Almost two years ago, our trainer suggested that my dog Tank might enjoy the new Rally Obedience classes being offered, so we signed up. I had no idea what to expect or how that decision would change our lives. Rally has become Copper’s main sport and my obsession.

Why do I love Rally? It’s all about teamwork. Yes, your dog has to be obedient. Yes, you need to know the signs. But it’s all about how well you work together. You have to show up for your dog, and your dog has to show up for you. Every time I walk into the ring, I become a better handler. I learn more about me and more about my dog.

From the AKC website:

You and your dog navigate a course, side-by-side, as you steer him through a course of 10-20 different signs. Each of these signs provides instructions regarding the next skill that is to be performed. The dog and handler move continuously throughout the course with the dog under control at the handler’s left side. There is a clear sense of teamwork between the dog and handler both during and between the numbered signs. Although each performance is timed, having a good race time is not the goal; it’s all about working as a team while performing the skills, with the dog under control.

Another thing I love about Rally is the community. Like any sport, there are bad apples, but for the most part, I have a great time interacting with the judges, volunteers, and handlers at trials. People support one another and cheer each other on. The judges are generally very helpful and encouraging.

We love our trainer Sherry Spivey of Tuff Dog Designs and the other people we train with at ThunderHawk Canine. Sherry is a great trainer and competitor herself. Like me, she spent many years training horses, so she’s great at helping me translate my horse training to dog training. She also has a great understanding about what it takes to be successful at dog sports. (Sherry compete in AKC Agility and used to compete in IPO.)

The three things I hear from her the most are know the signs, know your dog, and know the rules. For the signs, I rely heavily on the free K9Rally app for this one. The app contains all the signs and a link for each sign to a YouTube video demonstrating how the sign should be performed. I also downloaded a PDF of the signs and printed and laminated them for use at home. I printed the rules to make sure I have a copy to reference at all times.

Check out this video of Tank and I performing a Novice level course:

And this video of Copper and I performing an Advance Course:

Copper, who loves Rally work, has earned his Rally Novice (RN), Rally Intermediate (RI), and Rally Advanced (RA) titles. Thanks to a brown recluse bite (me not him), we had to miss out on our last two trials, but we’re hoping to get his first Rally Excellent leg at a trial at the end of the month. He’s mastered all but a couple signs. Our main focus is proofing and dealing with distractions. He’s amazing at home, but he still tends to get stressed at trials. We tend to score in the 80s, and we need to be getting scores in the high 90s before we start working on our Rally Champion title (RACH).

Tank’s main sport is weight pull, but we still try to consistently train Rally. Since the focus is on teamwork, Rally training does a lot to improve our communication. Plus, we have a ton of fun at Rally class! I don’t spend as much time and money competing Tank in Rally, so he has only earned his RN and RI, and we’re just starting to work on his Rally Advanced.

It’s a great sport, and it’s open to All American Dogs. If you’re thinking of giving it a try, look for a local club in your area, and take a Novice Rally class. If you’re already competing, drop a comment with a picture of your dog!

Tanya Garrett

Tanya is an avid supporter of dog rescues. She has had adopted dogs her entire adult life and can think of nothing more fulfilling than helping a rescue dog become a good citizen. She competes in AKC Rally Obedience and IWPA Weight Pull with two of her All American Dogs (registered with the AKC Canine Partners Program). She hopes to add AKC Scent Work and Tracking to that list too!

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