Thanks, everybody! I love that little boy more than I ever thought possible!!!
Rally is a form of Obedience competition. It is a little less structured than "Formal" Obedience, and they don't take points off for tiny, nit-picky things the way they do in formal obedience. (for instance, the heel work doesn't have to be QUITE as tight as in formal Obedience)
The way it works is that the judge will have set up a course that contains signs from your level. (you can find the signs and rules on the organization web sites) Everyone gets to walk the course and ask the judge any questions they might have ahead of time. Then you work through the course with no instructions from the judge, other than telling you to start. There are turns, changes of pace, and different "stationary exercises", like sits, downs, pivots, etc. There are also heeling patterns like serpentines and spirals.
As you go up through the levels, the signs get more complicated, and the courses longer. At the lowest levels, you perform on leash, but must maintain a loop in the leash. A tight leash at any time will cost you points. A consistently tight leash will disqualify you. After the beginning levels, the courses are done off-leash.
There are at least 4 different "flavors" of Rally... AKC, APDT, C-WAGs and UKC. All have slightly different rules, but they are all pretty similar. Again, go to any of the organization web sites and you can find the rules and signs on the sites.
The form of Rally that Kodi and I have been doing is APDT, and he won his Level 1 title by the time he was 15 months old (that's what the "RL1" means after his name) He did it with all scores over 190 (out of 200... A qualifying score is 170) which also earned him an Award of Merit. I'm pretty proud that he was able to do that well at such a young age. We are now working on his Level 1 championship (we need 10 qualifying scores) and at the same time, we are training for Level 2, which is off leash, and includes jumping. We'll also start competing in AKC Rally this spring. There are some things about AKC that are harder, and some that are easier, so I think it's pretty much a wash. After APDT Level 1 (or AKC's "Novice" level) APDT courses are definitey harder than AKC courses. So it will be a while before we're ready to move up to the next level!
As far as training for attention is concerned, it does take LOTS and LOTS of time. (and cookies
) You can start by just using a clicker and small treats, and every time your puppy looks at you, you click and treat. Then you put a word on it, like "look!". When they really understand that, you move on to teaching the various basic obedience commands. Any dog who is reliable about basic commands, and will reliably walk on a loose leash is ready to try Rally. At that point, it's a matter of learning, as a handler, how to move your dog through the course smoothly, giving them enough direction to be able to perform to the best of their ability.
But things can always go wrong!!! These photos are from a 2 day trial a few weeks ago. He got very high qualifying scores both days. Then this last Sat., there was something on the floor that he just couldn't/wouldn't leave alone!!! I had to withdraw from the competition, because I just couldn't get him to focus on me!
It's the first time he hasn't qualified... I guess we had it coming sooner or later!
He's still young, and all it means is that I have to practice more in more distracting environments!