Planning For Your Next Event

Wednesday, February 01, 2017 12:30 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

Written by Connie Cleveland-Nolan

2017 has begun, and if you’re like me, you’ve gotten out your calendar and started making plans to attend upcoming shows. What is your strategy for planning your trial schedule?

Considerations like show conditions, judges, and how frequently you show all play a part in the events you choose to enter. By planning ahead, and training with a purpose you will arrive as prepared as possible.

This is the method I use for planning my training and recommend to my students:

  1. Create a training calendar.
  2. Enter the trial dates on the calendar.
  3. Cross off the days you absolutely cannot train and identify days to rest your dog.
  4. Commit to the schedule so that your training can occur as planned.
  5. Working backwards from the trial dates, write down the exercises you want to do the day before the event so they will be fresh in your dog’s mind and make a note of where you intend to do them.
  6. Continue working backwards and fill in every day between now and then.

This following chart is a sample two-week training plan I created last year for my Golden Retriever, Micah. Micah was competing in Open B and Utility B.

 Tuesday Wednesday
Heeling, Signals, Corner gloves, Go-outs, DOR, Broad, Stays
Heeling, Sigs, Articles, MS,
ROF, ROH- remember to use his name on send
Field Train - (Micah is also a field trial dog and a change of venue will serve him well)
Day off- Go for a run with Cameron if he’s available.
Heel/Signals- Evaluate Mon/Tues and look for weaknesses that need attention.
Group training outside: Partial run-thru’s- mix up Open & Utility.
Day off
Monday Tuesday
Outside: new location- practice all exercises focusing on any issues Saturday.
Will have minimal time- yard-Heeling, signals, DOR, MS, stays Field Train Two 8-10 minute sessions- 1 focus on Open, 1 Utility
Short day, Heel/Signals, anything that was a problem yesterday Show Show

As you can see, that there were some unknowns when I created this plan. However, by planning, I avoided feeling overwhelmed, or forgetting to practice something. If you look carefully, it is clear what I believe to be Micah’s weakest exercises because I practice them in every training session: He tends to forge on the heeling, and sometimes fails to drop on the signal in Utility.

How do you manage a problem during the week before an event?

While some problems occur for a short time while a dog is learning, other problems can be persistent. Persistent problems require regular management throughout a dog’s career.

Managing problems is akin to playing the 1970’s arcade game, Whac-a-Mole, where the moles pop up from holes as you force them down by hitting them with a mallet. Just as we “Whac” down one problem, we forget to “remind” our dogs to focus on another problem that might pop up instead.

In the final week before an event, as you grow more excited, apprehensive, and perhaps anxious, it is important to remind your dog to concentrate on the exercises he struggles with. Don’t dwell on them. Dwelling on them will make him nervous or anxious. Practice these exercises consistently in the final few days of training so the problem does not rear its ugly head at the trial.

Persistent Problems Can Be Managed

I had opportunity to help someone with a dog that could be very silly on the glove exercise in the ring. Several times, when sent for Glove #1, he would pick up the glove, make a loop toward Glove #2, and might even drop Glove #1 and pick up Glove #2 before returning.

We use several techniques to control his silliness. We often remind him to “Come,” as he picks up the glove. We place glove #2 closer than required to tempt him to go to it instead, even on the way out. We also ask someone to surreptitiously throw Glove #2 out as he turns with glove #1 in his mouth. He’s a clever dog, and although he might have fallen for these techniques at first, he knows better now and returns to his handler in a straight line while averting his gaze as if he has no interest in Glove #2.

Because this is a persistent problem, I want the owner to remind him to mind his business during the week before the event. On Wednesday, she chooses to have someone throw out Glove #2 while he is returning with Glove #1. He is clever enough to resist the temptation but it does make him think! Then, on Thursday and Friday, as a gentle reminder, she gives a verbal “Come” as he picks up the glove.

On one particular weekend, Utility B was sending for Glove #2 on Saturday. Everything went well, as expected, because this problem usually occurs on Glove #1. However, on Sunday, when Utility B called for Glove #1, he pulled his antics and swung wide to retrieve Glove #2 on his return.

Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Manage a Problem!

Darn it! We missed an important opportunity. Having permission to retrieve Glove #2 on Saturday undermined our determination to keep him focused. Hindsight is perfect. If we had only foreseen the potential problem, we could have utilized the techniques we used to manage this problem in our training on Saturday night.

On Sunday evening, when the shows are over, know that whether you won or you lost, you always learned something. On the drive home, breathe, relax, enjoy your success, or lick your wounds, but in any case. when you’re feeling calm and level headed, get your calendar out and start preparing for the next competition.

Last year, I did two one-hour webinars about Planning Your Training Sessions. Videos of the webinars are available to you for $20.00. You can get more information about the webinars at

Have you downloaded my Digital Obedience Guide, Tricks that Transition to Obedience Exercises? It’s free at:

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