Fun Activity for You and Your Dog
by Gail and Michael Dix
When I was first asked me and Gail to write a Rally Obedience column for the Kee Korner, my first reaction was “Who, us?” But we did have a dog, Tibo, that Gail was doing rally obedience with, so we are at least minimally qualified. I apologize to the club members who know much more about Rally than I do. This first column is an introduction to rally obedience.
Rally obedience was made for Keeshonden and their owners. It is a fun activity that your dog does with you, that promotes bonding with your dog. No great athleticism is required. Dogs of any age can participate — Ronnie Sue took her Lewis through at an advanced age, and a lady in Gail’s class competes with a German Shepherd Dog who’s 11 and has limited vision.
Your dog is near you the entire time. You can talk to your dog at any time. Most important for the easily bored Kees and their owners, every time you go out, the course is different. [I am impressed by dogs and owners who can achieve obedience perfection by drilling, but that is not how Kees (or me) are built, in my experience.] The equipment required is inexpensive. Classes are readily available, from any dog training club.
So, what is this Rally Obedience, anyways? Years ago I did road rallying and it is much the same thing. You get instructions that you must execute, and your score depends on how well you execute them. The person in charge lays out a course consisting of a series of signs resting close to the ground. The dog-handler duo starts out and moves through the course as the signs direct, left, or right, or 180 degrees, or 270, etc. Sometimes the dog must back up. Occasionally the dog must jump over a (low) high jump, or (narrow) broad jump. Other times, the duo must slalom around some traffic cones.
Competing is possible but not essential. Gail and Tibo took beginning classes till their instructor, Bea Moore, told her they were ready. A lady with a Jack Russell in Gail’s class was doing it just for fun until we all encouraged her to enter at a show. There are three levels, Novice, Advanced, and Excellent, with more signs and added complexity the further you go. Novice is all performed on leash, which is a great help even though no tugging is allowed. When Tibo completed his Novice title (three qualifying scores), we moved him up to Advanced, where he easily qualified. But the next time we entered him, he realized there was no leash and he could go where he wanted. Gail was mortified when he walked up to a Rally sign and hiked his leg over it. That was a quick non-qualification as she was unable to attract his attention. The lesson: in Advanced and Excellent, the handler must be the most attractive thing in the ring to the dog. If Tibo ever finishes Advanced, the next most difficult hurdle will be ignoring the bowl of dog food used as a distraction.
Well, this is probably enough for now. Please send me your thoughts and experiences with Rally Obedience to incorporate in future columns, toMichael@norcalkees.org.