Agility Blog Action Day: Do you volunteer at trials?

by Melissa R. on June 28, 2011

Mocca & Me

Mocca & Me

Recently I was contacted by Steve Schwarz from about doing a blog post about doing a “Agility Blog Action Day” and the topic being volunteering at agility trials. I thought it was a great idea so here it goes!

First of all I need to admit that I do not volunteer at agility trials. We have been competing for about 3 years now. When I first started, I thought about it a little but never inquired about it and nobody ever offered to involve me. So as time went on, I thought less and less about it. In fact, until I received this email from Steve, I had completely forgotten about it! I may reconsider now, or inquire at our next trial. I often have time on my hands while the “big dogs” run (we run 16″), so could easily participate during that time. When I was in the Open & Novice classes, it would have been more difficult as there are fewer dogs.

Why didn’t I to begin with? Well, I was going there all by myself, and didn’t know a soul, nor had I ever been to a trial, so it was all quite new for me and I didn’t want to get into something and not know what I was doing.

Why didn’t I start after I became familiar with it? I think probably just habit kicked in. After a few times of not volunteering, it became habit. Also, it seems like the clubs who are putting on the trials I go to are so well coordinated and smooth that there isn’t much need for new recruits! This may not be the case, but I have never heard anything.

What might make me volunteer? I’m not sure. I think that you get some free entrance to the trial if you volunteer but I do not know for sure. Also, I would prefer to know EXACTLY what is needed. What position, what it requires specifically, etc. What are the benefits to me? I’ve never really been told.

I can say though that I have never felt alienated or that anybody looked down on me for NOT volunteering. I do drive over 2 hours to get to our competitions, so I am already putting in a lot of time before and after!

I am looking forward to seeing all the other blog posts on this subject, as it is something I do not know much about. Here’s to Agility Bloggers!

Related Posts:

More blog posts about volunteering:

About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan W June 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

Nice to have discovered your site!Thanks for your post.!

Sam June 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I started trialing about 3 years ago. Before I started to trial, I went to my club’s trial and spent the day helping out. I did leash running and bar setting and some “course setting”, meaning I helped carry the tunnel bags, and the jump standards. Why did I do this and why do I encourage other “newbies” to do this? First, it is a GREAT way to see the trial. I was sitting ring-side for the events that I did bar setting and I learned a lot. Second, it was a great way to meet others. I could ask questions, and really watch what the handlers were doing. Third, it made me appreciate what kind of work goes into making a trial run smoothly. I usually help at least a little at every trial I attend. It may be only 1 or 2 events, or helping set 1 or 2 courses, but if everyone helps even just a little, it makes the trial run smoothly.

Rosemary June 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Well, I’ve only been to three Obedience/Rally trials so far. The first was in conjunction with a dog show that used a professional stewards organization, and the second two had volunteer stewards who knew what they were doing. Also, I have two kids, both of whom are autistic. I would hate to say I would do something at a trial, and then not be able to because my son has had a meltdown. Losing an entrance fee is one thing, not helping out when you’ve promised to is another.

I am entering Ilka in the Houston Kennel Club obedience trial in mid-July (a 1 1/2 hour drive), and maybe one up in Longview, TX at the end of July (a 3 hour drive). With luck, she will get her BN (she needs one more leg), and I will survive the driving by myself in Houston part (I really hate the traffic). Then, time off until mid-October, when there is a weekend cluster of trials coming up in LA, another 3 hour drive away. That will give us time to practice off-leash for Novice Obedience and Advanced Rally. Also, Lucky’s paperwork should be done by then, and I can show him, too.

Pam June 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Hi Melinda,
Very interesting perspective from a non-volunteer. I can totally understand where you were coming from when you first started. I do agility by myself too and have 3 dogs in tow, only one of which runs. If I hadn’t gone to that seminar I talk about in my post, I probably wouldn’t have volunteered either.
I will say that no one has ever told me that volunteers can run free. I will need to check that out as that will make a huge difference to me on whether or not I can afford to continue this sport. No one has ever offered to refund my entry fees either or given me a choice of a refund or “donation”.

I hope you decide to volunteer at at least one trial in the near future. It’s a great way to get to meet new people who love the sport as much as you do!!

Ellen Finch June 29, 2011 at 11:16 am

Interesting perspective. I can see how one could start out not working, and the world doesn’t end, so you just fall into the habit. 🙂

Let me quash the rumor about volunteers getting free runs–most volunteers don’t get anything. Many clubs offer free lunches or sometimes free raffle tickets, but not all clubs. Volunteering is a way to make sure that (a) trials continue to happen so that I can continue to run my dogs, (b) this particular trial runs more smoothly so that the day ends earlier and I have more time to relax (or get home), (c) other competitors get the benefit of my actions in the same way that I get the benefit of what other volunteers do when I run (my leash gets to me, my chute is straightened, etc.).

Trials in your area could be different–maybe they can afford to pay people to fill all the positions–, but around here, the crew chiefs are always yelling (to be heard) for pole setters or leash runners or chute straighteners, or sometimes even timers or scribes. If you hear that, you know that they need people to work, no experience required. It’s their job to tell you what you need to do and how and when, so if it’s unclear to you, just say that you’ve never done it before and please could it be explained clearly.

Half of the trials in which I participate are 2 hours from home, and I run 2 dogs (and, on a few occasions, have run 3 dogs). I still volunteer and enjoy it. You might read my post on my experience with not wanting to volunteer and then what I’ve learned from volunteering, etc.

jenn March 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Seems like every trial I am at they are looking for pole setters and leash runners. Easy jobs, and a great way to give a little back to the crew that brings these events to us.

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