A banging good rally competition

On Friday evening Dig It held its first ever Rally Show! I’ve previously taught some Rally workshops, after learning about the sport at PDTI a few years ago and then spending many hours reading the rules, trying it out and watching youtube videos, all with the aim of passing this new sport on to other dog owners that were looking for a new and different training adventure with their dogs.

I find Rally quite enjoyable to learn and teach and it has a great place in the dog training world, giving people something to do after Gold Good Citizen level without going into the high adrenaline sports of flyball or agility, while providing something a bit more fluid and “fun” than competitive obedience.

This year Tracey has been teaching regular rally workshops and on Friday hosted an unaffiliated rally competition to give her clients a taste of a rally show. I said from the start I’d help out and then decided why not have a go with Guinness while I was there!

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It turns out that Rally competitions are rather mellow. The obedience hall was split in half, with an area set out alongside the main ring for spectators to sit (with or without their dogs) to watch and prepare for their go. When you enter for your turn you have to sign in with the scribe (the person who takes the score down for the judge) and they check you have no treats in your pocket. You are then given some time to prepare your dog, by playing if you wish, and then you proceed to the start and begin when you’re ready. Your time and scoring starts once you pass the “Start” station and finishes once you complete the final station and acknowledge that you have finished by thanking the judge. You can then immediately grab your rewards from a nearby table and reward your dog.

Julie the judge was lovely, helping any competitors with their questions before the show started and giving individual feedback to many after their run.

The idea of rally is to complete the course with a loose lead. The dogs don’t have to be glued to your side, just walking nicely within arms reach and performing each station by your side. As we prepared for our go I was doubting how long our loose lead would last. Guinness has done enough off lead heelwork for Gold and walks nicely along the pavement on walks, but prefers to be a little in front of me and gets a little excited when asked for close heelwork.

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However we needn’t have worried, as we were about ten dogs from our run a firework went off. Guinness went on full alert, radar-ears in full motion and only focusing on the possibility of there being another firework, not showing any interest in treats or toys. Then as we were a few dogs away from our turn and he was just starting to relax another firework went off, quickly followed by many more. He erupted in the obedience hall, bouncing and barking and as I rushed him outside to the car he dragged me to it and barked again as another load went off just as I got him in the car. I quickly shut him in and covered up the windows to stop him from seeing the flashes, but the damage was done.

As I got back into the obedience hall I was told it was my turn. “We’re not running sorry, he’s spooked by the fireworks.” Another dog also pulled out of the competition and one dog had got scared by a firework just as it was being set up for the recall so lost 5 points.

I wasn’t that bothered, it was just one of those things. I enjoyed being at the Rally Show but I’d decided it wasn’t for me. It was lovely to see people completing the course and getting some nice high scores, plus there was some great dog-handler partnerships and training on show. As I said it was all rather mellow, lovely and fluffy, fun, but not the wild buzz of adrenaline that comes with agility.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t train Rally any more as the dynamics of teaching the exercises and working through the course with a dog is a lot of fun, plus it draws on a different set of dog training skills. I just don’t think I’ll be off to rally competitions every weekend. However I had a great night chatting to some lovely people and catching up with friends. A perfect Friday evening in my eyes!

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To learn more about Rally Workshops at Dig It Dogs check out the information on their website: www.digitdogs.co.uk/training/rally-obedience/

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