Oh my what a big ribbon, but well deserved. Good job to you two, congrats!!! I volunteered my third agility trial yesterday. I'm beginning to look familiar to regular attendees and have begun picking their brains. I got to drive the judge to the airport, an hour drive, and learned a lot too, I didn't realize there were so many clubs/organizations other then AKC, the only one I remember was UKC. I really want to start thinking about getting Tim into some type of trial and most people recommended Rally over Obedience, what are your thoughts on that? I got a couple names of some people who do more Rally/Obedience then Agility so I'm going to ask them where they would recommend I go for my first attempt. I know with my daughter's swimming that there are better pools to swim in then others so I guess it might be the same thing with trial venues too?
The entry level to get in the game is lower for rally than obedience or agility. I love all three, and I compete in more than one venue in each. We don't have a lot of UKC around here (though there is some) so I haven't done any of that. For rally I do AKC and WCR. For obedience I do AKC and CDSP and for agility, AKC and NADAC, though I've heard CPE is fun, and the easiest agility venue.
You are lucky, because NJ is an area with a lot to offer besides AKC... I know there are LOTS of CDSP and WCR trials there. As far as trial SITES are concerned, yes, some are harder than others, and to some extent it depends on the dog. There is once trial site around here where the room where they set up the ring is used for doggy day care during the week. LOTS of dogs have "sniffy" issues on that floor, and my guess is it's from lots of day care dog accidents. Another site that has LOTS of trials up here is the EasterN States Exposition Center, which is the site of our HUGE multi-state fair in the fall. during the rest of the year, various buildings are used for dog shows, horse shows, etc. There's lots of room there, so the trial and show committees like it from that perspective, but the buildings are CAVERNOUS and noisy. A lot of dogs find it a hard place to concentrate. Then there are others with nice rings, but tight crating/warm-up space. You just have to learn your dog, and learn where they perform best. I'm REALLY lucky with Kodi that way... He is rarely fazed by a trial venue.
The only place we've had trouble is at one site where we've done agility... and that's because he was "attacked" (it didn't actually hurt him physically, but it scared him to bits!!!) by a cattle dog that got loose and charged him, roaring in his face. We're working slowly up to trialing there again, but he's still pretty nervous about it, and I can't blame him.
Lots of places that have trials regularly also offer "run throughs" pretty regularly. These are opportunities to do a course under show-like conditions, but you can train, use food or toys in the ring, re-do signs that you get wrong, etc. It's a great way to figure out if you're close to ready for a trial. The next step up would be a "show and go" which is organized like a trial, but not sanctioned by AKC. Most still allow a certain amount of "training in the ring", but not as much as run-throughs. The last step before real trials are matches, which are sanctioned by AKC, but do not count toward titles. We didn't bother with those. I figured when we were ready for that, we were ready for a real trial!