Rally Obedience: All Signs Point To Fun

Copyright by Cheryl May. May be reprinted without permission 1) if used in its entirety without editing; and 2) provided copyright notice remains in place.

This article was written for the German Shepherd Dog Club of America Red Book

Rally obedience became a titling class in January 2005. Many owners of German shepherd dogs have discovered rally is a great way to introduce a young dog to the obedience ring. It is also a fun opportunity to bring out those veteran dogs and let them be stars again.

Those of us who have been around the obedience ring a long time are familiar with many of the Rally moves -- we call it "doodling."

Rally is designed as a prelude to traditional competition obedience, so new exhibitors who complete all three levels of Rally remain eligible to enter Novice A, if they meet the other Novice A requirements.

If either the handler OR the dog has earned an AKC obedience title at any level, the team must enter the "B" Rally classes. Agility titles are not relevant in relation to Rally. If a handler and/or dog have not earned obedience titles before, but have agility titles, they still may compete in the "A" classes in Rally.

Before Rally begins, each class is permitted a walk-through without dogs. This gives exhibitors a chance to practice the stations and think of how they will perform each one. A 15-minute walk-through is suggested before each class.


* Performance should be at or near a sign. An experienced Rally exhibitor advised me that it is best to stop before the sign so you have a chance to look at it just before you perform the station.

* Some of the moves are complex. With the moving side-step it is best to ask the judge during the walk-through how he or she wants it performed.

* The dog must always sit anytime a front is called for -- even if there is no halt sign.

* Any circle movements should be done imagining yourself remaining within the inside diameter of a hula hoop. Any pivots should be done imagining yourself standing on a small paper plate.

* The Novice Rally class is performed on leash. Therefore, the leash should not be dropped while the dog performs a station.

* Multiple commands and talking to your dog throughout the performance are permitted with no penalty.

* A slow response by the dog to any command costs your team one point, but additional commands don't cost any additional points, so feel free to give them if needed.

* If the handler forces the dog into a position required by the station, it is scored as an incorrectly performed station.

* When a dog makes an error at a station, the team must go back to the beginning of that station and start over in order to receive credit for correctly performing the station.


"A one point error in obedience is a one point error in Rally," AKC Rep Roger Ayers said.

In Rally, errors that would be a half point off in obedience are not scored. Because of this leniency, the flexibility given to low-scoring obedience exhibitors is not given to Rally exhibitors. In obedience, at lower scores, the errors are not a tabulation. Instead it becomes a matter of whether the dog should qualify or not. In obedience, for dogs working close to 200, everything is marked. In Rally, because exhibitors already gain the benefit of no half point errors, all errors are scored.


The required minimum area for Rally is 40' x 50.' Clubs offering Rally as a titling class are required to supply all necessary equipment. Five stewards are ideal for a Rally trial and all stewards except the table steward may exhibit at the trial.

The purpose of Rally is to increase interest in competition obedience, so clubs must hold an obedience trial in order to hold a Rally trial.

"Think of it in pairs -- one to one," Ayers said. Clubs may limit the size of an obedience trial, but if they do so, they also must limit the hours of the Rally trial. For example, if the club offers four hours of obedience, it may offer only four hours of Rally. If all breeds are permitted in the Rally trial, then all breeds also must be admitted to the obedience trial.


Repeatedly throughout a day-long Rally seminar, Ayers emphasized that in his view, a dog that completes the three levels of Rally will be as well prepared to enter Novice obedience as any dog handled by even the most experienced and talented obedience trainers.


Deductions are either one point, three points, 10 points or NQ, with the exception for "Lack of Teamwork" which can be 1-10 points.

One Point Deduction:
* out of position
* tight leash
* poor sit -- taken if the sit is more than 45 degrees off)
* slow response
* touching, ticking a jump

Three Point Deduction
* retry of a station
Important note: If you and/or your dog does a station incorrectly, you will lose 10 points. However, if you go back and re-approach the station for a retry, your -10 for the first try is erased; you have only a retry deduction of -3, plus, of course, however many points you lose during the retry. You may retry three times (losing nine) before you have to go on. Do NOT retry a station you did correctly in hope of getting a better score. If you retry a station you didn't do incorrectly just to do it better nothing gets erased ... you lose all the points you lost the first time and all the points you lose on the retry (up to 10).
* knocking over a cone or pylon on the figure 8, serpentine or spiral exercises
* lack of control
* loud, intimidating command or signal
* excessive barking
* handler error the judge deems worth three points

10 Point Deduction
* incorrectly performed station
* hitting a jump
* handler error the judge deems worth 10 points

* minimum requirements not met
* dog unmanageable
* consistently tight lead
* substantially out of position on, or not completing, the honor exercise
* dog knocks bar off/uses jump as aid
* station not attempted or missed
* fouling the ring
* handler error the judge deems worth non-qualifying

1-10 Point Deduction
* lack of teamwork

Rally regulations are now included with the published Obedience Regulations. The current book is chartreuse and says "Amended to October 12, 2004" on the cover. The regulations also are available online at AKC's Web site. Click on Events and then Rally.

I hope you will go out and enjoy Rally, where all signs point to fun for you and your shepherd.

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