Putting your dog in a trial is well, honestly your worst day of training. Profound statement I know.
In this day and age of social media and society wanting things quickly, it is not uncommon for people to enter their dogs in a performance trial pre maturely. This is done for a number of reasons. I will list a few.
1) People enjoy the social aspect of going to a trial and entering their dog.
2) Monday morning brags on Social Media... you know the ones. The ones that start with "So we did a thing this weekend" Whats interesting is I rarely see monday morning brags when handler and dog does not do well. Always take responsibility for whatever happens. Share the good and the bad. I always do!
3) Not understanding the complexity and what is actually happening when your dog is in a trial environment.
4) Not understanding the "Proofing" stage of training.
So, back to the title. Think about this. When you put your dog in a trial, there is no reinforcement. Period. Positive or negative.
It does not matter if the performance was good or bad. The dog is learning something. And in an environment typically 100% different then training. Unless, you trial like you train and train like you trial. Which most people don't do. Think about all the differences in the environment form a typical training day to a trial environment. Including handler nerves which a dog can pick up on immediately. So the trial actually becomes a place of learning for the dog. It is actually a training day. And since you can not control what happens, it is your worst day of training. Lets say your dog makes a mistake. It gets no information or feedback. Even if it does well. No information or feed back. Dogs become trial smart very very quickly. A trial smart dog is a very difficult situation to address. But still many people want to take part in many many trials which is not healthy for the dogs performance. Well let me clarify that. It is not healthy if you are looking for very successful performances. Personally I try to put my dogs in as little trials as needed to achieve my goal. If your goal is more from a point of "I am not really concerned with my dogs performance", this does not apply.
This is just something to think about next time you fork out that 75-100 bucks to enter a trial.
Dogs are always learning. 24-7....keep that in mind. And best of luck when you enter that trial. There is no better feeling then when you and your dog "hit that note' or "find that flow". Happy training and trialing!