What if the "traditional" type of dog obedience isn't your main game? Sure, you've probably gone to puppy obedience and basic obedience, but unless you're a die-hard obedience fan, what you do with your dog in advanced obedience courses can be .... well ... kind of ... boring. And a number of other dog lovers obviously thought so as well because there was a waning of attendance in this kind of obedience with the advent of dog agility as a sport. Charles Kramer developed a concept of Rally-Obedience to attract dogs owners to continue obedience training by "providing an alternative venue in the field of competitive obedience" (Kramer, C. 2007). Actually, it's really cool and fun to do. But you need to keep the notion of "fun" in perspective. I've trained with Dunkie intermittently at For Your K9, now located in Melrose Park.
Here is a video showing that Rally-O is not so easy as it sounds. Thank goodness I have a great Rally-O instructor helping me out!
What happens in Rally-O? If you watched the video above, you can see that there are a series of signs (stations) where people read instructions at each station and perform what is expected with their dog in heel position. And better yet, dogs love it because (in training), they can get food rewards or toy rewards along the course for doing what's expected of them. When we were attending classes regularly, I actually had to cut back on Wigglebutt Duncan's meals because he was gaining weight from all the treats. So I can say with absolute certainty that he enjoys the sport. Likewise, I enjoy Rally-O because it has helped somewhat my willful, independent-minded Tibetan Terrier to understand what I ask him to do. Whether he does it or not is an entirely different matter. As in football or any other sport, it's "any given Sunday" to see which dog will show up: "Good" dog or "selectively deaf" dog.
Another challenge in this dog 'sport' is the owner. The signs can be confusing; the order can be confusing; and ADHD can set in. We have never yet competed due to my inability to get through all the stations in the correct order doing the exercises correctly. So my dog can read sign language, but I can't. There are also dog breeds which are simply better at compliance than my Tibetan Terriers, for example, Border Collies. As one breeder recently told me, "nothing is funnier than watching a group of TTs (Tibetan Terriers) in obedience trials."
So .... I've made a decision. Hopefully one that I won't regret: Wigglebutt Duncan, his lil' sis, IzzyDunk, and I will be attending the Tibetan Terrier Nationals in St. Louis this June. And Wigglebutt and I will be competing in Novice A Rally-Obedience to see if we can qualify. Not quite sure what the "qualify" means but am sure I will find out. So I'm guessing we'll need to go back to class so that I can learn to read the signs and not get lost. Please root for our success. Rally On for us!