Grade 1 Classes

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From the 1st January 2007 the former elementary classes were called grade 1 classes.  
The Kennel Club rules for eligibility are:
For owners, handlers or dogs which have not gained a first place in an Agility Class or three first places in Jumping Classes at Kennel Club licensed Agility Shows. N.B. Owners, handlers or dogs previously qualified out of Grade 1, (Elementary) are not eligible for this class."

(Places at club matches and limited shows don't count).

The class sizes for the former elementary grade varied enormously depending on where you live.  In the South East there were as many as 200 entries whereas in Cornwall there were sometimes less than 30.  In general clubs now adjust their schedules so that they can even out the classes a bit. If you are just starting agility you may find that your local clubs are putting on a graded class for grades 1,2 and 3.  This means that you will run the same course as dogs in higher grades but you will only be judged against dogs in your grade.  There should be separate trophies for each grade.  If it's a combined class for say, grades 1,2 and 3 you would be competing against all the dogs in those grades and there would be one overall set of trophies and rosettes for the class.

What to expect on the course

On some courses you might be lucky enough to find that you can run with your dog on the same side all the way round.  On most courses though you will have to change sides at least once.  When you walk the course work out exactly how you are going to do this and practice it again and again.  To give you an idea of what an elementary course is like have a look at these video clips.  If it's a grade 1 class it will be fairly simple and there should be just one or two places that might catch you out.  If it's a combined class it may be a bit more difficult but I have seen some very straightforward combined courses that shouldn't pose too many problems.  I've left some of the old elementary classes here as these are very similar to grade 1.

Elementary Jumping

This class would be similar to a graded class 1 to 7 in 2007.  The course was the same for all categories but each category was judged separately. 
On the course there are two changes of side. The first is at the tunnel.  Jamie starts on my left and I cross behind him when he's in the tunnel. When he's half way through I call him to let him know where I am.  The next change of side is at the middle jump on the bend but I could have crossed in front of him at any of these three jumps.  Some handlers preferred to cross behind one of the jumps when they reached the next bend.  The rest of the course is a straightforward run round the outside. (We came third)

Elementary Agility

This course is a run round two sides of the ring followed by an S shape and again, you need two changes of side. The dogwalk came after the first jump and this made contacts easier as the dogs hadn't worked up to full speed. Surprisingly a lot of handlers came off the dogwalk and faced the A frame which caused their dogs to take the wrong course. You need to focus on the next obstacle rather than the one you want to avoid.  Notice how Jamie takes a long time to go over an unfamiliar dogwalk.  He's much much faster in training when it's a dogwalk he knows.  Also notice how we only just get the contact on the A frame.  A couple of toes is enough and Fran is a very kind judge. (We came fourth)

Elementary Beat The Clock

This is a special class that's becoming more popular.  You start in the middle and then work round the "hours" of the clock.  Each hour has one or more obstacles and you can tackle these in any order but you can only do them once.  Jamie doesn't like being pulled through the two jumps at the beginning as he wants to get going.   At the tunnel I dive across and block his view of the jump in line with the tunnel exit.   This forces the turn into the correct jump.  The dog coming into the ring in the middle of the course is getting ready to start as soon as we've finished.  (We came second)

Elementary Jumping

Here's a nice easy course at the Carn Brea show.  Jamie is on my left all the way round.   He needs to be quicker than this to get a place, but in the summer heat we're content with a nice steady clear. 

Combined grades 1 to 3 Blow and Go

Sometimes clubs think up their own classes.  These are special classes and don't count for winning out or points towards a warrant.  In Blow and Go (Mid Cornwall Agility Club creation) You have to go over a start jump and then run like hell round and round the course as many times as you can until the whistle blows.  You then go to the last jump.  The person whose dog clears the most obstacles in the shortest time wins.  Sasha was very excited about this idea.  After the green tunnel a "blind pick up" was essential for me.  Some people with a fast dog are quick enough to twirl .  I'm not!  You need to be facing in the right direction for your dog to jump.

Grade 1 and 2 Jumping (Combined)

Here's an example of a fairly easy course.  We were seduced by it's simplicity however and I failed to do a good pickup after the tunnel.  The course had no weaves and it was more or less straight lines with one circle.  grade 1 dogs should manage this without too many problems.  (Are you listening Sasha?) Shame about the handler.!

Things they don't tell you about shows

*The toilet paper sometimes runs out towards the end of the day so stuff some in your pocket.

*There's rarely anything but greasy fast food on sale so if you don't like this take your own.

*I always make sure Jamie's done his business and weed about twenty times just before we go in the ring.....and yes, he has pooped and weed when he's supposed to be jumping

*If our club is running a match or a show I walk Jamie round to meet the people he knows   before the show starts.  That way he won't spot them for the first time when we're all together in the ring. He could well go over to say "Hello" otherwise.

*You can't take a dog into the tents where there are judges and scorers etc. 
If you do you'll get the bum's rush.

*If your dog jumps out of the ring and comes straight back again you won't necessarily be eliminated unless he's out of control.  Keep going as if nothing's happened. (As long as the  dog's with you.)

*If you're in the ring waiting to start and you see something wrong like a badly skewed tunnel you can ask if someone can straighten it for you.

*If there's a dog in front of us or behind us in the queue that Jamie has taken a real fancy to I swap places. Yes, I know he should be well trained enough to concentrate on the course and not the pretty bitch that's leaving the ring, but it doesn't always work out that way. When you're part of the way round the course they usually bring the next dog up to the start line, so if it's a dog that Jamie really likes he could well go off to say hello.

If you think you're struggling in a world full of brilliant dogs don't give up.  Competition is full of little triumphs and it can take a very long time to get a clear round.
For some people just being able to keep their dog in the ring is a major breakthrough, while others may be thrilled to bits the first time their dog stays with them all the way round.  If you've only ever been eliminated, then getting round with faults will put a smile on your face.  The first time I did this I made everyone laugh because I praised Jamie so much.
When you get your first clear you will feel as if you've won a major agility championship.

   Clear round cartoon (8927 bytes)

  You can always tell when someone's got their first ever
clear round.

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