Take an Obedience sport like Rally-O, pump it up with more challenges and tricks, and you’ve got Rally-FrEe. Originally created as a foundation sport for Freestyle, Rally-FrEe holds a special place in the dog training world because, although it’s full of fun, freedom and creativity, it emphasizes the thing that is often missing from dog dancing trick routines: strong precision and high value for positions (like heel in left, right, front, back and beyond) and transitions. It’s not hard to understand why Freestyle routines lack these skills. Because you can do anything you want in a Freestyle routine, humans often get a little consumed with a very cool or fancy trick or 2, to the exclusion of training the “in between” parts, the parts where the dog and you move in harmony and unison and dance fluidly from one place to another.
Rally-FrEe addresses these gaps. Geared towards creating a team that appears to be reading each others’ minds, there is a focus on verbal skills over big lure-like hand signals. Because, come on, isn’t it more fun to watch a dog spin while the person claps or spins herself as opposed to watching a dog stare at the handlers hand as it follows it around?
And to get your dog smoothly from 1 position (like heel on the left) into the next position (like behind you), you need “transition behaviors”. Transition tricks build progressively through the levels., starting with leg weaves, circle around, spins, and advancing to tricks like backwards leg weaves, multiple circle arounds, spinning away from front and center to back up between your legs and land in heel behind and more.
This sport is fun just because of all the great tricks you get to train. But, beyond that, it will dramatically advance your training knowledge and ability if you want to pursue through the levels. This sport goes far beyond having your dog follow your pointer finger or hand at your hip and embraces the leading edge training methods of using a clicker, environmental control, and developing your dog’s LOVE for doing the tricks because it totally shows in the quality of your performances…and because it allows you and your dog to maximize the joy you get out of your time working together. It’s also a terrific option for people who wish they could play in other sports but have an older dog that shouldn’t run around an agility course. I personally find it a superior set of skills to train as they can be trained anywhere and anytime. They require no extra equipment and the transitions make it more fun for your dog to heel! To put that in perspective, if you’re out in public heeling your dog through the crowd, you can give your dog relief from that disciplined position by asking your dog to run around you in a circle before returning back to heel. For that reason (and more), this is an excellent sport to bring new life to your Obedience work, too.
Intro to Rally-FrEe introduces you to what’s involved: from what kind of tricks there are, how to read a course (it’s tricky because you can go off-course just by having your dog on the wrong side), to how to score well if you plan to compete.
Advanced Rally-FrEe gets into the details of training a huge variety of tricks…From teaching the dog to find and stay in heel without a lure, how to break down and build up tricks, how to train verbal cues, how to get fluency, with on-going support for all of the behaviors needed for the sport in addition to any tricks the group decides would be fun to work on. We won’t get through all of this stuff in one session!!! But, each group gets to co-create the syllabus so we can work on what’s most important to you.
Want to know more about the sport? Visit the sport’s website www.rallyfree.com
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