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2018 Regulations to be Released--About the Rally Course

This is article #2 of #4 of the introduction to the 2018 regulations, soon to be released.


The Rally Course

In the 2018 regulations, the Rally Course takes on a new life, as we established a purpose for each level. Rally Obedience is as much a test of obedience training as it is a continuous exhibition of the relationship between dog and handler as they work through the course; this means that the course should be executed as one continuous performance from start to finish as if there is a purpose of getting to the end of the course, although brief pauses are allowed for interaction as would be expected in a walk in the park, for example. 

Judges should select a balance of exercises introduced at each level to highlight the purpose of the course as a whole, giving consideration to spacing to keep the team in motion as much as possible, and the time expected to perform each exercise. We have set parameters to provide a framework to guide judges in course design to assure the course requirements are met. These include:
  • limits on number and type of exercises over the course length for each level
  • defined different minimum spacing requirements to accommodate the nature of different exercises
  • set time standards after which time penalties may accrue should handler and dog not work as efficiently as one might expect in order to maintain a lively working manner
Additionally, so that the course represents the full measure of a performance, the bonus exercise will be one of the numbered stations in the course, which may be bypassed without penalty should a handler elect in their own discretion to forego an attempt at this exercise. 

Each of these four features are discussed further below.

Number and Types of Exercises

The number and types of exercises have been established to satisfy the purpose of each level and to provide flexibility and creativity in course design within established parameters. Every course should have a variety of exercises to stay fair and balanced, as well as provide creativity within the course to keep the course interesting and fun. 

Level 1 will now have 15-16 exercise signs, Level 2 will now have 17-18 exercise signs, and Level 3 will now have 19-22 exercise signs.

The normal pace sets the baseline for how well a handler and dog work together throughout the entire course. It establishes not only the degree of energy utilized in moving through the course within the allotted time, but also sets the pace for performing the elements of the exercises, as they should continue the same general rhythm while working each station exercise. 

Change of pace is inherent to Heeling and is an important focal point in testing in Level 1. So, Slow and Fast pace signs can now be "joined" to (i.e., immediately follow) a station or shared station to keep the course moving and to make most efficient use of stations. For example, a Slow or a Fast may be joined to a 360-right to indicate the pace to progress to the next station; in this case, the team reverts to Normal pace (no Normal sign is needed) as they approach the next station, since stations are intended to be performed at a Normal pace. (See course map example at the end of this article.)

This also reinforces the idea that a Pace change is part of heeling, and not just a standalone task to be performed.

Handlers are encouraged to work naturally and with a sense of purpose in heeling through the course. Slowing to adapt pace to the dog does not encourage continued movement. It is important to note that Adapting Pace to the dog is a new penalty in the 2018 regulations, and signifies in their score that they need to improve the heeling process in change of pace. The objective is to have the dog trained to monitor and adapt to their human companion who moves freely without constraint or hesitation.

The types of exercises are to remain varied. Too, we wish to keep focus on the course as a whole, so the number of stationary positions and stationary exercises should be balanced and limited more than we may have seen in the past. Shared Stations for stationary exercises can help keep a course flowing by sharing a stationary position, but judges must be careful not to overload any one station with stationary positions as well. Sharing of "Leave Dog" exercises with other stationary exercises can mitigate the static nature of the elements in those exercises, because of the movement from sign to sign in the Leave Dog exercise. 

Spacing Requirements

To provide for better flow through the course, spacing requirements between exercises should vary based upon the inherent nature of the exercises. As an example, to demonstrate a Fast, more space is needed than for executing a Slow. Or a drop on recall requires more room than a straight recall, and a call to heel while a handler is moving, requires more working space than when the handler does a static recall. The regulations include a table of minimum spacing standards, along with recommended ranges, when sufficient space is available. 

Time Standards

Time standards remain relatively unchanged in the "A" classes, other than a rollback in the Maximum Course Times to reflect the reduction in number of exercises in each level. 

In the "B" classes, an added element is the introduction of a Standard Course Time (SCT), which will be 20 seconds less than the Maximum Course Time (MCT). This was established after an analysis of performance times for all events during a three-year period where fewer than 10 cases were found where the dog would not have qualified had the standard been 20 seconds less. Twenty seconds was established to provide added measure of flexibility as a result of the nature of different exercises. Given a look at the nature of exercises at each level, and the advanced nature of the "B" classes, this standard was set to encourage a natural lively flow through the course. This requires then that the judge be cognizant of the nature and number of stationary exercises, which are limited by the regulations. Course design guidelines have been revised to aid in the exercise selection process.

Time penalties are 1-point deductions for each second or part of a second that the performance time exceeds the SCT.

Example of Calculation of Time Penalties
Level 3, B class, MCT = 4:00 minutes, SCT = 3:40 minutes
Course time = 3:47.38 minutes (i.e., 7.38 seconds over SCT)
Time penalties = 8 points

As with all regulations, we will monitor the impact of this feature in the regulations for any anomalies that may require further adjustment. 

Bonus Exercise

The Bonus exercise will now be part of the course. (See course map example at the end of this article.) The concept is that the course measures the entire performance. The Bonus exercise will be labeled as "BONUS" and at the sole discretion of the handler, the team may bypass the station without penalty. If attempted, it increases the total maximum score by 10 points, and it is scored as any other exercise.

In cases when the Bonus is attempted and the Bonus exercise results in a change of direction, the handler shall execute a change of direction following the Bonus in order to maintain the flow of the course. The judge may place a basic directional turn from Level 1 (e.g., 180° Right Turn, 45° Veer Left), which shall be unnumbered, following the Bonus to redirect the team to the next station. This change of direction is judged as part of heeling between stations, subject to penalties for lagging, forging, heeling wide, or bumping the handler.

Level 2 Course Example

The following course shows an example of joined pace signs, pace exercises not followed by the Normal Pace sign, and the Bonus on the course.

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