How often you compete mostly depends on the region you live in and the number of competitions available to you! OneMind Dogs Coach Megan Foster talked with a group of OneMind Dogs Coaches, Assistant Coaches, and Instructors. “It does appear that on average, we compete about twice a month”, says Megan. Read Megan’s post about the frequency of competing.
I find it critical that there is enough time between competitions to address any small holes in my dog’s understanding of critical skills, or my own understanding of how to handle my dog! I want to avoid any skills or obstacle behaviors breaking down under the pressure of competition. I want to have enough time between competition days to build value and understanding for those skills that might need tuning up after a weekend of competing!
For example, after a 3-day weekend of competing, I notice that my border collie, Smack, responds less and less to coming into me/my hand for a lap turn. When I notice that in competition, I know I should spend one or two training sessions rewarding him for coming to my hand in training, to rebuild the value for that skill.
When and why do you take time off?
Breaks and time off is important for any athlete, and our agility dogs are no exception! Sometimes, the climate dictates when teams take time off from agility. Maybe the summer is too hot, or the winters are too cold. But what if you live in a region with a mild climate, like I do? It is helpful to plan out when you’ll give your team some time off, to either tune up some skills, or completely rest from agility and only participate in conditioning activities like walking, hiking, and swimming!
Additionally, handlers should choose to take a break from competition if they notice any gaps in their dog’s skill set with regards to contacts, weaves, jumping, and startline, to work on these behaviors in an environment where reinforcement (food/toys) is available. Also, if you notice any changes in your dog’s confidence or state of mind, it is wise to take a step back from competing to analyze what might be the problem.
Coaches / Instructors that contributed to Megan’s post:
Karen Holik, Laura Bussing, Stephen McKay, Anna Eifert, Jen Pinder, Ivette White