Your Very First Run

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A guide for the uninitiated

When I went to my first Kennel Club show I was given loads of advice on how to walk a course and run a dog, but no-one told me about the basics.  The things that you actually have to do to get into the ring.  I suppose they assumed that I knew.  Well I didn't, and I've met a few people since who have looked a bit panic-stricken once they get to the ringside because they're not sure what's going on or what you're supposed to do next.   To help you out here's a quick guide as to what to do once you've arrived at the show. (Just a quick note.  Shows that aren't licenced by the Kennel Club are called unaffiliated shows and the way in which they are run will vary.)

Check out where you should be

First check the running order that you were sent in the post.  It should list the order of the classes and give the ring numbers.  Then you need to find out which ring you're running in first and go and have a look to see if they've built the course. It's OK to hang around if you're due in that ring shortly.  Some people will already be trying to work out the course as the ring party are setting out the numbers.

The judge's briefing

At this point you might get the judge's briefing although some wait until the course has been walked.   Some judges will ask if it's anyone's first show so that they can help them if they get into trouble.  All the judges I've met have been very kind and helpful to inexperienced dogs and handlers.  They've all been there themselves and they know what it's like. 

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The judge sets the course and the course time.

Ready for walking

When the course has been built there will be an announcement that it's ready for walking.  Sometimes this will be over a tannoy but at a small show it might just be someone with a loud voice trying to make themselves heard.  You will usually get about 15 minutes to walk the course so use it wisely.  Find a mentor from your club and pick their brains.
 

Can we have the first ten dogs on the line please

The judge or one of the show organisers will then ask for the first ten dogs to be ready on line and a queue will form at the entrance to the ring.  These are the ones whose running orders have been drawn first. You should try to stick roughly to your running order and you'll need to keep an eye on which running order number they're calling up to. 
NB: The running order number is the one the caller's interested in, not your dog's number or the one on the front of your ticket.

Checking in

The caller is the person who checks the dogs into the class and if there's no board or announcement you can ask "What number are you calling up to?"   If you're ready to go and there's hardly any queue they will sometimes let you go into the ring early if you want to.  This can be an advantage if you have another class coming up and you want to give yourself and your dog a break before you run again.  If you are supposed to be in two rings at the same time don't panic.  Explain what's happened to the caller in the ring you want to run first and ask if you can run early.

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The caller books you into the class.

Join the queue

Once you've been checked in you can join the queue.  Shows vary slightly as to exactly how they run the class.  Often you will be given a ticket which you clutch in your hot and sweaty hand whilst you're queuing, but sometimes you won't be given your ticket until it's your nearly your turn to run.  The ticket is there so that the scrimer can record your results as you do your round. 

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Scrimer is a word peculiar to agility.  It's a combination of scribe and timer.

Help! It's your turn next

When you go into the ring someone will take the ticket from you and give it to the scrimer. Wait until you are asked to go to the start line.  The dog that's running in the ring needs to be well clear of the next dog that's coming in to run.  Once a dog has finished it's round the ring party may need to adjust equipment or replace poles.   Get your dog ready by removing the lead and putting it behind you or giving it to the person who's moving leads. The person on lead duties will move your lead across to the finish once you're on your way. Don't forget,  under the current rules you can run your dog in a flat close- fitting collar but there must be no attachments such as a tag.

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Pole pickers sit in the ring and pick up fallen poles.

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Other helpers  move your lead and help with the tickets

 

Ring Manager

Just so that no-one gets left out, here's the ring manager.  I've never actually seen one in a top hat but you never know.  The ring manager runs the ring and gives out all the jobs to the rest of the ring party.

 

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In your own time

The scrimer will tell you when eveyone's ready by saying "In your own time," or "When you're ready." You can go when you're ready but don't spend five minutes training the dog before you start.  No training is allowed in the ring so off you go as soon as you're ready.  Have a great time and don't worry if you mess up.  The vast majority of dogs don't go clear on their first run and a good proportion get eliminated.  If all you've managed to do is to keep your dog with you in the ring you've done well. 

At the end of your round praise your dog and leave the ring as quickly as possible. Don't hang about discussing what went right or wrong with friends.  Your dog wants a sweetie for staying with you.  I make sure someone's waiting with a sausage for Jamie and I'm sure he goes that little bit faster as a result.

The ticket that was given to the scrimer will eventually find it's way to the scorer.  They usually sit in a tent and write down the results on a large scoresheet.   Do not take your dog into this tent.  You can go and ask the scorer how you did but this time they may want the number on the front of your card or your running order.  Against your number they will have recorded your faults and your time.  If you have a zero under the faults coulumn that means you got a clear round and if your time was good you might get a place.   The scorer usually keeps a little pile of the scrimers tickets in order of places so that the names can be written down quickly at the end of the class.

The prize giving

If you are lucky enough to get a clear round you may well be awarded a clear round rosette.  It will tell you about prizes on the show schedule.  It will say something like "Place rosettes awarded to 10% of the class with clear round rosettes in all classes."  Clubs are often more generous than this and on the day they may well give place rosettes to 15% or 20% of the class.  Sometimes there are special rosettes for things like the best distant control or the best newcomer. The prizes might be given out at the end of the class or at the end of a group of classes.  They usually announce the winners in reverse order and then give out the clear rounds.   The first time we ever went clear in starters I wandered slowly up to the prize giving expecting to have to wait until the end for my clear round rosette.  To my surprise I heard my name being read out for a twelfth place.  Another time I missed the prize-giving as we'd got five faults on fairly easy course.  I couldn't believe it when some of the club members came charging over saying "Didn't you want your rosette?"  We'd come fifth!  The moral is, don't assume that because you thought you didn't do well you're out of the running for a prize. 

And that's all there is to it.  Good luck and happy jumping.  It's all great fun whatever you do.

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