Posted Date: July 18, 2017
Don't put off entering your first trial because you want it to be perfect!
by Kari Massoth
If I could go back to when I first started agility training and made a goal to enter my first competition within a year, I would! I waited two years before entering a trial with my Weimaraner because 1) I didn't think I was mentally prepared, 2) I didn't want to fail and 3) I was too focused on getting a Q. In hindsight, 99% of people in their first trial aren't perfect. I didn't know this fact until after I entered and started watching other competitors run their dogs.
There have been several blog posts about how your runs shouldn't be about the "Q" on various other training sites. I wish I had known this when I started running my Doberman, Kurt. I was nervous, he was excited, and our runs were abominations. He ran loops around the ring, he barked at the judge, visited all the ring crew, and he left the ring with me still standing in the middle. I wanted to quit, but luckily, I had a supportive group standing behind me, encouraging me that it happens to everyone. It took two or three trials to get my nerves under control and to let Kurt figure out the game. We still don't always have perfect runs, but I have gotten a feel for him and know when we do have the right connection which is more important than the Q.
My advice to beginners who have, or are thinking about entering their first trial, is that the thing to remember is go out and have fun with your dog. Get dirt under their paws and see how many obstacles you can get through. It's ok if your dog does circles around the ring, or if they go visit the judge and ring crew. This is a whole new exciting world for them. It will be nerve wracking, I will not lie about that. But I cannot overstate it enough, everyone at the trial has been there at some point, even the judge.
I want to encourage those who don't think they are ready -- because their dogs aren't as good as their trainer or anyone else you've watched run -- don't compare yourself against any other team. You and your dog have different strengths than others. I can bet that almost anyone would say that they wish their dog was better at X, Y, or Z, but they are still playing the game and having a great time at it.
So enter the next trial and pick one thing you want to exceed at for each run. If it's a start line, or getting over the first jump, play the game and build the bond between you and your dog. Also, it's easy to get down on yourself, so surround yourself with positive, supportive people. It will be easier to laugh through some of the harder parts of starting to trial if you have a support group and they will help build up your confidence too.
"Some people you can't convince to win. But some people can't be convinced to lose. You get to choose which one you are."
Kari Massoth entered the world of agility in 2011, and has been competing since 2013. She is currently running her Doberman. Kari also teaches beginner agility in Boise, ID. Her goal with training is to build bonds between teams and have fun while doing it. Kari focuses on teaching handling techniques from One Mind Dog and works with the handler to understand how the dog sees the course.