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AKC Rally: Teaching the Right Finish

This month’s training tip walks you through training the Right Finish exercise for AKC Rally or Competition Obedience. It is contributed by AKC staffer Paisley Lunchick KPA-CPT RVT, a registered veterinary technician, professional dog trainer and member of the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. Paisley and her mixed-breed Eyre have earned rally, trick and CGC titles.

AKC Rally is a great sport for anyone who wants to have fun competing with their dog.

In the sport of Rally, handler and dog teams follow a course of 10 to 15 signs. Each sign requires the team to perform a specific task demonstrating their training and connection.

One task that can be a little tricky is the Right Finish. In this exercise the dog is called to sit in front of the handler, then moves behind the handler to the handler’s right, around to their left side, finishing in a sit.

If this sounds daunting, no worries! This movement can be trained in just a few easy steps, a couple of different ways. In Rally Novice and Intermediate, the course is performed on leash, but we will train first without the leash, and then add that later.

Luring Technique

Begin with your dog in the front position, sitting squarely in front of you. Your hands can be at your sides or in the middle of your body at your belly button.

  1. Take a treat in your right hand and put it at your dog’s nose, bring your hand backwards and behind you, slowly enough that your dog follows the treat.
  2. Switch the treat to your left hand and continue the movement until your dog is at your left side, in heel position.
  3. When your dog arrives in heel position, mark by clicking or saying “yes!” and give the treat.
  4. Cue the next behavior in the sequence, which in Rally is either a sit in heel position (halt) or continuing heeling forward.

Fade the Lure

Practice using the treat lure for five repetitions, then try to do it with just your hand and no treat. Mark and treat at the end of the movement when your dog is back in heel position.

Target Stick Method

The action of teaching a right finish with a target stick is the same as with a food lure but may be easier to train with smaller dogs. Your dog must already be trained to follow a target stick (or wooden spoon or whatever you choose to be your target). A quick “cheat” to teaching your dog to follow the target can be to smear a small amount of peanut butter on the end and use it as a food lure.

Still mark and treat when your dog follows the target around to your left side.

You can fade the target stick by making it shorter (or by holding it further up the handle) until your dog is able to follow the action of your hands around and into position.

Adding the Leash

The most challenging part of the right finish may be when you must do it on leash as in the AKC Rally Novice and Intermediate classes.

Practice Without Your Dog

It’s important to practice the handling of your leash before you attach it to your dog’s collar, as it will add a new layer to the generalization of the skill, and fumbling may be confusing.

  1. Hold your leash in front of you, just as you would with your dog in front position.
  2. Pass the leash to your right hand.
  3. Pass the leash behind you from your right hand to your left hand, using the same motion you used when using a treat lure.
  4. Return your hand and leash to the position you use when heeling.

Add Your Dog

Practice the same movements with your dog on leash until you are both fluent in performing the right finish. You may need to make your rate of reinforcement higher if the leash confuses your dog.

Bonus tip! Fading the Hand Signal and Adding a Verbal Cue

In higher levels of Rally, the course is performed off leash, so there’s no need to pass your hands behind your back. You can take the skill to the next level by making your hand signal smaller or by adding a verbal cue and not needing to move your hands at all!

Making your hand signal smaller is generally just a matter of how fluent you and your dog have gotten. With your dog in front, begin to move your right hand as if you are about to pass a treat or leash behind you, but don’t complete the motion with your left hand. Mark and treat if your dog completes the movement behind you on their own! Experiment in small steps to see just how small you can make your hand motion.

To add a verbal cue to the right finish, follow the rules of cue transfer for clean training. Up until this point, the cue for your dog to perform has been your hand movements.

  1. Stand with your dog in front position.
  2. With your hands still, give your verbal cue. It can be whatever you want, some people use “Around” or “Behind.
  3. After giving your verbal cue, immediately present your hand signal and finish the behavior
  4. Mark and treat at the completion of the behavior
  5. Practice “New cue -> old cue” for a few repetitions.
  6. Try saying the cue and pause – your dog may be confused at first. If they make any movement towards your right side, you can help them by continuing with your hand signal, or mark and treat any effort that your dog makes to begin the behavior.
  7. Continuing shaping your dog’s response until they can go all the way around your right side into heel position on just your verbal cue.

Great job training a flashy clean Right Finish Now take it on the road to new locations to help your dog generalize it to the show ring!

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