Launched in 2010, Talking Dogs Rally® is the only canine rally organisation in the UK specifically devised for pet dogs and their people with a core value of allowing natural not stylised movement and maintaining balance throughout the courses where dogs work on both the left and right sides. We were the first to colour code the signs to clearly show what level of difficulty teams can expect and we were also the first to print full descriptions of how to perform each exercise on the back of the station signs. Based on Rally-Obedience, created by Charles Kramer in USA in 2000, this Talking Dogs version brings fun, practical challenges to teams who love the structure the sport provides in helping them learn and practice everyday skills. Starting with 200 points, and aiming to lose as few points as they can, teams perform practical exercises (stations) set out in a numbered course. Talking Dogs Rally® is fun for all, welcoming handlers of all ages and abilities, and dogs both mongrel and pedigree. Uniquely, Talking Dogs Rally® allows teams to compete against their own previous scores rather than against each other. With 93 different exercises, six levels of challenge, eight different classes and an infinite combination of stations, Talking Dogs Rally® will keep you and your dog busy for years to come.
This is the main entry level of competition. Level 1 station are colour coded green and are used in all levels. These stations form the backbone of most courses as they include many basic exercises such as left and right turns, pace changes and stationary staples. Level 1 has 34 stations plus 4 bonus stations. All level courses are performed on lead and handlers are allowed and ecouraged to give their dogs lots of feedback and rewards throughout the course.
Level 2 and Pre-Level 2
The biggest change that teams face in Level 2 is that all rounds are done off lead. This obviously requires more training, skill and control. Level 2 stations are blue and are included in both Level 2 and Level 3 courses. This level contains 26 new stations and include more recall work and faster pacing. It also has 5 bonus stations providing teams with a greater opportunity to work tactically.
If the jump from Level 1 to Level 2 seems too daunting, not to worry, Pre-Level 2 will help smooth the transition. This allows teams to do Level 2 courses on lead. Bar a few stations, such as the jump, which are excluded from Pre-Level 2 rounds, teams work the same stations as used in Level 2 but this time they perform them on lead. This makes for a more gentle transition from Level 1 to Level 2.
This is the most challenging level as it encompasses stations from all levels. The 17 additional Level 3 exercises, coloured yellow, include jumping and going through a tunnel combined with distance control and, as one of the 3 bonus stations, a retrieve. As in Level 2, all Level 3 rounds are performed off lead.
Classes for old and young
We also have Puppy and Veteran Levels. Pups 6 – 18 months can compete and win titles, and dogs over 8 years old can enter Veteran Level rounds in addition to or instead of regular Levels 1, Pre-Level 2 and Level 2.
These non-compulsory exercises allow teams to gain extra points or make up for exercises that they know might cause problems for their dog. For example, if the round included ‘L3-3 Recall through tunnel’ which the handler knew the dog often performed unreliably, they could elect to do the bonus exercise ‘L3-B2 Retrieve, right finish’ which the dog loved and rarely failed to complete. Or if they felt ultra confident that their dog could do well in the round and the bonus exercise they could aim to collect a maximum of 210 points instead of 200. These exercises add a more tactical and competitive edge to the rounds and can make, or break, a winning round.
The aim for each team is to drop as few points as possible throughout their round. Each team starts with 200 points and can lose points as they go through the course. Rather than first, second or third, teams may earn Good, Outstanding or Ace awards. They can then work towards winning Level and Championship titles by notching up multiple high scoring rounds.