by Melodie Grabner - updated by Robin Camken


There is something new on the dog performance stage.  It is not without its critics and its enthusiastic supporters. Some people say that obedience is too formal and serious. Rally obedience is out to change that image. Rally is similar to agility in that a judge sets up a pattern in advance and handlers get to walk the course before they go into the ring. The difference is the course isn't made up of obstacles, but exercises. After the judges forward command the dog handler team moves from station to station on its own completing each exercise. Praise, double commands and lots of encouragement are allowed. You can even repeat an exercise if you didn't get it right the first time, without being disqualified (but you will lose some points). 

According to the CKC Rally Obedience rule book: "The purpose of Rally Obedience is to demonstrate a dog’s usefulness as a companion of mankind, not merely the dog's ability to follow specified routines in the ring. Dogs who participate in rally are dogs that have been trained and conditioned to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs.  The chief objective of rally is to provide a fast-moving and motivational activity that demonstrates a handler and dog’s competency in basic obedience exercises without requiring exact precision for success. Dogs in rally events should demonstrate willingness and enjoyment."

There are three levels in CKC Rally Obedience. The first level- Rally Novice (RN) - is preformed on lead.  The next two levels, Rally Advanced (RA) and Rally Excellent (RE) are preformed off leash and include jumps. Scoring for all levels is based on a maximum score of 100 points with a minimum passing score of 70.  You need three qualifying scores (legs) earned under at least two different judges to obtain a title.  

At the Novice level there are 31 different exercises from with the judge will select 10-15 for the test.  Each exercise is outline on a sign in graphic and words, and can include various combinations of turns, heeling, sits, downs, fronts, and finishes. An example of some of the things for which points are deducted include: tight leash, lack of control, incorrectly performing a station, lack of teamwork, and handler error. The use of loud or harsh commands or intimidating signals by the handler at any time is also penalized. Rally obedience is timed and any tied scores are broken based on the time taken to run the course. 

Some obedience people have reservations about the sport. They feel there is too much dog-handler interaction and all the talking and extra commands can confuse a young dog that hasn't matured in the obedience ring. However, most handlers love it because Rally is fun and a much more relaxed environment for the dog. Rally has challenges of its own (particularly for handler), including no mental breaks as you progress through the course. Dogs need to have a solid attention span and focus and enough stamina to get through the course. Well-heeled obedience dogs will have a hoot. 

Rally Obedience is a lot of fun and quickly gaining popularity across Canada. 

For more information see: 

CKC Rally Obedience Trial Rules & Regulations

The Canadian Association of Rally Obedience (CARO)