On the weekend, Czar and I had our first go at an obedience rally circuit.
Obedience Rally, or Rally-O, is a form of competition that uses a variable course of challenges that a dog and handler have to complete together. The challenges include sitting, dropping, walking at different paces, making different turns and jumping small jumps. It's like a combination of obedience and agility.
People first started suggesting Rally to me when I took up obedience, because, unlike obedience, rally competitions can be done entirely on lead, making it ideal for huskies with their poor recall. Initially, I thought it lacked the excitement of Agility. And I was worried about the level of handling excellence required for competition, but since I started attending obedience regularly, I've discovered something that makes up for my shortfalls in that area.
Czar and I had a couple of goes of a simple novice course, just five stations, and very similar to obedience - about turns, sits. Pretty good! We had a go at a jumping sequence - Czar doesn't 'get' jumps, he constantly knocks them over on the way through, getting a foot over them by accident rather than design. Then we tried weaving through standing poles - these ones were relatively widely spaced and easier for Czar to get through than some of the ones for smaller dogs. Better than the jumps, but I think I need some tips.
One of the Knox trainers had taken me through a full size rally course of twelve stations, and explained how to read each of the signs.
Once we humans had been through the course with our imaginary dogs (imaginary dogs are always perfectly behaved, have you ever noticed?) we went through with the real dogs. I got to try some manoeuvres Czar and I hadn't done before. And this was the real buzz, the thing I've greatly enjoyed about everything I've done in obedience; Czar got them mostly right. First time!
Partly, this was because Czar is a pretty switched on dog. He understands a lot of what I want from him. Mind you, I'm not suggesting he does what he think I want out of true obedience - he is a husky after all. I've seen plenty of dogs follow a command for sheer joy of pleasing their owner, but not Czar. Czar is all about the food. As soon as he had the treat in his mouth, I was no longer as interesting as everything around us. Partly, his success was because I've learnt some luring techniques, and can induce some behaviours, even when Czar doesn't know the word I'm using.
We have a lot to learn. We watched the others, the more advanced pairs who could do everything flawlessly, even off lead. I've been reading up on the rules and different stations. Plenty of challenges, plenty of fun to have!