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Preparing for the Top Twenty Competition

Preparing for the Top Twenty Competition

By JoAnne Brettschneider

Congratulations to everyone that has qualified for the Top Twenty Competition!

This month, in preparation for the upcoming DPCA National, I would like to address first time and newer Top Twenty qualifiers for obedience. I would also like to touch on agility, and hope that I can offer some help as to preparing for these awesome events.

As a qualifier, you will receive a packet in the mail with information on what you will need to do, and general guidelines. Please read and reread this information. There are deadlines and lots of information to absorb.

You will receive in your packet a series of exercises that will be performed at the Top Twenty event. Don’t panic. You will have a meeting in the same room as the competition. You will be able to walk the area, and the obedience T20 Coordinator will take you through all of the exercises to be performed. You will have two judges, one caller, and one steward. The steward will hand you your dumbbell, put the gloves out, and anything else that is needed. The judges will be moving around. The caller will be similar to the regular judge in your regular trials. If you are nervous, your dog will be too. Relax, and make it fun. Getting ready for the exercises? Don’t panic. The exercises performed for this year can be found Here Click on “obedience” tab and scroll down to the exercises section.

The exercises are listed as follows:
Gloves (#1): The #1 glove is the one on your left. To perform this exercise, you will stand on a spot or line predetermined by the judges. You will face away from where the gloves will be, so you are not watching as the gloves are placed by the steward. Once the gloves are placed, the judge will tell you which glove to retrieve. That will be the only command given. You will pivot your dog with a voice OR signal so you are facing the correct glove. Your dog should be sitting before you release to the glove. Then using your hand and your voice, send the dog to the glove with a retrieve command. When the dog returns to you, the judge will tell you to take the glove from the dog. When you take the glove, the judge will then tell you to “finish” and you do your regular finish.

Broad jump: Hopefully you have had time to teach your dog this. If you do not have a broad jump at home, take a few boards and prop them up with some bricks, so they look like a broad jump. The jump is set double your dog’s jump height. You will set your dog up at a minimum of 8 feet from the jump, leave when the Judge tells you to, and stand 2 feet from the broad jump boards. You may be anywhere within the plane of the first board to the last board, but your toes must be two feet from the jump. As the dog takes the jump, you must pivot 90 degrees towards your dog, so he can come to a front position. Again, judge will then tell you to finish.

Retrieve on flat: Hopefully your dog has been taught to retrieve before this fun event. The caller will ask you if you are ready. Then the caller will tell you to throw your dumbbell. At that time, you may tell your dog to “stay” and then throw. The caller will tell you to “send your dog”. Once you have sent your dog, he should pick up the dumbbell and come back to a front position. The caller will then tell you to “finish”.

Retrieve over high: This is the same as the Retrieve on flat, but your dog must take the jump, pick up the dumbbell and return over the jump to front position. You must start a minimum of 8 feet from the high jump, but you may be further, depending on your dog’s jumping stride.

Command Discrimination: This is a new one for the Top Twenty, as it is a fairly new exercise in AKC. It will require some advance training. You will be asked to “Stand your dog”. When you were in Novice, you were allowed to move next to your dog and touch your dog to help him stand. In the Open class, you are not! Your dog must stand next to you on command. If you must help your dog, in a regular trial you will not qualify, but in the Top Twenty, you will just receive points off, so do not panic. Once you have your dog on a stand, the caller will ask you to leave your dog. Tell your dog to stay and go 15 feet away, and turn to face your dog. The caller will ask you to down your dog. You may use your voice AND your hand signal to down your dog. Once your dog is down, the caller will tell you again to leave your dog. You may tell your dog again to stay and you will go another 15 feet away, and turn and face your dog. The caller will tell you to sit your dog. Again, you may command your dog with voice AND hand signal. The caller will then tell you to return to your dog. You may again tell your dog to stay, then return to your dog as in a stay exercise.

Heeling: This is longer than normal, and your figure 8 will now be 3 people, and a serpentine. Directed Jumping: You will leave your dog and go to the other side of the jumps, where indicated. Turn to face your dog. The caller will designate a jump to take. This will be the same for all competitors. You may use your arm and voice to indicate the jump. Turn to face your dog as he comes over the jump. After he comes to front and finishes, you will repeat going the other direction. Remember this is a celebration of what you have already accomplished. Breath, and enjoy this time with your dog. If you are in it to win it, you don’t need any of my tips, you have already mastered them. If this is your first time, or you are a newer competitor, remember one thing: This is about your celebration of what you have accomplished with your dog. Spectators love to watch dogs that are having fun. There are no failures. If your dog doesn’t do all the exercises, relax and have a bit more fun. Make your dog relax. Enjoy the night!

You will receive a packet that will give you information. It has been customary for the participants to wear a purple shirt and black pants. The packet will tell you where to order your purple shirt. You will have an agility meeting where all the rules of the competition will be explained. If you are a newer competitor or if this is your first time, relax. Your dog already knows everything. The general guidelines and information can be found Here Click on the agility tab, and scroll down to read all the particulars.

You will be allowed to let your dogs practice on the equipment and to get an idea of the footing and general area before you have to compete. This is very casual and a time will be set up when you go to your agility meeting. The Top Twenty agility is one of the loudest, most exciting displays of performance. While spectators really get into the running of the dogs, this can affect your dogs. A dog that is naturally high will become higher, and a sensitive dog can be frightened by the festivities. There is very little you can do to prepare your dog for this, so you just have to know your dog and be ready to maintain focus and keep as much connection with your dog as possible. After the competition, while the judge tallies the scores, there is a final celebration of the teams. This is not part of the competition that is judged, it is just for fun. The dogs love it, but again, it brings out the adrenaline rush in many dogs. You may choose to not participate, based on your dog’s temperament. There will be a relay, with two dogs and handlers running at the same time. A little fire cracker that I had, Fosta, would need no instruction, she could do the relay with no handler. She loved it. She also assumed the regular courses were meant to be relays, and she would bolt into them so high that her toenails were clinging to the ceiling! Regardless, if this is your first time or your 20 th , the National is one of the most exciting times of the year. Good luck to all participants. A special thank you to The Doberman Network for all their coverage and the awesome job they do.

Any questions, please feel free to contact me.
JoAnne Brettschneider