Rally Dog Obedience - Fun Twist on Training: AKC Competition Emphasizes Communication over Precision

January 10, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Rally obedience requires dog and handler teams to perform a wide variety of short exercises on a timed course and emphasizes teamwork between dog and handler.

The AKC introduced Rally Obedience as a titling class in 2005 as a stepping stone between the companion obedience necessary for a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award and more formal obedience and more active agility competitions.

The new classes have been a huge success, with entries frequently hitting their numerical limits in the first year of competition. Rally exercises resemble competition obedience exercises only sliced, diced and re-combined into bite-size stations along a course which varies from trial to trial.

Unique Features of Rally Obedience

Rally is less formal, and for most competitors, more fun than traditional competition obedience. It offers a link between everyday companion obedience and more advanced competition obedience. Dogs are not required to hold stays at a distance from their owners or work in close proximity to other dogs. Handlers are allowed to talk and gesture to their dogs throughout the course and point deductions are not taken for minor errors, although errors deemed over 1 point in severity are scored. Handlers are allowed to re-perform stations if they are unhappy with the way they performed it the first time, although they do take a point deduction for doing so. The course is timed, but time only comes into play if it is necessary to break ties for the top four class placements.

How to Get Started in Rally

Your dog should have some knowledge of basic obedience before starting a Rally Class. He should be able to heel or walk reliably on a loose leash, come when called, and understand the sit, down, and stand commands. These commands will be used in many different permutations in Rally; a big part of the training is to teach the dog to perform each exercise correctly, but also to pay close attention so he can be ready for anything as he moves to the next station. Contact local AKC show and training clubs to find Rally-specific classes in your area.

The most important element to understand in learning Rally is for the handler to know the signs. All of the exercises are short and most are simple to perform, but with 50 different station possibilities, the nuances between exercises are important to understand! Subtle differences in exercise names make big differences in the way a station is performed and scored. Take time to discuss the exercises with experienced exhibitors, trainers, or judges to make sure you understand the nuances of each sign before you compete.

Levels of Rally Obedience Competition

There are a total of 50 different exercises that can be used in Rally and the course exercise selection and design for each trial is at the judge's discretion. Thirty one of the exercises can be used at all levels, with the more difficult exercises and those requiring jumps reserved for the higher levels. The number of exercises increases at higher levels as well; the maximum number of stations in a Rally course is 15 for Novice, 17 for Advanced and 20 for an Excellent course.

Achieving AKC Rally Titles

A dog-handler team needs to receive 3 qualifying scores at each level in Rally to receive a title. Qualifying scores are 70 or more points out of a total of 100; all teams start with a perfect score and deductions are taken for errors in the performance.

Other Rally Organizations

In addition to AKC sponsored Rally competition, there are several other organizations that sponsor Rally competition and titles, including the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and Canine Work and Games (C-WAGS) organizations. The competitions are similar but each has some unique exercises and features to investigate.

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