Rally Obedience, or Rally O is dog sport, based on obedience, where the handler and their dog perform a course, completing “stations” with the dog in heel position. Each station has a sign which tells the handler what they and their dog must do to complete that part of the course.
Handlers start with a perfect score (100) and have marks deducted for any problems with their performance (tight leads, crooked sits, hitting a sign etc). Unlike in traditional obedience, handlers are encouraged to praise their dog while completing the course. There are 50 different signs in the Rally O rule book and many of them are exercises anyone who has done some pet obedience would have seen before!
There are 3 different levels in Rally O—Novice, Advanced and Excellent.
In Novice, the dog is kept on leash and must complete 10-15 stations depending on the course the judge has set out. These signs have to be from the first 31 signs in the Rally O Rule Book.
In advanced, the lead is removed and the dog and handler must complete 12-17 stations, at least one of which must be a jump. The judge can choose any signs from the first 45 signs in the Rally O Rule Book to include in the course.
In excellent the handler and dog must complete 15-20 stations with the dog off lead, and at least two of them must be jumps. The judge can choose any signs from the Rally O Rule Book to include in the course. The dog also has to do an “honour” exercise (a sit or drop stay) while another dog completes the course.
While all levels of Rally O are timed, it is only to separate placings if there are several dog and handler teams on the same score at the end of the trial. Teams can spend as much or as little time out on the course as it takes to complete it as there is no time limit but most courses take between 2-4 minutes (it can feel a lot longer when you’re out there, particularly if your dog has decided to get creative with a couple of the signs!).