Entering your first show...
So, you've been taking your dog to agility lessons and he is now powering over jumps, has consistent contacts and perfect weaves! You start thinking to yourself that you may be ready to try a competition or two. First of all have a chat with me, do I think you're both ready? Do you keep your dog's attention even when new and different things occur in training? Are you both fully confident with all of the equipment? Have you been to some different classes and interacted with different dogs and owners? Have you been along to training events here, for example games training? Do you both still maintain focus? Have you attended shows or course running events here? Can you complete a longer sequence of up to 20 obstacles confidently? If not it's much better for both you and your dog to wait a little while longer until you are both ready. That way you will be more confident together in the ring at a bigger event, you will be more successful in the long run and there is less likelihood of developing a problem that will require a longer term solution to solve (for example disappearing off to the burger van, chasing another dog in the ring or going off sniffing as a distraction!)
So, you still think you're ready, or nearly ready?
You need to be aware that there are different organisations that have slightly different rules. It is your responsibility to try to understand the rules for that show if you choose to enter...
There are three main types of competition:
Plus points: Registering your dog via the website is quick and easy; once registered you can enter shows on the day (although you pay a bit more to do this); they have measuring at every show; they have a good variety of classes and they have 5 heights for dogs to enter. You are able to train in the ring if you elect to do so. They are well organised and run. Their website is clear to understand, you can enter online up to about a month beforehand and pay via BACS or cheque. All dogs start in beginners and as you win or gain points for doing well you move up through the levels (beginners to novice to senior to champion) The major finals are held near Milton Keynes!
Minus points: There aren't a lot of them around here within a 1 hour drive (about 3 per year) although there are a few more within a 90 minute drive.
UK Agility website
Kennel Club Competitions.
Plus points: There are quite a few nearby over the course of the year, they are well run and organised. When you win or do well you move up through the levels (grades) from 1-7 in a clear order. There are lots of qualifiers to compete in with finals all over the country including Crufts, Discover Dogs and Olympia.
Minus points: You have to be very organised because you have to enter well in advance, usually 4-6 weeks; you have to register your dog with the Kennel Club and arrange to have small or medium dogs measured before you are allowed to take them to a show to actually compete.
Before you can enter any Kennel Club agility competitions your dog must be at least 18 months old. They also need to have a Kennel Club registration number and be measured by an official Kennel Club measurer. If you have a pedigree dog then you will probably already have a registration number, it can be found on your Kennel Club Owner Registration Certificate. If you have an ISDS registered Border Collie you can also register it with the Kennel Club. All you need to do is Download a form from the link below, print it, fill it out and send it off.
If you have a rescue or crossbreed dog you will have to apply for it to be added to the Kennel Club Activity Register. Again all you need to do is download a form from the link below.
How do I get my dog measured?
You need to get your dog measured before you can run him in competition, this applies to only small and medium heights. You can get your dog measured at some Kennel Club shows however not all shows hold measuring sessions. I do let people know when measuring is available locally.
Kennel Club Website Agility
Plus points: Some are close by, some are well run. I recommend some but not all to members and will let you know when some great independently run shows are available for entry. At some you are able to train in a show environment.
Minus points: They have their own rules and ettiquette. It is nice to win a rosette but it doesn't help you move up a grade and see how you are improving. They don't necessarily run using the same standards of equipment that you would expect. The standard of judging may not be what you would expect (they don't all have to be trained or qualified)
So, in summary...
After all of the above has been considered you are finally ready to enter your first show and brave the world of competitive agility. There are a few things you need to know: you can't just turn up to a show and expect to put your dog straight on the start line. Firstly you need to know when and where shows are going to be held. The internet holds the key to this with websites such as Agilitynet and AgilityShowsOnline hat have all the information you need (see weblinks above). From these websites you will be able to download a schedule and entry forms which are needed for you to enter any show. The schedule has all the information you need to know about the show from where it will be held to what classes your dog can enter, so you must read it carefully. After you have read the schedule you are ready to fill in that all important entry form or enter directly online (much easier as most sites won't let you go wrong!).
Of course, you can chat to me about all of the above, you can chat to each other too, but do make sure people are giving you the correct advice! You can book a 1:2:1 and I can take time going through the registration and entry details with you. I do suggest that you go along to a show without your dog to see what it's all about before you go ahead and register! Remember though that you can enjoy agility with your dog without ever competing, don't let anyone pressure you to going to an event!