Last weekend I drove to Calgary, Alberta for a CARO Rally Obedience trial with my dogs. I was excited and looking forward to seeing all my friends. Dog shows for me aren’t about being the best and winning all the ribbons/prizes. They’re about hanging out with people who love training their dogs and having fun with my own dogs.
Our trial had A LOT of first timers there. I’ve come to realize quite a few things about dog shows that I thought I’d share which may encourage people to take the leap and try it out in their sport of choice.
Tip 1 : Don’t Plan to Win Anything
Putting pressure on yourself to win and take home the top prizes just stresses you and your dog out. Honestly no one really remembers who wins what. Just have fun, improve upon your skills in between shows and remember nerves freak your dog out.
Tip 2: Be Friendly
A lot of people at dog shows can be so serious. But it’s my favourite place to meet new friends because guess what? We all LOVE dogs. Smile at everyone, compliment their dogs and you’ll have a new friend or two in no time. New friends can also help with tips and tricks.
Tip 3: Have Realistic Expectations
Some sports are easier than others. It’s really common at Agility and Obedience trials for you to NOT place in ANY run especially if you and your dog are novice. This doesn’t mean you aren’t a great up and coming team – it just means it’s your first show (or second or third) and you have some improvements to do. Running FEO (For Exhibition Only) is also a great option where you’re not judged and you can do some training in the ring.
Tip 4: Set Your Dog Up For Success
Do everything in your power to set your dog up for success. Create a relaxing spot for your dog to hang out when it’s not their turn. Ensure your dog has had adequate potty breaks and snuggle time with you. Keep the temperature just right if your dog is waiting outdoors (shade tents, heat reflectors or in cooler weather maybe a jacket and blanket). Provide water and reinforce your dog regularly for remaining calm and collected. Sometimes some classical musical can help you both!
And in closing I was so lucky this past weekend to have one final run with my old boy Russ the Irish Terrier in Rally Team. At 13.5 years old he had one run of 10 signs in him and we happily completed them all! We lost 20 points but you know what he and I were having fun working together. That run means more to me than any ribbon!
Story also had some fun in her very first Rally trial ever! We had some amazing moments of focus and I was really impressed with how she handle herself. I’m looking forward to more trials in the future. We also managed to earn her Canine Good Neighbour certificate on the Sunday after the Rally trial was over! She definitely worked hard!
And my boy Marco came out of retirement to help out as an FEO dog for a few team runs when people needed partners. I love being in the ring with my consistent and sweet boy.