Your first agility competition: all you need to know
Some tackles you definitely have to bring to the competition such as clasp collar with leash, water, food, dog treats or toys (to use them outside the ring, if only it is not a match), and a crate or tent to accommodate your dog. The tent is especially useful to keep the dog shaded away from the sun. Bring a blanket as well to close the crate from the burning rays and a chair for yourself. You are not allowed to bring any ammunition for training but you can try any of the warm-up springboards, which are provided next to the ring. They are the only obstacles you are allowed to train on. Sometimes you will be given a warming-up time in the ring to introduce your dog to obstacle set. Often, however, this is out of rules.
In real trials your dog has to run "with nothing on" (out of collar or leash). You should take everything off right at the starting line. As a rule, the leash worker is standing at the start whom to give things to, or just drop them off the field. Once you release your dog and say, "Go!" (or as soon as your dog is moved off) the timer starts and you have to run.
Food, treats are not allowed in the ring even in the pockets. It is strictly forbidden! Matches are the only exception to this rule where you may bring food, collars, etc. Only you will not be able to earn any ranks and titles for your dog participating in such games. They are commonly just for fun and training.
When you arrive to the competition it is useful to take care of the placement and comfort of your dog in the first place. Some competitions provide large tents where the crates and cages for the dogs of all competitors will be located inside while others permit you to install your own tent anywhere. You may keep your dog inside the car only if it is parked near at hand.
Then you need to find the reception desk. There you will be given a participant’s armband. Ask about the order of race (thus you'll have an idea which in a row you will run) and at what time the judge will hold a briefing and walking through the ring, and of course, ask whether the course map is available in which the obstacles are listed in order they appear on the ring and numbered in their taking order. You can immediately begin to memorize them, but you will be given the opportunity to bypass the course to plan your strategy.
Beginning each agility class the judge will blow the whistle requiring participants to gather a group inside the ring for a briefing (without your dog). Then the judge will explain the game rules and will deliver a pep talk. You will be clarified the fine points of the rules to negotiate the course successfully and later you will be given some time (about 10 minutes) to walk the course alone without your dog. That is the period for which you should quickly remember the obstacles’ order (they will have numbers to help you) and determine where your dog should run on your left side where on the right and whether he should go through the tunnel instead of A-frame, etc. For some trainers it's almost like planning a war! Expect to feel yourself a bit silly running the course alone.
At the moment referee blows the whistle again you need to get out of the ring and wait for your turn. You can see the updated information about your position on the “board”, which is located near the ring entrance. The name of your dog will be listed there separately for each class you have registered for participation before. The steward in the ring is a person who crosses out names of the dogs after they have completed the course. He also calls out the name of each regular dog (within earshot, so do not go too far).
If your turn to run has come enter the ring (the judge will inform everyone in advance, which obstacle the participant ahead of you must be taking, before you come to the starting line). Remove the dog’s leash and drop it outside, or give it to the nearest ring worker. Further holding on the dog from crossing the start line you need to catch a glance of the man who sits in the ring with a stopwatch in hand. When he nods or gives the command "Ready!” you are free to run in any direction. The countdown starts as soon as your dog will take off and stops when you will cross the finish line.
Every organization and competition class has their own rules for scoring. To earn a "leg" (successfully pass the qualifying race) you should be familiar with the rules before the actual competition for you would not have too many questions. For newcomers to Agility Championship, of course, there will be certain backoffs. However, there are things for which you may be immediately disqualified (although you will be able to complete the round). For example, touching the dog in order to help him to get an obstacle or knocked down bar unfortunately entail the immediate disqualification. In order to qualify your dog must pass a distance as accurately as possible over the standard time (to exceed the maximum level of faults or penalties is allowed). If by the results you fell under a particular qualification you will receive a qualification ribbon, which means that you have earned a "leg", which after several successful runs will be applied to the title. You need to earn a certain amount of "legs" (usually 3) to obtain a title. You may as well win 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. prize ribbons as the most accurate or quick dog in your height category.
The main misconception in agility is that your dog should be the fastest to win. This is erroneous view because accuracy is evaluated in the first place and for the obstacle course errors you will be incurred more penalties than for lost time when determining the prize placements. At the same time if your dog runs out of time you will still qualify for a winner ribbon, even with a few faults. However, if you make too many mistakes you will get no qualification; no matter how fast was your dog. The exception is more complicated classes where the course penalties are not counted and all depends on the competing speed.
The ribbons as a rule are hung or placed next to the reception desk a little later on the same day so you can get them. About an hour after running your prize ribbons will be ready. Individual ribbons and prizes (for example, for the best scores within the competition) will be issued only at the end of the day. But this event is worth to wait for it!