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Rally Obedience

Dog participating in Rally Obedience sport.

About Rally Obedience

Rally Obedience, commonly known as Rally or Rally-O, is a dog sport that combines elements of Obedience and Agility to create a dynamic and engaging activity. In Rally, dogs and their handlers navigate a course with numbered signs indicating different obedience exercises to perform. This sport emphasizes not just the precision of obedience but also the enthusiasm and willingness of the dog, as well as the communication and teamwork between dog and handler.

Central to Rally-O is the concept of dog and handler teams moving through a course in a continuous flow. Unlike traditional Obedience, where commands are given by a judge, Rally courses are set up with signs that have printed instructions. Handlers are responsible for guiding their dogs through the correct sequence of behaviors from start to finish. This set-up tests a handler’s ability to train and direct the dog, as well as the dog’s responsiveness to direction.

Rally courses include a variety of exercises such as sit, stay, turn, and weave. Challenges range from performing basic obedience commands in the Novice classes to more complex sequences and tasks in the Advanced and Excellent levels. This progressive structure allows teams of all skill levels to participate and enjoy the sport at their own pace.

Format of the Sport

In Rally competitions, teams navigate courses composed of 10 to 20 printed signs. Each course is designed by a judge and each sign provides instructions on a particular obedience skill that is to be performed. Teams move through the course at their own pace, with the handler communicating commands and providing encouragement to the dog.

Scoring in Rally is based on the accuracy and precision of the performance, as well as the team’s overall timing and coordination. Teams begin the course with a perfect score and lose points for errors such as incorrect execution of a skill or the lack of control.

Rally emphasizes positive training methods, with handlers using verbal cues, hand signals, and encouragement to guide their dogs. Unlike some other dog sports, limited verbal communication is allowed during the course run, fostering a more interactive experience between the dog and handler.

History & Evolution of Rally Obedience

Rally Obedience is a relatively new dog sport, having been developed in the early 2000s. Its inception is attributed to the desire for a more dynamic and interactive form of Obedience competition. The sport was created to focus on the positive aspects of training, emphasizing a more relaxed and encouraging atmosphere for dogs and handlers alike.

The idea of Rally Obedience was to provide an activity that bridges the gap between traditional Obedience Trials, which can be quite formal and strict, and more physically demanding dog sports such as Agility. Rally was designed to be accessible to a wider range of dogs and handlers, including those who might find traditional Obedience too rigid or Agility too physically challenging.

Introduction & Expansion as a Competitive Sport

Rally Obedience quickly gained popularity after its introduction, thanks to its inclusive and fun nature. It was officially recognized by major canine organizations like the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Kennel Club (UK), which standardized rules and promoted the sport within the dog training community.

The structure of Rally, with its varied and evolving courses, offers a refreshing challenge for handlers and dogs alike. It allowed for more creative course design and a more engaging training process. This adaptability has made the sport particularly appealing to dog training clubs and organizations looking to offer new and exciting activities for their members and class attendees.

Today, Rally Obedience is a well-established sport with a dedicated following. It is practiced worldwide, with national and international competitions being held regularly. The sport continues to evolve too, with new signs and levels being introduced that keep Rally-O as challenging as it is fun.


Rally Obedience


July 2024 Vol. 32 No. 7

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