Are you looking for a nice gentle way to get in the competition ring? Or maybe you want to do some obedience, but would like to get your feet wet before jumping right in. Perhaps you've been playing around in TEAM and are ready to see what you can do with your newly learned skills. Do you have an older dog that wants to keep doing stuff, but maybe obedience is too much?
Rally can be the perfect answer for you!
Competing in Rally Vs. Obedience
In Rally, the judge gives you one order: Forward. From there, you and your dog proceed to heel through a course of stations and follow the directions on each sign. During this time, you can talk to and encourage your dog, remind them to sit when you stop, and in the lower levels, even pat your leg.
Rally requires less precision than obedience, although there's nothing wrong with training the precision if that's your ultimate goal. Scoring is less rigorous in Rally then traditional obedience and you can even redo a sign if you need, although you will lose a few points.
The skills needed for Rally are the foundation of obedience behaviors.
Teaching the dog to stay in heel through various turns, speeds, and movements is a large part of Rally. Fronts, finishes, stays, position changes, and halts are all obedience skills that will be used in Rally.
Beginning Your Competition Career with Rally
There are so many advantages to beginning your dog's career in the Rally ring. Because you can talk to and praise your dog, you can get him or her into a formal ring setup without the potentially scary silent sterile atmosphere.
If your dog struggles with judge pressure, the Rally ring can be helpful because the judge doesn't follow you around like in obedience.
You can use both verbals and hand signals as you and your dog navigate the course, and you can even repeat verbals if needed. All of this can really help comfort and reassure your dog.
Our goal is to teach the dog that the ring is a fun and comfortable place to be, and Rally is the perfect way to do that!
Rally also helps the comfort of the handler! There is much less pressure in Rally. The qualifying rate is very high. It's no big deal if the dog isn't in perfect heel position or perfectly straight on the fronts. Rally is a great way to get the handler feeling comfortable in the ring.
Are you wondering what Rally looks? Here's a video of my recent run with my golden retriever Strive. This was an Advanced run and we earned a perfect 100 score. As you can see, we both had fun and were relaxed!
If you are interested in the sport of obedience and looking for a nice way to ease into the competition ring, Rally is a great way to do this.
Getting Started in Rally: The Skills
So how do you get started? The basic skills needed for Rally Novice are heel, sit, down, and short stays.
Start by putting a lot of value into heel position. Have your dog sit and step into heel. Be sure your dog's ear is lined up with your left pant seam. Your dog should be close to you. Begin by giving your dog treats in heel position. Slide your hand over to your hip and put the treat down into your dog's mouth, so that your dog is lifting his or her head and looking straight up.
If you are always feeding the dog in an upright straight position then your dog will be more likely to be straight in heel. Give your dog several treats in heel over a couple of training sessions. Pretty soon your dog will really enjoy being there and will want to stay there. You can slowly start incorporating movement, rewarding your dog heavily if he or she moves with you at all!
Here are a few examples of heel position, from the front, side, and while moving.
Teaching your dog to heel is much more complicated than what I described, but if you follow those steps you'll be off to a great start!