I have been competing with my dogs in Rally Obedience for over ten years and it’s a blast. I know what everyone is thinking-obedience is boring! But it doesn’t have to be. For me, the biggest difference with Rally compared to more old fashioned obedience is you can talk to your dog, it’s fast paced, and the courses change from trial to trial.
Rally involves a course of exercises that you perform with your dog. Only one dog/handler is on course at a time. The exercises vary for level but range from sit, down, stand, to walking around your dog while they hold a position to serpentine and weaves around cones to 360 degree turns to each direction. As you advance the exercises obviously get harder. For AKC, you must get three qualifying scores before moving to the next level. While on course you can talk to you dog, give multiple commands, verbally reward your dog. In some associations you can even reward your dog with food while on course, which is always great for training!
I generally show AKC with my dogs, so this is what I am most familiar with. Before you start, your dog should have an idea of how to heel on leash, sit, down, stand, and wait/stay. And of course, I would recommend taking a class first so both your and your dog can become familiar with the exercises. Half of the battle is learning the exercises and not tripping over your own feet! In AKC, you start at the novice level. The novice class is all on leash. Once you move to the advanced level, the classes are all off leash.
And the exercises you teach your dog in rally can make ever day life including vet visits easier-wouldn’t it be nice if your dog knew how to sit and wait politely or stay closely by your side as you walked through a building?
There are several clubs that offer local classes, but we train at Durham Kennel Club. Come give it a try!
Boo Donoho, DVM