Your First Agility Trial – Part III

By: Sally Silverman
Part III
What to expect when you arrive:

Setting up

If you are not working out of your car, it’s handy to set up near the ring in which you will be working unless you think your dog will be over stimulated by the dogs on course. If you have more than one dog and the crated dog will be barking while the other is running, this also may be distracting for the running dog.


Your confirmation will tell you what you need to do to check in, including having your dog measured. Some venues, such as AKC, require armbands to be worn. They will be available at check-in. Pick up a course map for each of your classes. It can help you memorize the course and plan your strategy. There are often running orders for each class, too.

Walking the course

Before your class, all competitors walk the course. Use this time to familiarize yourself with the course and plan your handling. Check in at the sheet by the gate. This is how the gate steward and score keeper know that you are present.

The Briefing

Sometime before or during the walk, the judge will call a briefing to introduce him or herself, tell you the rules of the class, the table count, when they want the next dog to enter the ring, course time, whether it will be a sit or a down on the table in AKC, and any other information that he or she thinks you need before you run. Even if you think the information is not pertinent to you, it is courteous to listen.

On the line

Check the running order for your class and make a note of who you follow so you are ready to go to the start line when it is your turn. The gate steward is usually shouting out the names of the upcoming dogs: Fido on the line, Rex on deck, Fifi in the hole. If you have a conflict with another ring, or are running two dogs that have been listed one right after the other, don’t hesitate to ask the gate steward, usually found with pen in hand, by check-in sheet at the gate, to move you before the class begins.

When you get to the line, set your dog up, remove your leash or collar and place it on the ground behind you. A leash runner will put it by the gate at the end of the course. In some venues dogs must run naked, in others, some types of collars are acceptable. Many people choose to run collarless in every venue. A slip lead is handy for trialing. It’s easy to remove and easy to put on again after your run. Remember to leave all treats and toys outside of the ring! Listen for the go, then run the course. When you are finished, get your leash on quickly and party outside of the ring, so the next competitor can start.

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.