Archive for the ‘Performance & Judging’ Category

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?

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.


Moving Up

Posted: May 24, 2007 in Performance & Judging, Training

Several people have noted that the difference between Rally Novice and Rally Advanced is HUGE. Even if you are fortunate enough to earn your RN in your first three trials, you may not be ready to move up. In addition to more complex exercises, RA is also performed off leash.

We are doing many things in class to make that transition more seamless. In the first place, we have started introducing all 50 exercises right from the beginning. Even though 8 weeks is barely enough time to learn the exercises, much less perfect them, it helps us see how each new skill builds on the previous one.

In addition, if we work toward the highest level of performance from the start, perhaps we can avoid some of the bad handling habits that are so easy to develop. A good example is the Call Front.

At the Novice level, this exercise allows the handler to take a few steps back. However, at the Advanced level, steps backward are not allowed. Why not train yourself and your dog to do this without steps back right from the beginning?

A second thing we do in class is add distractions. Of course, with the agility ring right next to us, that might seem like distraction enough. After just a few weeks the dogs hardly notice the toys that litter our ring. Well, except for the shaking, singing, furry thing! By the time we get to the Offset Figure 8 it will be eeee zzzzz.

The third thing we do is encourage everyone to spend a few minutes whenever possible working off lead. Without that lead to “steer” your dog around, you must hold your dog’s attention through your movement and your words. As you become more confident at that, those tight leads will loosen up.

Once you have earned your RN, you can continue to enter the Rally Novice class. If this is the first show experience for you or your dog, continuing to compete in Novice can help you build confidence under trial conditions.

Many Rally Advanced people regret moving on too quickly and find that the increased stress of RA hurts their ring performance. Some people end up taking months off from showing in order to rebuild their dog’s confidence. 

We are lucky to have many run-through opportunities in this area, but that is still no comparison to an actual trial. Just to refresh, if you earn your Rally Novice title from the “A” class, you can continue to enter the “A” class for 60 days. After that, if you want to continue showing in Rally Novice you must enter the “B” class.

New Rules

Posted: May 22, 2007 in Performance & Judging

 AKC’s Rally Advisory Committee recommendations were approved at the May Board meeting. You can see a the new rules as an attachment to the May minutes at the AKC web site. Since they don’t go into effect until January, you will not find them in Obedience & Rally Rules and Regulations.

Some of the most significant changes are:

  1. Only one retry is allowed. 
  2. Jump height has been lowered to 4 inches for dogs less than 10 inches tall and jump height is 8 inches for dogs 10 to 15 inches tall. Other jump heights remain the same.
  3. The Novice Moving Down is now a Stop and Down. However a Moving Down Walk Around has been added to Excellent (#48A).
  4. The Honor exercise must be performed on a 6 foot leash, with handler going to the end of the leash. No retries on the Honor exercise.

The new changes include some clarification of how each exercise is to be performed. Utimately, this should result in more consistent judging from show to show. 

Try, Try Again

Posted: May 1, 2007 in Performance & Judging

Last week in class we practiced do-overs. Why is that something we should practice? So that when you’re in the middle of a course and you suddenly realize you missed an element, you have a plan for recovery.You lose 3 points for each retry and you only get 2 retries, or a total of 3 attempts.

What’s the protocol? It will likely be very apparent to the judge that you are making a new attempt. If it makes you feel better, you can say something out loud to your dog like “Whoops, let’s try that again.” Don’t expect the judge to acknowledge that because they cannot give you any feedback while you’re in the middle of the course.There you are at the station and the sign is Halt, Down, Walk-Around. If your dog gets up from the Down before you return to heel position, this may be scored as -10 for Improper Performance or possibly an NQ. At this point you can’t just give your dog another Down command. Instead, make a Left About go back several steps and approach the station again. Always give yourself at least three steps to approach the station on retries.What if you completely miss the station? As long as you remember before you get to the next station, you can go back and retry. However, once you complete a station there is no going back to the previous one.

Okay Example: you’re on your way to 8 and realize you never did 7. Turn around right there and go back almost to 6. Approach 7 and complete then continue on to 8.

NQ Example: you’re half way through 8 and realize you never did 7. Too bad.

Watch & Learn

Posted: April 25, 2007 in Performance & Judging

Another Rally competitor has generously shared a video of she and her dog completing a Rally Novice course at a recent trial. The first thing I noticed was the handler’s very even pace and terrific posture. See how attentive they are to each other?

Here  is second video with a Whippet in Rally Advanced. The handler utilizes  exaggerated hand signals, perhaps he’s working with a sighthound. His score was in the 90’s.

The Waiting Game

Posted: March 26, 2007 in Performance & Judging

Pam has a good question:  “What type of exercises do you recommend be done (if any) while waiting to go in the ring to get the dog ready?”

What do you want the warm-up to accomplish? For most of us, we need to get our dog and our self into performance mode: mentally focused and physically loose.

Last week Tom described his experience at his first fun match. He was, understandably, nervous. Instead of striding out confidently as he usually does, he moved too slow and his dog naturally assumed they were just out for a walk. Going to run-throughs and fun matches at other locations is the perfect opportunity to experiment with our warm-up technique.  

Do you have an “up” dog that you need to calm down in order to focus? Onchu, as we all know, is easily distracted so I have to keep him very busy to stay focused on me. If my attention is diverted then he starts looking for another way to amuse himself.  Once he comes out of the crate I need to be all about Onchu.

Tag is the complete opposite. I need to get Tag excited about going in the ring. Doodling works for both situations.  Doodling with turns and halts helps bring Onchu in and looking at me. Doodling with fast starts helps Tag rev up a bit.

Mentally focused is just half of our team performance. We also need to be physically loose. I know I can’t go from 0 to 60.  Even Onchu, who is young and agile, needs to move a bit to get his feet under him. At one show I somehow miscalculated and ended up ringside way too soon. My dog had been warmed up but after sitting politely at heel overlong, by the time we finally entered the ring he was sluggish and lethargic. This was the Open class and it took all the way through the heeling exercises before he got his mojo back; just in time for the retrieves. Even the judge commented he couldn’t believe the dog sailing over the high jump was the same dog I walked in with.

This is one of the reasons I recommend teaching your dog a “trick”; some movement they like to do that will loosen them up physically. Tag likes to “dance”, a simple leap in the air.  Weaving between your legs, a spin at your side, a body shake – even a short game of tug –  can help bring the physical in line with the mental. This can also be a stress reliever for both of you. I can’t help but smile everytime I watch Tag do his dance.

Reading the Signs

Posted: March 15, 2007 in Performance & Judging

This is just to recap what we talked about last night.  As you move through the course, the signs are always on the right. If the sign indicates a change of direction, then it will be directly in your path.

At the Start sign the judge will tell you to begin and then you are completely on your own. You only have to pause long enough to complete the action.

While most signs you see will be the same color we use in class, there are no color restrictions for signs. Likewise there are no restrictions on sign holders.

Multiple Commands

Posted: March 7, 2007 in Performance & Judging

A few weeks ago we had some discussion about multiple commands. At the judges’ seminar Marie and I attended, the AKC field rep gave as example a handler repeating “stay” on the Sit-Stay-Walk Around. “You can’t do that” he said.

According to AKC Rally Introduction
“Unlimited communication from the handler to the dog is to be encouraged and not penalized. Unless otherwise specified in these Regulations, handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, clap their hands, pat their legs, or use any verbal means of encouragement. Multiple commands and/or signals using one or both arms and hands are allowed; the handler’s arms need not be maintained in any particular position at any time. The handler may not touch the dog or make physical corrections. At any time during the performance, loud or harsh commands or intimidating signals will be penalized.”

So here is a clarification from the AKC.

A judge may find, based on the use of commands over and over again, to deduct points from a score. For example: Excessive commands used over and over could be scored based on the dog not responding.

Handler Error

Posted: February 12, 2007 in Performance & Judging

Q. What is the very first handler error you can possibly make in a Rally or Obedience trial?

A. Not filling in the entry form correctly!

p.s. Thanks for the advice, Pam. And, sorry.