A Trial Day - My Mental Game


The following is a break down of a typical trial day for me for nose work. I've tried to include some details that otherwise I might not have included. Realistically, I could exchange a few minor things and it'd be extremely similar to a typical agility trial day too! I'd love to hear your tricks that help you get through a trial day!


Before. Sleeping the night before a trial day is super important, and sometimes it's harder said than done. I pack my nose work gear, water, set up stuff (aluminet & chair) and organize my food the night before. This helps my brain turn off instead of running through the list of "what if" and "I can't forget".

Before bed, I run through my day, and if I feel like I may have forgotten something, I either write it down or text it to myself so I see the unanswered message in the morning. Writing it down takes the pressure off to remember something in the morning. OR I will place that item in the middle of the floor so I might trip on it!

On My Own or With A Friend. This piece is so different for each of us! I travel either alone or with a friend to trials. I'm going to go through the steps of my mental game for what I do when I'm alone. But know that the first time you travel with a friend (good to save costs and it's so nice to have someone to talk to and have around all day!), can throw off your own mental game. It's important to figure out how a routine will fit with someone else around.


On my way. Once I pack everything, I run quickly through my day before leaving the driveway. I visualize pulling up to the site, parking, getting out, setting up my car for the day, checking in, briefing, getting my dog out and running through a search, and back to my car. What did I forget?

Once I'm on the road, I like to listen to something that isn't super attention-grabbing. I personally like podcasts, but music can work too. I let myself not think too hard about things and just allow myself to relax and enjoy my drive. This is my "fill up the happy bucket" time. I also don't look at my phone at this point. Social media isn't super healthy to start and seeing it first thing in the morning isn't great. I allow the morning to be me time (something that recharges me - know what recharges you!).


Arrival. I have a routine that I go through to help me feel like I'm ready for the day. I drive up to my spot, open the windows, put up the front window sun shield then get out and throw the aluminet screens on my car. I then go find check-in (If there is one!). If there is a briefing, I attend the briefing :)

I like to take Tana out before or after the briefing to potty. I allow her to sniff and explore, getting to know the smells of the space. The air, the plants, the dirt, all are new at each place and she works best if I allow her this time to get familiar with the background smells. Some people like to take a walk, I don't. I usually stick close, but find a spot where we both don't really have to "talk" to any one or any other dog. It's our time :) This time allows her to get her sniffing out, but it also allows us to enjoy each other outside of "work". She might get the zoomies (I have my long line on her usually) and it's a good time to get out the excess energy.


My Day. The #1 thing I need to know through the day is when am I expected to be at the line/in a chair waiting. This can be from a run order list (with a number for NACSW) or actual run order for AKC. I often take a picture of this list so I have it handy on me. Knowing when I have to be ready is so important! For me, being in the know is my sanity! I also check out the list to make sure I know who are the 4 dogs ahead of me. The day is broken into the following parts:

  • Waiting. This happens between classes. There is so much waiting! I might use this time to chat with some neighbors, getting to know who is around me and saying hi to old friends. Being more introverted, I don't spend a ton of time doing this, but it's nice to have social connections and to cheer each other on! Usually, when I'm waiting I will hang out with Tana, sit and enjoy the weather, and play mindless games on my phone. I might listen to a podcast or music too. Making sure I have a charged phone is important!! This time is actually way more important than we realize. If I spend this time talking to others worrying about the search or getting obsessed over some sort of small details, it limits my ability to stay in a growth mindset (open to learning and observation without judgment).