Dahlia and I have been trialing in CPE (Canine Performance Events, Inc.). We started there for two major reasons: (1) It's really newbie friendly and (2) Level 1 does not require the weaves or the teeter (the two hardest obstacles). In addition to that, the courses for Level 1 are fairly straight-forward with usually only one or two changes of side. We really started there for the first reason. As a green handler with a green low-drive dog and as someone who is in it just for fun and especially as someone who gets really nervous, knowing people would be supportive was very important to me.
Recently my instructor talked us into trying an AKC. I registered Dahlia with them over a year ago just in case (Dahlia's full AKC name is Spanley's One of the Seven) so we really had no excuse. I signed up for one day of a four-day trial and decided to do just two runs: JWW (Jumpers with weaves) and FAST (a game where you get to make up your own course and attempt some distance handling). I decided that Standard was just a bit too much for us this time around. Two runs seemed like plenty for our first time out.
Now, I have to admit that my impression of the AKC is generally not all that positive. I once had a nasty run-in online with someone who competed heavily in AKC that nearly scared me out of trialing all together. And I've always seen AKC as extremely competitive. In addition to that I...well...I have a mutt. The AKC only started allowing mixed breeds to compete in non-conformation events two years ago. And I can assure you that the decision was not likely out of the goodness of their hearts and probably came more from their pocketbook.
So I went into this trial with a bit of trepidation, pretty sure that I would try AKC once and only once and then return to CPE happy to know that I knew my place.
What I found was completely the opposite of what I expected. Everyone was incredibly nice to me. Even the judge came up to me after our first run and complimented me on how well it went (despite NQing). Our NQ was because Dahlia blew past a jump (two in the end) but I made the choice to not take her back to redo them since she had good energy and was moving really well. This was the first time I was able to make the choice to sacrifice the Q to keep her excitement up.
We didn't Q in either run, but both runs went incredibly well. She did a good rear cross and weaved in her JWW run. She did a brilliant teeter, and was able to go out and away from me to take a jump and a tunnel in her FAST run. We would have had that darned Q if I didn't screw up royally and force us into over time.
Our instructor got a video of our first run. The part I'm most proud of? Dahlia's release off her start-line stay. For Dahlia, this was brilliant! But I'm also proud of her weaves and that despite blowing past a couple jumps she moved well and didn't once hesitate (except when I suddenly stopped). She's lovely to watch, in my oh so humble opinion.
We'll definitely be returning to the AKC! The course was a lot of fun and we had a great time at the trial.