Running a Trial

Organization of Classes

The typical class order at USDAA (et al.) events is based on efficiency considerations as detailed below. For maximum efficiency BE SURE your judge knows the class and level running order well in advance so it can be considered in course design.

If your club is going to be able to comfortably handle the entry size (because you're running multiple rings, you've got plenty of experienced workers, the entry is small, etc.) consider mixing this order up to shift the advantages. Dogs and handlers who aren't sharp in the morning may have trouble getting gamblers qualifications. Dogs and handlers with limited stamina may be at disadvantage when jumpers is always at the end of the weekend. If you're planning an unusual running order BE SURE to let exhibitors know in the premium list.

Gamblers - often the first class because

  • handlers can chose to use it for familiarization (although few do)
  • it uses all the obstacles, so a course change to titling can be quick
  • it is time consuming - best to get it out of the way early

Jumpers - often the last class of the weekend because

  • it uses a small sub-set of the obstacles (an advantage when you want to loadout, a disadvantage if you're going to do titling next and make everyone wait while the next course is built)
  • a fast class, if on the last day of the event this lets everyone head home earlier

Relay Classes - often end of first day or beginning of second day because

  • you need to pull a few obstacles (teeter and table) but usually it's a fast course change from a titling class (or vice versa)
  • although there are about half as many runs, the many jump height changes will slow things down if there aren't energetic workers; a good gate steward and/or announcer can be key in keeping relay classes moving briskly
  • It's nice at the end of the first day because (if run well) there's plenty of cheering and it can be energizing and upbeat

Snooker - often at end of first day or beginning of second day because

  • it uses a subset of obstacles - easy to build from a titling course, but takes time to build a titling course from it (a reason to have it at end of a day)
  • takes about the same or less time than a titling class
  • since handler may select obstacles in opening it can be useful for familiarization (a reason to have it first on the second day)

Titling classes usually end up in the middle of the day, because

  • they use all the obstacles
  • this accommodates more people and dogs - if your dog does best in its first class you have the option of skipping the first game class (and sleeping in once you've a measurement card ); if your dog runs well after a warmup class then you enter the first games class

Sequence of Levels Within a Class

To minimize the possibility of a dog needing to go directly from one class to their next without a breather in between, clubs usually chose to run through the class levels in the same sequence for the full day, and then reverse it the second day. Since Advanced classes require an intermediate number of obstacles, for efficiency it usually is in the middle. So, for example, you may run starters/novice-advanced-masters all day Saturday and then masters-advanced-starters/novice on Sunday.

Jump Height Order

A similar approach and efficiency justifications can be applied to specifying a sequential order for jump heights. Changing jump heights takes nearly the same amount of time whether it's done sequentially or not (the broad jump and wall jumps are exceptions to this). The main advantage of running jump heights sequentially is that exhibitors and ring crew find it easier to remember what's next.

The other extreme is to randomly draw running order for each class. This is required for Masters Snooker, since strategy can be improved by watching other dogs run and having more time to consider it. Sharp show secretaries draw the Master Snooker jump height order and build the rest of their jump height sequences around that. 12" dogs run first in Gamblers much more than 25% of the time, and that isn't fair. (And 30" dogs run first more often than 18" or 24" do.)

One compromise is to have the open dogs run first all of one day, the mini dogs first all of the other day, and alternate between the heights within that framework. (i.e. - 30-24-18-12 for first class, 24-30-12-18 for second class, then on the second day start with 12-18-24-30, then 18-12-30-24, etc.). This works best when there are several dogs of each height in every level and class. (Sally Sheridan)

Here are some thoughts on running an AKC Trial:

The first class of the day should start fairly early. (The AKC recommends that start times be published to competitors in their confirmation notices.) Nobody wants a 10 or 11 start, especially on a Sunday with possibly a long drive home. Assume 15 minutes for Judge's Briefing and Walkthrough. If the first course of the day is set up early and all competitors have checked in, you can let them start walking the course early. RULE #1: START ON TIME!

Here's a formula for scheduling, assuming that the ring crew is experienced and the competitors are ready for their turns: Allow 1.5 minutes per dog + 10 minutes for all height changes (not each, but combined total). For the course change (usually Exc to Open) allow 20 minutes. Then round to the nearest quarter of an hour for the listed Judge's brief. Again, 15 minutes for briefing and walkthrough, followed by 1.5 minutes per dog + 10 minutes slush for all height changes. A 20 minute course change again (usually Open to Nov). If familiarization of obstacles is scheduled (usually on the first day of a weekend), allow 20 minutes for that. Calculate times and, again, round to the nearest one quarter hour and schedule the last judge's briefing and walkthru. To calculate the expected finish time (in case you want to schedule post-trial games) use 15 minutes for the Judge's brief/walkthru, and multiply the amount of dogs in the last class by 1.5 minutes and add 10 minutes for the combined height changes. You should also run the Novice B & A heights together to save 5 unnecessary height changes, Novice B first, since the handlers are more experienced.

Here's an example:

 60 Excellent, 40 Open and 50 Novice, (150 dogs Total):
 Excellent Brief/Walkthru    7:30am
 Excellent class             7:45 - 9:25   = (60 x 1.5) + 10
 Course change to Open       9:25 - 9:45
 Open Brief/Walkthru         9:45am
 Open class                  10:00 - 11:10  = (40 x 1.5) + 10
 Course change to Novice     11:10 - 11:30
 Novice Obst. Famil.         11:30 - 11:50
 Novice Brief/Walkthru       12:00  rounded (lunch prior)
 Novice class (B/A)          12:15 - 1:40   = (50 x 1.5) + 10

As clubs, judges and competitors get more experience and proficiency, these times will probably be able to be reduced. Don't forget to consider using a bell for the start indicator for dogs on the line and to set up 2 waiting 'boxes' just outside the ring for the next 2 dogs in line.
(Marquand Cheek)


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