Welcome to Agility Addicts, home of the AGILITY FORUM

Agility Addicts runs several agility shows a year designed to be supportive of new handlers and dogs, while providing proper competition conditions for all dog heights and levels. Find out more in our Shows section.

The First Day of a Whole New Adventure!

To Feed or Not to Feed

Due to the risk of bloat, you need to make a decision whether or not to feed your dog before you leave for the show. You are probably already careful (or you should be!) about feeding your dog too soon before or after strenuous exercise such as agility training, and the same applies to shows.

If you decide to feed your dog, it is best to give much less than normal, and to feed the dog as soon as you get up, not just before leaving home (unless it's a very long drive).

If you decide against feeding your dog, you may wish to take a little food along to give the dog before you come home at the end of the show, though not right after a run.

Be aware that the grain-based dry 'complete' foods swell in the stomach so are more likely than other foods to cause a problem when given before or after strenuous exercise.

Arriving at the Show

Most shows follow a pattern such as this:
Show Opens: 7.30 am
Judge's Briefing: 8.15 am
Judging: 8.30 am

Check the Ring Information Sheet that most shows send out with your running orders, or make available online beforehand. If you are running your dog in one or more of the first classes in the rings, you will want to arrive at the show as soon after 7.30 as possible. Yes, this does mean getting up very early instead of having a lie-in!

The reason for getting there early? So you've got time to find a nice place to park, exercise the dogs, and get the car sheeted up if it's going to be hot. And then head off to the rings to familiarise yourself with the layout, find the loos etc.

You can also walk any of your courses that are already open for walking.

Walking the Courses

Each course will be available to walk (so you know where you're going) for at least 5-10 minutes before judging begins.

If possible, pounce on an experienced member of your club for help. He or she will know you and your dog and should be able to help you figure out a good handling strategy.

Be open to tips from other handlers that may give you a smoother run. But you know your dog: don't be persuaded to do something you think won't work - try it out at training first.

If you're completely on your own, don't despair. Remember, this is easier than training where you probably don't get much of a chance to walk the course before running it. Here, you can walk it as often as you like.

You should walk the course at least three times. Familiarise yourself with the basic layout, then start looking for the places you need to change sides (behind or ahead of the dog).

Watch out for tricky handling places where the dog has got tempting alternatives ('traps'). It sometimes helps to draw a sketch of the course and write in where you plan to run, and the commands you will be using.

You could also try shutting your eyes and checking if you can remember the whole course (and mime your own movements) without peeking. Remember that unless your dog goes at a very genteel pace you won't have time to read the numbers as you go round!

Running Orders and Announcements

The first announcements of the day (after the welcome message opening the show) will be from the judges. In the briefing, they will state the course time (maximum time before gaining time faults) for each course, and draw the attention of competitors to any particular rules they wish to highlight.

During the day, there will be regular announcements on the tannoy to let competitors know which classes are currently ready for walking or in the process of running, and where those classes are up to. 'Calling up to 20', for instance, tells you that handlers with running orders in the class up to that number should make their way to the ring with their dogs.

Sometimes the tannoy system at a show isn't very clear, so remember it is your responsibility to keep an eye on the rings and turn up at the right time. To help you keep track of what is going on, there are often boards by each ring showing what number the current class is calling to.

Do be there for your running order. You don't have to run in exact numerical order in most classes, but you should aim to run within 10-20 dogs of your running order.

If you are going to be late for your class, let the caller (who ticks your name off on the class list) know. Callers won't mind you running a little late as long as there is a good reason for this, such as having to run in another ring, or walk another course. Alternatively, ask if you can run a little early due to a foreseen clash later on.

Everyone was at their first show once. If you're unsure about something, ask someone.

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