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.


Rally Quiz 3

Posted: March 18, 2010 in Rally Quiz

Pam does a great job of pacing to accommodate Holly’s short little legs. As they approach the Moving Side Step Right, Pam realizes that after she steps to the right the sign will still be directly in Holly’s path. How can she avoid that?

Rally Quiz 2

Posted: March 12, 2010 in Rally Quiz

As Cluny finished the last station he seemed to sense that he had done a good job. In his excitement he leaped into the air as the team jogged past the Finish sign. Will the team qualify?

Feel the Rhythm

Posted: March 11, 2010 in Training


The three components of good heeling are: 

1. Attention

2. Position

3. Pace

We work on attention with the automatic check in and watch me exercises. We work on position through shaping and reinforcement. But what about pace?

Pace should be a speed that you can maintain consistently through every exercise, except for a specified change of pace. It shouldn’t be so slow that your dog anticipates a Halt, or so fast that you can’t Halt smoothly. I’ve heard judges specifically warn against running.

One way to find your right pace is to practice heeling with no dog. Find a straight-away like your driveway or an empty parking lot. Assume your trial posture, head up, shoulders back, left arm across your middle. Then walk. Briskly. Feel the beat. 

What song has that same tempo? Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be trendy since no one else will ever hear it. It can be Row, Row, Row Your Boat if that is a comfortable cadence for you. Once you’ve settled on your song, practice with your dog. As you get into the rhythm I think you’ll find, like Webster, that rhythm comprises “all the elements that relate to forward movement”.

Postscript: I understand Seventy-Six Trombones or Sousa marches are favorites.

Collars Don’t Train A Dog

Posted: March 8, 2010 in Training

In spite of our discussion about collar styles, in fact your dog’s collar is only a safety device.

People use euphemisms like “training collar” but no collar really trains a dog. A behavior is trained through consistent criteria, correctly timed reinforcement and successful repetition. 

Suzanne Clothier talks about naked dog training. By that she means no food pouches or treat bags, no collars or leashes, no stuffed pockets, no props or accessories. Just you and your dog.

Go Wild and Freeze is a terrific example of a training game with no props. The reinforcement comes from restarting the game. A few rounds will earn your dog’s attention, practice position changes, and learn self-control.

And no collar required.


Posted: March 5, 2010 in Congratulations

for all the legs and titles earned last weekend. You do us proud.

Rally Quiz 1

Posted: March 5, 2010 in Rally Quiz

When Kevin got to the trial he noticed that the Novice A course had only 3 stationary exercises. Was that a legal course?

Bonus: Does the same answer apply to Novice B?

Collar Comments

Posted: March 1, 2010 in Training

We have been talking about collars in class the last two weeks. While each Rally organization specifies some differences regarding collars allowed in  trials, two things are definite. Neither prong collars nor electronic collars are ever permitted in any trials.

Beyond that, however, preferences are as diverse as the varieties of dogs entered.

While I like a plain belt buckle style collar, as opposed to the quick release, this style doesn’t suit all canine body types. My dogs, with their thick coats and narrow skulls, can slip out of any collar if I’m not paying attention.

Some people use a different collar style for every activity: slip leads for conformation, quick release for agility, a head halter for neighborhood walks and a martingale for therapy visits. I recently counted 15 different collars in my gear closet (yeah, we have an entire closet dedicated to dog gear.) That does not include my collection of head halters and body harnesses. But not everyone is an accessory junky like me.


Click on the picture to go to the Earthdog website

The martingale style is usually my go-to collar. Yes my dogs can still get out of it. But if pressure is applied it occurs evenly, and you have the ability to limit the tightening aspect. The customary nylon webbing you find at pet stores snags my dogs’ coats but I have found martingales made of softer, smoother fabric. Here is a hemp martingale from Earthdog….good for your dog and good for the environment.

If you don’t mind being politically incorrect, you can also find leather martingales. These are usually in the land of the greyhounds and can be quite elaborate with tooling and inset gemstones.

 The martingale style can be annoying or even impossible to slide on and off blocky headed dogs so some companies have started making a combo collar. Here is the basic model from Wiggles Wags Whiskers. You can also get these with decorative patterns and velvet lining.
The addition of the buckle does add bulk to the collar.
When training and trialing, I don’t think the collar should get in the way of what you’re doing.  Aside from the popularity of the term “training collar” the collar is just a safety device. It should not be so big, bulky or painful that it distracts you or your dog from what you’re learning.
I have more to say on this subject in a later post.

Get this on your calendar right now!

LTDTC’s 2010 Rally, Obedience and Agility trials will be Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16. All events will be at the Odeum.

On Friday, May 14 we will hold a sanctioned match.

You can bet we will need stewards all three days so when we come asking, say Yes.

Turn up the Volume

Posted: February 26, 2010 in Training

Some time ago I saw a video of a team working in Rally Advanced. I commented that I thought the handler used some really exaggerated hand movements with his  sighthound. Then at a run through I watched another handler also using expansive hand signals with a terrier. The movement seemed to keep the terrier engaged. When I watch a team in the ring, whether at class or in a trial, the teams having fun are the most fun to watch. This sense of fun comes through when the team shows energy: brisk movement and happy talk. (Sorry, Onchu. Only the handler gets to speak in the ring.)

The great thing about Rally is that we can use our voice, hand and body motions to keep our dog’s attention. Every now and then I come across a training article that insists our dogs should be giving us all their attention all the time. But it is just as important that we return their attention. Rally is a team sport. There are two of you in that ring, equally capable of losing points for the team.