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So I signed up for our first trial for the October 22-23!

I'm starting to get really nervous and the fact that I have never competed in a rally trial before. (I always get nervous about a new sport). I have no doubt that Aayla can do the course, we have practiced all the signs and have started proofing behaviors in high distraction environments. She does need work on her pivots behaviors as they are not great yet, but she does them.

The problem I see is mostly going to be my nerves. If I can remember everything and not loose my mind, that would be great. If Aayla messes up, it will most likely because I am cueing wrong or my stress will affect her.

Anyhow, does anyone have any tips and advice? Things you messed up on for your first trials? An rules that are not obvious that I should know of? I will be going with someone but I feel like if I prepare now I will be less stressed.
 
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Make a total mess in front of everyone once a while and you'll stop fearing it. Or that is what happened to me.

I blew a pretty big and important trial last weekend. There were other newbies for this level and distraction, others that also had to run among the first three in the class, others that have real stage fear instead of the little nervousness I get, and yet they did not fail so gloriously as I did.

I still hate it, but I am not afraid of it.

Know every single little rule and tidbit by heart or learn them the hard way which seems to be my way. That is how my not so good course turned into a disqualified course.

I don't give advice on rules because they may differ from ours. But if they are as nit-picky as ours, make sure all your equipment matches the rules. I know too many dogs disqualified because there was an unallowed tag dangling from the collar or because the handler didn't stash the leash properly (when off-leash performance is required).

Trial, trial, trial. And learn from your errors. Each time will teach you something and reinforce your routine. Or make you to create a routine in the first place. Again, my way and the hard way. Word of caution though, your dog should be on the map too and sometimes trialling too early or too much is harmful for their training and motivation.

Choose practical and comfortable clothing and make sure you are early where you are supposed to be. Walk your dog properly.

But the most important rule of them all. Praise your dog! Your goal should be in the last row of the scoring form where the judge writes their comments (at least they do here). It should say something like 'Happy team and perfect cooperation!'.
 

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I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!! How many runs are you doing and which organization?

My tips as someone who just completed their first trial.

1. Don't watch anyone. Watching someone's dog have a nicer heel position, or an amazing front will totally undermine your confidence and stress you out. Our trial had seating and the ring in different rooms, but if they're in the same room, just interact with Aayla, hand touches or fun tricks.

2. In CARO rally, the judge will walk the course with you and mention any specific things she is looking for, including footwork of the person, so take advantage of that if your judge will do that.

3. I forgot water for Levi. Don't do that. :p

4. Meticulously check the rules. I had two girls in my trial who thought they had completed a station, but didn't and when they did the next station instead of re-attempting the one they messed up, they NQ'd and didn't get their titles. :( ON THE LAST RUN!

5. Have the best possible time. You only get one FIRST rally trial. I always look down at the start and end of the run and tell Levi how much I love him regardless of what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
@aspen726 Thank you! =)
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@FinnAlva I'm sure I will at one point or another. I just kind of hope that I don't on my first time. Haha. I'll have to look up all the rules, I'm planning on having her wear one of her flat buckle collar that has no tags, but I'll look into the rules to be sure. I am going with someone who trials regularly so I can clarify with her.

I was told that Aayla is more than ready to compete. She has been doing excellent courses since she was 7ish months old. I also can get her attention in all types of environments with other dogs, people and so on. She has been in several different show environments so I really think it shouldn't be a problem for her.

Thank you for your advice!
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@shandula We are competing with the AKC and doing two runs, one on each day. I was hoping they would have more, but you get what you get. The venue I will be at pretty much has everyone set up around the rings, so I'll try to not watch but I think that will be hard. Maybe I'll try and watch the Obedience ring instead of the Rally ring. Its all outdoors in a grass field.

Yeah I'll be going through the rulebook for sure. I'm pretty worried about those small details.

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So here is a practice run from yesterday of a course without carrying her treats or toys. I wanted to simulate a trial environment as much as I could. She has never been to this park and while you can't see it, school had just gotten out. So there are kids running around, playing soccer, someone was playing fetch with their dogs and so on.


We still need pivot work, I need to have one cue for turning instead repeating it to get her to return to a heel. Otherwise I think for now we are on the right track.
 

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@ThatYellowDog THAT IS AWESOME!!!!

Seriously... I'm so impressed with that heel. I've never really worked on a heel. Aspen doesn't pull and I'm satisfied with that but this video makes me want to work on it haha
 

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I love nerves. LOVE them. In fact, I even try to create them if I'm feeling "flat." Instead of getting worried that your nerves will cause you to mess up, take that nervous energy you feel in the pit of your stomach and use it. Turn it into focus. Turn it into energy. Make it keep you on your toes. Nerves are a good thing - not a bad thing.

So I use my nerves and transfer them into "fight or flight" energy using "fight" instead of flight.

Also know - unless your dog actually bites the judge, there really is nothing long-time judges and competitors haven't seen. We've seen dogs jump the ring gates, dogs not work, people break down and cry, dogs go sniffing, dogs play tug with the lead, dogs grab cones and carry them around, dogs scratch at their butts for minutes on end (yep, that happened to me. :)), dogs poo and pee in the ring, handlers forget the course, handlers forget how to work a heel.... You get it. We have been there and either done it ourselves or seen it done. It's absolutely no big deal. Seriously.

Suck on peppermint candy before going in the ring. There is a belief that peppermint calms people and hides the smell of nerves on their breath from the dog. Whether this is true or not I don't know, but if I feel I can't pull my nerves together to work for me, I suck on peppermint.

Others have given you great advice. Several have mentioned reading and knowing the rules. Read the AKC rules again. If you forget you can redo a station and you go on and NQ - honestly - NOBODY cares. It's such not a big deal. They will support you and tell you you will remember that the next time.

Everyone is rooting for the newbies. Everyone wants you to just have fun. If you do great or terrible, no one cares. It's whether you and the dog had fun that matters.

Bring a crate, chair for you, water for you and the dog, treats, toys (if your dog likes toys), crate mat, watch the weather and be prepared to bring a jacket if needed, wear comfortable clothes and shoes, bring poo baggies, bring a happy attitude, you might bring a sheet to cover the crate if your dog stresses, bring the rules to read if you have any questions and a water bowl.

When I compete in a new sport with a green dog, my number one goal - in fact my ONLY goal - is that my dog have a BLAST in the ring. Nothing else matters (unless the dog bites a judge, that is, which I have never seen). If the dog doesn't like the ring because you get so stressy and nervous in the ring, then you're either on a huge uphill battle the rest of your dog's performance career or you may have to quit competing.

Here is a video I made of Aenon in his first agility debut. I am posting it to show you the song, which summarizes how I feel when going into the ring with a new dog, and the text. The video also shows you - guess what - ME making several mistakes. Did I care? NO!!! I was there to make it fun for the dog, and he had a BLAST!!! He LOVED the ring. I was setting a foundation for his agility career - not a foundation for one stupid novice Q. That would come later. We did Q on both runs, but they were NOT mistake free. If we hadn't Qed, I would not have cared a whit. In fact, as I walked into the ring, I told myself, "Anything that happens in here is great. Anything. Unless my dog bites the judge. Make it fun for the dog."


So - nerves? Put them to work. Put that nervous energy into making it all fun for your dog. That's all that matters. That's my advice. :)
 
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@Aspen726 Haha, thank you! When we are just walking Aayla doesn't have to heel either. As long as she doesn't pull and stays on the side I have her on (left or right) I'm happy with it. I used to be super anal about it, back before I understood that the dog should enjoy the walk too. She has her formal heel for competition but thats it. I mean if they understand the pulling won't get them anywhere, in concept you can shorten the leash to the heeling position and they should stay there.

@agilitytrainerk9 You bring up a good point. Nerves can be a good thing. I guess its more of me learning to channel them into the right area. I did well in track and field in high school to channel it, but the animal sports I have found harder. When I was younger I used to have a hard time with any type of mistake from myself or my animal's stand point. I've change a lot to realize that it is almost always handler error (either with their training up to that point or in the ring, so I became overly critical of myself) letting go and just having fun sometimes can be hard. But I'm learning, and growing to be better.

I don't have to worry about Aayla biting the judge, my only thought is she might try to go say hello, but thats it. Haha. I think once I get the first one out of the way my initial fear will subside into good nerves. I think your right about making it fun for her, thats all that really matters is that she will want to do it again.
 

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You have the right attitude. You will have a blast. :)

As for being too hard on yourself, understand that mistakes can actually be your friend and teacher. After the show is over (and I do mean after it is OVER), assess your mistakes honestly and learn. What needs training? What needs attention from you? What did you learn? I grow with each show as I learn something new each time. Part of a good head game is embracing the mistakes as learning opportunities - not failures.

Let us know how much fun you and Aayla had!!
 
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