TRIALS ETIQUETTE FOR BEGINNERS
I’m thinking of entering a Working Trial
Is my dog ready?
Probably not!! But have a go anyway – you’ll hopefully enjoy the experience, and get an idea of what exercises need working on. But do double check with your trainer. And you may find it helpful to go to a local trial and watch as much as you can before you actually enter, to get an idea of the standard of work needed, and some of the procedures. And do get a copy of the I regulations from the Kennel Club, and read it carefully.
How Do I Find Out What Trials Are Coming Up?
Obviously, you look at the adverts in WTM or on our website!! But you can also look on the Working Trials World website.
How Do I Get A Schedule And Entry Form?
Write to the Trials Manager, whose name and address will be in the advert, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope, or email the Trials Manager if their email address is in the public domain. Or there are on-line sites where you can download a schedule and entry form. Make sure you do this in plenty of time before the closing date - this is the last date that the Trials Manager will accept your entry; if it reaches him/her later than this, it’ll get sent back to you. Do make sure that you’ve got the latest version of the entry form, as defined by the Kennel Club.
I've Got The Entry Form. Now What?
Find your dog’s Kennel Club Registration Certificate, and copy all the details from it on to the Entry Form. Don’t forget to include his Registration number. Fill in the name of the society if you’re using a generic form, the date of the trial, and your name and address. I would also make a plea, as a printer of catalogues, to write clearly and legibly, if you are doing it by hand. And don’t forget to sign it. If you have a preference for which day you would like to work, then put it on the entry form; if there’s a big entry, you may not get your first choice of day, but Trials Managers do their best. Make sure you get your entry in before the closing date (it may seem a long way ahead, but the Trials Manager has a lot of work to do before the trial starts), and don’t forget to include your cheque, made out to the Society, for the right amount (most societies give a discount to members, but if you’re not a member, then make sure you pay the full amount), and a stamped addressed envelope. Self-sticking or peel and seal DL envelopes are most favoured by Trials Managers – they cut out all that licking and sticking, and multiple folding to fit report time sheets into a small envelope! If you send the wrong amount, or forget the dog’s registration number, your entry will be returned to you.
Why Do I Have To Send A Stamped Addressed Envelope?
The Trials Manager will send you your report date and time, instructions to get to the base, and contact phone numbers.
What If I Can’t Go To The Trial?
If for any reason you can’t go, tell the Trials Manager as soon as you know, so they can rearrange tracking times etc. It’s absolutely NOT DONE to just not turn up! This applies to CD as well as the tracking stakes.
How Soon Should I Arrive At The Trial?
If you’ve entered a tracking stake and you are given a late morning track report time, you’ll probably be tracking in the afternoon, and so you’ll need to plan to arrive in time to work your control and agility first. Plan your route and give yourself plenty of time to get there, and then add on a bit more time.
What If I Get Delayed En Route?
Don’t forget to take the paper with your report time on, so you’ve got contact phone numbers, and ring the Trials Manager as soon as you suspect you’re going to be late.
What Do I Do When I Get There?
When you arrive, park where indicated, and then immediately report to the base steward, who will tell you when you are tracking, if you are entered in a tracking stake, and when you should come back to base to be taken to your track. You’ll also be told where the control is to be, and the times of stays, and where the exercise area is for your dog. Don’t run your dog anywhere else, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to always pick up after your dog. You’ll also need to get a catalogue, so that you know your catalogue number. You may have to pay a small amount for this.
When Should I Work My Dog?
If you’ve entered UD as your first trial, and have a late track, and there is a separate control and agility judge, go and do your control first, and make sure that you do the stay session that doesn’t clash with your track; there will almost certainly be at least 2 stay sessions, unless your judge is judging the whole stake, which happens in a Championship trial, and some Opens. If your track time is fairly early, you’ll be doing your nosework as your first exercise.
What’s The Procedure For The Control and Agility round?
You’ll need to take your dumbbell. When you arrive at the control field, there may be a queue of handlers waiting to work. If there’s a list, put your name down, and try and identify people who are going to work immediately before you. Trials competitors don’t wear numbers, so you may have to ask people’s names. Don’t be afraid to say that it is your first time – most competitors are very friendly and helpful. When it’s your turn, make sure you’re not carrying either toys or food in your pockets on to the control field. Again, don’t be afraid to tell the judge that you are new to trials. Listen carefully to everything you are told by the judge and steward, and don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand what you’ve been told. Recall (in CD and Intro), Retrieve and Heelwork exercises are usually done on the steward’s commands, so don’t do anything before you’re told, but Sendaway and the jumps are normally in your own time, although you shouldn’t rejoin your dog, or recall him over the scale or from the Sendaway until the steward tells you. When you and your dog have done all the exercises the judge will tell you your marks, and whether you’ve qualified so far, but they need to get on with the judging, so don’t be upset if they can’t talk for long. And don’t ask the judge for training advice – that’s not in their remit! Thank the judge and steward – actually, the most common words from a trials competitor are “Thank you”!
Get there at least 10 minutes before the advertised time for Stays. You’ll all be called forward, and told where to line up with all the other competitors. When all the competitors are lined up, your stay steward will take competitors’ numbers, and the judge will probably give some instructions about where you are to go when you leave your dog. If your dog breaks the stay, you’re not allowed return to him until the end of the exercise – if he comes to look for you, just quietly catch him and stay with the other competitors. It’s a good idea to keep fairly quiet while you are out of sight of your dog, as dogs (not just yours!) can be distracted by voices and forget what they are doing. Go back quietly when called, and don’t speak to him or touch him until you’re told “Exercise finished”. Assuming your dog is still in the position you left him in, check with your stay steward that he stayed correctly for the full time.
What About CD and Intro Nosework?
This may be either before or after the C & A, and may be in a different place. All the competitors will gather to wait to work. Like the C & A, there may be a set running order, or you might just take your turn. Either way, as each dog has a fresh search square, it’s likely that the judge and steward will be moving further away from you with each square, so to reduce waiting time for them, make your way towards them while the dog before you is working. Take your dumbell with you. This is where you have to be a bit of a contortionist, as you shouldn’t watch other dogs working before you’ve worked yourself, so you’ll have to avert your eyes, but also keep moving! Unless you’re signalled across the field, keep to the edge so that you don’t walk across areas where squares are still to be laid.
When you’ve finished, walk back to the “pack”, but don’t tell competitors still waiting to work what the articles are, or where they are – assuming your dog got them all!! But don’t be too disappointed if your dog doesn’t manage that; it’s a whole new experience for him as well as for you.
How Do I Get To My Track?
You’ll need to be back at the base before the time you have been told to be ready to go for your track, and tell the base steward that you’re ready. You’ll almost certainly have to drive, probably in a small convoy; when you get there, park where you’re told, and the escort will tell you where you have to walk to, to get to your track, and how much time you should allow for the walk; they may even walk with you. You may have quite a long wait, as usually more than one competitor is taken to the tracking ground at the same time, to save too many journeys. While you are waiting, you’ll probably be able to chat to other people waiting to work, to help pass the time. You can also take the opportunity to let your dog empty, but only where you have been told it’s okay.
When it’s time to go to your track, keep to the edge of the field or to a marked track if there is one. If the previous dog is still working, then stop in a spot where you can’t see it working, and wait to be called, or until you hear the gun. When you reach the judge, you’ll be asked for your name and catalogue number, and maybe your dog’s name – some of us are so nervous at this point that we may even forget that!
Usually the exercises are in the order track, search, gun, but sometimes a judge may change that, it’s not written in stone. You’ll be shown where your track starts and where the tracklayer walked in to lay it; in case you don’t see them when you’ve finished, it’s a good idea to thank the tracklayer now, then put on the dog’s harness – after that it’s up to you and your dog! When your dog finds an article, indicate to the judge that you’ve got it by raising your hand in the air – the judge may or may not wave back, but will indicate to you if you’ve reached the end of the track. Make sure you put the track articles safely in your pocket – hopefully, you’ve already checked that you haven’t got any holes in your pocket!!! If you see what looks as if it could be an article, but your dog goes over it, pick it up – it may make all the difference between qualifying and not.
If, sadly, you go wrong, the judge will either call you or blow a whistle; if you hear this, look back at the judge, and he/she will probably wave to you. You should then stop your dog, take his harness off and walk back to the judge.
After the track – hopefully successful – you’ll usually be asked to do the search square. Accept anything your dog brings you, however unlikely it may seem, and again put all the articles safely in your pocket. When your dog has got all the articles, or the 5 minutes is up, give the articles to the judge. The gun exercise will probably be next – the judge will tell you what they want you to do, but wait to be told “exercise finished” before you praise your dog.
When you’ve done all the exercises, the judge will tell you your marks. You should thank the judge, the search steward, and the tracklayer, and anybody else you can think of – you’ll be saying loads of thank you’s, but helpers really do appreciate it. If you are with a friend who is tracking after you, and you would like to watch them, check with the judge (and your friend!) that it’s OK. Most people are quite happy for you to watch. But don’t discuss the track pattern or articles with anybody who hasn’t tracked yet.
When you go back to your car, keep to the path or edge of the field and keep your dog on the leash – you don’t want him to run on the tracking field.
What If I Fail The Nosework?
If you’ve failed the nosework (and we all do sometimes), and haven’t done your control round yet, you may decide to scratch from the C & A, but you must let the Trials Manager and/or the judge know that you aren’t coming, so they don’t wait around for you. But remember that it would be good experience for you and your dog to have a go anyway.
What if I fail the C & A before I’ve done the Nosework?
It’s usual to do your track. And you may feel more relaxed knowing that you can’t qualify. If, though, you do decide that you don’t want to track, you MUST tell the Trials Manager, so that the team out on the field know that your track need not be laid. If you’ve moved on a bit and are in WD or TD, then scratching from the nosework may cause logistical problems, and you’d be better to go ahead and track anyway and enjoy the experience.
What Happens If I Qualify?
If you qualify (hooray!), stay at the trial until the end of the day’s work to collect your certificate – it is considered VERY RUDE to leave early, and anyway, it’s a good chance to get to know people. During the presentation, you’ll be given your certificate, and will get a well-deserved round of applause!
Before leaving, whether you qualify or not, thank the Trials Manager and base steward, and anybody else who has been helping – you can never say too many thank you’s! All the helpers have cheerfully given up their time for nothing, sometimes in horrible weather, so the least you can do is show your appreciation. And you could offer to help at future trials – there are plenty of jobs for newcomers, such as helping in the kitchen, or escorting competitors to their tracks, and, as you get more experience, search stewarding and eventually tracklaying.
Finally, enjoy the trial, the company and your dog, and good luck!