New to Dog Sports? Volunteer!

From the May 2014 issue of the Oriole Dumbbell:

Top Ten Reasons for New Competitors to Volunteer at Trials

  1. There are many jobs that need to be done that require absolutely no experience.
  2. You can get familiar with ring procedures without the pressure of competing.
  3. You become familiar with the differences in how various judges conduct their classes and if they have any pet peeves. If your dog is not perfect on the thing this judge is a stickler on, you may choose not to compete under him or her.
  4. You have a chance to learn the route to the show. The first stress you encounter on trial day can be finding your way to the event, finding the entrance to the grounds, finding the building you need on the ground, finding the closest parking and if there is a place to unload your crate(s) and equipment if parking is far away. If you have volunteered at that location you will know your way around and can start the day feeling comfortable and in control instead of stressed and harried.
  5. You become familiar with the building and how the club sets it up. Where are the best crating areas, how early do you have to get there to find convenient crate space, where are scores posted, where can information be found, how are the rings set up, how crowded is the event. If it is very crowded and noisy and you have an inexperienced dog that is sound sensitive you may decide that this is not the place to start him out. Once you have been in a building once or twice you begin to feel more comfortable there familiarity puts you more at ease.
  6. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to watch other competitors. You can see what kinds of mistakes handlers make in the ring and the effect it has on their dog’s performance. It also allows you to watch the professional and veteran handlers. You can study their methods and techniques and observe how their proficient handling and exact timing brings out the best in their dogs.
  7. If this is a situation where you can bring your dog while you volunteer it can be a great training opportunity,It allows your dog to become familiar with the building and the grounds. She can get used to the sights, sounds and smells of a trial without having to compete in a strange environment. If you bring you dog, enough free time in your volunteer schedule to spend time with your companion. Make it a fun day for her. Find an out of the way place to do some training, Give her lots of opportunities to earn treats and praise and only work on things she is really proficient at so she feels confident. Try to find some outside space to play (a long flexi leash can be used outside the building and allows for more active play). You can alleviate a lot of performance stress in the future if you start your dog out thinking trials are fun.
  8.  After having volunteered at numerous show, you will feel more comfortable and at ease and less like an outsider when you step into the ring to compete. You will have many people you know there, you will probably be familiar with the ring stewards so you will feel like you are among friends. Your relaxed attitude will be picked up by your dog (who already thinks this is going to be fun).
  9. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to make new friends with other dog loving people who share your interests. Working together with people who have common goals creates opportunities to exchange information on training and all kinds of dog related resources and ideas. Volunteering also gives you a chance to catch up with old friends who frequent trials either as volunteers or competitors.
  10. Last but not least, volunteering gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to make it possible for your club to put on events so the people in your town and surrounding areas have a local trial in which they can compete. All trials require a lot of volunteers to make them happen. As the old saying goes “Many hands make light the work”. Everyone who volunteers gains great rewards for themselves as well as for the club, but for newbies it is essential for their trial readiness. Give your dog the benefit of having a knowledgeable and well prepared handler.
— Barbara Warnock (Editor of the Dumbbell)