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Training to Trial | A Successful Transition
Week Two | Members Only


Week Two | Warm-Up for Success

How long do I warm-up my dog? How soon?  What exactly should I do?  Should I do all of the exercises?  Or get my dog out of the crate and go directly to the ring?  Why is the warm-up so important?

HOMEWORK: Take a video of your warm-up routine when you train, and when you are at a trial and submit both to the Forum.


The primary goal of a good warm-up is making sure the dog is focused on you AND YOU are focused on your dog!  We want our dog’s undivided attention.  However, handlers often get distracted themselves.  Either by talking to other people, looking at the ring, looking around, etc.  They are inadvertently telling the dog it’s ok for them to look around too!


My Typical Warm-up Routine

A warm-up will set the tone for your ring performance.  Keep the warm-up positive, relaxed and have a routine that is familiar to you and your dog.  Assess your dog’s focus and do everything you can to help your dog.


Zeal’s Warm-up Routine

Notice how his warm-up is different than Zayna’s.   Although there are some common threads in my warm-ups for all of my dogs, it’s important to recognize what each individual dog needs.  It is highly likely that your dog will need something a little different than my dogs.


Acclimate to New Surroundings

When you get to a trial you look around to get the lay of the land so to speak.  This is perfectly normal.  It’s only fair to let our dogs do the same.  It’s important to walk your dog around and let them acclimate.  I put them on a loose leash walking command.  They are not allowed to visit other dogs, people, etc.  They are still “working”.  Once acclimated they are ready to go to work.


Successfully Handling Unique Environmental Distractions

Every trial venue is unique to our dogs.  They all smell, look and sound different.  Many will have distractions that your dog has never encountered before.  Some of these distractions, such as flapping tents, banging metal doors, loudspeaker noises, etc. will startle or scare our dogs.  When that happens we tend to panic.  Sometimes we try to push your dog to work through it.  Other times we develop a fatalistic attitude – oh well, there is nothing I can do about it.  Often our “concern” about the distraction actually draws more of the dog’s attention to it.

The following video is a PERFECT example of how I would handle a distraction that my dog is not comfortable with.  Notice she works on a fun trick (the bucket) instead of a more complex obedience exercise.  Her tone is light and playful.   She asks him to interact with the distraction using a nose touch.  She uses a clicker and rewards frequently.  She is encouraging him, letting him problem solve and think for himself without any pressure.   She is extremely patient and lets him work it out at his own pace.   When she goes back to the bucket he struggles a bit at first.  But then he does it perfectly!  And, most importantly, he is confident, happy and relaxed!



Don’t CHANGE anything the day of the trial.  It will only confuse your dog!  If your dog doesn’t know it on the day, it’s too late to teach him at the trial.  Sometimes people use different physical and/or verbal cues at a trial to ensure their dog will do it right.  It only ends up confusing the dog.  Don’t change any of your cues, and don’t change your warm-up.  Dog’s love a routine.



We all want to have a good performance at a trial.  However, we must remember that it’s a process.  Look at each trial as a learning experience and a step in your evolution as a team.  Too much pressure, training, and/or unrealistic expectations on the day of the trial will only stress your dog.  Stick to your routine!

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