Obedience and Agility Training
Sundog was our first dog to attend a basic obedience class. It fun for him and us, and it helped us all get along better at home. Jaguar went next and again it was fun. When Harry came to live with us, we decided that we would go even further. Harry competes in Rally Obedience and is training to compete in Agility. Stella will follow in his paw prints! It's good mental stimulation for them and creates an even stronger bond between us.
Rally Obedience is a relatively new event. It is similar to Obedience (also known as "Formal" Obedience), but the rules are less strict and much more interaction is allowed. For example, you can give commands more than once, and as much praise and encouragement as you want. We use treats as rewards during training, but they aren't allowed in competition. Most important of all, Rally Obedience (often shortened to Rally O or just Rally) is fun!
As the "rally" part of the name suggests, you and your dog must heel around a course. The course consists of a number of stations that must be completed in order. At each station is a sign showing an obedience exercise that must be performed there, as suggested by the "obedience" part of the name. These can be as simple as sit or down, or as hard as weave, back up, or side step. No two courses are the same and they are always kept secret before the event.
You start the course with 100 points and the judge deducts points for each error. You must finish with 70 points for a qualifying run. Three qualifying runs earns a title! You learn pretty quickly that it's never the dog that makes a mistake! The handler is the source of all errors, either through incomplete training, or just the stress and confusion of being in the ring.
There are three levels of difficulty in Rally: Novice, Advanced, and Excellent. As you progress in difficulty, there are both more possible exercises for the judge to select from to make up a course and more stations on the course.
Harry earned his Rally Novice title during the summer of 2009, not long after his second birthday. His training also made him successful at earning his Canine Good Neighbour title, which is given for obedience and good behaviour in a variety of simulated situations involving strangers and strange dogs. This demonstrates that Rally training has practical use.
An agility course is made up of obstacles: jumps, tunnels, dog walks, A-frames, hoops, tables, teeter-totters, and weave poles. It's a very energetic event!
Harry has been attending agility classes for over a year. At his current level, his classes are held in a horse riding arena because a large area is required for training (and the weather here does not always allow for outdoor training).
Harry really enjoys the obstacles! His favourite is the dog walk, which is an elevated walkway. He has also learned to love the weave poles. This is because we have a set in our living room and practice regularly. His slow and steady pace is unique among his classmates, who are much quicker but have more trouble staying on course. Since completing the obstacles in the wrong order results in disqualification, we think Harry has the right idea!