Below is a list of volunteer positions for agility trials and their descriptions.
Accurately record on each scribe sheet the scores of the dogs as signaled by the judge. Ensure that the dog in the ring corresponds to the scribe sheet BEFORE the run begins, by checking the dog’s number, breed and/or asking the handler the dogs name, i.e. ‘Is this Max?’ Record the dog’s time at the end of the run. Stop the judge and confer with him/her after any run in which you are unsure of the score. Prior to the class the scribe should check that the scribe sheets are in the correct order. He/she must check that scratches have been pulled and any changes from the published running order have been accounted for.
Attention to detail, good hearing and eyesight. Additionally, it is extremely useful if the scribe understands the class, especially important for gamblers and snooker in USDAA, and has prior experience.
Note: Judges shouldn’t be expected to training multiple scribes and timers, therefore a scribe should scribe an entire class, i.e. Masters jumpers, Advanced gamblers, and preferably an entire group of classes, ie. All jumpers, all gamblers, etc. Don’t plan on swapping out scribes by jump heights within a class.
Accurately time the run of each dog and provide the time to the scribe. It is very important that this job be done well as it causes many hard feelings when times are obviously way off or a handler has a wonderful run only to find that the timer didn’t get a time.
Here are the steps that the timer should perform:
At the start of the run:
1. Check that the judge is ready to begin the next run and that the ring crew is clear of the course. Check that the scribe is ready and that the stopwatch is set to zero.
2. Signal the handler to start by saying ‘go when ready’ or something to that effect.
3. Start the watch as soon as the dog break the plane of the start line, to do this the timer must be sitting/standing looking directly along the line. Immediately check that the watch is running!! If the watch doesn’t start for some reason do something to stop the run, blow a whistle if you have been provided one or signal aggressively to the judge so that he may stop the run.
During the run:
1. Periodically check that the watch is still running. If the watch quits at some point close to the end of the run wait until the dog finishes, then tell the judge you didn’t get a time. He will rerun the dog for time only. If the watch quits prior to the mid-point of the course immediately signal a watch failure.
End of the run:
Stop the watch when any part of the dog breaks the plane of the finish line, again you must be sitting/standing looking directly along the line. Prior to the class, ascertain from the judge at what point the finish line becomes ‘live’. For example, if the last 3 obstacles are numbers 16, 17 and 18, and the judge tells you the finish is ‘live’ after obstacle 15, then you would stop the watch anytime that the dog crosses the finish line after he has completed obstacle 15, regardless of whether he has completed the course. There are many occasions when a dog will run by the last jump, then be called back by the handler to complete the course. In these instances the judge will ask the timer whether or not the dog in fact crossed the finish line before completing the course. This can make the difference between a clean run and an ‘E’ in USDAA so be prepared!
If the final time on the watch seems wrong, for example an obviously speedy run has recorded a time of 90 seconds, immediately confer with the judge.
The prior steps apply to jumpers, standard and pairs, in which the dogs follow a prescribed course. There are special considerations for gamblers and snooker.
Gamblers and Snooker
In gamblers the dogs will have either 30 or 40 seconds in the ‘opening’ to accumulate points, followed by a gamble which will have a prescribed time, usually between 10 and 20 seconds. The dog crossing a finish line, or, more often, getting on a table ends the run.
Steps 1,2 and 3 all apply; once the run has begun the timer must be prepared to blow the whistle loudly at the end of the ‘opening’. It’s very important to do this accurately as if the whistle is blown early or late it impacts the available time to ‘do’ the gamble. The timer then continues to allow the watch to run until either of the following occurs:
1. The dog attempts the gamble and crosses the finish or gets on the table at which point the timer stops the watch.
2. The total time allowed is reached, at which point the timer blows the whistle again, and allows the watch to continue running until the dog crosses the finish or gets on the table, at which point the timer stops the watch. For example if the ‘opening’ is 40 seconds and the gamble is 12 seconds, then the timer blows the whistle at 52 seconds.
It is important for the timer to make note of the gamble times allowed, which will vary by the height division, prior to the class.
Often the dog will complete the gamble in very close to the maximum time allowed, therefore the timer’s priority should be stopping the watch when the dog crosses the finish line or hits the table, not blowing the whistle to signal maximum time.
If the dog doesn’t cross the finish or hit the table ‘no time’ (NT) is recorded on the scribe sheet.
Snooker is similar to Gamblers from a timing perspective. The time allowed will vary by height division, and is usually in the 45 to 55 second range. As in gamblers, the timer stops the watch when the dog crosses the finish line or hits the table, if the time allowed is reached the timer blows the whistle and allows the watch to continue running until the dog crosses the finish or gets on the table, at which point the timer stops the watch.
There are usually 3-4 people on Ring Crew per ring and each cover a designated area. Basically the Ring Crew re-sets any bars that are knocked during a run before the next dog is able to go. Then whenever there is a height change, all ring crew go out and set the bars to the new height and adjust any other equipment affected by the height change. For the most part you will be able to sit and watch the runs, only getting up when something needs to be re-set. One person on ring crew will be designated as a chute straightener. After each dog runs the standard course, the chute needs to be fluffed or straightened for the next dog. This job is important and easy but can be somewhat physically challenging so it's best to have multiple people rotate from this job as classes change. Don't worry all jobs include free training.
If you like to keep moving, Leash Runner would be a good job for you. Once the dog and handler takes off, you pick up their leash and walk it to the designated spot at the finish line so that they are able to quickly get their dog on leash and leave the ring once their run is over. The next dog can’t start until the judge sees that the previous dog is on leash. You usually don’t get much of a chance to sit and it’s a little harder to watch the action since you are walking back and forth but there is no running involved.
Scribe runner is a similar job to leash runner, only you are standing outside the ring near the Scribe who will be handing you scribe sheets for each dog as they complete the course. When you have 3-4 in hand you walk over to the trial secretary's desk and hand him/her the scribe sheets. Then you return to the ringside to wait for more scribe sheets to be ready for delivery. Sometimes you may be asked to run scribe sheets for two rings but it's not that much harder. Just stop at each ring to collect scribe sheets before delivering them to the secretary. Again there really is no running required.
The Gate Steward is the gate keeper. They make sure that the next 3-4 dogs are nearby and ready to go as it’s important to keep things moving. The Gate Steward communicates to the Scribe anytime there is a change in the running order (such as a dog being absent, or if someone is moved within the order). Each time a dog comes to the start line they announce the dogs name and number so that the scribe can hear them as well as the other handlers waiting nearby. So it's important for the gate steward to be loud enough to be heard but not so loud to disturb a dog running the course. Also, the Judge determines when the handlers should go into the ring. For instance, perhaps he wants the handler to set up at the start line when the dog ahead of him takes the A-frame. The Gate Steward will also remind the handler to get to the line at the appropriate time. This is one of the more challenging jobs.