ago...not so much. I had to travel as far as Kansas City to get prepared!! With Aenon, I didn't leave the city (except for a few fun runs in Springfield, MO at a trial we were at for Asher anyway.)
 

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Finding trials is easier than finding fun runs when you are still new to agility. To find trials, you can go to the website of each individual titling venue (ie agility organization), and click their events search page. Some places to visit are AKC (American Kennel Club), USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association), CPE (Canine Performance Events), NADAC (North America Dog Agility Council), UKI (United ??? International), UKC (United Kennel Club),TDAA (Teacup Dog Agility Association), and DOCNA (Dogs on Course North America?). There may be some I am missing that others can fill in. These places will all have an events page listing upcoming shows.

For Fun Runs and Matches, your instructor should be giving you this information. They require being "plugged in" to your area agility community to receive e-mails about upcoming events. Locally here, some fun runs require you to be a member of the club. You can contact area clubs and schools and ask to be put on their email lists for upcoming events such as fun runs and seminars.

Another option for finding trials is to join or search some of the "catch all" agility trial entering services like labtestedonline.com or oaklines.com. These gather up trial information from several titling organizations, and you can do a search there. I do find they miss many of the smaller titling venue trials though.
 

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AgilityK9Trainer-

I'm in eastern Iowa (right on the Mississippi River). How can I find fun runs, matches, trials in my area? Thanks :)
Oh! There are tons in Madison, if you can handle the drive here! Plus, then maybe someday I could say hey to you! :)
 

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We do not have any fun trials anywhere in our area, not without maybe finding them a six hour drive away. We have been training all winter in an indoor arena but now the weather is finally nice we have set up our equipment at my sister's so we can train outdoors as well. The rest of our trials till one in November, are all outdoor trials. I also have weave poles and a couple of jumps at home in my yard which also helps.
 

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AgilityK9Trainer-

I'm in eastern Iowa (right on the Mississippi River). How can I find fun runs, matches, trials in my area? Thanks
Oh! There are tons in Madison, if you can handle the drive here! Plus, then maybe someday I could say hey to you!
Madison is only 2.5 hours from me, so that's very doable! I would love to meet up and get some tips.

I am JUST starting agility with my 10 month old mini schnauzer, but I can already tell I'm going to love it and want to compete someday.

I liked K9AgilityTrainer's suggestion to attend fun runs and matches as a part of training, to expose your dog to a variety of environments and equipment. I plan to do this.
 

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Madison is only 2.5 hours from me, so that's very doable! I would love to meet up and get some tips.

I am JUST starting agility with my 10 month old mini schnauzer, but I can already tell I'm going to love it and want to compete someday.

I liked K9AgilityTrainer's suggestion to attend fun runs and matches as a part of training, to expose your dog to a variety of environments and equipment. I plan to do this.
I don't do agility yet myself, as I'm still waiting for my puppy. But there's a very active scene here in Madison, and I've gone and watched some trials. They also have just run-throughs for fun and whatnot when they're not having trials. I'll PM you the info of the place that I'm familiar with. :)
 
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