Experiences of a late-comer to the agility competition scene -- our training, trials, life-style changes/challenges, RV adventures, and observations on the sport, the people, and dogs involved in it. Begun July 17, 2010.
My clubmates who compete in Agility have been at this a lot longer than I have, some for up to 12 years when Agility first came to the USA. Many have brought multiple dogs to Master Championship status. However, most of them are now working with younger, newer dogs who are competing anywhere from Novice thru Excellent. Only a few of our current dogs hold MACH status (Master Agility Champion).
So who am I to argue with their training/trialing techniques. I wouldn't dare, except I don't like the results I am seeing in their performances. By the time you get to Excellent, you can't Q if you make a single mistake. By the time you get to Masters, you have to double Q every day for it to count (once in Standard and once in Jumpers), that means no mistakes all day. Our competitors are rarely achieving that.
SO HERE'S MY STRATEGY: Don't run in a trial until me and my dog are BOTH running 80-90% accurate in practice. Go to trials to attune the dog to the atmosphere, yes, and enter in matches as often as possible (much cheaper than trial entry fees), and do course and sequence training galore at home. BUT DON'T GO TO TRIALS TO TRAIN. When you go to a trial:
go to Q,
go to PLACE,
go to WIN!
Of course, once you've flubbed up a run, it immediately becomes a training session. An EXPENSIVE training session. Of course, you finish the run. If you've taken videos, you can analyze what went wrong, what you need to work on, learn what judges call a "wrong course", a "refusal", a "time fault", an "elimination". All valuable information. All I'm saying is, I won't go to trials until I feel I have a very decent chance of not flubbing up. Sounds like common sense, but there are a lot of competitors eating up ring time with poorly trained dogs where it would take a long string of miracles for them to Q. And you'll hear them say, "We are just here for the experience". Earning titles is not their priority, they say . . . . . but they are completely beside themselves if they earn one!!!!!