A former student dropped in to class this week. When showing over the weekend, the dog refused a jump so that’s what they wanted to work on. Simple course, only 12 signs with a few from each level plus a jump.

This is an RAE3 team so dog and handler definitely know their way around a course. I stood outside the ring watching. Approaching station 7, handler cues the dog to Stay then begins walking around. Dog sits. Handler goes back, approaches the sign again, same result. “Stop” I called. “If he’s not getting it, then come outside the ring and work that move separately.”

Which they did.

“He’s got it” handler assured me. They start off on the course, little dog chugging alongside. But at station 7 it’s the same thing. Handler cues Stay, dog Sits.

I march out on the course to look at things from the dog’s perspective. “There must be something confusing him. Are you doing anything different with your hand signal?”

The team heads toward the station. I peer over at the sign.

“How many Rally trials have you shown in?” I ask the handler. “Read that sign.”

Halt – Stand – Walk Around

The dog had it right the whole time.



A recent discussion among rally coaches brought up the question of how to increase speed on the course. With no half-point deductions many rally runs end up with the same score, so placements are often determined by the fastest course time. I think all the coaches concurred that the best times are the result of correct sign recognition and execution.

To quote Chip from Tacoma “the number of times you will lose a placement for time is small compared to the
number of times you will lose for mistakes.”

Some coaches shared stories of handlers rushing through a course only to end up missing a sign completely. Several coaches noted the structure of the dog can also be a factor. A short-legged dog just can’t cover space as fast as a quick-footed herding dog. And long-bodied dogs need to use more concentration to get around cones without bumping.

Everybody’s favorite rally mentor,  Ruthann from Arizona sums up the best way to have a good course time in rally. And a good time, too.

  • Brisk pace throughout the course (This is so important, shows the judge you are confident and helps your dog stay focused.)
  • Quick responses on each and every exercise and each and every part of the exercises (This reinforces the appearance of teamwork between you and your dog.)
  • A dog working with focus and attention (Shows that your dog is happy to be there which, I believe,  relates to how you train.)
  • Dog that doesn’t have to be lured or coaxed (Again, a function of relationship and training.)
  • Handler standing upright and walking in a natural manner- bending over makes you slower (We see far too many handlers  like this. Erin even saw a handler lie on the ground while urging her dog to Down!)
  • Work smoothly – lots of flow and teamwork from both dog and handler (Do I need to repeat that? Teamwork.)

If you concentrate on achieving each of Ruthann’s points, a good course time will naturally follow.

And by the way, why are you entering trials if you aren’t doing all of the above?

Rally Quiz 7

Posted: November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Suzanne, an AKC Rally judge, received a set of teal colored Rally signs as a gift. Can she use these signs at the next trial she judges?

We all waste plenty of time watching YouTube videos of people doing rally so it was only a matter of time. And now the time has come –  Cyber Rally!

  • Entry is by video.
  • There are five levels.
  • Leashes are optional at all levels
  • Lots of flexibility in choosing courses, ring size, etc.
  • No entry deadlines.
  • Courses are challenging.
  • Many signs are found nowhere else.

This sounds like it could be a good thing for the shy and reactive dogs or teams that thought they could never go to a trial

The web site is not yet complete but you can learn more about it at the Cyber Rally yahoo group  http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/cyberrally-O/

Levels I, II, and III signs and descriptions plus courses  are posted in the Files section there.

So, during the next blizzard, we can all sit home and make Cyber Rally videos….nice way to spend a weekend.

Rally Quiz 6

Posted: October 2, 2011 in Rally Quiz

Even though it was her third Excellent leg, Erin forgot her 6 foot leash for the Honor exercise. She used a shorter leash. Will this affect her score?

Ring Nerves

Posted: September 25, 2011 in Performance & Judging

The pressure is on as we move into the last three months of 2011. Last chance to finish titles.

We get nervous. And be assured that our dogs, who are tuned in to every breath we take, get nervous too. I am always amazed by the number of people who have been competing for 20 or 30 years yet remain clueless when it comes to reading stress signs in their dogs. Ever notice how many dogs are overcome with scratching at the start sign? That’s not a swarm of flies biting them. It’s stress.

You think your dog is yawning because he’s bored or tired? It’s stress.

Sniffing? Instead of blaming the trials hosts for not cleaning the mats, blame yourself for correcting a sniffing dog when he’s just trying to calm himself. Your corrections add more stress to his burden of trying to please you.

What’s the remedy? Relax and make training fun, train in short sessions and most of all do some deep breathing of your own.


Rally Quiz 5

Posted: April 1, 2010 in Rally Quiz

Marilyn never noticed that the steward had not changed the jump height from the previous smaller dog. Will she be able to keep the leg?

There will be a C-WAGS Rally trial April 10 and 11 in South Elgin. Canine – Work and Games LLC is a fun and friendly rally venue with helpful signs and tricky moves. Just try and do a parallel left about turn with a side switch. (It helps if you dog knows how to spin on cue.) Whenever I’ve taken a C-WAGS class we spend most of our time laughing.

Cluny and I like the Zoom class best…no sits! Onchu prefers ARF with jumps and tunnels.

 Although your dog must be registered with C-WAGS, you can do that the day of the trial or enter as FEO (exhibition only). FEO scores won’t count toward a title. You don’t have to work your way through the levels, as in every other venue, so all you over-achievers can start at the Advanced level if you want. 

Go to www.c-wags.org for rules and event details.

Rally Quiz 4

Posted: March 27, 2010 in Rally Quiz

As the team reached the Stop and Down Sherie paused, said “Down” and started to move around Delilah to the left. Delilah’s back end hit the ground as Sherie passed the dog’s left flank. She finished circling the dog, said “Heel” and the team moved forward. Later, Sherie was surprised to learn they had received a 10 point deduction for that exercise. Why would that be?

The Answer Lady

Posted: March 19, 2010 in Rally Quiz, Training

Rally Quiz 1 Karen was correct in that Novice courses, both A and B, must have a minimum of three stationary exercises. A stationary exercise is one in which the dog sits. Any of the Call Front exercises are also stationary since the Sit is implicit in a Call Front. Although there is no sit in a Stop & Down, it is stationary since the dog’s movement stops.

Rally Quiz 2 while the actual scoring would probably depend on how it looks to the judge – does Cluny appear out of control or just happy – a key word is that the team jogged past the Finish. Courses may not end with a Fast pace or a Jump. Teams must maintain a brisk but even pace. I’ve heard judges specifically warn against running on the course. Check the post on pace if you missed it.

Someone commented in class about asking your dog to Sit after the Finish. This is a good strategy in Advanced and Excellent since you need to attach your leash before exiting the ring.

There was also discussion in class about differences in Excellent performance versus Advanced and Novice. Each exercise is performed according to the sign description in the rule book. That means if a Call Front (signs 13, 14, 15, 16) appear on an Excellent course, the handler may take several steps backward just as in Novice. However, Excellent has two additional Call Front signs, 41 and 42, that require a Halt before calling the dog front. For those two signs, steps backward are not permitted.  

There is only one sign that specifies different performances for Advanced and Excellent. Sign 36, Halt Stand Walk Around, allows the handler to touch the dog to stand him on an Advanced Course but not on an Excellent course.

This is why your Rally coaches are always pushing you to perform at the highest level, so your hard work isn’t sabotaged by a careless mistake.