Rally is one of the newest disciplines to be adopted by The Kennel Club and has been growing rapidly since its launch at Crufts 2013. It originated in the USA and was the brainchild of Charles "Buddy" Kramer. He was looking for something different to stimulate his working dogs, whilst being suitable for all abilities. Buddy developed and adapted the warm up elements of Obedience and included aspects of Working Trials and Agility to form the original American version of Rally Obedience. This new sport became extremely popular in the USA and has spread around the world. Rally was introduced to the UK by APDT-UK and was adopted by The Kennel Club in October 2012. It continues to spread across the UK and becomes increasingly popular month by month.
How it Works
A Rally course is laid out with a set of numbered signs (stations), which each dog and handler team navigate in order. Each station shows a different task, ranging from a simple left turn or the dog sitting at heel, at the lower levels, progressing up to weaving between (and ignoring) food bowls, or being sent over a jump at the higher levels.
Anyone attending companion or Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme classes with their dog will have encountered some of the Level 1 exercises – sit at heel, dog in the down and walk around, turns both to the left and the right, and recalls. However, there are also more advanced exercises such as changes of pace, changes of position from a down to a sit and a sit to a stand, weaving between cones and a recall to heel with the dog behind you.
Higher up the levels, retrieve, jumps, food manners and distance work feature to challenge you and your dog. If you have passed any of your Kennel Club Good Citizen tests or trained your dog in any other Kennel Club discipline, you are more than qualified to attempt Rally.
There are 6 Levels in Rally, with Level 1 being the entry level and Level 6 the most advanced. Levels 1 and 2 are performed on the lead and Levels 3 and above are performed off lead. It is scored out of a total of 200 points, with deductions on a preset scale of 1, 2, 3, or 5, for example 1 point is lost for a tight lead and 5 points for the dog failing to sit or down when required. If you lose 10 points or more on one station, it is an automatic NQ or Non-Qualifier. A qualifying score of 170 is an achievement!
Three qualifiers, at each level, under three different judges, are needed to progress to the next level and each progression is marked by a Suffix to add to your dog’s name.
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Rally is first and foremost about the relationship between you and your dog. Although Rally is a competitive sport, because competitors are working to gain qualifiers, rather than against each other, there is a very supportive camaraderie within the community.
Another reason that Rally is proving so popular is that it is extremely inclusive. We welcome all dogs, irrespective of size, shape, pedigree or ability. We also welcome handlers of all ages, including those who may need assistance to compete. If you need more room in the course for your wheelchair, or a caller due to visual impairment, we will do our utmost to accommodate you. This inclusivity gives Rally a really friendly atmosphere and helps to make it thoroughly enjoyable for all involved.
The Kennel Club's Rally Working Party, of which I am a member, is working to develop and grow Rally across the whole of the UK and looking to encourage more clubs and societies to hold events. The uptake for the Accredited Training programme for Judges has been excellent, with existing Judges and Competitors also looking to learn more about the sport. In November 2015, the first Rally Competition Management Seminar was delivered. This attracted a large number of delegates and also provided Societies and Listed Clubs with the opportunity to network with other Competition Organisers. Several enthusiasts hold Rally workshops and seminars throughout the UK, helping to introduce this discipline to more people and encouraging them to try competitions.
When The Kennel Club first launched KC Rally, in 2013, there were only a handful of competitions. In 2016 there were approximately 40, geographically spread throughout the UK. Competitions are not just growing in number, but also in size, with the largest to date being over 440 entries. Listed Status Clubs are able to hold Rally Competitions and Limited Rally Competitions are now allowed - meaning they can be held alongside shows of other disciplines, introducing Rally to new audiences and enabling Show Organisers to widen the variety of options they offer to their competitors and exhibitors.
I would encourage anyone reading this, and hasn’t yet tried Rally, to give it a go – it really is fun and is a great way to build a bond with your dog, whilst also cementing and improving your existing skills.