Rally-FrEe is a fantastic sport that takes the format of Rally-O with it’s numbered course with signs, adds multiple heel positions (left, right, front, back), fun behaviors, and mandatory creativity with extra points awarded for verbal only execution and, again, creativity;) Every course has 4 free choice signs where you can do whatever tricks your dog is good at. You can use props that help cue the dog (like a skateboard), but you will need stimulus control (your dog can’t just run over to the skateboard without being cued). And because it’s a small community, and people are spread out around the world, most competitions are entered via video. But don’t for one second kid yourself that video competition is easy. Yes, it is a lower criterion to perform somewhere known to the dog. But, I’ll tell you, my first entries I blew a bunch of attempts getting nervous, my dog also feeling the pressure, before capturing a video I’m willing to submit for judging. In fact, it’s a toss up whether any attempt at the whole course will be completely awesome, or have significant “wobbles” that cause you to either try again (and there’s a limit to how many times you can fairly ask your dog to do the full course) or just accept it, flaws and all and be happy with your dog’s efforts.
Because the course is a long chain of behaviors, when you train for it you must dice it down and practice sections (if you want to be kind and a good trainer), so executing the whole course is challenging and evidence of you and your dog’s abilities. Not only do I think videoing is a fair competition format, I’d go so far as recommending that people in every sport be required to demonstrate entry level skills on video before being allowed to bring their dog to a live competition because too many dogs at shows don’t have the training to have all the extra expectation thrown at them. It can be destructive to the team and a waste of everyone’s time. People arguing with untrained dogs in the agility ring is part of my aversion. Beyond the obvious, when I got into the ring at a live event, I already experienced a bunch of mistakes and knew where I needed to have a plan to help each dog (like keeping attention near the fence in the corners, not getting overly excited (we can have too much fun;)), and we did much better than we would have without such valuable experiences.
Here’s a link to our latest video entry. By no means perfect but I’m seeing a really nice progression and continuous improvement. That’s success!