New to rally?

Dog laying down looking at handler

Rally is fun – no matter what experience level you or your dog have, it's easy to get involved, start training and then, competing.

Your dog does not have to be pedigree dog to take part, however it must be registered with The Kennel Club on either the Breed Register or the Activity Register.

What is rally?

Rally (or ‘Rally O’ as it's known in the USA) is a canine activity derived from the heelwork elements of competitive obedience. However it differs from obedience, primarily in that competitors and dogs attempt a preset course with signs placed at up to 18 stations along the course, requiring them to perform one of around 80 different preset exercises. The selection of exercises and design of the course is at the judge’s discretion. Each individual round is performed at a brisk pace and takes around three minutes.

There is no direction from the judge or steward as in obedience. The signs are all the guidance competitors receive. At level 1 and 2, the first two levels, dogs compete on lead and a loose lead is emphasised. The handler may give verbal commands and encouragement throughout as necessary. More advanced levels require dogs to compete off lead.

How does the competition work?

The selection of exercises and design of the course is at the judge's discretion. Each individual round is performed at a 'brisk pace' and takes around three minutes per dog with a maximum course time for levels 1 and 2 of four minutes and five minutes for level 3 and above. There is no direction from the judge or steward as in obedience; the signs are all the guidance competitors receive. Handlers walk through the course (without dogs) before the competition starts.

Physical or harsh verbal correction is strictly penalised. Elements of obedience, such as group stays and scent exercises, do not feature. Like agility, once the competitor has completed the round, they have finished. Although based on obedience heelwork, many exercises differ significantly from those found in competitive obedience and introduce innovative concepts of control of the dog.

Competitors start each round with a perfect score of 200 and deductions are made by the judge for inaccuracies and mistakes in performance. As in working trials, progression to the next level will be based on reaching a qualifying standard, the minimum qualifying score is set at 175 for levels 1 to 4 and 180 for level 5 and 6. Dogs will achieve their rally level title and progress to the next level (except for level 6) once they have achieved six qualifying scores under at least four different judges. Alternatively an excellent score of 190 or more on three occasions, under three different judges, will also enable the dog to progress to the next level. Places are awarded at competitions but progression is independent of winning first places.

What do I need to know to take part?
When can I start training my dog?

It is essential that your dog is fully socialised and that you have effective control at all times, especially as your dog will eventually be competing off lead. Taking guidance from a specialist at a training club is the best way to identify when your dog is ready to start formal training and competing.

How can I find a training club?

Plenty of regular practice is essential preparation for rally competitions. There are a number of training clubs across the country, many of which can be found on Find a Club.

My dog is docked. Can I still compete?

The term 'docked' includes dogs which have their tails shortened for medical reasons after the relevant dates - these count as having been docked and therefore such dogs are not allowed to be shown/compete at events where the public are admitted on payment of a fee. Please see the Defra website for further information.

What types of rally competition are there?

Rally clubs can host open or limited competitions.

What rally classes are there?

There are six levels of competitive rally. New handlers will start at level 1 and progress through to level 6. Progression is based on the scores you and your dog achieve as a partnership, and not on wins or placings.

  • Level 1: Open to dogs which have not achieved a level 1 or level 1 Excellent title
  • Level 2: Open to all dogs which have achieved a level 1 or level 1 Excellent title, except those that have achieved a level 2 or level 2 Excellent title. Dogs eligible for and entered at level 1 may also enter at this level
  • Level 3: Open to all dogs which have achieved a level 2 or level 2 Excellent title, except those that have achieved a level 3 or level 3 Excellent title. Dogs eligible for and entered at level 2 may also enter at this level
  • Level 4: Open to all dogs which have achieved a level 3 or level 3 Excellent title, except those that have achieved a level 4 or level 4 Excellent title. Dogs eligible for and entered at level 3 may also enter at this level
  • Level 5: Open to all dogs which have achieved a level 4 or level 4 Excellent title, except those that have achieved a level 5 or level 5 Excellent title. Dogs eligible for and entered at level 4 may also enter at this level
  • Level 6: Open to all dogs which have achieved a level 5 or level 5 Excellent title. Dogs eligible for and entered at level 5 may also enter at this level
Rally - frequently asked questions

1. How is rally scored?

Each dog/handler team enters the ring with a perfect score of 200 points. Deductions are scored based on the exercise requirements and the scoring guidelines. Deductions are made in increments from a minimum of 1 point up to maximum 5 point deduction in relation to any one fault. The judge indicates point deductions on the score sheet as faults occur on the course. He or she may be assisted by a scribe steward in recording the deductions.

2. Are there any restrictions on who can enter rally competitions?

Dogs entered for these competitions must be registered on either The Kennel Club Breed Register or Activity Register and must be a minimum of 6 months of age to take part in levels 1 or 2 classes and 12 months of age for level 3 upwards.

3. Can I take training aids into the ring?

Food shall not be carried or given to a dog under test and the use of a toy as an incentive in the ring between or during exercises is prohibited.

Progressing in rally

Rally handler/dog teams compete in their lowest eligible class from level 1 to level 6. They may also compete at the subsequent level. Progression to the next level does not require wins or placings. Progression is dependent upon gaining three excellent scores, under three different judges, or six qualifying scores under four different judges.

  • Levels 1 to 4 have a qualifying score of 175 out of 200
  • Levels 5 and 6 have a qualifying score of 180 out of 200

In all levels, a qualifying score of 190 or above equates to an excellent score.

When you have gained more experience, you are likely to set your sights on progressing into more advanced classes. To progress, you must achieve the qualifying scores as detailed below.

Progressing scores
  • Level 1 title: Requires six qualifying scores of 175 of better, earned under four different judges at level 1
  • Level 2 title: Requires six qualifying scores of 175 of better, earned under four different judges at level 2
  • Level 3 title: Requires six qualifying scores of 175 of better, earned under four different judges at level 3
  • Level 4 title: Requires six qualifying scores of 175 of better, earned under four different judges at level 4
  • Level 5 title: Requires six qualifying scores of 175 of better, earned under four different judges at level 5
  • Level 6 title: Requires six qualifying scores of 175 of better, earned under four different judges at level 6

Only the highest level title achieved should be used after the dog’s name. The title is designated as RL1, RL2, RL3, RL4, RL5, or RL6 and appears after the dog's name.

Next steps - attending your first rally show

Once you have taken part in training, you might like to then attend a rally show. Learn more about attending your first rally show.