I’ve been competing at open obedience with my whippets for several years, yes against the collies, and sometimes we even win!
I’ve also been interested in rally (obedience exercises set out in a course with signs to tell you what to do at each step) for a couple of years but as most of the shows were so northern, hadn’t had the opportunity to try it without a long and potentially wasted journey if we didn’t get on with it for some reason. Then we saw a few taster and have a go sessions at some of the bigger champ shows, and though we didn’t get a chance to do it on those occasions, I did hear that rally was very welcoming, so when we saw they were doing a show down this way, I thought we should have a go.
We downloaded the signs from the KC website, had a little practice, and thought it seemed OK, so I entered on the off chance. One of my instructors had done some rally and gave us a few tips, and the rest of the members of our competition class were intrigued how it would compare. No long boring stays was a definite selling point!
Domino, my older dog, has had some injuries and been in and out of the ring, so I thought it might be a good chance to go into the ring, and keep him moving, at our own speed (although there is a time limit!) and have a positive experience.
Bailey, the younger dog, had been forced into a higher class when I won with Domino and one of the things I also liked about rally was the idea that you could go back to a lower level when starting again with a young dog, whereas with obedience once you win out of a class, all your dogs become ineligible. I thought this would be a chance for Bailey to have a low stress experience in a lower class…
The first show was interesting…you get a chance to walk the course before the class starts, which helps, but the signs are something you need to have read up on and practised, before you go in the ring as I didn’t personally find them very easy to understand. Domino decided it was cold and he didn’t want to play, so though we did get all the way round, it wasn’t with any style! Bailey though, he was a little star. Apart from losing attention once near the entrance to the ring, he did everything he was asked, and achieved a qualifying score on his first attempt, despite my getting one exercise wrong! Considering neither he nor I had even had a go at a whole round before I was more than chuffed with him, and the experience, especially in view of his age. We learned a few random ways you could be disqualified, such as knocking over a sign, or touching your dog, as well as discovering how supportive and nice rally competitors seemed.
I then entered the rally class at LKA, where we were showing anyway, and felt like we had a chance at achieving another qualifying score or even an excellent score if we were really lucky.
Despite the class starting really late, we stayed as I was keen to have another go. Domino decided that he just didn’t want to play, and a few exercises in, I decided to take him out rather than have a bad experience, that might stick in his head. Bailey however was really focussed despite the noise and distractions around the ring, and we had a lovely round, which Dave kindly videoed for me. We even did the bonus exercise correctly this time! We learned from this show that we should have been doing the exercise a few feet (1m) in front of the sign rather than at the sign, but got really nice feedback from the judge…we also got our first excellent qualifying score.
One more qualifying score and we can put a rally qualification after Bailey’s show name, to match Domino’s obedience one…so we’ll have to get to at least one more this year!