According to AKC Rally Regulations, Rally trials demonstrate the dog has 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.
All contestants in a class are required to perform the same signs in substantially the same way so that the relative quality of the various performances may be compared and scored. The judge tells the handler to begin, and the dog and handler proceed at a brisk pace through a course designed by the rally judge of designated 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.
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. AKC Rally is a companion sport to AKC Obedience. Both require teamwork between dog and handler along with similar performance skills.
Before entering a trial, you should read and understand the rules. Today, many people learn their rally skills via video. This is fine for basic learning but may not cover the procedures for filling out an entry, checking in at the show, protocol for entering the ring, and an understanding of why you may lose points or NQ.
Deductions range from minor (1-2 points) minor or substantial (1-10 points) substantial (6-10 points) and NQ. or non-qualifying scores. To get credit for performing a sign, you must correctly perform the principal parts of the exercise. These are clearly defined for each sign in the rules. You can order a rule book from AKC or download the rules, but make sure that you read and understand them.
If you are new to rally, it is always a good idea to go and watch a trial. You can learn a lot by watching, and most competitors are happy to talk to new potential exhibitors as long as they are not warming up to go into the ring. Understanding the rules, show and ring procedures, and etiquette, will help ensure that you and your dog have an enjoyable experience when you do enter.
How you enter the ring (after the judge invites you in) sets the tone for you, your dog, and the judge. You need to be able to quickly regain lost attention, and you should always be reading your dog so that you can adjust your feedback and give your dog good, pertinent information.
When you walk the course, think about where you may need to adjust your information or need to have a plan to keep or regain attention. You should also plan your end/exit routine so your dog is under control and on leash when you leave the ring.
And remember: sometimes it just doesn’t work out how you planned. Don’t be afraid to ask to be excused. There is always another show.
Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 125 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 3 Champion Tracker titles. She is also an AKC Tracking Judge. You can contact her with questions, suggestions, and ideas for her column by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.