On June 29, 2018, dogs from around the country will convene in Wilmington, Ohio, to compete in the 2018 AKC Rally® National Championship. They will be cheered on by a crowd of excited spectators — some of whom may be brand new to the sport. 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, and is a little over a decade old, having started in 2005. It’s open to all AKC-recognized breeds, as well as any dog with an AKC PAL or Canine Partners number.
The most important thing to understand is that the sport is all about teamwork. It requires a handler and his or her dog to navigate a course 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 in 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, completing a course quickly is not the goal. Rally is ultimately about the handler and his or her 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 to encourage their dog throughout the course, and at lower levels — like Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced — handlers can clap their hands and pat their legs or use other gestures 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, while 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. But the dog-handler teams that you’ll see this weekend all scored 93 points or better during this year’s qualifying period. At the AKC Rally® National Championship, exhibitors are demonstrating their teamwork, but there are no qualifying scores earned.
At these trials, Juniors (exhibitors under the age of 18) compete alongside the adults. Currently, there are no minimum age requirements for AKC Companion Events, so as long as a Junior can control a dog, he or she can participate.
An Intro to Classes
Like with most sports, rally has multiple levels dogs can compete at. Here’s what you need to know about the ones at the 2018 AKC Rally® National Championship:
- Novice: In this class, all exercises are performed with the dog on 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. In this year’s championship, 82 dog and handler teams are competing at this level.
- 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. In this year’s championship, 80 dog and handler teams are competing at this level.
- 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. In this year’s championship, 79 dog and handler teams are competing at this level.
- Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE): 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 qualifying scores of at least 70 points in both the Advanced and Excellent classes at 10 separate events to earn a title. In this year’s championship, 149 dog and handler teams are competing at this level.
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. Videos of each skill are available on the rally resources page.
In order 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 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 a great 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.
The 2018 AKC Rally® National Championship and AKC National Obedience Championship take place Friday to Sunday, June 29 to July 1, 2018, in Wilmington, Ohio. The events will be held at the Royal Canin Ring/Eukanuba at the Roberts Centre and are FREE for the public to attend, but please leave your dogs at home. Tune in to AKC.TV or our Facebook page, or download AKC.TV on Roku or Apple TV, to watch the livestream of the championship events starting on Friday at 8:30 a.m. EST, Saturday at 8:00 a.m. EST, and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EST.