Features October 2009 Issue

Rally Obedient Dogs

Handlers can encourage and reward their dogs in

Forward! The judge cues the team to begin. The handler cues her dog to “heel” and, with her left arm bent in at her waist, briskly moves forward with her dog on her left side, heading toward the first in a series of signs that prompt her to cue one of a variety of behaviors. As she completes an “about turn,” a particularly challenging behavior for her long-bodied dog, she smiles, praises him, and moves on to the next sign, attempting to keep up a steady pace around the course of 20 signs. Wait! Did we hear her praise her dog in the ring? Horrors! Surely, the judge made note of that! He’s scribbling furiously now! The handler moves toward another sign and executes the “halt / sit / down / walk around” maneuver. As she releases her dog, she praises him again and even sneaks in a quick pat on the head. She can’t be serious! The judge must be grinding that pencil to a nub now! Does this handler not know that talking or touching your dog in the ring is not allowed? Ah, but therein lies the unique nature of “rally obedience.” It’s not just the signs and the greater variety of behaviors involved; it’s the philosophy of this sport that makes it distinct from its cousin, traditional competition obedience. Rally obedience was envisioned as a sport that would promote the human-canine bond by allowing more natural communication in both training and competition than historically had been available in traditional obedience.

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