Rally obedience, also known as Rally-O, is a relatively new AKC dog sport that was introduced in January 2005. Rally provides a link from basic obedience training to competitive obedience or agility, both for dogs and handlers. In rally the canine team moves at their own pace, similar to rally-style auto racing, and navigates a course of 10 to 20 stations. Each station has a sign providing instructions regarding the skill to be performed. Rally is similar to agility in that the team completes a course and the performance is timed, but most of the skills are obedience-oriented. Examples include Sit-Down-Sit, Straight Figure 8, Send Over Jump, and Back Up Three Steps. Course times are used to break ties for placement between dogs with the highest scores.
Rally is a great event for dogs of any age. Rally can be used to build teamwork, and improve heeling and attention with a novice or younger dog. Rally is a great sport for older dogs because jumping is minimal (one jump in an advanced course, and two in Excellent), and the jumps are lower than in traditional obedience and agility.
Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience and perfect heel position isn’t required. Unlimited communication from the handler to the dog is encouraged. Handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, clap their hands, pat their legs, or use any verbal means of encouragement, with some restrictions at the Excellent level. Teams navigate the course at a brisk pace without direction from the judge. There are three levels of rally competition, and four levels of titling as described below.
Rally Novice Level (AKC title: RN)
Novice is the first level for those just getting started in competition. All exercises are performed with the dog on leash. Being on leash is a big advantage for young or “green” dogs. The course includes 10 to 15 stations. The exercises performed vary from turning 360 degrees to changing paces during the course. Exhibitors at this level may clap their hands and pat their legs through the course to keep the dog’s attention.
Rally Advance Level (AKC title: RA)
Advanced is the second level, which includes more difficult exercises throughout the course. All exercises are performed off-leash. Being off leash requires much better attention and teamwork! The course includes 12 to 17 stations. Advanced exercises include a jump (broad jump, panel or bar jumps may be used), pivots from a halt position, and call to front from a halt.
Rally Excellent Level (AKC title: RE)
Excellent is the third and highest level of AKC Rally and is the most challenging. Exercises are performed off-leash except for the honor exercise. The course includes 15 to 20 stations. Handlers are only allowed to encourage their dogs verbally. Physical encouragement is not allowed at this level. The Excellent-level exercises include backing up three steps while the dog stays in the heel position, a moving stand and moving down while the handler walks around the dog. The “honor exercise” is included at this level, which consists of an on-leash sit or down stay performed in the ring while the next dog in the running order performs their rally exercises.
Rally Advanced Excellent Level (AKC title: RAE)
To earn this title, a dog must qualify ten times in both the Advanced B class and the Excellent B class at the same trial to earn the RAE title.
How to get Started
Generally speaking, beginning and intermediate level obedience classes are a prerequisite for rally class. If you have already trained for competitive obedience your dog will have most, but not all skills necessary for rally. In this case the missing component is for the handler to understand the rules, how to read and execute the signs, and how complete a course. If you’re interested in studying rally check with your favorite training club to see if they offer classes.