May 25th 2009

Rally-O Comes to Tassie!

Caesar in Rally O

A new movement in dog sport is working its way around Oz and it’s called “Rally-O” (Rally Obedience). Developing as a bridge between obedience and agility in North America, Rally-O is now a sanctioned sport with classes and titles under the auspices of the Canadian Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club and several other canine organisations.

Rally Obedience differentiates from traditional obedience trials in that dog and handler negotiate a course consisting of stations with signs which instruct on the maneuver or action to be performed. You are allowed to encourage and praise your dog verbally throughout although food reward or external props such as clickers are not allowed. The ability to socially interact with your dog throughout the trial offers a much more relaxed atmosphere for human and dog alike. Your team starts with 100 points and deductions are made for incorrect or sloppy work or omissions; 70 points are required for a pass. Tight heeling and good footwork is the key as is the ability to think quickly as you approach the next station.

Hobart Canine Obedience Club held a workshop this weekend with Heather Green, an experienced Rally-O trainer and judge. Heather has recently relocated from Canada and is passionately sharing her knowledge and expertise around Australia to promote this fast-growing canine sport.

Caesar and I attended with the intention of just having a relaxing weekend at Kingston Beach and spectating at the practical side of things on Sunday. Having floundered in Grade 2 classes lately, I didn’t think we were of a standard to give it a try. But, after watching a young shepherd gleefully pounce on the weaving pylons and toss them in the air (dog or handler touching signs or pylons is instant disqualification), I thought, what the hey, give it a go. Our first attempt was disasterous, to say the least. I could only take heart in the fact we did not get disqualified but we sure didn’t pass.

I was ready to give it up then and there and let Caesar have a rest. Somehow I found myself walking the second course layout and thought, maybe if I got us into the next round early, I wouldn’t forget so many of the actions. With some encouraging words from Gayle, I deployed that tactic and Caesar and I braved the signs once again. Caesar was remarkable and obviously, finding his comfort zone too. It was apparent that round went much more smoothly for us both. Coming back after lunch to get our marks, I was absolutely ecstatic to find we had passed! The squeal of joy could be heard on the top of Mt Wellington, I am sure!

By the third round, the bug had well and truly bitten! Caesar was a star and our score was just that much better, another pass. It was a fantastic weekend and thanks to HCOC for having foresight in introducing this highly addictive sport to the Tasmanian dog world.

Caesar Rally O