We got into Rally Obedience because Chama’s Novice Obedience class series ended and there wasn’t an Intermediate Obedience series scheduled. Our instructor told me there was a Rally Novice class starting soon that might be a reasonable substitute. What good advice! Chama was bored with regular obedience classes but enjoys Rally. A bored puppy is not an ideal student because they make their own fun. Instead of working to master one command at a time, in Rally you learn several “signs” in each class andwalk around the floor from sign to sign, doing whatever the signs say to do. The faster pace and less precision suits his age and energy.
We finished that Beginning Novice 6-week class last week and start the Advanced/Intermediate class series tomorrow. I signed us up for three Rally Obedience Trials, one each day, on Sept 29 – Oct 1. It’s the first time to compete for either of us, so we’re in the lowest class: Novice A. My goals are for Chama to have a good time (but not TOO good!) and for us to not get disqualified.
We attended a Rally Drill session on Sunday to get some supervised practice and critique. We had time for two runs through the course. The first didn’t go particularly well; Chama was more interested in looking for bits of food left over from previous teams than he was in working the course. The second run was much better and we got lots of good advice from the coaches. Top of their list: Teach him to keep his nose off the floor in the ring, and for good measure, in the entire building where the trials will be held. What most impressed them: his leftward stationary 270- and 360-degree turns. That’s hard for dogs. The instructor who recommended Rally to us showed me how to teach it by moving a treat a certain way, which was a really nice parting gift. We practice it every day on our walks, along with lots of other novice-level signs.
Jeff took videos of both runs. Other things that would have earned us deductions in the first run included me keeping the leash too tight, repeating a couple of signs (allowed twice while competing, for fewer points lost than by doing the signs wrong), and for touching Chama on the course. I hope that moving briskly and looking like he’s having fun will help our scores.
My errors in the second run included dawdling too long at the DOWN sign, which allowed Chama to pop up into a sit, and doing the stationary left 360 turn to the right, doh! 70 points or more (out of 100) is a qualifying score for a run (“trial”). Three qualifying trials are required to earn a Rally Novice title, so Chama could theoretically become “2 Rivers Biscochito RN” next weekend, but that’s a pretty long shot for an energetic puppy and first-time handler in an unfamiliar environment with lots of distractions.