January 1st 2005 saw the emergence of a new AKC sport, which is fun for dogs and handlers of all ages. Rally is a brisk paced form of Obedience that requires teamwork and communication between the handler and their dog. The dog heels next to the handlers left side and basic Obedience exercises are performed at stations along a numbered course. The course changes each day, somewhat similar to agility.
When you arrive at a Rally competition, you will find a numbered course with signs designating different exercises. All handlers entered in the class are given a 10 minute group walkthrough, before the start of the class, to familiarize themselves with the course. After the walkthrough and briefing, handlers line up with their dogs in catalog order, and then the fun begins. Each dog and handler team performs the course, paying attention to successfully completing each of the exercises along the way. In the event you or your dog make a mistake, you are allowed to repeat the exercise at that station. I call it a “do over”. Scoring is not as strict as traditional obedience and unlimited communication throughout the course is not only allowed, it is encouraged. Everyone knows how much Westies love to hear they are simply wonderful, needless to say Westies respond and excel at Rally.
Rally Novice (RN) is performed completely on leash. Advanced (RA) and Excellent (RE) levels are performed off leash. A perfect score is 100 points and you need a minimum of 70 points to qualify. Three qualifying scores under two different judges will earn you a Rally Title.
Westies made a strong showing during the first weekend of 2005 with a total of 6 sharing the honor of being the first Westies to earn a Rally Novice (RN) title in the history of the breed. For the record they are:
Photos depict three typical Rally exercises.
Circle Left 360
Halt Down Walk Around the Dog
Straight Figure 8 Weave Twice
What’s all this talk about Rally?
By Marleen Burford, AKC Rally Judge
Do you like to train your Westie to do tricks? Is your retired Champion anxious to get back in the ring with you? Or, do you just like spending time with your Westie and would be interested in learning something new?
How about trying Rally? You can go to a training class or look at the regulations and exercise descriptions in the Rally section at AKC.org and train your dog at home.
Rally is an AKC competition (really more like a skill test) that involves a team of Westie and handler following a course of signs that have descriptions of exercises that you and your dog need to complete. Courses are 15-20 stations (sign locations) long depending on the level of competition and designed by the judge.
To pass or qualify at each level requires a score of at least 70 out of 100 points. The judge tells the handler to begin, and then, the dog and handler proceed at their own pace through a course of designated stations. Each team must qualify (pass) three times before receiving a Rally title and moving ahead to the next level – Rally Novice, Rally Advanced, Rally Excellent.
The team of Westie and handler moves continuously at a brisk, but normal, pace with the dog under control at the handler's left side. After the judge's "Forward" order, the team is on its own to complete the entire sequence of numbered signs correctly. The handler is allowed unlimited communication to the dog. Unless otherwise specified in the Regulations, handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, clap their hands, pat their legs, or use any verbal means of encouragement.
No AKC registration?
You don’t have your Westie registered with the AKC … they may qualify for a Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP). PAL/ILP dogs may participate in certain AKC events, such as obedience, agility, tracking, rally and many performance events. Photos are required to prove the dog is a Westie and be spayed or neutered. For more information about the PAL/ILP program, visit the PAL/ILP section on the AKC web site, or e-mail questions to PAL@akc.org.
Want more details?
A rally course includes 10 to 20 stations, depending on the level. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience. The main objective of rally is to produce dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs, in a manner that will reflect positively on the sport of rally at all times and under all conditions.
The signs may be any color and they include descriptions as well as directional arrows of exercises. Signs are numbered to make it easy to find the next station when navigating the course.
All signs are placed to the handler's right side. The signs are large enough to be easily recognized when going through a course. The exercises designated on the signs will be performed in close proximity to the sign itself, either in front, back of, or beside the sign.
What are the levels of competition?
Novice - the first level for those just getting started in competition.
Advanced - the second level, which includes more difficult exercises throughout the course.
Excellent - the third and highest level of AKC Rally, the most challenging.
How do I get started in Rally?
Many AKC clubs conduct a variety of classes, instructed by experienced trainers who have earned titles and awards in obedience competitions with their own dogs. These people are up-to-date on the latest training techniques. They have experience training different breeds of dogs, mixed breeds and purebreds, and prospective students are usually welcome to observe a class before signing up for a training course.
When you attend a class with your Westie, instructors will show you how to train your dog and will expect you to practice at home. The younger the Westie, the shorter the practice sessions should be. For the best results, both you and your dog should enjoy frequent short sessions, combined with some play and rewards.
However, some handlers train their dogs at home –especially if they are used to training and their Westie is well socialized.
Give it a try. It’s been lots of fun for both dogs and handlers!
What are some exercises?
Here are just a few examples of the types of exercises that are included in the courses. For more of an explanation, visit AKC.org and look at the Rally section.
HALT - Sit:
While heeling, the handler halts and the dog sits in heel position. The team then moves forward, with the dog in heel position.
270° Right Turn:
While heeling, the team makes a 270° turn to the handler’s right. 270° turns are performed as a tight circle, but not around the exercise sign.
HALT - Stand - Sit:
Handler halts and dog sits. With dog sitting in heel position, the handler will stand the dog (without physical handling or moving forward), then command and/or signal the dog to sit. The handler then commands and/or signals the dog to heel forward from the sitting position. (Stationary exercise)
HALT - About Turn Right and Forward:
Handler halts and dog sits. With the dog sitting in heel position, the team turns 180° to the right and immediately moves forward. (Stationary exercise)
Backup 3 steps:
While heeling, the handler reverses direction walking backward at least 3 step, without first stopping, then continues heeling forward. The dog moves backward with the handler and maintains heel position throughout the exercise without sitting
Serpentine Weave Once:
This exercise requires pylons or posts placed in a straight line with spaces between them of approximately 6-8 feet. The exercise sign is placed near or on the first pylon or post where the exercise starts. Entry into the weaving pattern is with the first pylon or post at the dog/handler’s left side. The dog and handler must complete the entire exercise by passing the last pylon or post. It should be noted that in this exercise, the team does not weave back through the obstacles as they do in the Straight Figure 8.