Being an IPO Newbie – Part Eight – Spectating at Your First Trial

Okay Newbies, last week we covered scorebooks, which I hope was at least somewhat useful and didn’t give you too much of a headache.

Today I want to cover the dos and don’ts for spectating at a trial.

First thing – yes, you really should try to spectate at a trial before you actually enter one. This will benefit you (and your dog) in a couple of ways: 1. You’ll get an idea of what to expect from trial day – from procedures to actual expectations on the field. 2. You’ll get to chat with some people and make some contacts from clubs besides your own. 3. You’ll get to check out everyone’s car set-ups and steal all of their good ideas for trial day.


Check out a trial before you enter to feel more confident and prepared

So, let’s get started, shall we?

Step One to successfully spectating at your first trial is to find a trial, obviously. Most trials get posted on Facebook, so if you follow the other clubs in your region, you’ll likely be able to find one there. If not, you can check out the USCA Events page or the DVG America Calendar.

Step Two is to find somewhere to put your dog, because you aren’t taking it with you. Let me say that again – DO NOT TAKE YOUR DOG TO SPECTATE AT A TRIAL. Not only is it annoying to the people actually competing to have non-entered dogs just hanging out, it also sucks for your dog to be stuck in the car all day with nothing to do.

If you insist on bringing your dog with you, do everyone a favor and park as far away from the trial field as you safely can, to allow actual competitors to park closer, and also to give some distance should your dog start barking. PLEASE bring everything you need to keep your dog safe and comfortable in your vehicle.

At the first trial I attended (a disastrous first attempt at Brody’s BH), there was a young woman there spectating that had brought her dog along for the ride. He was loose in the back of her sedan, so she couldn’t roll the windows down for ventilation, and she brought NOTHING to keep him cool. Nothing.

It was 100 degrees – we had all busted out the shade tents, aluminets, ice blocks, cooling mats, and fans, and were still having to vigilantly check on dogs every few minutes.

Eventually, the trial secretary had to be involved to ask that spectator to leave, as she was endangering her dog. She had also made herself a massive distraction to those of us actually competing, as we found ourselves having to worry over her dog rather than get ourselves ready to go on the field.

Don’t be that person – come prepared or (preferably) don’t bring your dog at all.


If you must bring you dog, be prepared to keep them comfortable in all conditions

Step Three is to take it all in. Bring a camp chair (or several, if you like making friends). Hang out. Introduce yourself around. Compliment the club on a well run trial and compliment everyone on their dogs, and you’ll be well on your way to making a good impression.

You’ll likely find that most people at an IPO trial are extremely friendly and happy to share their knowledge with you, so feel free to ask questions! This is your chance to learn everything you ever wanted to know about trialing your dog!

You’ll probably also find that trialing isn’t the scary ordeal that you’ve built it up in your head to be. BH dogs generally are not foot-perfect and still pass just fine. IPO dogs make mistakes and still get their scores. You might be surprised to discover that you don’t have to look like Ivan Balabanov at the World Championships to do well. Hopefully, this will help you feel more confident when it’s your turn to step onto the trial field for the first time.

I know that I would have been way better off had I spectated at a trial before actually entering one, so I’m hoping you all can learn from my mistake. Go, check it out, take it all in, and you’ll be more prepared for when your first trial day comes!

Oh, and bring cash for lunch and other incidentals – it’s a rare club trial that accepts plastic. 😉





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