While I have titled several dogs in Rally, my first agility show was quite the lesson. My first agility show, was at an outdoor venue. Unfortunately, the venue was a place my dog had been several times for training… as a search and rescue dog. We did a show
and go the night before the trial. Instead of going around the ring and doing all the obstacles like he did in his INDOOR class, much to my horror my dog kept trying to search. He was all over the place, sniffing like crazy. When he found someone in the ring, he proceeded to stop and bark at them. (His indication for a find is to bark.) Making this even more fun, I had just broken my foot and had a big air cast on. Show day was only slightly better. We did make it around the courses so in that sense we were successful. However, it was pretty embarrassing. He’d try to go off and search. When I told him that wasn’t the game we were playing, he’d come back… usually the wrong direction over the obstacle. After the show was over, I realized I had set my dog up for failure. Whenever, we did obedience or agility classes or the rally shows, it was inside. Whenever, I took him to search events, that was outside. I know my dog has in the past been an extremely strong location learner. He will do exactly what I ask every day in one location and act like I have 3 heads when I ask him for the same behavior in another location. His favorite task in the whole wide world is to find missing people. I took him to a place he had several times found missing people and expected him to know he was change gears and perform exactly as he did at his indoor agility class. Lesson learned. Our next show, was an indoor one. While we still didn’t get a clear round, it was night and day better. We are getting ready for our 3rd agility show this weekend. And yes- it will be indoors. I’ve come along way. My first show, I really expected to pass. However, agility shows are very difficult even at the Novice level. While he might do good in class, there is no way his class fully prepares him for a show. It’s not like obedience that I can easily take him different locations. Agility equipment is heavy and bulky and generally we don’t do much outside of class or the home course we have in the backyard. So I need to expect there will be a learning curve for him. He needs to show to learn how to show. So pass or fail, I think we will keep trying. Even if he doesn’t pass this time, there is always next time. Its a good learning experience for both of us. And even better, all this practice has been paying off in unexpected ways. My dog has become a much better search dog and our relationship has drastically improved since we started competing.