By Carolyn Fuhrer
Today, more than ever, there are so many opportunities to enter competitions with our dogs. While different venues may have different rules and procedures, one thing holds true for all events: There are rules and procedures that must be followed, and it is the entrant’s job to understand and abide by the rules of the organization.
For people new to the sport, this can be confusing. The best place to go for help in understanding how to enter a competition and to understand the rules that will govern your performance would be your instructor. Your instructor should be able to guide you in obtaining the necessary information and also help you fill out an entry form. Your instructor should also be able to help you with basic ring protocol, so you know how to find what you need at a trial and also what your responsibilities are as a competitor.
There is no doubt that judges greatly appreciate competitors who understand and abide by the rules and are where they are supposed to be and ready to perform when they are supposed to be. Exhibitors who know and understand the rules and the trial protocol really help the trials run much more smoothly.
All venues have rules and procedures which are usually in the form of a rulebook. These are usually readily available online or in a handbook form which you can buy. Ultimately, it is the exhibitor’s responsibility to understand and abide by the rules. Statements like “I didn’t know that” or “nobody told me” will not go over well with the judge.
When you enter a show, you sign a statement, which is usually part of the entry form, stating that the entry information is true and that you have read and understand the rules.
Most venues have rules regarding types of collars and leads, food or toys as rewards or no food or training aids in the ring, etc. There is also an unwritten etiquette which to me is just common sense and courtesy to fellow competitors: don’t play outside near the ring with toys or vigorous tugging. Conduct yourself and your dog outside the ring as you would wish others to behave when it is your turn in the ring. Be a gracious winner or loser and always thank your dog for going in the ring with you.
The rules, procedures, and etiquette to follow at a dog sporting event should be taken seriously and respected. This is what lends credibility and respect to the titles that are earned. If you are new and train alone or online, make a point of visiting a show before you compete and learn the procedures and become comfortable with ring protocols. Most competitors are happy to help newcomers; just remember to ask if it is a good time to talk in case they are getting ready to show.
Be prepared when you enter a show. Knowing what to do is your responsibility. Understanding the rules and protocol will not only help you with confidence, but it will also help you take better care of your dog.
Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 130 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 4 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions, and ideas for her column by e-mailing email@example.com.