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Navigating Trials Away from Home: Etiquette and Expectations

Competing in club trials on home ground offers a sense of familiarity. The handler and dog are comfortable with the field layout, the club dynamics and the helper. For those aiming to compete at regional, national, or international levels, venturing beyond the home club will bring additional challenges. A prior understanding of the etiquette and expectations when trialing away from home can significantly enhance the experience for both competitors and organizers alike.

Planning a Trial

Organizing large dog trials is a huge undertaking which includes detailed planning. To ensure a smoothly run competition day, it is crucial all necessary (GSSCC, USCA, GSDCA, etc) documentation has been received by the organizers a number of weeks before the trial date. They need to know who will compete, and at what level, so the required number of track layers and perhaps dummy dogs to even out odd number of competitors can be guaranteed. Especially trials in Fall time can be time critical with sunrise about 1.5 hours later than in Spring. Reduced day time hours will not only have an impact on the starting time of the tracking component, but also on the maximum number of participants who can be accommodated. Last-minute withdrawals or changes (e.g., IGP3 to IGP2) tend to be extremely disruptive for the organizing club. At one of our K9Force trials, a sudden withdrawal meant we had to arrange a dummy dog from an outside the club with only a day's notice. Obviously, it is also imperative to inform the organizing club if your female is, or may likely become, in heat.

Organizing clubs need to inform competitors at least two weeks before the event about the schedule, tracking conditions, and field layout. Competitors should have the opportunity to practice before the trial at the competition field so that they and their dog can become familiar with the field layout and the equipment (blinds, jump, a-frame) used. Crucially, field setups between these practice sessions and trial days are not to be changed.

Trialing Away from Home

Then the day arrives with an opportunity to explore the unfamiliar trial fields. The layout may be quite different from your own club. There may be other unusual distractions, such as a footpath used by dog walkers close to the long down area, permanent blinds on the field, or many spectators in a stadium. As long as the competition complies with the GSSCC rules, and any deviations are approved by the judge, any unfamiliarity with the setup and distractions is your problem, not that of the organizing club. It is therefore important, when competing at another club, to allow time to familiarize yourself with the particulars of the trial before the competition day. It is also important to prepare your dog for those situations that are not encountered at the home club. 

Navigating trials away from home requires mutual respect, effective communication, and attention to detail from both competitors and organizers. By adhering to etiquette and expectations, participants can contribute to a positive and rewarding trialing experience for all parties involved. Be ready to start on time, large trials have critical schedules. Be respectful to the club when walking your dog and parking your car in the dedicated areas. Above all, show great sportsmanlike behaviour.

Taking the Challenge

Trialing away from the home grounds is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends. It fosters a sense of community among like-minded dog enthusiasts. Respect for both competitors' and organizers' perspectives, adherence to rules, and a spirit of camaraderie all contribute to a positive trialing culture, a feeling of accomplishment and success.


K9Force (2024, April). Navigating Trials Away from Home: Etiquette and Expectations. K9Force - April 2024 (

© K9Force WDC 2024. For permission to reproduce any article in this blog, contact

Images courtesy of Titled Perspective Photography & Blond Photography

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