© 2017 by Andrea Dexter @ Agilityflix

Is My Young Dog Ready to Compete?

 

...well it depends on what you want her to learn in that environment...  on the positive side,  its a cheap way to get 100 people and their dogs to help you with your training (energy/distraction/noise), on the negative side, if you are wondering what to enter, then you must be thinking that there is a possibility that she will actually run the course - which to me is a red flag.  

 

I usually recommend to people to take advantage of their first few trials to ensure that their dog learns the most important things that will ensure long terms success in competing.  Things like... 100% attention and focus on the handler, not to be afraid of the environment, perfect stay at the start line, the rhythm of getting out of the crate, warming up, going potty, waiting your turn, etc...  

 

If you actually complete a few obstacles together, thats nice but not necessary.  If you plan on performing any obstacles - you will want to know 99% for sure that your dog is going to rehearse good work - it only takes 3 repetitions for a smart dog to realize there is something different about the competition environment, and in my experience,  young dogs never completely unlearn the lessons created by these emotionally charged first impressions so there is relatively high risk to competing before they are ready.  

 

One way to enter a trial is to plan on, for example, only doing the start and a single jump and then call your dog and leave.  That way you only have to be 99% sure of your before-competing behavior, stay, jump and recall - and your dog learns and rehearses important pieces of the puzzle in that environment.

 

In addition there is extremely high risk to competing before the handler is 100% confident in their dog and how the dog responds because, if you have any thought of trying the course, then your mindset will inevitably cause you to focus on getting through the course (call offs, bending over, fixing missed obstacles, repeating your commands, over handling, working the obstacles not the path etc. etc. etc. etc.) and this is what causes the dogs to stress, become confused, lose confidence, lose trust, become distracted etc. etc. etc.

 

So I'd say if you are 99% confident that your dog is going to rehearse good work and you feel 100% confident in your teamwork - then chances are good your dog will learn the right things by the experience and you will get a nice checkpoint of where you are at if you enter.  

 

If you can't honestly say you feel that way, then my advice would be to wait and work to get to that point before you decide to enter a trial.

 

 

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