|Barked: Mon Jan 30, '12 6:11am PST |
|I'm assuming this is AKC Rally as well. (We do compete in APDT Rally too.)
1. How do you know for sure when you are ready? How do you train for the ring?
This is the million dollar question, I think. It's important that your dog know all the behaviors needed to complete the course and know them very well in various environments. Not just in the classroom. Not just in your house. I mean outside at the park, at the dog park, in the aisles at Petsmart, at a crowded event, when there are other dogs barking, if the scent of food is in the air, etc. Of course, it's difficult to train for everything and anything can happen at a show. If you're confident that if you took your dog to a brand new place and asked her for those behaviors she'd do them with ease, then you're probably ready.
Along with going to a show and seeing how things run and what you might encounter, see if anyone is hosting a "Show 'n' Go" or a "Fun Match" in your area. These are both perfect ways to get the trial experience without the pressure of needing to perform to earn the title. In most cases, you can also feed treats to your dog in the ring during these to cement the "The ring is a fun place" for your dog.
To help my dog know that the ring is work time, I always make her wait for permission to exit it when we're done (to help prevent running out of the ring). I also have a very specific routine I do whenever we enter the ring to compete. I practice this at home at the start of our training sessions. This way, she knows that it's about to be "work time" and that I expect her attention and focus.
2. What is a day at the trial like? Do you go in the ring once, and that's that? How do titles work, and how do you know if you got one?
Again, your best bet is to attend a show and see for yourself.
After you enter, you'll get a show schedule which will let you know when you need to be at ringside to start your walkthroughs. It's best to get there in plenty of time, though, so you can get your dog and your gear situated and check in with the steward to get your armband. If you're trying for your RN (Rally Novice), RA (Rally Advanced), or RE (Rally Excellent) title; you will only be in the ring once that day. Dogs attempting the RAE (Rally Advanced Excellent-highest AKC rally title) will be in the ring twice.
For rally, you must earn a qualifying score of at least 70 (out of a possible 100) to earn a leg towards your title. You need 3 legs to earn a title and at least two of the legs must be under different judges. So you can show under Ms. Soandso no more than twice to earn the title.
You get to see your scores posted after your run so you'll know if you qualified or not. AKC does keep track of your titles and you can look at your progress on their site. (It's here on AKC's site under "Points and Awards.") They will also send you a title certificate when you complete the title.
3. What should you bring to the trial?
I actually just wrote up a post in my blog about this so I'm just going to post the link here for brevity's sake: Trial Gear.
4. What "little things" do judges look for that could help/harm your score?
The main one, especially in Novice, is a tight leash. Your leash should be loose throughout the course. If it helps, make sure it's loose enough to form a 'J' from your hands to the dog's collar. Straight fronts and sits in heel are also important though you won't lose much for those in the Novice level. Enthusiasm, joy, and a brisk pace are also important.
5. Is it best to start off at one of the multiple-day shows, or just a one-day show?
I think this depends on your dog. If you are at all worried about the show environment being too stressful, it might be best to just enter one day and see how your dog handles it. If they are okay, then you can enter two-day shows later. When I first started showing Risa, I only entered one day of the two-day trial just to be on the safe side. I didn't want to overwhelm her and make her not want to do it anymore. (Of course, she has fear issues so this is more of a concern for us.)
6. Are people generally pretty nice at shows?
You'll find all kinds. Some are very helpful. Some are not. Some are pleasant. Some are standoffish. As a general rule of thumb, if someone is getting ready to go into the ring, don't try to start a conversation with them. They're focused on their dog, probably nervous, and not in the mood for small talk. Before and after their ring time, however, most people are helpful. If you have questions, you can always ask people milling around the ring.
You can also ask the judge questions during the walkthrough if you have any. Make sure you ask specific questions though. Don't just say "How do you do this sign?" because they probably won't answer that! If you have a question about whether a judge is looking for an obvious pause before you step forward at heel again, for example, that would be a good time to ask.
7. Do you know of any good youtube videos that outline what the signs mean? I have always been a visual person, LOL.
I don't know of any videos other than the one Zeph posted.
Good luck and have fun!
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