Rally Obedience

So, What is "Rally" ?

By Dawn Martin

January 1st 2005 saw the emergence of a new AKC sport, which is fun for dogs and handlers of all ages. Rally is a brisk paced form of Obedience that requires teamwork and communication between the handler and their dog. The dog heels next to the handlers left side and basic Obedience exercises are performed at stations along a numbered course. The course changes each day, somewhat similar to agility.

When you arrive at a Rally competition, you will find a numbered course with signs designating different exercises. All handlers entered in the class are given a 10 minute group walkthrough, before the start of the class, to familiarize themselves with the course. After the walkthrough and briefing, handlers line up with their dogs in catalog order, and then the fun begins. Each dog and handler team performs the course, paying attention to successfully completing each of the exercises along the way. In the event you or your dog make a mistake, you are allowed to repeat the exercise at that station. I call it a "do over". Scoring is not as strict as traditional obedience and unlimited communication throughout the course is not only allowed, it is encouraged. Everyone knows how much Westies love to hear they are simply wonderful, needless to say Westies respond and excel at Rally.

Rally Novice (RN) is performed completely on leash. Advanced (RA) and Excellent (RE) levels are performed off leash. A perfect score is 100 points and you need a minimum of 70 points to qualify. Three qualifying scores under two different judges will earn you a Rally Title.

Rally exercise

What's all this talk about Rally?

By Marleen Burford, AKC Rally Judge

Do you like to train your Westie to do tricks? Is your retired Champion anxious to get back in the ring with you? Or, do you just like spending time with your Westie and would be interested in learning something new?

How about trying Rally? You can go to a training class or look at the regulations and exercise descriptions in the Rally section at AKC.org and train your dog at home.


Rally is an AKC competition (really more like a skill test) that involves a team of Westie and handler following a course of signs that have descriptions of exercises that you and your dog need to complete. Courses are 15-20 stations (sign locations) long depending on the level of competition and designed by the judge.

To pass or qualify at each level requires a score of at least 70 out of 100 points. The judge tells the handler to begin, and then, the dog and handler proceed at their own pace through a course of designated stations. Each team must qualify (pass) three times before receiving a Rally title and moving ahead to the next level – Rally Novice, Rally Advanced, Rally Excellent.

The team of Westie and handler moves continuously at a brisk, but normal, pace with the dog under control at the handler's left side. After the judge's "Forward" order, the team is on its own to complete the entire sequence of numbered signs correctly. The handler is allowed unlimited communication to the dog. Unless otherwise specified in the Regulations, handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, clap their hands, pat their legs, or use any verbal means of encouragement.

Rally exercise

No AKC registration?

You don't have your Westie registered with the AKC … they may qualify for a Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP). PAL/ILP dogs may participate in certain AKC events, such as obedience, agility, tracking, rally and many performance events. Photos are required to prove the dog is a Westie and be spayed or neutered. For more information about the PAL/ILP program, visit the PAL/ILP section on the AKC web site, or e-mail questions to PAL@akc.org.

What are the levels of competition?

  • Novice: In this class, all exercises are performed with the dog on a leash. There are between 10 and 15 signs, depending on the course, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.
  • Intermediate: In this class, teams will perform similar courses as the Advanced class, without the jump and with the dogs performing on leash. There are between 12-17 signs, depending on the course, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.
  • Advanced: In this class, all exercises are performed with the dog off-leash, and one jump is required. There are between 12 and 17 signs, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.
  • Excellent: In this class, all exercises are performed off-leash and the dog is required to jump twice. There are between 15 and 20 signs, and it takes three qualifying scores of at least 70 points to earn a title.

How do I get started in Rally?

Many AKC clubs conduct a variety of classes, instructed by experienced trainers who have earned titles and awards in obedience competitions with their own dogs. These people are up-to-date on the latest training techniques. They have experience training different breeds of dogs, mixed breeds and purebreds, and prospective students are usually welcome to observe a class before signing up for a training course.

When you attend a class with your Westie, instructors will show you how to train your dog and will expect you to practice at home. The younger the Westie, the shorter the practice sessions should be. For the best results, both you and your dog should enjoy frequent short sessions, combined with some play and rewards.

However, some handlers train their dogs at home –especially if they are used to training and their Westie is well socialized.

Give it a try. It's been lots of fun for both dogs and handlers!

Want more details? Visit the AKC website at: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/sports/how-to-watch-akc-rally/

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