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Trial Etiquette 101


Debbie Meier
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We competed at the Stock Dog trials at the Iowa State Fair this past week, we found ourselves in a conversation about Trial Etiquette. Two of the Open handlers pointed out that many of the new handlers do no know that they should introduce theirselves and their dogs to the trial upon entering the arena, and taking their dogs out in the arena/field during the handlers meeting could get them disqualified. Are these standard policies regardless of the venue or more just unspoken rules? Also, are there other things that people new to trialing should be aware of?

 

Deb

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Hello everyone,

 

We competed at the Stock Dog trials at the Iowa State Fair this past week, we found ourselves in a conversation about Trial Etiquette. Two of the Open handlers pointed out that many of the new handlers do no know that they should introduce theirselves and their dogs to the trial upon entering the arena, and taking their dogs out in the arena/field during the handlers meeting could get them disqualified. Are these standard policies regardless of the venue or more just unspoken rules? Also, are there other things that people new to trialing should be aware of?

 

Deb

 

Good questions, Deb! The only trials that I am familiar with are USBCHA sanctioned trials, and they are governed by rather stick rules. Below are the rules from the USBCHA website regarding what we can and can not do on the trial field. Regarding "introducing ourselves and our dogs", I have found that it is customary to give my name and my dog's name to the judge and scribe as I walk to the post (so there is no confusion as to our identity). Also, according to rule I, dogs are not permitted on the field before their run. I hope that this information helps!

 

Regards,

nancy

 

SECTION 8: CONTESTANTS

A. Each contestant must be ready when called by the Course Director or an assistant. Anyone failing to answer the call may be disqualified. Contestants should note that while the order of the runs will be strictly followed, unless changes are authorized by the trial committee, the exact timing can not be guaranteed.

 

B. Any contestant wishing to have the course explained or have any other point clarified must question the Course Director before he starts his run. Contestants can not ask questions once their run is started.

 

C. By commencing the run, contestants are presumed to understand the course and are expected to follow it.

 

D. Once contestants start their runs, they are entirely in the hands of the judge. By deviating from the course they are liable for disqualification or point loss as the judge considers suitable having regard for all the circumstances.

 

E. Any contestant, who receives assistance of any kind while running his dog, may be disqualified. If the contestant is disqualified he shall earn no points. If a contestant is called for expiration of time limit, points earned to that time will count.

 

F. After being called off, a contestant will cease working his dog and will collect the sheep and remove them from the trial field.

 

G. Any contestant who retires or leaves the field, without the judge’s permission, will forfeit all points.

 

H. Any contestant who intentionally harasses the stock after his run will be disqualified at the discretion of the judge in conference with the Course Director and may be subject to further disciplinary action by the HA.

 

I. Neither contestants nor any others, shall take dogs onto the trial course, before the competition starts except with permission of the Course Director or trial management.

 

J. No contestant, or other person, shall engage in any form of misconduct or harassment toward trial management, judges, or HA officials. Trial management has the right to disqualify or refuse entry to any contestant or other person for violation of this rule.

 

K. Any contestant so denied access may request that the regional (district) Directors determine if trial manager’s decision was appropriate, and if it was not, what action should be taken. If either party is dissatisfied with the decision of the regional directors, they may appeal to the BOD, which the Appeal Board may or may not hear at their discretion.

 

L. A contestant may drop out of any contest due to injury to himself, his dog, or due to sickness/death in his family.

 

M. A contestant shall not at any time withdraw from any trial he is participating in due to dissatisfaction, grievance with the judge/judges, trial management, or other contestants without forfeiting all money/prizes he may have won in previous runs.

 

N. If contestant refuses to compete in the finals (except for above mentioned reasons), any money/prizes won will be forfeited. In the event money/prizes have been distributed before the finals, it must be refunded/returned within fifteen (15) days after the refund request is made, or the contestant will be suspended until the money/prizes have been refunded/returned.

 

O. Should a contestant withdraw from competition, entry fees, or any part thereof, will not be refunded after contest starts. Trial management has the right to establish cutoff dates for trial withdrawal refunds.

 

P. A contestant shall not enter the trial field at any time with any kind of training device. The trial management, representative, or judge must disqualify a contestant if he enters the trial field with any such equipment, and all entry fees and/or premiums pertaining to said contestant shall be forfeited. Such devices include, but are not limited to, electronic collars, dummy or weighted collars, a leash or rope that is not detached before the dog is sent, or any device used to distract or cause pain to a dog while it is working. The judge has the right to inspect the dog for any violation to this rule.

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Deb,

While introducing oneself and one's dog might not be a written rule anywhere, consider that neither the judge nor the scribe may know about last-minute changes to a running order (say a couple of folks don't show up, or someone switches one of their dogs for another or pulls a dog that's sick or injured--and this does happen) so unless you happen to be someone they know personally, it makes sense to tell them who you and your dog are. As someone who has scribed a lot I can say it's rather irritating when a competitor walks on by and I have to yell after them, "Could I have your name please?" In the areas in which I compete, I do know a lot of handlers and even many of their dogs, but I don't necessarily know new folks or "old" folks' new dogs. Even if I know the judge and/or scribe, I always give my name and the dog's name as I come on the field. I just figure it's the courteous thing to do considering that we aren't identified by competitor numbers or anything.

 

As for dogs on the field at the handler's meeting, generally it's accepted that the person who is up first in the running order might have his/her dog at hand (especially if it's a big trial with a lot of runs to get through, as then that person would just stay at the post, ready to send their dog, after the meeting), but other competing dogs should not be out on the field. Walking out to a handler's meeting with a noncompeting dog (say, a puppy) generally isn't a problem, and you will see that occasionally.

 

I have been to trials (novice trials mainly) where the handlers used the field "after hours" as a place to walk their dogs. Even though it technically wasn't during the time when the trial was actively being run, I didn't think it was the right thing to do--not unless they had permission from the course director (say, as a result of there being limited places to walk dogs). But then again, novice trials aren't sanctioned by the USBCHA, so those rules might not apply (some local clubs, who might sanction a novice trial, do have rules that are similar to or the same as those the USBCHA governs open and nursery trials with).

 

J.

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I think introductions send the message that the judge is someone to be respected, not just a vehicle to put a placing on my performance. And that I appreciate the help of the scribe. It sets the ISDS format apart from the more mechanical venues where everything is so scripted that there's no point introducing oneself. I hope we never come to that. It helps me relax too by reminding myself to give those at the judge's station a friendly smile as I name myself and my dog.

 

Also courteous is to tell the judge "Thank you" if you've been dismissed. Apologies are nice if necessary but never let them hold you up if the moment requires getting a handle on your young dog ASAP!

 

Examine the course before the handlers' meeting and try to think of any possible questions, before hand. This means, of course, that you will arrive well before said handlers' meeting.

 

Keep your dog well clear of the gate as people enter and exit, until your turn, particularly if it's the only way in and out. I keep my dog on leash until I am ready to go in, but I take the leash off then. There's no set rule for that. I prefer that because, again, I'm less nervous if I have to fiddle with the leash at the post. Sometimes if I've got a nervy dog I'll take him or her in on leash, go to the judge, and take off the leash while introducing myself (reminding myself to smile!).

 

Don't slam the pen gate, no matter how awesome you feel about getting those sheep in or how close you are running to the time. I've put in my time helping repair those pens, plus sometimes sheep get to disliking the noise and will make it all the harder for the next person to put them in. Luck of the draw, sure, but I always feel you'd never do that working on the farm.

 

Doesn't Don McCaig have an article about "First Time at the Post" or something?

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All the trials I have timed for the people walk to the judge and give their name and their dog's info. Most people say thanks to the judge, stocksetter and helpers afterwards. We are lucky to have great people in our area who are very considerate of each other and help whenever possible. Narita

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