Your First Agility Trial – 4 Part Series Column

By Sally Silverman
Part 1

Your first agility trial: why, where and what to enter
You’ve built the drive, trained the teeter and proofed the contacts. It’s time to enter your first agility trial. Daunting? Perhaps. Here is some information that will guide you through the process.

The venue
There are numerous agility venues in the United States and Canada (Check out the Blog Roll on the DogSport Homepage for association links that will provide venues across the United States and Canada). Decide on which to enter based on your dog’s breeding, proximity and frequency of trials, classes available and competitiveness of the venue. Limit competition to two or maybe three venues so you can learn the rules and classes for those organizations and begin to accumulate points towards titles. All venues require your dog to be registered with the venue to compete. Some allow registration with the first entry. Your dog’s registration number will stay with him throughout his agility career.

Jump height
The height at which your dog jumps, which is based on his height, is often required for registration and always for entering a class. Agility classes are segregated by the height of the dog and each venue has its own jump height requirements. Try to get the best measurement you can prior to entering with a wicket or a yardstick, recording your dog’s height at his withers or shoulders. Official measurements will be required and available at the competition.

The premium
The premium is usually available on-line from the club hosting the trial and includes the entry form plus all the information you need about the trial: date, location, classes, judges, running surface, availability of water and food, costs, directions, hotel and camping information. There are also many on-line sites that list upcoming trials. All venues require pre-entry, though day-of entries are occasionally accepted if the trial hasn’t filled.

The entry form can be complicated. Fill it out carefully. You will need to start at the first level, usually Novice A or Starters. It’s a good idea to ask a seasoned competitor to look over your form. And pay attention to the opening date. The secretary will not accept your entry before that date, and many trials fill very quickly. Many forms will also ask if you are willing to volunteer. Agility trials depend heavily on volunteers, though doing so at your first trial might be a bit overwhelming. Consider volunteering at future trials. It’s a great learning opportunity.

The confirmation
When you receive confirmation for your entry, check it carefully to make sure the information is correct. Sometimes there is a preliminary confirmation and just prior to the event a final confirmation indicating the approximate run times for various classes.

Go to a show, find a mentor
Finally, attending a trial before you enter one will give you and your dog a much better idea of what your first day of competition will be like. Try to find a mentor in your club who can help with your entry and answer questions at the competition. Many are very experienced and would be delighted to help. Just ask!

Sally Silverman is a freelance writer who writes for horse and dog publications including Dressage Today, USDF Connection and Clean Run. She shares her home and heart with three Australian Shepherds. A member and instructor at Y2K9s Dog Sports Club outside of Philadelphia, she enjoys Agility, Canine Freestyle, Tracking and Rally O. She is happiest when with her dogs: learning, competing, hiking, or sharing a cuddle on the couch.