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.

Engagement and Pivot Bowl

Both of these are very necessary for training! The ability of your dog to interact with you is super important whenever you train. Pivot bowls teach your dog rear end movement, which is arguably one of the most important skills when it comes to heeling. Understanding this important skill will improve crooked sits, sidesteps, crabbing, and so many more heeling issues.

Find Heel and Front

In level one, platforms are used to teach your dog heel position and front. This way the handler can stand naturally without a lot of extra body cues while the dog moves into position. I much prefer using props to teach these positions so the dog doesn't learn to rely on extraneous body movement. I find it much easier to fade a prop than to fade extra body cues.

Position Changes 

Rally dogs need to understand how to do position changes in both heel and eventually in front of the handler. In TEAM 1 the dog learns to do position changes in front, and in TEAM 2 the dog learns how to do the position changes in heel.

Back Up

Another important skill for rally dogs! The dog will need to back up in heel in the upper levels of rally, but teaching the dog to back up really helps with body and rear end awareness, which is very important for heeling.

Send to Vertical Target

In the upper levels of rally, the dog will need to send to a cone and do a position change. The basic send from TEAM 1 is the foundation for these signs.


Starting in Advanced rally, the dog needs to jump.

Go Around an Object

This is a fun thing to teach dogs. Although there isn't a specific rally sign that uses this skill, it's super useful for training. Rather than leaving the dog in a stay to work fronts, I will send them around a cone. I send around a cone to get distance from jumps. This is a useful skill that I use often.

Stay with Distraction

Stay is a skill that is needed in rally. In TEAM 1, the dog will learn a foundation stay with a treat distraction.

If you've been playing around with the TEAM program and want to work on something else that will compliment TEAM, check out the sport of Rally! Rally classes are offered every term at FDSA.

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