This past weekend was T.A.R.D.I.S.' first go at a Rally Obedience trial.
I have opted to start in Rally because I am the most familiar with it, having done a little with my old girl, Delilah, and my little old man, Cozmo.
Rally Obedience, sometimes just referred to as Rally or Rally-O, is a team sport done with your dog in which you go through a course set up by the judge. The judge simply tells you 'Forward!' and you move out on your own pace, while the judge takes notes based on your performance. You start with 100 points, and you begin losing them for various mistakes - 1 point for a tight leash, or 1 point for an out of position, or 10 points for an incorrect station. You must score 70 or higher to Qualify, and then the top 4 dogs are given placement ribbons. It is also timed, but time is used only as a way to break a tied score.
Unlike Obedience, you are allowed to talk to the dog. You can use multiple commands, praise, encourage them, but you can not touch them or correct them physically. If you yell or seem threatening, you can lose points as well.
I like Rally because it is done at my own pace, and it helps me learn some foundational items that will be used later on in Obedience. At the Novice level, where I am, everything is done on-leash - but at the Advanced and Excellent level, it is done off-leash.
When you receive a qualifying score of 70 or higher, you earn a 'Leg' towards your title. It takes 3 Legs to get a title, but must be earned under at least two different judges. After 3 Legs at the Novice level, your dog will have the Rally Novice (RN) title. Advanced level grants the Rally Advanced (RA), and Excellent grants the Rally Excellent (RE). Once you complete the RE, you can move on towards your Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) - to earn the RAE, you must qualify ten times in both Advanced and Excellent at the same trial.
To enter a Rally trail, you first need to find one! You can use the AKC's website to search for events near you. Once you locate a trial, you'll need to fill out the entry form and mail it in prior to the close of entries. When entering, be sure you send it off with plenty of time - both so your entry gets there on time, and so that you don't overwhelm the Trial Secretary. You will receive a confirmation when your entry is received, and closer to the trial, you'll get a Schedule and your arm band number so you'll know when to be in the ring. I suggest showing up at least an hour before your scheduled time, so you have plenty of time to find a seat (these events are usually very crowded!), and you have plenty of time to take your dog out to do his business, get yourself checked in, and have time to observe the surroundings and watch a few other competitors, and how the judge works.
Dress comfortably when you go in. Make sure you have closed toe shoes that you can potentially jog in for a short distance, and that won't come off your feet. Although I see competitors in all types of dress - everything from a suit to jeans and a t-shirt - it goes without saying that dressing to impress can help. I always try to dress at least business casual for events to show that I am serious, and that I have respect for the judge. You certainly don't have to, but it's what I feel most comfortable doing. That said, I try to make sure my clothes are easy to move in and not restricting - so I go with nice trousers, Converse, and a nice top. Don't wear anything with your dog's name on it, or anything from a club you train with.
I showed up both days about an hour early, and it was CROWDED. On Saturday, the weather was just AWFUL. The rain was so bad we could barely see the road. My husband and I left the house 2 hours early for an hour long drive, knowing it was rain... and we were so grateful we did. When we got there, we had plenty of time to take T.A.R.D.I.S. out as well as dry him off a little bit before his debut in the ring.
After his first run, he scored a 91! I was impressed with him, despite the rain, he performed quite well. We had a few tight leashes, and a few out of positions, but nothing to bad, and nothing we can't improve on.
Here he is with his judge from Saturday, sporting his green qualifying ribbon.
On Sunday, he scored an 86 - but still managed to snag fourth place along with his qualifying ribbon.
I'm proud of him! I admit that I am not the world's best trainer, but I have been working hard with him, and this is a sure sign of success. My goal is simply the green ribbon - as long as we qualify, we did fantastic. Any placements are just icing on the cake!
He currently has two legs towards his RN, and hopefully, we can net the third one at the IPOC trial in October.