Rally is a relatively new dog sport, which is fun for the dogs and their handlers. It consists of a series of signs on a course, each sign designating a particular task that must be done in a very specific way. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, (APDT) both have similar versions of this new sport.
Obedience trials have become so very competitive and the dogs do not always appear to be having fun. Often the handlers are not having much fun either. Rally was developed in an attempt to bridge the gap between Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and obedience and agility competitions and bring back the fun of training and competing for dog and handler.
The course consists of from 12 to 22 signs that are arranged around the course. The judge sets the course in a competition and all the handlers have the opportunity to walk the course and get familiar with it beforehand. The course is timed and a maximum of 4 minutes is allowed to complete it. However, the average time is under two minutes. Time is only a factor in case of a tie.
In AKC, the team enters the ring with 100 points. APDT teams begin with 200 points. The judge asks if the team is ready and then tells them to begin. There are no further words from the judge until the course is completed, unless the team is disqualified. Each sign is numbered and the team moves independently from beginning to the end of the course. The judge positions himself where the team is easily visible or follows them around, making notations of any errors.
Failure to perform the elements of an exercise properly is a 10-point deduction and the team is disqualified. Dogs that are unmanageable or bark incessantly are given major point deductions and can be disqualified. Points are deducted from the beginning score and 70 percent is needed to qualify.
In a competition, leash corrections are not allowed. In other words, you cannot jerk and yank on the leash. But then, this is supposed to be a fun event and those things are not fun. Although you are encouraged to talk with the dog and give him lots of encouragement, you are not allowed to touch him.
The dog moves along in heel position beside the handler. With each sign, the required task is performed and then the team moves forward briskly. There are abrupt right turns, weaves, sits, downs, fronts, spirals left and right, side steps, slow and fast paces and various combinations of all of these. Handlers are encouraged to talk with their dogs throughout the course. At the novice level, the dog is on leash. For advanced and excellent levels, all work is done off leash.
The wonderful advantage of rally is that it is fun and easy to practice at home. A course can be set up on any flat piece of ground. A set of signs can be purchased for about $30. You can meet with your dog friends, set up a course and have a great time playing with and training your dogs.
There is a trainer in the Valley who would love to come to Payson and put on a rally training workshop if there is enough interest.
The workshop runs about four hours and the charge is fairly minimal.
You come with your dog and after an explanation about rally, you are introduced to the signs and each is demonstrated. Then you are allowed to try them all and ask questions.
Basic obedience skills, such as healing, sitting and down are prerequisites. Other tasks such as fronts and finishes are fairly easily taught. Lots of treats and praise make this great fun for the dogs.
It would be great to see this sport develop in the Rim Country. If you have some interest, contact me at the e-mail address below.
Higgins and I will be attending a Clicker Expo in Tucson this weekend. We will learn all sorts of wonderful ways to train obedience, pet therapy behavior and tricks using the simple clicker and lots of tasty treats. Stay tuned for tips and tidbits about clicker training. I look forward to sharing my newly learned knowledge with you who read this column.
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.