In this week's podcast we spoke to one of my favorite dog people (and just people), Randi Dotson-Hubbard about the sport of Rally Obedience.
Rally Obedience was introduced by the AKC about 15 years ago, and it is still one of the fastest growing AKC sports because it is inviting for newcomers, challenging for skilled teams, and less formal than standard obedience.
In this post, we'll discuss rally, introduce you to the dogs discussed in the podcast, and provide the links we think will help anyone wishing to try their hand (or paw!) at rally.
This is Rye, a three year-old corgi, and one of the dogs Randi talks about in our podcast. Unlike other sports that are completely dominated by other breeds, the top tiers of rally are available for any well-trained dog and handler team, regardless of breed (or lack thereof).
The step-wise progression of rally from on-leash basic obedience skills in Novice, to more advanced obedience and freestyle elements off-leash in Master helps handlers move through at a speed that allows them to feel comfortable at every step.
Randi shows Deuce in Rally. Deuce, now 13, is the dog that Randi frequently refers to as 'perfect' and its hard to disagree! This little guy is charming, friendly, attentive, and a total ham in the show ring! If he even senses the presence of a camera he is all smiles!
Rally is also great for dogs of any age because it does not require a great deal of athletic stamina or risk. Puppies under the age of 6 months generally aren't permitted on show grounds for health reasons, but dogs as young as a year old often compete successfully in rally. Because Rally does not require speed or agility, dogs are able to compete well into their senior years, getting better as they age.
Randi and Rye practice at a local park
Other than the signs, which can be handmade or printed off, and a few cones or Solo cups, novice and intermediate Rally requires no special equipment, and very little room (we frequently hold rally drop-in classes in my indoor location which is 30x30 feet). You can practice the movements required for rally in your living room, back yard, or at the local park.
The addition of jumps in Advanced means that a single broad and upright jump should be added to your collection of training equipment, but jumps are inexpensive, and can be made at home using PVC.
Unlike it's more formal cousin, rally allows you to speak with and encourage your dog as you move through the course. This allows breeds that may find more formal obedience challenging to do well in rally.
Rally is also a way for owners who struggle to connect with their dogs to have a training goal that is both reachable and challenging. It provides a clear target, and simple movements that can be worked upon, and perfected over time. Practicing the behaviors found in rally will help basic obedience seem more fun, and help build a better understanding of how to communicate with your dog.
Randi throws a disc for her young Aussie, Graham, while my border collie, Tagg, looks on.
Even in this time of lockdowns and social distancing, dog sports allows people with similar interests to gather and practice and play together. Rally, as we discussed in the podcast, is available for most dogs who have gone through an intermediate dog class, and the sport itself is incredibly friendly to newcomers.
Here are some of the links we discussed in the podcast:
AKC's Pilot Virtual Rally Titles can be found here: https://www.akc.org/sports/rally/rally-virtual-entry-pilot/ This is a way to achieve rally titles through the AKC with videos. This is a great opportunity for dogs who may be too reactive right now to show in public, or people who find show grounds overwhelming.
(I did promise a video of Tagg and I doing a course, It didn't
go as planned...
We discussed AKC's PAL Program, which is a way for owners of unregistered purebred dogs to register for the AKC and compete in all of AKC's sports except conformation.
If you have a mixed breed, then to compete with the AKC, you can sign your dog up through Canine Partners, which will allow you to compete in most AKC Sports (some sports, such as herding, are breed-specific - rally is not).
We also discussed Non-AKC venues for competing in rally. ASCA is the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and in spite of their name all breeds and mixes may enter. Some clubs are more active than others, here in Arizona and neighboring New Mexico we are lucky to have several very active ASCA clubs that put on a bunch of trials. I have never trialled in ASCA (The one I was signed up for in April was cancelled). In the link above you can access ASCA's site, which will give you registration information, trial dates, rules, and more - you'll always want to be familiar with rules before entering any dog show. The Service Membership provides a tracking number to show, and as of this writing costs $10 a year.
We discussed Cyanosport, but their website implies that they are now entirely focused on Agility
The UKC (United Kennel Club) also has rally. I am not personally familiar with UKC, though I do believe they have quite a few trials especially in the northwestern parts of the US, as well as Canada.
Be aware that every venue will have different signs and rules. So make sure that you are practicing the correct signs and that you have familiarized yourself with the rules (All rulebooks are available from the relevant websites and I urge everyone to download and print the rules).
Last, we discussed Ruthann McCaulley's amazing book, Rally All Around, which is a digital format that includes videos demonstrating all the AKC signs. It is an amazing resource that we cannot recommend enough!
We wish everyone happy training!