Novice Agility Trials … Because You Want to Know

You’ve been training with your dog for months for your first agility trials.

You’re ready to sign up for your first competition.

But you’re nervous … walking in to the unknown. People in the dog community are very friendly and helpful, but you still have many questions. You don’t know what to ask.

Read on for some frequently asked questions and their answers.

Where is my dog between runs?

Dogs must be with you and on leash or in a kennel during agility trials. Kennels are strongly encouraged … in fact over 90% of the dogs will stay in their kennel during the trial.

A kennel is a safe place for your dog to rest between runs. Also, when your dog is in its kennel you can go watch other runs and learn from them. Or … you can volunteer to help while other dogs are running.

Each trial location will have a staging area setup for kennels. You’ll want to read the information about the trial. Some will have appointed times and let you set up your kennel the day before. Sometimes you’ll need to find a place to set up the kennel on the first day of the trials.

Here are a couple of items you may want to go with the kennel:

  • a mat to place under the kennel. The mat should be waterproof in case of water bowl spills or accidents. Some locations make this a required item.
  • a bed that fits inside the kennel.
  • blankets … why? Because many times dogs will find it easier to rest if you cover their kennel with a blanket. This creates a “cave” like place that makes your dog feel safe.
  • special toys or treats to reward your dog for a great effort after its runs.

And while its not a kennel supply for your dog …

  • You’ll want a chair for you to rest in while waiting for your chance to run.
  • You may want to have money to pay for lunch. Many locations plan for lunch to be available on-site. Some trials will offer a free lunch on days you volunteer to help.

Did you know about collars?

Most collars are acceptable. However, you may not have prong or pinch collars and e-collars on agility trial grounds. You’ll also want to remove any dog tags attached to its collar before your dog enters the ring.

How do I encourage my dog in the ring?

Be enthusiastic and patient. Use whatever cheerful voice your dog responds to.

But you may not take toys or food into the competition ring.

You can’t touch your dog to help or encourage it during the run. But it’s okay if the dog brushes you while running. You also need to avoid touching obstacles.

Entering the ring … did you know?

You must enter the ring with your dog on leash. You’ll need to take the leash off before starting your run. Leave it on the floor and a ring steward will move it to the finish line while you run. Once you finish the course, you must put the leash back on your dog before leaving the ring.

What is a “Q”?

Qualifying runs are often simply referred to as “Qs.” A run not successfully completed is called “non-qualifying” or “NQ.”

Earning Qs helps a dog and handler team earn new titles.

You may hear a reference to a “Double Q.” To achieve a Double Qs, a team must successfully complete both the masters level standard and JWW courses on the same day.

Triple Q is another achievement a dog may earn. Triple Qs are earned when a dog successfully Qs in Master Standard, Master JWW and Master FAST on the same day.

Double Qs and Triple Qs help teams earn advanced titles.

What are FEO and Fix & Go?

Two new programs were added in January 2020. For Exhibition Only (FEO) and Fix & Go.

FEO only applies to FAST and T2B. Handlers may run their dog for an NQ, to focus on a specific skill without running the full course. They may have a toy (within certain limits) and touch the dog and obstacles. The handler must announce this to the judge before starting and must exit the ring at the end of the standard course time.

Fix & Go allows a handler to fix an error on the course immediately. The handler may take the dog back at least one obstacle before the mistake to make this correction. The judge will hand-signal the scorekeeper that run is now a Fix & Go. The handler may only do this one time each run and must finish the course at once after the Fix & Go.

Other things you may see …

You may see a dog competing in master’s finish a run to extra loud cheers. At the end of the run the handler may grab a jump bar and run their dog back over a few jumps. The first time you see this at agility trials it’s confusing, but it means a big achievement for the team. This is the way they celebrate earning a new title called MACH. To earn a MACH title the team must earn 20 Double Qs and 750 points.

Plan for long days. Novice classes often run at the very beginning and end of the days. No rhyme or reason … just the way it works out.

Agility trials start each day at a set time. After that, dogs will run in a previously published order. It’s up to you to make sure you are on-site and ready to go for your dog’s runs.

And just in case you are thinking about signing up for the first time, here are some general eligibility requirements.

  • Dogs must be at least 15 months old. This ensures a young dog’s body is mature. If a dog is too young, the jumping may injure it.
  • To compete in AKC trials, you need to have a registration number. Check out their page here for more details.
  • Dogs with deformities may not compete if it interferes with how the dog runs. This means that dogs missing a leg or who are blind may not complete. However, deaf dogs can compete.
  • Dogs may not run if they have tape or a bandage on.
  • Female dogs in heat can’t compete.

Competing in your first trials are long, exhausting days. But the rewards of competing with your dog in agility and other sports … celebrating the bond and teamwork between you … is incredibly fulfilling.

I hope you find this page helpful as you begin your journey into the sport of dog agility. If you do find it helpful … share it with friends.

And be sure to leave us a comment about what was most helpful.

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