For a first time Agility competitor, attending Trials as a dog/handler team instead of as a spectator can be overwhelming. Knowing what to expect on a competition weekend can eliminate a lot of stress and anxiety. One item on the day’s itinerary you may not be familiar with is the “judge’s briefing.” Listed below is an overview of what happens during these meetings, and what to expect.
The judge’s briefing is a short meeting held before each class. In some associations, the judge has the option not to hold the meeting, but typically will always do so for a Novice level class. The meeting is for handlers only, so be sure to have your dog kenneled or with a trusted friend. The judge will remind everyone of the class rules, and will typically discuss how faults are scored. Table count will be discussed for the pause table, as well as whether the judge requires a “sit” or “down” command. The start and finish lines will also be highlighted. An especially important piece of information the judge will disclose is how soon he or she wants the first dog to begin, and when the next dog should be ready for his/her turn. If you miss or forget this information, be sure to ask the gate steward. If you are unfamiliar with the hand signals used for this particular competition, do not hesitate to ask the judge what he or she will signal for a refusal, wrong course, failure, table fault, and excusal. The judge’s briefing is also the appropriate time to ask any other questions you may have about the course, rules, scoring, or any other matter. Remember, the ultimate goal of the judge is to help you and your dog, so do not be afraid to ask your questions, no matter how trivial they may seem! After the judge’s briefing, you will be given a short amount of time to walk the course (without your dog).
Your first Agility competition should be a fun experience for both you and your dog. Knowing what to expect, and when, will make the day go much smoother!