Rally: Teach Yourself or Take a Class?

If you want to learn the sport of K9 Rally, there are so many great resources out there! I see this question all the time: "I want to learn rally, where can I start?" There are YouTube videos, phone apps, free blogs and articles, and so much more. So why consider taking a rally class or working with a coach? 

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Master the Moving Down!

The moving down is incorporated into both obedience and rally exercises. Having a prompt response to the down cue, even in motion, is important but sometimes difficult to achieve.

Let's talk through some games that you can use to teach or improve your dog's moving downs!

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Boring Fronts? Use These Games to Mix it Up!

Fronts are one of those behaviors that just need practice. There's no way around it. However, practicing fronts doesn't have to be boring! I play all sorts of front games with my dogs to keep fronts fresh and fun!

You can play these games with or without props, depending on what stage your dog is at. Play with several different props to increase generalization skills. Pick and choose which ones you like, or play them all, just have fun!

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1832 Hits

Isolate that marker cue!

Clear communication and clarity are really important in dog training. The more clear we can be with our dogs, the faster they can learn what we want. One area that can sometimes get a little messy is marking behaviors. Most trainers understand that the correct behavior should get some kind of marker, like a click or a verbal marker such as "yes". But often, novice (and sometimes advanced, too!) trainers will mark and move all at the same time. However, it's very important that we isolate that marker cue!

While doing a chicken camp with Terry Ryan, she would always say "click THEN treat." What trainers often are told is "click and treat" or "mark and treat", but if you specify "mark THEN treat", it makes sense to put a pause in there.

So why is this important? Does it really matter?

Well, yes, it does.

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1029 Hits

Position Changes Out in Front: Exploring the Sit

Teaching your dog to sit seems so simple until you start thinking about the different ways a dog can sit. There is a stand to sit and a down to sit. In either of those position changes, the dog can either plant his front end or his rear end.

When I'm thinking about teaching my dog position changes, I try to think about the final behavior. If you do obedience or rally, you will need to teach your dog sit in front and in heel. Exercises that include a sit in front of you are the signal exercise, command discrimination, and several higher-level rally exercises. You'll see a sit in heel much more often, such as during heeling patterns and command discrimination.

Let's talk about how to teach the sit position!

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Master the Moving Stand in Obedience and Rally!

There are several ways you can teach your dog a moving stand. One way that tends to work well is using a front foot target.

I start by warming up the dog on the front foot target. In order to use this training method, your dog will need to have value for going to and staying on the target.

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1778 Hits

Location-specific reward markers: What they are and how (+ why!) to use them

Most of us use reward markers to tell our dogs when they are right. Some people use clickers, others use verbal markers. When the dog is rewarded for something, he will be more likely to repeat that behavior. Location-specific reward markers take that a step farther by affecting how the dog might perform the behavior in future repetitions.

A location-specific reward marker is much like it sounds — it's a marker that tells the dog not only that he or she is right, but also provides information on where the reward will be delivered. By being strategic about reward placement, we can affect the tendencies of the dog over time.

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2085 Hits

Know the Signs for Higher Rally Scores!

If I could give you one piece of advice that could earn you a higher rally score, it would be "know the signs!" By far, the biggest reason that points are lost is due to not knowing how to properly do the signs. It seems like such a simple task, but in reality many rally signs are very similar to others, especially as you move up through the levels. It's very easy to get them confused. If you perform a sign incorrectly, you will lose 10 points. Being distracted for a moment trying to figure out what you should do can also cause lost points.

You want to know the signs so well that you can recognize them quickly upon first glance. If you need to read the sign and study where the stop signs are or think about it much, your dog will feel that attention shift and may disconnect or falter.

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3046 Hits

How to Be Successful with Your Sporting Dog

The sporting dog group encompasses many beloved breeds, including some of the most popular. Whether you already own one of these wonderful dogs, or are considering a breed from this group, it's important to understand what these dogs were bred for so you know what to expect.

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1485 Hits

From TEAM to … Rally!! How Both Sports Complement Each Other

The TEAM titling program through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is a way to encourage good detail-oriented training to prepare you and your dog for obedience exercises. What I love about TEAM is that it breaks down every behavior, and because there are different levels that you have to progress through, you have to go through all the steps.

The problem I see most often with my students is a lack of foundation. I get students in my rally courses class who are heeling and doing all the signs, but never really broke down the skills. When those students run into problems, I can't help them without going back to some foundation behaviors. Few people who have earned advanced rally titles want to go back and teach the dog the pivot bowl, for examples, but that is often the answer if they would like to truly improve the dog's skills.

Foundations are important, and TEAM encourages foundations! And you even get rewarded at each step through the different level titles!

I get lots of people in my Rally Foundation class that have started TEAM, and even those that have just passed the first level are really successful in rally. There are a couple reasons for this. First, dogs that go through TEAM are familiar with props, which can be very helpful in teaching certain behaviors. Second, these dogs understand the pivot bowl and rear end movement, fronts, stays, and many more skills that are helpful for rally.

Let's look a bit more closely at the TEAM skills from Level One that set your dog up for a very successful rally career.

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1411 Hits

What’s the Secret to Getting a Close Front?

My answer — chin rests! Incorporating chin rests into your fronts causes the dog to shift his weight to his front end and encourages a very tight tuck sit. This process can take a little work at the beginning, but will pay off in the long run!

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3410 Hits

How to Get Perfect Position Changes

Position changes are super important in both obedience and rally! Your dog needs to do position changes both in heel position (without going wide) and in front of you (without creeping in). Platforms can help teach your dog both of those concepts!

The position changes are sit, down, and stand. Your dog should be able to do these in any order — in other words a sit to down, down to sit, stand to down, stand to sit, sit to stand, and down to stand.

You'll need a platform large enough for your dog to stand and lay down on. It doesn't need to be as narrow as a sit platform, since some dogs like to stand with their rear legs a bit wider than the front legs. It can even be something like an agility table, as long as your dog can lay down on it.

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3367 Hits

Improving Your Heeling the Easy Way!!

Does your dog heel wide? Does he forge or sit crooked? Is she wrapping around your body? It's likely that your reward placement has contributed to these problems!

Heeling is such a complicated behavior. Pair that with the fact that dogs want to go where the rewards come from, and you can have a mess on your hands pretty quickly!

When I help my students with heeling troubleshooting, so often the fix, or at least part of it, is changing the reward placement. It's pretty incredible what a change this can make!

Many people hold treats in their right hands, and they reward by reaching across the front of their bodies and treating the dog, either from the right hand or by passing it to the left. Generally when I see people give the dog the treat, it's being delivered with the dog's head wrapped in front of the handler's left leg. Reward this way a few dozen times, and you'll see your dog wrapping and forging in order to get closer to where those treats are coming from!

Another common way to reward the dog for heeling is by spitting food. Sounds like a great way to teach the dog attention, right? Here's the problem - in order for the dog to see your face, he has to forge and wrap.

You can see how rewarding this way can set up the dog for some issues, yet most people aren't even aware that they are doing it! Thankfully, it's a simple fix that can make a big difference!

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3555 Hits

Building a Breathtaking Back Up!

Whenever the Back Up 3 Steps appears on the course map at rally trials, collective groans echo through the Excellent crowd. Against a wall, the back up is great, but take away that wall or gate and everything goes south.

The good news is, you can have a beautiful back up! This process is how I teach the back. If you break this skill down, you will build a breathtaking back up in just a short amount of time!

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4464 Hits

Get in the Rally Ring - How to Enter a Rally Trial and What to Expect When You Get There

If you've never entered a rally trial before, it can be a bit overwhelming! In this blog I'll lay out the steps for entering a trial and knowing what to expect when you walk in the door.

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3874 Hits

Delightful Downs for Rally and Obedience

The down seems like such a simple behavior, but your dog's ability to be able to swiftly and smoothly down will save you points in the rally or obedience ring. You'll want to make sure your dog knows how to down from a sit and from a stand on a verbal cue only.

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2170 Hits

Discover the Fun of the Master Rally Class!

Are you a little intimidated by the master signs, with all those spins and sends?

There's no reason to be! Although some of the signs seem intimidating, most of the master signs are just building off skills that you already know from advanced and excellent. Many signs are simply chaining multiple advanced or excellent signs together, or adding some distance or speed. 

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Virtual Titling in Rally: A Fun Opportunity!

The days of cancelled dog shows due to COVID-19 have led to several opportunities for virtual titling in various sports, including Rally.

Virtual trials can have so many advantages, so this is a really exciting opportunity! Some dogs can't compete at normal dog shows, and this is a great way to show off their skills. For dogs that struggle with reactivity, or severe ring stress, or ones who find the dog show atmosphere too distracting or scary, the virtual titling program is perfect. 

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2994 Hits

Want To Do Better in Rally? 5 Tips to Improve Your Score!

Everyone would like to get better scores in the ring! It might be surprising to learn that many points are lost to preventable things, like completing the sign incorrectly. Handler errors are by far the most common reason for deductions in rally. Read on to learn five of the most common handler errors that I see in AKC Rally.

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7158 Hits

Disconnection is a Two Way Street: Why Dogs Disconnect From Training (And What to Do About It)

A student is taking a private agility lesson at my facility. She finishes a particularly challenging sequence and turns toward me to talk about it. Meanwhile, her dog runs off and starts exploring the agility area on her own. While we chat, the dog circles the area, running through random tunnels or searching for treats. The handler finally calls her dog, but the dog is busy having fun.

Eventually, she collects her dog and puts her on leash, frustrated.

I am watching an online training video from one of my classes. The dog finishes a sequence of behaviors, and the handler hands him a treat and turns away, walking back to the area where she started. The dog eats the treat, looks at the handler, and seeing no connection, starts sniffing the ground. After a few seconds of this, the handler notices that her dog is not with her and scolds the dog, saying "get over here!"

As an instructor of both online and in-person classes, I regularly see my students disengage from their dogs while training. This disengagement does not usually occur while training the behaviors, but rather during the resets in between repetitions. I work very hard to maintain connection with my dog throughout our entire training session, and I don't want him to practice the cycle of disengaging and me having to get him back. I want my dog to be working with me the entire time that we are training, rather than possibly self-reinforcing by sniffing the ground or scavenging for treats, or building in other undesirable behaviors.

So how can we fix these all-too-common scenarios?

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4524 Hits