An Introduction Rally
by Angie Hartley, Tifari Ridgebacks
AKC Rally is a FUN dog sport created with teamwork in mind. It is a series of obedience exercises printed on signs that are set up in a numbered course format. You and your Ridgeback walk through the course trying your best to do the exercises listed on the signs, heeling in between signs. The course is designed by a judge who stays in the ring with you during your turn. The handler can actually speak to and encourage their dog throughout the course as much as he/she chooses, setting it apart from traditional obedience competitions. Rally was also created to bridge the gap between the AKC Canine Good citizen title and Competition Obedience and Agility. It is fun for novice pet owners, while also allowing those who are serious about obedience to gain ring experience, and be more competitive in the higher levels of rally.
There are three levels of competition: Novice, Advanced, and Excellent. The Novice level is performed all on leash, and uses basic signs with the designation "N" in their upper right corner. The Advanced level of competition can use any of the Novice signs within a course, but also adds a few more difficult signs with an "A" in the upper right hand corner. The Advanced course will contain a jump, and all exercises are performed off leash. The Excellent level can use any of the signs from the lower levels, and also has the possibility a few more difficult signs , marked by an "X" in the upper right corner. The course design must also contain two jumps. Excellent is also performed off leash, and has an "honor" exercise. (Honor is where the dog is in a sit or down stay in the ring, while another exhibitor is in the ring running their course.)
To get started in Rally please read the rules available on the AKC website, as well as familiarize yourself with all of the signs. Then you can find a Rally class near you to begin practicing courses with your ridgeback.