This might be useful for those of you who are about to embark on a journey with your dog that will hopefully result in a trip to AAC Nationals. With Regionals either coming up for some or underway, it is important that when you are at these events that you make sure you adequately prepare your dog for going in the ring. I have several challenges facing me when I take Apex to these events. I have to make sure that his body is limber and warm and that his mind can focus. The first thing I do is make sure that I crate him away from the action. When I was handling multiple dogs this also helped so that the dog I wasn’t running wasn’t stimulated by my voice while running the other dog. It is really important that you can find a spot that will allow your dog to rest in between runs. Another important factor is potty breaks! Make sure you allow your dog enough time to go to the bathroom so you are not rushed. Know your dogs bathroom schedule. I can tell you from experience that a dog that is holding it in will not perform well! One time I had a dog that hardly ever knocked down bars just completely go crazy with knocking them down. Caught me completely off guard! As soon as we got out of the ring she had a sizeable bowel movement! If you don’t have a potty command I highly recommend it. Makes life so much easier. Know what the running order is and memorize a marker dog. That way when the gate steward is calling out dogs you know how much time you have. If you are there early and want to separate yourself to allow both you and your dog to concentrate, try and let the gate steward know that you are there and where you will be. Better to be early than late but not too early. That can work against you. With all these things in mind I start into our warm-up routine. First I get Apex moving quickly to elevate his heart rate. Then I will stretch out his limbs and run my hands along his body from nose to tail. This wakes up his senses. Then I will take him to a warm up jump and do a few reps of jumps. There are several things to consider at the warm up jump, I will do a separate post on the importance of it! After we are done that I try to make sure we are within about 4-6 dogs away depending on the event. I try to keep him engaged with me and I try to make sure he doesn’t go into rest mode. If I see him getting too high from watching the dogs in the ring I will divert his focus back to me. The last thing I do is put his reward somewhere away from the ring that I will remember where it is so I can quickly come back to it! No matter what happens in the run Apex will get that reward for purely joining me in the ring. Come back for a post about the warm-up jump and other warm-up exercises and also a post on cool downs!