AKC Rally promotes the dog as an obedient companion—one that you can take anywhere a dog is allowed to go in our society—and is, really, the natural-born son of the Canine Good Citizen program. Because it fosters a deep communication and teamwork between owners and their dogs, rally is a fantastic springboard to other AKC events, including agility, obedience, and even hunt tests.
Much like a rally racecar trial, an AKC Rally course has road signs telling the “driver” where to go and what to do. It’s a timed event, and a judge will initiate the start time by ordering a team “forward.” When the judge says the word, the handler and dog just follow the signs and complete the course with as few penalties as possible. Unlike formal obedience, the handler can talk to the dog, clap hands, and otherwise encourage the dog to stay in step and pay attention.
Rally fits into our modern dog-loving society because it mimics real life. For instance, if you’re out walking your dog and he is suddenly interested in sniffing something on the street, you’re going to talk to him and tell him to leave it. This can be done in rally, and scores will not be lowered as long as your verbal commands are encouraging and not harsh, and you do not touch the dog or make physical corrections. In rally, the real test is whether or not your dog does leave it when told to do so.
With so many choices now available to the purebred-dog enthusiast, it’s hard to imagine those at the top of the game, such as Best in Show conformation exhibitors, taking the time for rally, but that is exactly what is happening.
“People love rally,” says longtime breeder-exhibitor Terry Miller, of Dejavu Briards. “It gives dog lovers—even those who have been highly successful in the show arena, another dimension, another way to enjoy their dogs. If they’re at a show anyway, why not stay for rally? It’s really becoming the hot sport.”