It is a question that every handler has to answer with every dog. It is a question that has a lot of answers, a lot of ifs ands or buts. The question; When is it time to move a dog up?
In some venues and/or locations the question is answered by requirements, ie. qualifying scores or a certain number of wins. In the area and venue that I predominantly trial in, moving up to the next class is a personal decision. Often that personal decision is influenced by peer pressure.
The reason for staying in a class can vary. Some handlers will stay in a class to work through issues. Sometimes it is to gain experience for a young or a green dog. Many times they stay in a class because of a lack of confidence in themselves or their dog. The list could go on.
All of these can be good reasons for not moving up, but what about the answer to the question; When is it time to move up? Recently I overheard a conversation between Trudy and Dave Imas that I think sums it up as well as I have ever heard. The essence of the conversation was; when you are competing in the class to win, it is time to move up. This was not to say that if you win you should move up. What it was meant to say was, if you have reasons to stay in the class even with some wins that is fine but as soon as you are in the class because you can win, it is time to move up.
For the last few months I have been contemplating moving Phyllis up. She has been placing and winning some but I have been focusing on working through some tension. At the trial we were at the other weekend she had a nice first place run with a 19 point spread between her and the next placing dog. My mind goes back to that overheard conversation, and the decision made: The entries are in for her next trial to move to the open class in USBCHA.
The question will always be there for every dog you compete with. Don’t rush or let peer pressure influence your decision. On the other hand don’t hold back just because there are things to work on (there will always be things to improve on). Keep in mind the simple question: am I there to learn or am I there to win? If your answer comes back “to win”, take a deep breath and take the next step. Until that time comes, the important thing is to prepare the best you can so when you do move up (be it required or choice) you can do so with confidence and excitement.