How soon is too soon to start competing?

Running, catching, leaping; this is the forum to discuss dog sports and agility training with other active pups!

Shadow- *CGC*CL2*CL3- *

Is it time for- agility yet?
Barked: Sun Apr 29, '12 2:14pm PST 
Shadow has been in agility class for 8 weeks and I work with him at least 2 times a week. He is doing some awesome sequences(the club I practice at doesn't have a full course set up) with no problems. I would love to compete with him, but I don't want to screw up how far he's come. There's an AKC trial in June that I would like to enter, but I'm not sure if he's ready or if it would be a good idea. My instructors all say the same thing, you shouldn't compete until you get into the competition level classes, but that would be at least another year until he can move on to competition 1. I don't want to screw up any of his training, but he's doing absolutely wonderful in his training.

Will Work For- Food
Barked: Sun Apr 29, '12 4:39pm PST 
What's the rush?

Your instructors are right - it is never a good idea to trial before you are ready and there is no way 8 weeks of classes will prepare you or your dog for competition, no matter how well training is going. In the classes at my training club, dogs are barely even being introduced to equipment after 8 weeks, never mind being proficient enough at anything to even think about entering a trial.

Some of the things your dog should know before you enter a trial:
Profient on all equipment including weaves and contacts. This means your dog should be able to perform each piece of equipment with you sending them over (without you moving), you recalling them over, and with you running by.
You and your dog should be able to work together as a team. Do you both know backsides of jumps? Serps? Threadles? Push throughs? Pull throughs? Directional cues? Can you do all of these at full speed?
Can you successfully run a course of 20 obstacles? This means at full speed with your dog maintaining criteria for every obstacle?

I have never seen anything good come from entering a dog in a trial before he is ready. It does nothing to help build confidence in your dog and can set back your training huge. Right now I would concentrate on building a good working relationship with your dog and teaching him the agility foundation skills that are so important to being successful in agility

The Monster
Barked: Sun Apr 29, '12 5:03pm PST 
While it's going to differ from dog to dog, I think waiting a year or two between first starting agility training and competition is your best bet. Only now, after training for almost two years am I really building up the requisite skills to compete with the other novice dogs at trials.

I personally like to train to the level above that at which I'm competing. If I'm trialing in novice, I'm training advanced/masters stuff in class. So many things can go awry on an agility course, so I much much much prefer to be over prepared than under.

And there's much more to agility than your dog simply taking the obstacles. The dogs learn that relatively quickly. The slow part is us trying to learn to read them and make the best decisions for our dogs all while trying to run at top speed. There's no rush to start competition. You'll get there soon enough.

Maggie NAC- WV-N TN-N- CTL-3 RE

Tunnel Suckin'
Barked: Sun Apr 29, '12 5:14pm PST 
Hold off on that June trial...maybe next year smile

The above advice is where it is at - some dogs/handlers can start earlier than others...but after only 8 weeks, there is still so much more to learn, it sounds like your instructors know what they are talking about and it would be best to listen to them.

My youngest has been through one session of classes and we still haven't seen a majority of obstacles (well, she has seen them - never been on them). I am in no rush and am having fun training her the components of what I want as well as making sure she is confident and has the skills needed with consistency.

I started my older girl a little early - but I lucked out with her. She was able to help me learn and is quite resilient to all the mistakes I made early on...also if I hadn't started early with her, I would never have found the contacts I did to help her become successful. I still go to classes with her regularly and I learn a lot...there is so much a handler needs to learn and practice before walking into a ring.

Barked: Sun Apr 29, '12 5:23pm PST 
You and your dog needs to be confidently doing sequences that are harder then the level you are going to compete at.I would plan on doing show n go's and working some trials, pole setting, leash running, score keeping, so you can learn how the trials work. I would say a trial in June is way to soon.