I'm so excited to take the time to talk about one of my very favorite dog sports, Rally Obedience! One of the fastest-growing competitive dog sports today, Rally combines dog obedience with an obstacle course, and is loved by dogs of all ages, breeds, and levels of training experience, and their handlers.
In a Rally competition, a judge will set up a unique course in a large training ring with around 15 signs. Each sign will show a task, and your goal as a handler/dog team is to heel through the course and follow the instructions on each of the signs as you pass them. Many signs will simply tell you which way to heel: “Fast Pace,” “Slow Pace,” “Left Turn,” “U-turn,” etc. Other signs will require you to stop and do an obedience behavior: stop and have your dog sit, cue your dog to lay down and stay while you walk all the way around him, etc.
You and your dog are judged on everything from how closely the dog heels with you between signs (does he pull forward and drag you around the ring?), to how fluently he completes each sign (does he stop and sit directly beside you or does he try to go say hi to the spectators before he sits?), and given a score based on your performance. If your score is high enough its considered a “Qualifying” score, or “Q;” get three Qs and your dog will earn a Title in Rally!
My collie, Keegan, and I started competing in Rally a few years ago. In our very first trial we earned a Second Place, and in only two weekends we had earned our first Rally Obedience title!
In honor of the fact that Keegan is now Seven years old, I present to you...
#7 - With over 100 different signs, there's always something to train!
When taught correctly, dogs love learning new tricks and behaviors, and continual learning is important for helping dogs of all ages to stay mentally active. Heeling in Rally helps keep dogs and handlers physically active too!
#6 - You are your breed's ambassador!
Are you proud of your dog’s breed, or do you want to show off how awesome rescue dogs and mixed breeds are? Many spectators attend Rally trials to decide what breed they want for their next dog!
#5 - Rally Cues are useful everyday!
Taking your dog on walks is more fun with fancy heeling patterns, stays and recalls are handy at home, and ignoring distractions can even be a life-saving behavior!
#4 - You test your training abilities.
Anyone who’s trained a dog has questioned how talented they are. At a trial you're able to compare yourself to other competitors, and even get valuable feedback from the judge about how you're doing!
#3 - You have proof that your dog is smart!
Admit it: You want to be able to brag about your dog's amazing intellect, right? Obedience titles - with accompanying ribbons and certificates - are the proof you're looking for!
#2 - You can hang out with other awesome dogs and handlers!
Rally competitors are serious when the pressure is on and they’re being judged in the ring; but outside of that few minutes, the atmosphere at a trial is relaxed, fun, and welcoming!
Elizabeth Morgan, trainer and owner of Alabama Dog Academy, and proud trainer of Harper, the Canine Advocate at the Limestone Child Advocacy Center.