Our First USDAA Agility Trial Recap

by Melissa R. on August 18, 2014

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Dog Agility TrialMy 20-month-old pup and I just returned from our very first USDAA Dog Agility trial (United States Dog Agility Association). I have only competed in AKC in the past, but a group of friends were going to this trail so we decided to make a fun weekend of it. We headed off Friday afternoon (it was a 4 hour drive to the site), got checked into our motel, took a long walk, chatted with our friends and headed for bed as we were to be up early Saturday.

Saturday morning arrived too soon, but I made sure to get in a good long walk with Emme. Grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed off to the agility field (a transformed soccer field for the weekend). We had to get there by 7 to get settled in and have Emme measured. New dogs have to get measured a certain amount of times by a judge, before they can get their height officially recorded for future trials. Emme was a little spooked at the measuring device, but we finally managed. We got our tents, crates, coolers and chairs set up, and settled in to start! It was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day as well.

Dog Agility TrialFirst up was a course called Gamblers. This is a fun course where you can do as many or whatever obstacles you want – each obstacle is worth a certain amount of points – you need to get a certain amount of points under a set timeframe. When the buzzer goes off, you have to do the “close” which is 2-3 obstacles, set at a distance. In our case, it was a jump, tunnel, jump – all set up nicely so I was looking forward to it. Being our first run of the day, I really just wanted to get Emme out there and do some jumps and other obstacles to get the idea. Plus, we had to run with no collar on (AKC you can have a collar on, but not USDAA) and I was a little hesitant about this as the course was only a taped off soccer field with no real fence, and our first outdoor trial.

Turns out I had no need to worry! Emme did great, mostly paid attention to everything and me. She kinda made up her own course out there, but because it was Gamblers, it was OK as long as I went with it and got her to the “Close” at the end. We did OK – didn’t get the “Close” because she missed the first jump, but she did the Tunnel & 2nd jump which I was very pleased with. WHEW! It’s always a relief to get that first course out of the way.

Onto our 2nd course, Standard. This is your “standard” course consisting of all agility obstacles: jumps, contacts, weaves, table, etc. Did all right again, though Emme’s hesitation doing the Tire Jump threw us off. I expected this though, so we moved on and I was very happy with how we did.

We unexpectedly were convinced to do the Pairs course next. I wasn’t signed up because I had never seen it done and wasn’t sure how close you had to get to the other dog. Well, as it turned out they only had one beginner in Pairs and needed another person. So we discussed it and figured we’d be able to keep the two dogs far enough apart. It was fun to run – you each run 1/2 of the course and then hand off the baton and the other person finishes. So we were each able to pick the half that suited us best. Unfortunately, Emme hopped off the Teeter so we were eliminated but still was great to get out there.

Dog Agility Trial

Our 3rd course of the day was Snookers. I *hate* Snookers! Snookers is a “game” of sorts that is a bit complicated and you have to think fast if things don’t go as planned. Basically it is this: there is a course set up, with 3 red jumps set up in various areas of the course. You are to do 1 red jump, obstacle, 1 red jump, obstacle, 1 red jump, obstacle, then the “finish” (a 5-6 obstacle course). Each obstacle in between red jumps is a certain amount of points, and you need a set amount of points to Qualify, as well as finishing under time. There are some other rules about knocking red jump bars which make it even more complex! I was confused from the start and couldn’t get a good plan in my head to start, let alone even walk the finishing course. So we didn’t do too well, but it was fun anyway.

As the day heated up, and went on…. it got pretty late and we were all tired and hot, but still had another hour or more to wait for our last course, Jumpers. So… we decided to pack it up and head to dinner. By the time we had dinner and cleaned up, it was time for bed to start all over in the morning!

Weather-wise, Sunday was the exact opposite of Saturday. Rain. Cold. Windy. Wow. It was not fun. We were signed up for just 2 courses thankfully, but by the time our 2nd course came up it was POURING buckets of rain. No lightening, so the competition continued and boy were we soaking wet by the time it was over. But I guess it was good luck for us because we actually got our very first “Qualifying” score – EVER! In all things… Snooker! Dang that Snooker course. I learned from my mistakes the 1st day and had a solid course planned out which we actually executed well and under time.

We had such a great time at the trial. It was a lot of fun, even in the rain. I found this to be quite a lot more relaxed than the AKC trials I have been at, but I’ve also never been at a big outside show like this which I think helped. We will definitely be trying more USDAA agility trials in the future.
Dog Agility Trial


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 DrsFosterSmith.com and LiveAquaria.com 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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherri O August 18, 2014 at 9:41 am

First experience with games, huh? We compete in CPE (my agility dog Bosley is a tripod – and CPE is the only venue that will allow him to compete in all classes; he runs as a “specialist”) and CPE is BIG on games. Jackpot (same as the gamblers you did), Snooker, Wildcard, Colors, and Fullhouse (in addition to standard and jumpers). Our first trial was so stressful for me, trying to remember the rules for all the games an implementing a good plan (well, ok, it’s still somewhat stressful for me…). I definitely like some games better than others – jackpot and fullhouse are my least favorite, but I think that’s because I have to remember how many points I need to accumulate, and if Bosley decides to run a course other than the one I planned, I have to think in the ring (ouch! makes my head hurt, lol!).

Melissa R. August 18, 2014 at 10:26 am

Thanks Sherri! Yes, first time with games. We have done Snooker & Gamblers in our training classes sometimes, but first time in a real competition! I agree, the thinking part is the hard part – you have to remember enough already out there… let alone more rules, depending on what your dog decides to do. LOL. Great times!

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