Rally Obedience
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What is Rally?

Rally obedience can be described as obedience exercises performed in an agility format, or "48 FUN! ways to find heel position," with the emphasis on FUN! Rally is a terrific sport to use to build a working relationship between dog and handler that will serve as a foundation for other human-dog team sports.

A Rally ring contains a course of stations that handler and dog must complete, performing the correct exercise at each station, without direction from the judge. In the Rally ring, the handler can talk to the dog during the course and give verbal and hand cues for the same exercise.

Rally-style obedience was conceived and developed as a dog sport in the 1990s. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers began awarding titles in RallyO in 2001. The American Kennel Club allowed Rally as an exhibition sport at obedience trials for several years, then began awarding titles in 2005.

Rally nested coursework at Durham Kennel Club

Class description      
Directions to DKC (DKC home page)


American Kennel Club Web site

Association of Pet Dog Trainers Web site


Original AKC signs and exercises. A handout containing a small image of each sign and a brief description of each exercise. (302 KB pdf)

Scoresheet for AKC rally (great for show-n-gos and classes)

Tips for printing signs and for making sign holders. Photos of outdoor sign holders made from wire garden edging fence sections (available in the garden centers of discount and home improvement stores).

Printable original AKC signs (446 KB pdf). File contains all 50 original AKC signs, with duplicates of signs that may be used more than once on a course (three copies of "Normal Pace"). To make full-size signs for setting up your own sequences/courses, print signs on cardstock. If you have an office supply place print the signs on cardstock, specify BLACK ink only, unless you are prepared to pay for color printing. I recommend putting the signs in sheet protectors, with manila file folders trimmed to size to make them rigid enough to stand up in a sign holder. Pocket lamination will protect the signs and make them rigid enough to stand on their own, but can be pricey for practice signs.

For nested course work, I had the novice signs printed on white cardstock, the advanced signs on yellow cardstock, and the excellent signs on blue cardstock. A nested course is a single course that each handler can choose to run at any level (novice, advanced, excellent). This means that some stations may have up to three signs for the handler to choose between (example of one such station), so color coding helps.

Flash cards are very useful for teaching yourself to recognize the signs so that you know what to do as soon as you glimpse the sign. To make flash cards, print four signs per page on cardstock. If you do not have rally show-n-gos in your area, you can design a course, put your flash cards in that order, and go to a novice obedience show-n-go and ask the "judge" to call the signs for you. You will not have the distraction of the signs on the floor, and you will not have the visual of the signs to prompt your performance, but I predict that you and your dog will have a valuable practice ring experience.

Software for designing courses. Requires Excel 2002 (or later). Free!

Rally-obed e-mail list at yahoogroups. High-volume but excellent list with several judges who share information generously. Exhibitors and judges exchange information about how to perform the exercises, and judges provide feedback on what they look for when scoring courses. The files section has a tremendous amount of great information and resources. It is worth subscribing to the list just to have access to the files section, even if you cannot handle the volume (subscribe with the Web option).


The Style of Rally Obedience, 3rd edition, by Charles L. Kramer

Written by the creator of rally-style obedience, this book describes each exercise and provides criteria for proper performance. Includes the exercises as originally conceived by Mr. Kramer and as adopted by AKC. Also includes handling tips; equipment and facilities needed for training and trials; information on organizing Rally training classes, scoring the exercises, and designing courses; and example courses.

The Rally Course Book: A Guide to AKC Rally Courses, by Janice Dearth

Contains 112 course designs, 110 of which are nested courses with novice, advanced, and excellent variations of the same basic design. Also contains guidelines for course design, suggestions for preparing for a judging assignment (for judges), the AKC signs and exercise descriptions. A superb reference for class instructors, who can use entire courses or parts of courses to set up sequences for their students.

In Focus: Developing a Relationship with Your Performance Dog, by Deborah Jones, PhD, and Judy Keller

This superb, easy-to-read book has exercises you can do with your dog that will build a strong foundation for teamwork, the key element to success in Rally, agility, standard obedience, and other activities where dogs and humans work as a team. In addition to core exercises for all dogs, the book has exercises for dogs who are not having enough fun when training (or competing) and other exercises for dogs who are having too much fun.

Click for Joy! Questions and Answers from Clicker Trainers and their Dogs, by Melissa C. Alexander

This excellent book translates the science of operant conditioning (often called clicker training) into clear, easy-to-understand bits of information. Trainers at all levels, from beginning to advanced, will find this book extremely helpful. The book presents the principles underlying clicker training and then provides clear instructions for shaping behaviors to the highest levels of precision (if the trainer is so inclined). Forward by Robert Bailey. In 2003, won the Dog Writer's Association of America's Award for Best Training & Behavior Book.


Updated 2006 December 29
Copyright Adele C. Monroe, DVM, MSPH
All rights reserved