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At the ring, find the caller who is normally the person standing or sitting near the queue holding a clipboard. Tell him or her what your name and running order is, and they will tick you off the list. At this point you may also be given your ticket (for the scribe to write down faults and time), though sometimes you get that nearer the front of the queue.
Join the back of the queue. This is where you have a last chance to watch the course and remember how you are planning to run your dog. You can also watch the handlers running before you - some will be good, others will make mistakes that you're sure you wouldn't! Try not to be tempted to change your running plans based on what you see other people do, though.
This is also your chance to remind your dog (using toys and food if necessary) what a great person you are to play with! But be aware of ring etiquette - avoid winding up other dogs nearby in the queue. And never use a clicker by the ringside.
Give the handler and dog in front of you plenty of space as they go to the start line. Wait to really wind your dog up with that favourite toy or piece of livercake until they have safely set off and aren't going to be disturbed by you!
Top tip: make sure both you and your dog are properly warmed up before competing. And warm yourself and your dog down again afterwards to help avoid strains.
• Take off your dog's lead and leave it at the start. Do not carry it round the course in your hand. A helper will move it to the end for you.
• You can leave your dog's collar on, but only as long as it is a flat collar without any dangly bits.
• Ideally, leave your jacket, bumbag, etc, outside the ring. They will make running more difficult.
Leave food or other training aids outside the ring. At KC shows you aren't allowed to carry food in your hand, or give it to your dog, as you run your dog. In theory you could carry a toy, or have treats in your pocket, as there is no specific rule against that, but it wouldn't make you many friends.
At our Agility Addicts shows, food and toys are not allowed in the ring. Check the rules of other organisations so you know what is allowed in each case. BAA, for instance, permits a silent toy in Introductory classes.
WAIT! Don't start just because the judge is looking at you - make sure the scribe is ready. If you start before he or she is ready, you will usually eliminated. The scribe will tell you when to start by saying something like "In your own time" or "When you're ready". Often they will add your name, which is a useful double check that they've got the correct ticket!
A lot of handlers run from the start with their dogs. But if you have trained a good 'stay' command, you have the option of 'leading out' and recalling your dog over the first few obstacles. Don't be afraid to use this skill here in the ring.
Sometimes things don't go according to plan, though. You won't be the first or last that has happened to. The most experienced of handlers get it wrong as well.
The most important thing to remember, if you go wrong on the course, is not to get annoyed with your dog even if you think the mistake is the dog's fault. In the end, who's trained the dog? - you! And who's handling the dog? - again, you! Stay calm and do some quick thinking.
If you've gone the wrong way on the course, you'll have been eliminated. Most judges will be happy for you to complete the course from the point where you went wrong.
Running past the start of the weaves, entering in the wrong place, or coming out early will all get you faulted. If you continue without going back and correcting these mistakes, you'll be eliminated. So there is some degree of tolerance of repeating the weaves until they're right.
If your dog misses a contact, though, be polite and make sure you ask the judge whether it's okay for you to repeat the obstacle before doing so. And then check again whether the judge would like you to leave the ring immediately, or is willing to allow you to complete the course.
Finally, one of the less usual ways of being eliminated during a run is ... well ... by the dog 'eliminating' in the ring. It's happened to most of us at some time. Take your dog on the exercise area before each run!
Hopefully, you and your dog both enjoyed that - another pair of agility addicts in the making!