Some tips to share about the new AKC rally changes.
Read Carefully & Ask Early
New rally changes impact every level of the AKC program for this sport. There are new signs at each level. There are TWO new levels. There is a Rally Championship program that requires points and multiple triple qualifying scores.
You need to read the premium and ask questions BEFORE trials close so you follow a strategy that best suits your goals and enjoyment. I know this is the spot where I should say, “If only one of you is having fun, it needs to be the dog.” But be realistic because if momma ain’t happy, nobody happy and a little forethought makes everyone happier on trial day.
The new signs offer fun alternatives in course design. In some cases, they help with “drift”— when you need to get from one sign to another but they aren’t in a linear relationship so you kinda cheat over to be where you need to be.
Moves found elsewhere in dog sports, like freestyle, are spicing up the signs at the more advanced levels.
The trend to have stations that mimic small parts of utility exercises continues.
Here is a link to ALL signs on the AKC website and here is a link to the AKC YouTube channel to see these signs in action. I recommend downloading those sites to phone or tablet for reference on the fly.
Shiny New Titles
Rally Intermediate is a new, non-required bridge class between Rally Novice and Rally Advanced. Dogs are kept on-leash to compete on an Advanced course without jumps. It is, however, a titling class after three qualifying scores. You do not NEED to title in this course to do Rally Advanced.
Rally Masters is now the highest single class title offered. Once you have finished your Rally Excellent title you move on to Rally Masters and qualify there TEN times to get the title.
One of the biggest rally changes is the addition of the prefix title: Rally Champion (ROCh). From the new AKC regulations: Rally Championship points will be recorded for dogs earning a score of 91 or better in the Rally Excellent B and Rally Master classes. A dog must earn a total of 300 points. Additionally, the dog must receive qualifying scores in Advanced B, Excellent B and the Master classes (referred to as RQT for our purposes), on the same day at the same trial at 20 separate licensed or member rally trials.
Let me be clear, a RQT leg is only earned AFTER you have your Rally Masters.
Strategies for Master & RAE legs
Yes, the RAE is still a title & you are welcome to keep working on it independent of the new championship. However, it is also accomplished as you work towards your championship. One of the strategies recommended by Debbie Addicoat, instructor &judge, is that once you start signing up to attempt leg 10 of Rally Masters, you sign up for the Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B classes too.
Depending on the mental stamina of your dog, you might want to start the three classes earlier—say around leg seven or eight–of Rally Masters. For some dogs, three trips into the ring will be nothing. For others, going in and out of the ring along with the stress of the environment may require building up mental muscles. In this example, you are entering RAE and Rally Masters but are NOT eligible for a RQT ribbon/leg until you have your Rally Masters title done.