What Is Rally?

by Anna Lorenz, Chair, Performance & Companion Events Committee

Newfoundland dog and handler in rally obedience

According to AKC Rally Regulations, "AKC Rally is a sport in which the dog and handler complete a course that has been designed by the rally judge. The judge tells the handler to begin, and the dog and handler proceed at a brisk pace through a course of designated stations (10-20, depending on the level). Each of these stations has a sign providing instructions regarding the next skill that is to be performed. The dog and handler team moves continuously at a brisk but normal pace with the dog under control at the handler's left side. There should be a sense of teamwork between the dog and handler both during the numbered exercises and between the exercise signs; however, perfect heel position is not required. Any faults in traditional AKC Obedience that would be evaluated and scored as a one-point deduction or more should be scored the same in rally, unless otherwise mentioned in the Rally Regulations. After the judge's 'Forward' order, the team is on its own to complete the entire sequence of numbered signs correctly. Unless otherwise specified in these regulations, handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, give additional commands and or signals using one or both arms, clap their hands, pat their legs or use any verbal means of encouragement. The handler must move in a natural manner. The handler's arms need not be maintained in any particular position. At any time during the performance, loud or harsh commands, intimidating signals, touching the dog (unless otherwise specified by these regulations) or any physical corrections will be penalized. AKC Rally is a companion sport to AKC Obedience. Both require teamwork between dog and handler along with similar performance skills. Rally provides an excellent introduction to AKC Companion Events for new dogs and handlers and can provide a challenging opportunity for competitors in other events to strengthen their skills. All rally titles will follow the dog's name."

Rally titles can be earned by achieving three qualifying scores from at least two different judges at each level of competition. There are three levels of competition: Novice, Advanced and Excellent. A qualifying score means the team has successfully completed the course with a total of at least 70 points out of a possible perfect score of 100 points. Rally is a timed event, however the times are only used to break ties in score for the 1st through 4th placements.

Each level of Rally has increased levels of difficulty and requirements. For example the Novice level (RN title) is completed on leash and with no jumping stations while the Advanced level (RA title ) is off leash with one jump required. Each levels title must be earned before a team can move up to the next level.

After a team has earned an Excellent title, "RE" there is an "RAE" or Rally Advanced Excellent title available. To achieve this title a team must earn 10 qualifying scores in both the Advanced B & Excellent B classes entered at the same trial. Quite an accomplishment and much fun!

The AKC Rally Judges Guidelines states the purpose of Rally very nicely:

"Rally trials are a sport, and all participants should be guided by the principles of good sportsmanship both in and out of the ring. Rally trials demonstrate the dog's ability to follow specified routines in the Rally ring and emphasize the exhibition of teamwork between handler and dog.

All contestants in a class are required to perform the same exercises in substantially the same way so that the relative quality of the various performances may be compared and scored. The basic objective of Rally trials, however, is to recognize dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the sport of Rally at all times and under all conditions.

The performance of dog and handler in the ring must meet the requirements of the Rally Regulations. It is also essential that the dog demonstrate willingness and enjoyment while it is working and that the handler and dog appear to be working together as a team."

reprinted from NewfTide 1st Quarter 2015