What is rally? According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) pamphlet, it is “a companion sport to AKC Obedience. Both require teamwork between dog and handler along with similar performance skills.” What is fun about rally is you move at your own pace, just you and your dog. You don’t have to dress up in show clothes, and the dog doesn’t have to be freshly groomed!
A rally course has between 10 - 20 “stations” with signs describing the exercise that should be performed in close proximity to the sign itself, either directly in front of the sign or off to the left of the sign. The judge sets up the course, and handlers are encouraged to walk the course and ask questions of the judge during this walk through period. You will also be able to pick up a copy of the course when you check in, so that you can refresh your memory on any exercises, and practice while you wait with your dog.
“Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience. Communication between handler and dog is encouraged and perfect heel position is not required.” There are 3 levels of competition, Novice (RN), Advanced, (RA) and Excellent, (RE). The number of stations increase with each level, and the level of difficulty increase. In the first two levels you can clap your hands and pat your leg as encouragement, and talk to the dog, but you cannot touch the dog at any time, at the Excellent level physical encouragement is not allowed.
Everyone starts out with a perfect 100 score sheet, and points are deducted for for mistakes, such as doing an exercise incorrectly, the dog not sitting, or missing an exercise, etc. A “Qualifying Leg” is a score of 70 points. Three qualifying legs are required for the each level, under 2 different judges. Each dog is timed, but times are only counted if two dogs earn the same score. Ribbons for 1st - 4th are given out at the end of each division. Rally advanced and excellent are performed off-leash.
To get started:
- Register your dog with AKC
- Make sure they are up on all vaccinations
- At home you can start teaching your dog to heel, sit and down
- Find a training club in your area and attend classes
- Visit AKC Rally and become familiar with the signs
- Attend a rally trial or clinic and don’t be afraid to ask questions