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.

During your walk through, which happens prior to your run, you need to remember which signs are on the course. This way, when you see the first part of the sign, you'll know exactly which one you're doing. By the time I walk into the ring with my dog, I know when I see Call Front, it's the Finish Right Halt one. I don't have to take the time to read the whole sign.

I can't express how important knowing the signs is!! Here are a few tips that may help you.

Make Flashcards

You can make flashcards of all the signs and study them until you can immediately describe the sign. Put a picture of the sign on one side, and the description on the other. Learn the principle part of the sign - the underlined part. The principle part of the sign must be completed or you will get an incorrectly performed deduction, or IP, and lose 10 points. Knowing the principle part of the sign will help you decide if you should redo should your dog make a mistake.

Study the Map

 When you get your course map, look through the signs well before the walkthrough. Circle the ones that you are unsure about. Make little notes as necessary to remind you about sits versus no sits and other details that you may have trouble remembering.

On this Excellent map, I made notes to remind myself which signs have sits and which do not, because that is where I sometimes get confused or second guess myself. Making these notes helps me to remember.

Many shows are no longer handing out paper maps, but you can take a picture with your phone and use the markup option under edit to circle signs and make notes right on the image.

Bring the Rule Book or Install the K9 Rally App

Be sure to have the rule book with you at the trial, or the K9 Rally app on your phone, so you can look up how to perform the sign if necessary. The K9 Rally app is free and will describe all the signs, plus link you to a YouTube video which will show you what the sign should look like.


If you are really struggling with one particular sign, visualize you and the dog completing the sign perfectly. When you are feeling comfortable, go practice it with your dog.


Study, study, study! Make sure you know the differences between the novice signs versus the similar signs in the higher levels. Take some time each day to study a few signs and it will pay off in points later!

Utilizing these tips will help you to never forget how to perform a sign, which will result in higher rally scores!

E213: Sarah Stremming - "Shaping Demystified"
E212: Laura Waudby - "Debuting in Obedience"

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to