On Friday, March 15, 2019, dogs from around the country will convene in Tulsa, Oklahoma to compete in the AKC Rally National Championship. The dogs and their handlers will be cheered on by a crowd of excited spectators — some of whom may be brand-new to the sport of rally. Though watching one of these events can be confusing at first, once you pick up on ring procedures, how scoring works, and what it takes to earn a qualifying score, it’s easy to become hooked. So, what should every potential spectator know about AKC Rally®? We break down the fun-for-the-whole-family activity!
Setting the Scene
AKC Rally is one of four companion events (obedience, rally, agility, and tracking), and is a little over a decade old, having started in 2005. It’s open to all AKC-recognized breeds and mixed breeds registered with an AKC PAL or Canine Partners number. It’s also open to people of all ages. Currently, there are no minimum age requirements for people for AKC Companion Events. At most trials, Juniors compete alongside adults.
The most important thing to understand is that the sport is all about teamwork. A handler and their dog navigate a numbered course of signs together, during which the team must complete a series of specific numbered skills.
Learning the Basics
Each course is filled with 10-20 signs (the number depends on the class level) indicating which skills the dog-handler team must perform. The handler does not know which ones will be present on the course until the day of the event. Here are just a few of the signs you might see at a rally competition:
|Can be used in all class levels:||Can be used in Intermediate, Advanced, Excellent, and Rally Advanced Excellent classes:||Can be used in Excellent, Rally Advanced Excellent, and Master classes:|
Although performances are timed, quickly completing a course is not the goal. Rally is ultimately about the handler and their dog working together to execute the specified set of skills, with the dog remaining under control throughout the entire presentation.
Another significant part of rally is communication. At every AKC Rally level, handlers can use verbal commands and hand signals to encourage their dog throughout the course, and at lower levels — like Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced — handlers can also clap their hands and pat their legs to engage with their dog.
As for scoring, each participant begins with a perfect score of 100, and points are deducted along the way. Minor deductions range from a dog interfering with his handler’s movement to a dog responding too slowly to a command. More substantial deductions include incorrectly performing a sign and luring or pleading with a dog to perform the exercises on the course.
Teams must finish the course with at least 70 points to earn a qualifying score and earn a “leg” toward a title.
An Intro to Classes
Here’s what you need to know about four of the levels:
- Novice: In this class, all exercises are performed with the dog on a leash. There are between 10 and 15 signs, depending on the course, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.
- Intermediate: In this class, teams will perform similar courses as the Advanced class, without the jump and with the dogs performing on leash. There are between 12-17 signs, depending on the course, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.
- Advanced: In this class, all exercises are performed with the dog off-leash, and one jump is required. There are between 12 and 17 signs, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.
- Excellent: In this class, all exercises are performed off-leash and the dog is required to jump twice. There are between 15 and 20 signs, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.
How to Get Started
If you’re inspired to start training your dog in rally after watching a competition, get connected with your local AKC Club or dog training facility to take a class. Instructors will show you how to train your dog to perform the skills required for rally. But it will also take plenty of practice on your own. No specialized equipment is required to get started and videos of each skill are available on the rally resources page.
For your dog to compete in an AKC Rally trial, he or she must be at least 6 months old and have an AKC number via AKC Registration, AKC Canine Partners, the Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, or the Foundation Stock Service for breeds on the road to full AKC recognition.
This fast-growing sport is becoming more and more popular every year and is an excellent option for dogs that are new to competition. Plus, rally is an excellent form of mental stimulation for canine companions and a wonderful bonding activity for you and your furry BFF.