The girls and I crashed and burned at our Rally trial.
I feel like I ought to say that the trial itself was awesome, really well organised and friendly people. The venue was good, but the ring was in a self-contained hall and that freaked a lot of dogs out, including mine. That was not good, but considering the size of the ring required for Rally (it’s huge, seriously), I’m surprised they managed to find a decent indoor venue at all.
I need to say all the above, because Rally? Absolutely not for me.
Kim and Rio were way too distracted or disturbed by the venue and environment to qualify, and I’m good with that. Those are things we could work on for next time! I’m pleased with various bits that each of them did, and I know my nerves didn’t help at all. I feel pretty positive about what went wrong and how we could fix that … if we were going to do any more Rally trials.
I got to watch most of the other classes, and the standard is very, very, different from what I believed it would be. I was under the impression, from reading the rules and from watching AKC Rallyv videos, and from our training classes, that Rally was a more relaxed style of obedience. The kind of thing where precision heelwork and so forth was all but discouraged, and that the idea was to provide pet dogs at Good Citizen type level obedience with a competitive scene which focused on teamwork and attitude (and offered a potential stepping stone to more the more precise and demanding competitive Obedience). That is definitely not the case.
Everyone who qualified had the “obedience style” heelwork, sharp sits, etc etc. I got to watch most of the classes at my level, and dogs who I expected to have qualified did not; I’m no judge, obviously, but I watched a few dogs work who were clearly enjoying themselves, focused and listening, responsive, just occasionally a bit wide on turns or lagging on heelwork (and thereby causing a tight lead or so forth). They got handed big NQs. Likewise lots of dogs getting marked for crooked sits/downs/etc, when they weren’t sat perfectly straight or right next to the handler = big NQs. I knew Rally in the UK had changed as it crossed the pond from America (no treats allowed, stricter rules on multiple verbal/physical commands), but I didn’t realise how different it is.
I am disappointed, since I hoped Kim would get to learn some new things in her retirement from more active sports, and we could spend some time together competing for some basic Rally titles. But there is no way I have the patience to – or want to! – teach the kind of precise heelwork that is apparently required. Not only that, but if I did teach proper heelwork, it’d be easier to enter Introductory or Pre-Beginners Obedience classes. In Rally, the course takes about 2mins to complete, so the heelwork section is a LOT longer than an Intro or Pre-Beg heelwork section, and a lot more complex (with the stations and turns). In Intro Obedience, you can even take a toy in with you, or food in a sealed container to be given between exercises!
I’m not sure if things will change as the sport evolves, especially now that it has been adopted by the Kennel Club. I hope the KC will take it back to the AKC roots, but I don’t think that will happen in time for Kim and I to get to enjoy it, sadly.