They don't always tell you in advance how you are supposed to behave, and what you are supposed to do to compete at trials. There is a lot to remember. So, in case anyone might ever read this, I'll return to this post from time to time and record my lessons learned. Maybe it will help other novice competitors get up to speed more quickly than I did. I made so many mistakes. But then, there was no place to go to learn it all at once. I had to trip over many things and get slapped with a criticism for not knowing it in advance. This is not my preferred way to learn, and since I'm a teacher, maybe I can help someone else do it an easier way.
When you get to a trial, pick a spot to crate your dog/s that is quiet. Don't feel you have to pile up with all the other competitors. Be on the floor, level with the ring if possible, against a wall if possible. It is very tiring to have your crate/s in the stands and have to go up and down stairs all day. Be near a bathroom, if possible, and near an exit if possible; so you don't have to travel long distances to pottie your dog/s several times a day.
Bring a comfortable chair for yourself, a jacket (sometimes it is freezing in those arenas), a blanket to cover your dog/s crates, a cooler full of water, drinks, snacks and sandwich fixins because you won't have time to go out for food.
Your cooler should be on wheels, as you may have to park a very long distance from your crate area.
As soon as you get there each day, get your dogs settled then go down to the secretary's area and get your armband. There is a different armband for each day. If you go in the ring without it, you will be disqualified, but nobody is going to hand it to you.
Check the Running Order book right away so you'll know approximately when you will be running, how many classes are ahead of you, how many dogs run ahead of you in your class. Sometimes they run small-to-tall, sometimes tall-to-small. You have to know. Nobody is going to call out any of this information over the PA system. There is no PA system at regional trials!
When your class list is posted at the gate (usually while they are setting up the ring), go to the Gate and check your name off, indicating that you are present.
Leave your dog in its crate, resting, until about 15 dogs (15 minutes) before your turn. Put a few treats in your pocket, then take your dog out to pottie. A dog who soils in the ring is automatically disqualified, and a dog that needs to go doesn't perform at its best. Outside, let your dog know you have treats in your pocket. About 5 dogs (5 minutes) before your run, go to the Exercise Jump and practice a few sit/stays and Over's, giving a treat for each good performance. This gets your dog revved up knowing you have treats, and familiar with the texture of the floor.
When the dog before you enters the ring, you enter the gate. When they begin their run, give your dog it's last treat from your pocket (you CAN NOT BRING TREATS INTO THE RING, or risk disqualification), and get ready to go in. Usually, the gatekeeper will say something like "You go in when they (the running dog) clear the dog walk". When there are lots of dogs competing and they have to process them fast, you will be entering the ring and positioning your dog while the other dog is still running. Don't release your dog from its leash, though, until you hear the word "GO". At that point, the previous dog should be back on leash and exiting the ring.
Do not exit the ring until your dog is back on its leash. To do so can disqualify your run.
WALKING THE COURSE: Backchaining: Susan Garrett recommends backchaining as you walk thru the course. Walk the whole course a few times. Then walk the last 6 or 7 obstacles. Then add the previous 6 or 7 obstacles to the end. Then add the first 6 or 7 obstacles. Then walk the entire course as many times as needed to memorize it and work out your strategy. This way you don't get confused at the end, which people usually practice less often than the beginning. I haven't tried this yet, but I will.
After your run, it will take 15 or 20 minutes for the Unofficial Scores to be posted in the binder. The scores cannot be official until the judge gets a break to verify them, usually when another course is being set up. Another 30 minutes to an hour after that, you can go to the Ribbons table, check the Scores book, and pick up your ribbons and toys. It is a good idea to record all the info about your run in the Scores book, in your own Record Book. You will never see this information again if you don't.
Never take flash photography.
Never call a dog's name while they are running.
Don't disturb competitors when they are lining up for a run. They need to focus.
Never wear clothing with your dog's names on them.
Never have tags, names or advertising on a dog's collar.
Never bring food around the ring. Drinks are okay.
Never keep your dog out, on leash, visiting with people or watching the runs when they are up for a run themselves. This wears them out and makes them nervous. They need a good half-hour or more of crate rest before they run.
Go to the bathroom before you run.
Tie your shoes before you run.
Empty your pockets of treats before you enter the ring.
Wear your armband.
Obey the judge.