So, you have decided to enter your first fun match! Congrats! Fun Matches are a GREAT way to acclimate you and your dog to the fun sport of agility trials. And they are great for more experienced dogs and handlers too.
One of the benefits of fun matches (or even some A-Matches that occur at AKC Agility trials) is that you can simulate an actual agility trial, including strange dogs, people standing in as judges or ring crew (just ask) and be able to REWARD your dog during your time in the ring. I recommend fun matches as a bridge between classes and actual competition.
So how do you do it?
First step is to sign up!
Some fun matches (like at EK9 Agility) have specific time frames and other fun matches are a “just show up kind of affairs”. In both cases, you should note if there are time frames with specific levels (such as 9:00-10:00 Novice, 10:30-1:00 Excellent). If at all possible, you should come to the time session that best correlates with your skill level.
I would recommend going to fun matches in the facility in which you train, if at all possible.
In general, I recommend arriving a bit earlier than your time and leave your dog in the car to come in and scope out the situation. Some facilities will have room for you to crate inside, and some will not.
Pay if you haven’t already done so.
Put your dog’s name on the run order board under the correct height. If the surface is new, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to jump lower than you have.
Walk the course.
And plan your strategy. There will likely be a numbered course (or more) already set out, but there is no rule that you need to complete that course.
If this is your first fun match, I highly recommend planning a very simple set of 2-3 obstacle sequencing in which you can reward a lot. Generally speaking, most fun matches allow you to have a few runs and if your first set of sequences worked well, think about expanding your sequences in the next set.
Run your course
Reward, a LOT! Your goal should be to make your dog LOVE to sequence in a new place, with new dogs. Reward your start line stay, reward the first jump. Make sure your dog thinks this was the BEST DAY EVER!
Next Fun Matches
Once you feel you and your dog were successful (in some cases, it can take a few times), then you should look to do more fun matches at other locations. In the Portland area, there are 2-3 fun matches per month.
At each location, start with smaller sequences and build upon your success. If you were successful at 2 or 3 locations, and your dog can do all the equipment, then enter your first trial and ENJOY!