Rally obedience is a fast-moving form of obedience designed for pet owners. Dogs and handlers who understand basic heeling and work smoothly together can complete the novice level of Rally obedience with relative ease. All exercises are performed on-leash along a delineated path. Coaxing with gestures and happy talk is permitted. More training is needed for the off-leash heeling and increasingly complex skills and footwork required for the advanced and excellent levels.
Following the Course
Rally trial competitors heel their dogs through a course indicated by signs, unlike traditional obedience heeling patterns that are directed by a judge's verbal instructions. Individually, these signs are referred to as stations. Stations are laid out in a route, called a course, which is timed for tie-breaking purposes. Instructions printed on each sign direct the dog/handler team to perform a stationary, directional or moving exercise before moving on to the next one. Each course begins at a "Start" sign, at which the dog starts by sitting at the handler's side and facing in the correct direction to follow the course. The course concludes at the "Finish" sign. The start and finish stations are not numbered and are not counted in the minimum number of exercises included in the course.
Stationary exercises are performed with a dog who has halted forward motion and has taken the position indicated on the sign. The number of stationary exercises varies from one skill level to the next. The American Kennel Club requires five stationary exercises per course at the novice level, seven at the advanced level, and between three and seven stationary exercises at the excellent level. The United Kennel Club does not have a minimum or maximum number of stationary exercises required per level. Stationary exercises can be simple, such as the Halt-Sit sign that requires the dog to stop and sit at the handler’s side until the handler decides to move forward again. They can also be complex, such as the Halt-Left Turn-Forward, which requires to dog to sit, turn, and heel working smoothly and automatically with the handler.
These signs ask the dog and handler team to change direction. Directional signs also vary in complexity. Simple directional signs include the right, left, and about turns used in traditional obedience. However, in additios to the about turn, which requires the team to turn 180 degrees to the right, teams may be asked to perform a U-turn, turning 180 degrees to the handler’s left, or into the path of the dog. Other turns require the team to turn 270 degrees or 360 degrees and to pivot 90 degrees or 180 degrees.
Any exercise that does not require the dog to halt or to change direction is considered a moving exercise. The American Kennel Club’s “Sit-Stay” exercise is an exception to this rule. It is not considered a stationary exercise despite not requiring the dog to move in any way.