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A Guide to Surviving Your First Show

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Essential reading for new competitors...

With the main show season rapidly approaching, Cornwall AC put this Guide together for their own first timers. But they they thought may be worth sharing with other newbies as a lot of points will apply to any show so they put it onto Agilitynet FB and gave us permission to post it here. Hope you enjoy, and maybe find some useful tips.

Before you start here is what you have to do...

Register your dog for Kennel Club shows
Your dog must be registered with the Kennel Club on either the Breed register or the Activity Register. If your dog is a pedigree, then not much you need to worry about here. Just ensure that you have your dogs name, date of birth and KC number handy for completing entries.

If your dog is a non-pedigree, rescue etc, then will need to be registered on the Kennel Club Activities Register. The link to the page is: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/registration/how-to-register-your-dog/activity-register/

Once you have completed and returned the form, they will check it and will usually call you if a name choice is already in use.

Please note it can take several weeks for the process to be completed and the forms returned

Get your dog measured
It is a Kennel Club requirement that all dogs - except those that have been competing prior to 2006 - are measured. This includes those that may just be competing in Anysize classes.

Measuring sessions are carried out at many shows through the year, and also sometimes on specially arranged sessions. Details of planned measuring sessions will usually be noted on show schedules.

You will need to have an official Agility Record Book for the dog - available from the Kennel Club, although the measurers MAY have record books available to buy.

The dog must have a microchip or ear tattoo. If it has neither, you must have a passport-sized photo of the dog which clearly identifies it when you go to the measuring session. The dog must be over 15 months of age except an 'obviously large' dog which can be measured before it is 15 months old (At the discretion of the measurers)

You will need to pay the measuring fee of £4 per measurement to the measurers.

Second and third measurements
A second measurement must be carried out not less than 12 months and not more than 24 months after the date of the first measurement but 'obviously Large' dogs can be exempted at the discretion of the first measurers. If the height on the second measurement is different from the first, a third and final measurement must be arranged within two months of the second measurement, at which the measurers are both different from the measurers who conducted the first and second measurements.

UK Agility
The other popular shows that you may want to attend are run by UK Agility (UKA) For these, you do need to register although some shows offer a 'Try Before You Buy'. Further details can be found at: http://ukagility.com/HowTo.aspx

Dogs also here have to measured on their system, unless obviously large. These sessions are arranged at many of their own shows.

Planning Your Diary & Finding Schedules

Once a club has confirmed its dates for the year, and future years, these tend to appear on various websites, such as www.agilitynet.co.uk, Facebook (not only own pages but also the Agility Schedules page) and show processing websites such as iSS, Showtime, L & N, First Place and SWAP as well as club websites.

With the majority of shows now available to enter on-line through on-line show processors such as SWAP or iSS etc, entering has become much easier than the old, manual paper entry form system.

Once a schedule is out and live for entering, it pays to make a note to yourself say a week in advance of the closing date to ensure done in time. A Google or Outlook Calendar reminder usually works well! Some people also create a spreadsheet listing shows, colour coded if entered, got running orders through etc. Keep a lookout too for reminders of a show closing shortly from on-line processors.

If camping is required – book asap! Especially at the bigger, more popular shows, camping can be full within a very short period of time!

Entering a Show

Ensure your entry is in on time
And that includes if entering on-line – paid for! Not only is it a breach of Kennel Club regulations to enter late, but as soon as a show reaches its closing date, this is when a vast amount of work begins for the show management and processors. Paperwork for all the classes has to be prepared, running orders produced, ring plans done to ensure no clashes, rosettes and trophies also have to be ordered to the percentage of entries per class. You can imagine the problems caused by, for instance, a class expected to have 20 dogs entered, suddenly jumping to 40!

For Open and Limit shows, your running orders will be sent out in the post usually a couple of weeks - sometimes less - before the actual show date. Do not start panicking until it gets to a few days before. Then contact the Show Secretary who will be able to advise.

Note: If it is an agility Match, running orders are not sent out. You just collect your entry cards on the day

Normally at KC shows you can enter a maximum of two or three classes per day - apart from Anysize. However, sometimes there can be more – seven has been known!

Put some thought into whether you want to enter them all? If many various classes are available for your Grade to enter, then be aware that this can often mean they will be running more than one at the same time. Walking four courses at once first thing in the morning can cause serious brain ache if you are not used to it! If you are having a non-competing dog present at the show (NFC), then you need to declare this when entering, or log details with the Show Secretary on the day.

Filling In Your Entry Form
Most shows now offer on-line entry facilities. If entering this way, you need to register your details with the relevant show processors in order to do so.

Once this is done, it is self-explanatory and the website should guide you through it. You usually simply select the show you wish to enter on their website, check the boxes next to the classes you wish to enter (always pays to have a copy of the actual schedule printed out / open on screen whilst doing so)

If a member of the organising club, there will be a box to check to indicate this to calculate any reduced entry fees

Also you may see boxes to check if wish to offer to help at the show (if a member of the organising club then you will usually be expected to as a matter of course), boxes for NFC dogs attending, and also if available, camping If preferring to do manually, you need to fill in the form and return to the address stated, usually enclosing an SAE for your running orders

An example of a manual entry form...


Don't forget too to familiarise yourself with all the small print in the schedule. This is basically all the rules and regulations that competitors and show organisers have to abide to. You may need to invest in a magnifying glass to read!

Keep a watch out on-line for any amendments that are being brought in. These are usually announced in the Autumn and brought into force at the start of the following year.

The qualifying date is the date that any wins in your current grade are taken up to. Should you win up a grade before that date, and have already entered, then you need to notify the show secretary / show processors at least 14 days before the show date

Prior to the Show

Many handlers have fallen in the ring due to inadequate footwear. So ensure you've got adequate footwear! Most summertime shows are outdoors in our wonderfully unreliable weather!

Trail and Fell running shoes are very popular as known for giving good grip for running in wet conditions. Salomon Speedcross and Inov8 Mudclaws are popular higher-end versions. However, there are some good more reasonably priced variants on the market such as More Miles and Karrimor. Many handlers have fallen in the ring due to inadequate footwear

Check Venue
May sound silly, but some clubs may hold their shows at different locations during the year. Some competitors have been known to be heading to Wadebridge, when the show is at Stithians...

Check the weather
Not only for the day, but to maybe allow for travelling time too, especially if going some distance during the winter.

Make sure you've got everything together you need.

  • Running shoes
  • Flask
  • Waterproofs and dog coat (if wet)
  • Sun cream for you and dog. Keep in mind venues such as Royal Cornwall Showground are exposed to sea breezes, and you can burn even on a cloudy day! Running orders
  • Ring Plan – highlight if need be where your classes are and when
  • Directions to venue
  • Record books – These could well be asked for on spot checks being carried out by judges or show management, to ensure dogs are measured, registered etc.
  • Protection for dogs in cars – items such as reflective foil sheets, Gazebos, Windbreaks and Carnopys are popular
  • Water and bowl for dogs
  • Titbits
  • Favourite toy
  • Poo bags
  • Basic first aid bits -both human and canine – always handy to carry some Instant Ice Packs, for use in the event of minor injury to human or dog
  • Dogs!

Day of the Show

Try and relax!

If feeding your dog breakfast, make sure allow plenty of time before due to run.

Please drive very slowly around the venue and abide by any speed limits – usually 5mph. Dogs or children may be loose around the parking area.

On note of the above, please do not let your dog straight out the car off lead in parking / camping areas. Dogs should only be off lead whilst in the ring or designated exercise areas

Arrive in plenty of time for your classes. At most shows, parking is generally away from the edge of the rings. If able to park ringside, then please bear in mind if your dog is easily excited, could make matters worse, not just for them, but other competitors running. Likewise you would not be popular if sat eating a burger at the ringside, especially if only roping is being used!

Familiarise yourself with where all your rings, toilets and exercise areas are. Don’t forget to take the dogs for regular walks, not just on arrival, but throughout the day!

If you see areas cordoned off, do not cross. They are done so for health & safety reasons, electric cabling etc. cabling for the PA system is, in most cases, attached to fencing, covered with matting etc, but be aware too that can sometimes be some loose cables lying around.

Ensure you pick up after your dog all over the venue!

If human showers etc. are provided, please refrain from washing your dogs off in them.

If you are down to help, you will usually find helpers sheets in the score tents at each ring. Fill in where you think may be able to help. If in any doubt, have a word with the Ring Manager at the ring

Walking Your Courses
Listen for tannoy announcements that your course is ready for walking – if camping, make sure can hear the tannoy! If in an area that is not clear, then investing in a walkie talkie that can be tuned in to the ring parties frequency can be a big help

If a UKA show, don't forget to tick yourself off on the sheet at the ring as being present

Walk the course as many times as you feel necessary in the time allowed Sometimes, if a big class and a lot walking at the same time, it pays to stand to one side and watch for the main rush clearing.

If a course is available for walking over the lunch break, then this tends to give you plenty of time – note if a class has already started, and broken mid-way for lunch, you cannot walk it again.

If a course is not to your liking, it is NOT the done thing to publicly say so, whilst walking it or running it come to that! We all come across courses from time to time, that may not suit our particular dog, or have an element in not comfortable with; Best tactic is to go in, give it a shot and take away the positives from the good bits you can do, and ideas to work on

Judges, like show management, give up a great deal of time free of charge, for our enjoyment – without them, there would be no shows Should you however, whilst walking a course, spot something dangerous, such as weaves pegged the wrong way, tunnels not strapped correctly, then please have a quiet word with the ring manager or judge, so they can rectify

Cartoon: Kim BlundellGoing for your run
Make sure both yourself and your dog are adequately warmed up!

Listen out for tannoy announcements / watch ring boards for running order numbers calling up to. If in doubt, check with the ring party at the ringside.

Ensure there are no dangly bits from your dogs collar that you are likely to forget to remove.

Be aware if you have more than one dog in the same class, they must run in the order of their running orders. You will be eliminated if found to have done otherwise. The author remembers well walking what seemed like miles from their camping pitch to the ring, only to get there and find they had the wrong dog!

Book in for your run with the caller at the ring side. This should be a person stood or sat near the end of the queue. At some shows, like at Cornwall AC, they wear a hi viz vest with Caller on the back.

Note however this is not always the case – sometimes they can be found near the ring entrance etc. If this is the case then please take care booking in to not disturb dogs that are already queueing and maybe excitable

Join the queue
If your dog needs space, then there is no issue normally with advising those in front or behind you of such, and perhaps standing slightly out of the queue, or have someone queue for you.

Some dogs like to play tuggy etc. whilst queuing. Again if you do, then best to stand out of the queue so not to interfere with others.

As you reach the head of the queue, the Pads person will ask you for your running order number, so they can get your judging slip ready. Very important here to double check that they do have the right one!

They will normally tell you when to make your way to the Start Line – e.g. as the previous dog reaches jump 14 for example. Please try and abide by this, so that the class can be kept moving. Obviously if you feel there could be a safety issue (i.e. start and finish close together, nervous dog etc) then please mention this to them at the time

Some shows (CAC included) try where possible to have a small area set off from the Start and Finish as collecting areas.

If it is a UKA show (not Kennel Club) you may go in NFC (Not for Competition) and train your run, using a silent toy – please advise the Pads person if doing so. Please note you cannot do this at a Kennel Club Show, apart from at limit shows as from January 2015

Make your way to Start Line and remove lead and whatever else! when ready. Please pass lead, any toys, titbits etc to the leads person, or place on ground if they are not there Please do not throw your lead at them, for obvious reasons!!

Very important to listen to the Scrimer telling you they are ready for you to run (not the judge!) They will announce this usually with a call of 'When you are ready' or 'In your own time.' Please note you will be eliminated if you commence before so. Okay, so not everyone has reliable start line waits in the ring!

If you need to go back to our dog and re-sit them etc, then you can do so. However, please try and not take the mickey by spending too much time doing so. There is no time limit on KC shows, however UKA have now brought in a rule that a maximum of 45 seconds can be spent on the start line On completion of your run Your lead etc will usually be left for you in a bucket close to the exit of the ring Please ensure you clear the exit area as quickly as possible, so not to intrude on the next dog finishing their run Don't forget, if it goes wrong, do not blame your dog, you are the one who is directing them and has trained them!

Taking it that you have had a good run, keep a listen out for announcements when your class results will be presented – these can be done at various times of the day.

Once a presentation has been done, then most shows will have the results in folders outside, or just in, the main marquee.

Don't forget if you have gone clear, to note down the details to fill in your record book!

Should you miss a presentation, and realise you are due a rosette, then please see the show management, and they can sort for you. However please do this when things are quiet, and not whilst they are in the middle of another presentation!

Likewise, in the event of a query with your results, please have a quiet word with the show management, and they can have a look for you.

End of the show
Don’t forget to give your dog a last run, especially if a long journey!

If it is your own show, and expected to help, don't forget the day doesn’t end as soon as the last class is done. Equipment has to be packed away.

Many hands make light work, and as soon as this is done then everyone can go home for a much needed bath and drink!

Above all... ENJOY!

First published 7 April 2015 and updated 2 April 2018