Has your dog mastered every trick you’ve thrown at him? Is he an expert at the 'sit' and 'stay' and stares at you longingly for something more challenging? Have you found yourself considering getting him involved in competition more than once?
There are many options out there for dog owners who feel as though their pup may excel in something more than general obedience. However, while sports like agility may be ideal for younger dogs and an athletic handler, an alternative known as Rally Obedience - or Rally-O - can be a fun and active sport for just about any dog!
Rally Obedience is different from traditional obedience, relying on signs throughout a course that designate different tasks for the dog, who is in a heel at their handler's side, to complete. The tasks can range from simple to difficult as the sport invites both novice and advanced handlers to compete with their dog using teamwork.
The sport involves fifty different signs that can be used, depending on the difficulty level of the course and the experience level of the dog and handler team. Training for each of these signs is important and adds to your dog’s obedience “resume” with each new one that you learn. This sport is especially great for dogs who require frequent exercise and mental stimulation to stay busy and happy and can help form a fantastic bond between dog and owner. It may take some time to learn each of the tasks, but teams can begin competing at the novice level in just a few short months.
To begin training for Rally-O with your dog, make sure that they have the basics of obedience including 'sit', 'stay', 'down', 'come', and especially 'heel'. You should also have a leash to use at the beginning of your training to guide your dog through each task, as well as a reward such as some yummy treats or a favorite toy. Creating your own small rally course at home using small traffic cones and paper signs is also recommended, but not necessary. The room or yard you choose to work in should be free of other distractions to keep your dog’s focus on you.