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What is Rally? This is Your Sign to Find Out!

By: Carla Repko, Outta This World Dog Training


If you’re a dog sports fan or dog fancier, you may have heard of Rally. Also called Rally Obedience or Rally-O, this relatively new dog sport is becoming increasingly popular. If you haven’t heard of it, hold on tight and we’ll explore it together!


Rally is both beginner friendly and a lot of fun! But what is it exactly? Let’s take a look.

Simply put, Rally is a team sport where you and your dog compete together, working to complete a series of obedience exercises and tricks. Stations or signs indicate the different exercises that you must do when you reach them. There are limitless ways to configure courses, even at the beginner level, so the game is always changing for both you and your dog. Keeping the game fresh and fun!



So Happy Together~! 🎶

Most people have seen dog agility and are familiar with it. A dog runs around an impressive course of obstacles, guided by their handler from some distance.


Rally is similar to agility in the sense that you are completing a course together with your dog. There are stations involving weaving through cones, and in the upper levels jumps are included. Your dog will even need to work at a distance from you at certain points.


The big difference? You and your dog do the exercises together. Your dog isn't weaving through cones alone. You move through them side by side as one.

Stations, or signs, make up the course. Often held up by small frames or cones, the signs serve as prompts for the action you must take at that location, or until you reach the next sign. Simple visuals and text describe the specific obedience skills that must be performed.



For example, one sign may ask you to come to a stop and have your dog sit in heel position. Then indicates you must continue forward together, at a normal pace, to the next sign. Another example: you ask your dog to lie down and stay while you walk a circle around them.


The cool part? You can study and practice all of the possible signs ahead of time! So the only surprise is which ones are chosen and which order they are in on the course. They are not something you are expected to decipher on the spot!

As you progress to higher levels, you will see more difficult or complex signs appear. Some examples include sending your dog over a jump, out to a cone to sit, spinning in place, recalling over a jump, etc.

#Winning (Or Not! It’s Still Fun!)

So how do you win? Lose the least possible points!

You start the game with 100 points and compete alone to keep as many points as possible! If you end with 70+ points, you qualify. Yay! You lose points by performing signs incorrectly, redoing signs, breaking the rules, etc.

At the end of each level, 1st - 4th place will be awarded to the teams that earned the highest scores. But anyone that qualifies should be proud of their achievement and the work it took to get there! After all, the whole point of the game is to have fun with your dog.

There are ~100 signs total, but only a small selection will be chosen for each course. Don’t let the number overwhelm you! They aren’t so bad. Many signs feel like duplicates (e.g. the same thing done in the opposite direction, like a left turn and then a right turn). Plus, visuals and text are always present to jog your memory as needed. As you practice, you’ll be surprised at how fast you commit them to memory.

Each class level has a different number of required signs per course and, as mentioned, their difficulty increases as you go up. The required number of signs per course by level are:

  • Novice is 10-15

  • Intermediate & Advanced are 12-17

  • Excellent & Master are 15-20

There are many venues to compete in Rally, including the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, and World Cynosport. Or you can skip competing and learn the different pieces as a new game to play with your dog at home! In general, the rules and signs are the same across all venues. But each does have their own unique pieces.

Each venue gives you different options for titling and earning some fun awards with your dog! I am most familiar with AKC Rally and will focus on their specific rules and signs, which you can browse here.


In my FUNdamentals class, we will stick to easier courses with ~10 stations when we begin practicing them. I break the class time up by teaching the different exercises, then have students practice a course. I only focus on Novice-level signs and give you the resources and foundations to build towards higher levels in the future.

My Precision & Practice class is more of a surprise! I tend to assess the arrangement of students in attendance and choose activities based upon the experience level of the group as a whole. We also end up incorporating more games to really work on proofing different advanced skills. Plus every class and course will be different!

If you would like additional information, or if you have specific questions, please feel free to email me at outtathisworlddog@gmail.com.


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