Downeast Dog News

Training Your Performance Dog

When Am I Ready to Enter?
By Carolyn Fuhrer | Dec 01, 2019

Agility, Obedience, Tracking


When will I be ready to enter a competitive event? This is a common question asked by most people who are new to canine competition events, but it is also a question that needs to be answered by all of us who compete.

What is your criteria for entering a competition? How much thought have you given to answering the question: “are we ready to enter?”

Many factors influence the decision of whether or not to enter an upcoming trial. Here are a few things to consider. One of the first things to think about is what are you trying to accomplish by entering? A qualifying score? Earning a title? Winning first place? What is your goal? Entering a trial or test just to “see what happens” is usually just not a good idea. You as a handler will not feel confident under these circumstances. Just hoping that things will go well that day is usually not enough to put in a good performance. You will be frustrated and possibly embarrassed, and your dog will sense that this is not a great place to be.

If you feel prepared and confident in your skills and the skills you have taught your dog, you will enjoy the ring experience much more than if you are unprepared, no matter what the outcome. Being prepared also means that you are thoroughly familiar with the rules and requirements for showing and have a clear understanding of how you and your dog should behave, understand the code of ethics and what it means to be a good sportsman. The future of all our dog sports really depends upon all of us who enjoy them upholding the rules and treating each other with the consideration that we would want for ourselves.

A lot of time and effort goes into putting on a dog event which is why we should be respectful of the rules and treat our dogs and fellow exhibitors and workers with respect. Some events (like tracking) are limited in entries so just because you can enter doesn’t mean you should enter. If you are not ready to show, you may take a place away from someone else who is ready. Instead, volunteer to help and learn from the experience and enter when you are ready, and don’t forget to thank the workers who made the event possible. If you and your dog are as well prepared as possible, it will really help to ensure that you enjoy the event and that your dog enjoys being with you.

Before entering, it is always a good idea to attend trials or tests to observe procedure and understand how the trial/test is run. Volunteering to help at an event is a wonderful way to support dog sports and also a great way to experience a show from a very different perspective. Clubs that take the time to invest in education of stewards, ring crew, tracklayers, etc. usually put on the better trials. A knowledgeable workforce goes a long way to making a trial/test a success for everyone.

Before you enter, volunteer to help and get some really valuable insight as to what a trial/test is all about. Then, train and enter with confidence!


Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 100 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. She has recently become an AKC Tracking Judge. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 30 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing