Introduction to the 2nd Edition


For those of you who might be new to the sport of Rally Obedience, I have provided, the Introduction to the Second Edition that is included in the present 3rd Edition of Rally-O. I have done this because this Introduction gives a bit of the history and reasons for the development of this sport. It also provides an excellent overview of what Rally Obedience is.

The name Rally Style Obedience has been adopted for this concept of Obedience training and competition because of the use of directional signs to guide the handler throughout the performance in a manner somewhat similar to the sport of Rally Car Racing. As you have seen in the title of this book, we use Rally-O as a nick name for the sport. The directional signs are numbered and arranged sequentially in the form of a course with a variety of turns to contain it within the boundaries of the ring, and start and finish lines. The team of dog and handler heel from sign to sign, and perform the exercises indicated by the sign at each location. Each directional sign, or exercise sign as they are more commonly called, is composed of a code name for one of the Rally exercises. (A list of the exercises may be found in Chapter 1.) Except for giving the handler clearance to begin the performance, the judge gives no further orders or directions as the handler directs the team through the course. The judge moves along with the team scoring the performance. Heeling on the course between the exercise locations is judged as a part of the total performance.

The construction or design of the course, in all probability, may vary from trial to trail in several aspects. The selection of exercises used in a course design, the sequence in which the exercises are arranged, and the path or outline of the course that the team is directed to follow throughout the performance may vary with the creativity of the course designer; at Rally trials, the courses are designed by the judge. However, the exceptional feature of Rally Style Obedience is the allowance of handlers to communicate with their dogs, both verbally and with hand signals, at any time and as often as desired throughout the performance. This may be in the form of praise or various types of commands to aid the dog in performing the exercises.

The continuous performance of Rally-O uninterrupted by directions from the judge, relative freedom in the selection of exercises, the sequence of their arrangement in the course design, and the outline of the course, along with the ability to communicate with the dog throughout the performance are all characteristics that I proposed in the establishment of the very popular sport of Dog Agility and that are adopted here as the foundation of Rally Style Obedience. With the incorporation of these characteristics into Rally-O, one additional change from traditional Obedience was needed for a Rally program to become successful. A departure from the precision based method of scoring traditional Obedience was critical. I will discuss this point in more detail Chapter 3, Philosophy and Concept of Judging Rally Obedience.

In the February, 1999 volume of Front and Finish, the article in which I first described the Rally-O concept, I expressed the hope that Rally would become an Obedience program that emphasized fun and excitement for the dog and handler by providing a more "natural" approach to the performance. More natural as contrasted with the highly artificial performance of traditional Obedience. However, like traditional Obedience and nearly all other sports, Rally trials are competitive events governed by a set of regulations, and thus, must be evaluated and scored in accordance with those regulations to determine the level of success or failure of the participant. Rally is not a pass/fail event as, for example, one might consider a search and rescue team that is either successful or unsuccessful in finding a missing person.

ln Rally, the parameters for scoring are set to serve the objectives of the program. It was my belief that a method of scoring that would best serve those objectives would allow handlers to focus their concentration on undertaking an enthusiastic, energetic, animated performance in which the handler and dog were able to truly enjoy working as a team. In order to promote this type of performance, it seemed necessary to provide some relief from the intense concern for the exact precision necessary to attain the "theoretically perfect performance" promoted and sought after in traditional Obedience.

When working as a team in drug detection, police service, search and rescue, etc., the handler's responsibility is to provide help and encouragement to the dog to keep the dog focused on the job at hand. Thus, incorporating this concept in Rally-O also tests the human partner of the team by evaluating his/her ability to handle the dog to the best of the dog's ability to complete the task. Precision in the dog's general movements does not add to, or take from the final accomplishment of detecting drugs in a suitcase in an airport or finding a lost person in an avalanche. I realize that the dog must be very precise in performing certain skills but it makes no difference in the final results whether or not, for example, the dog sits straight in heel position when indicating the presence of contraband in a suitcase in an airport.

Before I go on, I had better explain that I know what traditional Obedience is all about, how it works. I have been training and showing dogs in this sport for almost 40 years. It is where my roots are in this fascinating hobby of dogs. Many in the fancy believe strongly in traditional Obedience; I am one of them. However, I also believe that there is an increasingly large number of people with interests in obedience who are looking for an alternative program. I believe Rally should provide the handler the option of training for precision to develop a basis for entering traditional Obedience, or training with the Rally philosophy and having the opportunity of showing throughout a complete stand-alone program.

But back to the topic we were discussing. The most direct way to eliminate the necessity of exaggerated precision in the performance was to adopt the philosophy that all errors that would be scored as -point deductions in traditional Obedience would not be scored in Rally. In other words, only errors that would be scored at least one full point in traditional Obedience would be scored in Rally; errors that would be scored -point in traditional Obedience are not scored in Rally.

Rally-O has enjoyed immediate interest and support that has continued to grow since the publication of the Rally concept in February 1999. Many of those supportive of Rally have become dissatisfied with traditional Obedience. There may be many reasons for this, some real, some contrived. However, it appears that the primary explanation for the failure of entries in traditional Obedience to keep pace with the growth in other aspects of the dog sport, specifically Agility, is that Obedience is not as much fun. When those new to the sport of dogs are considering the direction their interests might lie, and they see Agility on the Animal Channel and compare it to Obedience......, well, you know the story. I know that there have been articles published that indicate traditional Obedience is holding its own and actually shows minor increases in entries in the advanced classes but not the Novice Class. However, when compared to the magnitude of interest in Agility (have you ever hear of an Obedience trial closing with 300 entries within an hour after entries are accepted?), one can only conclude that traditional Obedience has a problem. This problem of a stagnate interest in traditional Obedience is the original stimulus that prodded me to spend that noon hour in December 1998 to develop the basis for the Rally program.

It was my hope that Rally would stimulate a general interest in obedience training and that those with more competitive interests would eventually become involved in traditional Obedience. However, I never thought of Rally simply as a stepping stone to traditional Obedience. Looking back to those first four articles published in Front and Finish during the spring of 1999, I presented some ideas of how the exercises of the Open and Utility classes in traditional Obedience could be performed following the general concepts of Rally. I believe there is a place and a need for Rally as a stand-alone program. After obtaining titles in Rally, some of the more competitive people, without a doubt, will continue on into traditional Obedience. But, from the many comments I have heard, many if not most, will find other objectives to pursue. Why force people to make this choice? Regardless of whether or not Rally is established as a stand-alone program with advanced classes, highly competitive people will enter the traditional Obedience program, but - my guess is that many of them will also continue in Rally. Figure this out in terms of entries in "obedience" as a whole. The development of advanced Rally classes would provide a way for those who move into traditional Obedience to continue in both venues, as well as providing a means for those who would shun traditional Obedience to continue in Rally Obedience. Although some may not agree with me, it seems advantageous that the primary objective here should be to stimulate and provide a means for maintaining interest in "obedience" per se, be it traditional Obedience or Rally Obedience.

Rally Obedience is in its infancy; in many ways it is reminiscent of Agility in its early stages of development. Performances today are very different from those when Agility was becoming established. Improvements in training methods and handling have made great differences in the performances. I believe that a similar sort of evolution will occur in Rally that will prompt the development of advanced classes beyond the novice level and the establishment of a stand-alone program with advanced titles. This would enable those who prefer the Rally concept to be able to continue working toward advanced titles in a manner somewhat similar to the traditional Obedience program. But for this to happen, those with such interests will have to let their wishes be known to the various venues that have adopted Rally as a part of their performance events.

At the present time, Rally Obedience consists of three levels or classes. The first of these is performed with the dog on-lead, while the 2nd and 3rd levels are performed with the dog off-lead. There are 29 exercises from which 15 to 17 may be chosen to be included in the design of Level 1 courses. Seven additional exercises have been added to those first 29 for a total of 36 exercises from which 15 to 17 may be included in Level 2 course designs. Level 3 course designs may be constructed with 15 to 17 exercises selected from the 52 total Rally exercises. However, there are some requirements in the selection of exercises in Level 2 and Level 3 course designs to help ensure a certain increment of advancement in difficulty in each of these classes. (Note that some additional minor changes have been made in the 3rd Edition that alters the numbers sited above.)