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Discussion Starter #1
I never thought I'd be posting in this section of the forums because I did not get my dog with the intention of doing sports BUT we have enrolled in some classes and it's been addicting and now I'm seriously starting to consider Rally. I've watched videos online and I get more and more excited. We're currently doing the STAR Puppy program with plans to move onto Basic Obedience immediately, then CGC. Our trainer, who is a behaviorist and a huge fan of Susan Garrett, also teaches Obedience, Agility, Rally, and Herding and competes in these sports with her three Aussies. My class is really small (the only other student is her husband who is doing the class with their newest pup) so I get a lot of one-on-one time. My puppy is going to be 17 weeks, and is a heeler/pit mix. Super smart and eager and just plain fun.

The biggest setback, honestly, is myself. I'm fairly inexperienced (as in, this is the first dog I've ever trained by myself from an eight week old puppy) and shy. It took me a few classes to really come out of my shell and be as silly with my dog as I am at home. I'm hoping I have what it takes to teach him the things we need to know. I do find having a trainer or mentor helps, as she can watch my body position and treat delivery, etc., and offer suggestions. The world of dog sports is just so new to me and kind of intimidating so I'm looking here for some insight, support and encouragement. Hopefully this will become a diary of our progress.

Right now he knows the basics - sit, down, stand, touch, settle on mat, come, his name. We work daily on proofing release cues, building attention and focus, adding distractions...We just started working on hind-end awareness. As for sit- and down-stays, right now I can walk in a circle around him but that's about as far away as I can get. He walks nicely beside me (not a formal heel by any means) and checks in often with eye contact so now we've started adding people and dogs to the mix. I've been trying to make attention a priority, as well as impulse control. Our training sessions are still super short, 2-5 mins max, with lots of breaks to play tug or Find It. Am I on the right track? What other things should I be doing to set up a good foundation for the future?

Any and all advice is appreciated!
 

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I know there are people much more qualified to answer than I am, as I've been in rally classes only since April, and at this point, I'm not certain I will ever compete in it--and, in fact, went into the classes with the attitude that it was about learning new skills and having fun with my dog, as opposed to ever competing. Unfortunately, my early class experiences weren't very good, and while the second class has been much better, a week ago something happened in class--that was not at all the fault of the trainers or me or my dog--that made me leery of a show environment, at least for me and my dog, so we may just stick with our therapy work instead.

Anyway, all that aside, you have a little while to think about competing, as the AKC won't allow a dog under six months to compete in rally, and your dog isn't quite there yet. Concentrating on obedience and focus is a good start, though, as whether you ever do dog sports or not, they will be valuable to you and your dog. Another nice thing you have going for you, given that you have time, is that you can take things at your own pace, so if your dog has a particular command that takes longer for him to learn, you've got time to get more solid with it. Also, a lot of what you learn to in basic obedience and to pass the CGC (CGC-community or CGC-urban) will work for you in rally too. In Novice Rally, in particular, you'd be working on lead and a lot of the signs would include obedience commands like sit or down or variations on them (moving down). Also, in Novice Rally, you can talk to your dog as much as you like--some instructors/judges will even encourage it strongly--so learning to be peppy with your puppy, so to speak, is another thing you can continue to work on, just as you're doing it now.

If you haven't been to a rally competition, you might also consider attending one or volunteering at one. The local kennel club here also has weekly practice sessions for the last month leading up to a competition that are open to anyone for a minimal fee, but if you just want to attend and/or help out by being a "distraction," so that the dogs who will be competing can get used to more of a show environment, it costs nothing. If there's anything like that in your area, you might try to get involved there too to give you an even better idea of how much you'd like to be at a show as a competitor. I know it's not exactly the same thing, but if you find yourself turned off or revved up (or somewhere in between) after doing that, you'll have a better understanding of whether you want to compete or not--and since you know your dog, even if he's not there, you might have a better idea of what goes on at a show and whether he'd be comfortable at one at six months or you'd want to wait until he's a little older.

If finances are at all a concern, you might want to check out what the premiums are at shows you'd consider competing at in the future as well. If you compete a lot, it's not cheap, especially if you have to travel any distance to compete. I have no idea if this is typical, but for the upcoming rally/agility trial here (no conformation or traditional obedience, though there's a huge show here in October that includes everything and a smaller August show that's just agility), it's $28 to enter once on a single day and $20 for each successive ring on that day. There's also a rally challenge that would cost an additional $10 that's just for fun; it does not involve competing for a leg toward a title. That's without having to pay for food, travel, or accommodations, which wouldn't affect those of us who live locally enough that we'd be staying at our homes and wouldn't have to travel far. If you live somewhere with a lot of shows in reasonable driving distance, of course, that's far less of a concern, unless you want to get really involved and enter national competitions, but I'm assuming you wouldn't be thinking of that quite yet.

On a more upbeat note, if this hasn't been explained to you already, if you've never shown a dog before in anything, you'd be in Novice A, so you'd be competing with similarly inexperienced dogs and handlers. Novice B is reserved for handlers with more experience, even if they're handling dogs that have less experience than they do. So, that should take some of the pressure off.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks so much for such a detailed response. I feel like my attitude is similar; I'm not so worried about competing yet but just want to have fun with my dog and learn new things, and honestly agility and competitive obedience scare the pants off of me right now. :D My current goals are the STAR Puppy test, staying enrolled in obedience classes until we're able to pass the CGC, and improving my training skills. Ideally, I'd like to always be in some type of class because Ringo seems to like it, and it's allowed me to meet so many other dog lovers.

I definitely plan to attend some trials. My trainer should have some info for me at our next class. I'd love to go watch and take Ringo along if I can.

It's also very reassuring to hear that if I do compete, the other handlers will at least be somewhat like me. Definitely makes me feel better!
 

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You might ask your trainer if they need any ring stewards at their next trial. Even if you're inexperienced, you could still do things like hand out rally maps, check people in, write down scores etc. I did that at a show months before I ever set foot in a rally class. Someone else did the part of the ring steward's job that's slightly more complicated--like keeping track of all the ribbons and getting them to the judge in the proper order, double-checking score tallys etc.--but really, anybody could do what I did (how hard is it to hand someone a course map when he/she asks for it or check someone's name off the list when he/she checks in?). Setting jumps is no big deal either once someone shows you how to do it. As a ring steward you also get a front row seat, which is helpful if it's a big trial and you want to watch what's going on carefully. My only worry was inadvertently distracting some of the dogs in the ring because they happened to know me, and there I was, sitting ringside. Actually, tonight I volunteered as a distraction at obedience training for advanced/utility dogs, though those dogs were not easily distracted by anything, and I got to help set up scent articles, which I'd never done before. I ended up covered in a lot of dog slobber and hair (when they weren't working the course, three of the dogs found me fascinating, and I'm not sure why, since I certainly wasn't the only dog person there), and my own dog wasn't too thrilled by that when I returned home, but it was interesting.

I've also helped with training and testing for TDI dogs which is also fun and keeps you in the loop with regard to any changes in the test since you've passed it. The changes tend to be slight, but it's still nice to know about them.

Oh, and one other thing that's really encouraging about going to a trial is seeing how well people take it when their dogs don't quite do as expected or decide to become the class clown at a really inopportune moment. At least in the rally ring--which happened to be what I was stewarding for--the tension wasn't quite as thick as you'd think it might be. The only problem I had was with some woman who demanded to know what that kind of dog (it was either a golden doodle or a labradoodle; I forget which) was doing in a ring. I smiled and said as nicely as possible that mixes could earn AKC titles in obedience, rally, agility, and therapy. She was obviously not thrilled with that information and went on to discuss it, loudly, with some friends. Really, I don't know what she expected me to do about it as a lowly ring steward. It wasn't my job to decide who could be in the ring. I as simply there to check them in when they appeared. Her argument was with the AKC, not me.
 

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Here is a lovely article that agilitycanine9trainer has written: Why Winning Isn't Even Close to Everything in Canine Sports
If you think of competing in any canine sport as a test of your communication with your Ringo rather than beating the other competitors you will love canine sports. The bonding you feel when you complete your goals no matter how small or large is incredible. It sounds like Ringo and you are well on your way.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, everyone. I did ask my trainer today and she gave me some resources and I'll definitely be attending some events next month. So far we have two more weeks of STAR Puppy classes and then I was planning to do a 5-week basic obedience course after that. Ringo was four months old yesterday. I'm not really sure at what point we should begin actual rally classes. As soon as this one is over? Do rally one night of the week, obedience another night?
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
We just finished another obedience class and since our intermediate obedience doesn't start until the fall, we're taking a 10 week Puppy 1 Agility class. It kind of happened by accident but my trainer and I will be taking it together (it's another trainer's class). Ringo isn't exactly the best agility prospect and I never really intended to do agility but I hope it will be fun for us and help proof his other cues and get him used to working around other dogs. Not gonna lie, I'm kinda nervous. We start in a week!

The best thing about these classes is that it's allowed me to make more dog-loving friends. My trainer has been awesome and meets me at the dog park once a week (we go when it's empty) for play-dates and to practice our recall around other dogs, and she's introduced me to her service dog friends. Ringo's been getting in some good dog socialization and play all while I get some good lessons in dog behavior.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
We start rally lessons next week, so I guess this will officially become my rally progress thread!
Posted via Mobile Device
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Any tips or advice would be welcome! He's got a decent left finish, and can also swing into heel position, but we're having a harder time with front for some reason. I've found some 'front finish' games to play and we do perch work. We could definitely clean things up, it's still kinda sloppy atm.

Our first rally lesson was supposed to be this morning but unfortunately I had to postpone due to our obstruction scare. I'm hoping I can find some signs to print out to practice on my own as well.
 

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@linzydd - I don't know how I missed that I was mentioned here. :p

Anyhoo, Levi and I just got his rally Novice title, with the fancy "Cum Laude", which basically just means his scores were good.

Which venue are you hoping to compete in? AKC?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Congratulations to you and Levi! :)

AKC. I do want to start with some fun runs or match competitions. He's still pretty distracted around other dogs. My trainer does a lot of things with services dogs, and has asked if I want to tag along to practice ignoring other dogs. Maybe that will help. I'm totally willing to wait until he's older to actually compete, although YellowDog's Aayla does amazing and she's just over a year, I think?
 

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@Aspen726 Thanks for the tag!
@Shandula Congrats on your novice title! I didn't know you guys had gotten that!
@linzydd Aayla is 14 months, and we did our first rally trial a few weeks ago. It is a lot of fun to get into. She is also my first puppy that I have trained myself and have never done dog sports. So it can be a bit scary to get into, I'm a more reserved person myself. Yet the best thing I found was find people that train and compete. If you have people that are willing to go and trial with you and show you around it makes things so much easier.

The Rally classes actually helped Aayla a lot with her focus, she found all the spinning, changing speeds and commands fun. I've watched and helped with a few novice classes now and see some of the same problems with people starting too early. My advice is to make sure that you can get your basic commands around other dogs and some sort of attention. (It doesn't have to be good or pretty) If your dog is ignoring you 100% the entire time you are there, you might need to take a step back and work on some focus and attention games. With that being said almost no one has one of those dogs that is focused 100% of the time to start with rally. Heck its what Aayla and I are working on the hardest right now.

Front was/is hard for Aayla too. I actually messed it up during our trial and thats were we missed out points on the second day. I think to start I worked on walking backwards using a treat or hand touch to lure the dog into following me walking forwards. Then reward when they are following.

Then I would add in a sit in the front position and back up again encouraging the dog to stay in that position.

Then encourage the dog to be close to you and more correct, by not rewarding any crooked positioning. Instead ignoring it and backing up and asking for it again. When this is great, I added in the swing from heel position to front.

I would still add in several back up steps when I ask for the swing. Dog is in heel then encourage your dog to come to your front with a hand target or treat lure and back up 4-5 steps before asking for a sit.

Then slowly phase out the backing up. In Novice you are aloud to take a step backwards for the front. I'm at the stage that I am working on not taking a step back and having her find the correct spot. Sometimes she over swings and ends up a little to the right. Its just a lot of practice.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
@ThatYellowDog - Thank you SO much for the detailed response. I'll see if my trainer can hook me up with someone currently competing - right now she does traditional obedience and agility. I'm also pretty reserved myself so this is a huge step outside of my comfort zone, but I think we'll both have a lot of fun with rally once we get started. :)

Thanks for the advice on front position. It's good to know I can take a step back. We've been doing a lot of silly play to get him really driving towards me, but when he sits he still seems far away, or when I use my hand target to lure into position he usually comes in crooked unless I take a step back. Interestingly enough, our other dog has a better front (her paws are practically on my feet) but it's not something I trained!

I'm trying not to focus so much on trialing and more on engagement and adding distractions but I hope it's in our near future. Your videos are definitely inspirational for us!
 

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I had not intended to get into competitive dogs sports either but Samantha seems to be getting bored with obedience classes. Anyway I began looking for something else when I ran into a Rally trial at the training center. I didn't even know what it was. So investigating some I found that it's a pretty easy going event. You can be as competitive as you want.

Last night I visited a training center near me and watched an hour and a half session. There were about ten people of about twenty that attend regularly. I think only one has the first novice title. There were two courses set up so you do a novice course and an advanced course. You get to walk through the course before running it. There were only two stations we have not done, double about turn left and stop with a call to front with finish. Neither are very difficult so we practice them in our living room.

There was a lot of standing around yack yack talking about other than dog things but that's kind of normal I guess.

We'll start in a few weeks as we have two classes with 3 lessons left.
 
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Discussion Starter #18
Our first rally lesson went better than expected - I think I tend to underestimate my dog sometimes. That being said, I need to work on my handling.

Tomorrow we're heading over to the USDAA Championship to check things out. They have agility, rally, lure coursing and dock diving run-thrus for pet dogs to try. It will be Ringo's first time in a trial environment so if he can just keep his head, that would be awesome and maybe we'll actually get to run through the rally course! Plus, Susan Garrett...although I doubt I'll actually see her.
 

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I finished my fourth viewing of Rally last night. I visited two training centers where we currently are doing obedience. I got to see both novice and advanced at both centers. They have hour classes but they stretched to an hour and a half with extra help for those that needed it. We will sign up for classes at both right after Thanksgiving.

So, for call to front I think it's called the teams that did it well and without excess time used very animated sweeping motion to guide the dog to a straight front and very close. I think best described as both hands cupped like there is a treat and nearly wrapped around the dog's nose. They step back one or two steps.

I tried it in my living room when I got home. Sam is so quick and " snappy" moving that stepping back very far is counter productive. So I just reach and sweep and she whips into position. It looks like a horizontal question mark. Just a little hook to get her straight.

I saw lots of mistakes but nearly all are handler error not knowing what the sign is asking. So you have to do your homework....I think I heard that about 55 years ago. Haha

I didn't see any particular breed having an advantage. There was a small Sheltie and a Bernese and everything in between. Speed isn't an issue until you have a tie score. Then speed is the tie breaker. They tell me that at bigger events there can be multiple perfect scores so then speed is the winner. Looking at YouTube videos at perfect scores you can see what it takes. Judges have pretty dull pencils compared to other dog sports I've been in. This is supposed to be fun so the trainers encourage you not to get so competitive you lose sight of what it's all about.

All of the classes I observed were more run throughs than individual training for each station. Help was given for messing up at a given station. So again you need to know what the stations require to direct your dog.

Byron
 

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Discussion Starter #20
We had our second rally lesson this morning. We did part of a course, about 6 signs, outside. Ringo did pretty well on our first run through. Then a cat decided to come over and hang out close by. It was too difficult for him to focus, even after the cat was gone (his prey drive is crazy), so the next 20 mins consisted of walking in circles and creating distance and trying to get back into working mode. Had to go back to rewarding every 3-5 steps the second time through the course, then released him to 'go sniff' for a little bit. We did the course one last time and he was pretty good.

Things to work on:
- Tighter turns.
- Trying to find the right type of play to get him focused again. Some of the games that work at home didn't work so well today (got him too amped up and he started jumping). Hand targeting (back and forth, around my legs, etc.) was a good one.
- More talking/praise while doing the course.
- Associating the course with work mode. Hopefully this will just come in time.
- Printing out the signs, making my own course, and memorizing their descriptions.

Hopefully next time I'll have a video to post.
 
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