“Starting Over in Novice”


Good morning!

My best dog ever Trio just brought me a pine cone.  Of course, any of my dogs are “the best dog ever” if they bring me something and look so proud and happy about it!

Pine cones are to be treasured and this particular one smells beautifully of pine trees, but the topic of this particular blog is not pine cones.

Today the subject that springs to mind is training a dog to do agility and hopefully getting the opportunity to run in Starters/Novice.

I have heard some people refer to this momentous occasion as “going through novice”, but I think this makes it sound as if it is not a fun experience at all and simply something to “get through” before the real fun begins.  Looking back at the times I have been fortunate enough to step to the line and take on the first ever courses with my dogs I will never describe it as “going through Novice/Starters”.

Let’s see how many times have I done this?

Twelve USDAA Starters Dogs:

Saxon, GSD

Rufus, English Shepherd

Purdy, English Shepherd



Bracken, English Shepherd

Nel, Border Collie

TC, Border Collie

Bobbin, Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Stroller, Border Collie

Daz, Border Collie

Twiggy, Border Collie

Just Emma, English Shepherd

Watson, English Shepherd


Six AKC Novice Dogs:











That’s 18 trips to that precious Starters/Novice start line.

Hey, Wait! Make that 7!

Trio, the dog who just happens to be sitting in front of me holding a beautiful pine cone in his mouth looking so proud of himself, just “went through AKC Novice” before I even had a chance to realize we were there.  More about that later!

The point I’m hoping to make here is not how many dogs I have “been through USDAA Starters and/or AKC Novice competition with, but just how important it is to truly believe that the dog sitting in front of you, whether he is holding a pine cone or something unmentionable, is truly the best dog in the world.  Agility happens most of all between the obstacles and outside the ring.  Only a small time is spent in the actual competition so remain in the moment, relish the experience and enjoy it for all it’s worth, as it truly is an honor stepping to the line for that first time in Starters/Novice competition.

Okay.  Now I really have to get off the computer as the best dogs ever are being very quiet and patient.  Must reward that before it is too late!


P.S.  When I got my puppy, Trio, I had an interesting conversation with somebody who commented that “Now you have to start all over again!” as if it was something to be dreaded.  I was and have always been thrilled to meet a new puppy or dog, to develop that playful bond and to apply layer upon layer of mutual trust which hopefully will be the beginning of a fun and enjoyable agility experience.

Because Agility is a Mental Game

I am getting my blog up and running very soon! In the meantime, here is something I wrote several years ago (Ok, 26 years ago!) to whet your appetite and get you feeling positive.
Emma jumpHQ

Because Agility Is a Mental Game

Here are some Positive Thoughts for Handlers on the Day of the Competition

By Kathy Lofthouse

February 1991

I enjoy agility competitions because they are a chance to see my friends and a chance to show how good my dog and I have become. I have trained and prepared to do my best and now is the opportunity to put all that training on display. We are going to do well.

When I walk an agility course I look at it as a challenge, which will bring out the best in my dog and I.

Before my dog and I enter the ring I concentrate on the course and how we are going to do the best clean run we have ever done. I focus on the job and so does my dog.

I know we can do a good clean run and I will make every effort to be sure that we do.

My dog and I have our own special way of running an agility course. We are special and we can get good clean runs because I concentrate on every detail. I believe in myself, and my dog. We produce great performances. We are going to do well.

I learn the course and decide how I will handle my dog through each part in order to get a good clean run. I do not hear those who may be obsessing about potential problems on the course. I simply decide where my dog and I ARE going to be going.

When we run the course I concentrate on every little detail, working in rapport with my dog from start to finish.

My dog and I move briskly and smoothly through the course doing the best job we possibly can, working together as a team and paying attention to the contacts along the way.

I enjoy agility and when I run a course I do everything I can to help my dog. I keep in touch with my dog and give him commands clearly and well in advance so he knows where to go next. We work together as a team. That is what makes us so special.

Today we will show everybody how it’s done. Our rounds will be a fluid demonstration of dog and handler working together.

I know we are good and today is the perfect day to prove it.

I believe in myself and I believe in my dog and that belief is so strong that we can do anything today and enjoy ourselves in the process!