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In-Person Rally Classes - Worth It or Waste of Time?

landseer newfoundland dog rally-obedience class

Or, A Tale of Valuing Online Dog Training

So, you’ve been scrolling on your phone. You started on the “basic dog Instagram'' of cute puppy pictures and joke videos of dogs being naughty to funny music, but then you gradually progressed to what seems to be a more sophisticated, training-centered world of content. You learn about heelwork. Enter slow-mo videos of dogs majestically trotting next to their handlers, never ungluing their enthusiastic focus from their human as they turn left, right, left again. You’ve always said that your dog is too smart for her own good. You say to yourself, “I don’t know how, but I think we could do this!” You do some research about dog sports and decide that you’re going to start by trying out “Rally.” You try to copy the dogstagram influencers and get your dog to follow happily by your side for 3 seconds, and you’re super excited, but you don’t know exactly where to go from there.

You head over to your local dog training center for your first Rally class. You assume you will see dogs start to dance and prance like the videos you’ve come to love, but you are surprised to see the instructor appear satisfied with the dogs doing any sort of lackadaisical following at the handler’s left side. Then suddenly, you are pulled up to do a full course! You squint at the Rally signs on the ground, which are practically a foreign language, and your dog gets distracted by another dog who gets too close to you. You cue your dog to walk forward at your side, and she obliges, but then you come up to a sign saying to turn left. You turn sharply left and walk right into your dog. She lets out a little squeak, completely blindsided. This wasn’t what you had in mind at all!

While it’s the next person’s turn to run the course, you lean over to your nearest classmate.

You ask her, “What made you sign up for Rally?”

She replies, “My tricks class instructor told me I should try it out. I didn’t really have any idea what it was before today, honestly! I thought Rally was the one with the jumps and tunnels.”

You say, “Do you think you’ll try to compete and get Rally titles?”

She shrugs, “Oh, probably not.”

When you get home, you look up how much it would cost to do private lessons at this training center instead, since your dog was pretty distracted by the other dogs and you left the class with a lot of questions. You are unpleasantly surprised to find that they are a whopping $100 per 45 minutes of class.

At the next week of class, you try to run a full Rally course again. You have to continuously nag your dog to follow you, because she is sniffing treat crumbs on the ground. Where is the focus, the dog precisely following your every move? You’re confused about how to get there. You run into a sign you haven’t learned yet and stop to talk to the instructor about what it means. Your dog sees that you are distracted and completely checks out to lick the crumbs off the rubber matted floor. The class is an hour long, and by the end, you and your dog are both very tired.

Back at home, you open your laptop to do some more research. You think, “There must be a better way!” You stumble across a comprehensive online course, Venus and Mars K9’s Rockin’ Rally-O Group! A little choir sings a happy G Major chord in your head.

You realize you can start teaching her to really heel, in your own home, without the distractions of the training center. Every skill is broken down to the point that your dog understands completely what you are asking of her and can comply with just one signal. You have an experienced instructor—the author of the course, in fact—coaching you through every exercise when you submit your video of the homework assignments. You can ask as many questions as you want. You learn about the Rally signs at your own pace and see it all spelled out before you attempt to perform a course with your dog. Your dog is dancing and prancing with you. You can make your own heelwork TikTok.

A few months later, you sign up again for in-person Rally class at the training center - this time, an advanced class. You are preparing to trial with your dog. You are so close now to getting some pretty ribbons to hang on your wall. You enter the classroom, and your instructor throws you on a course right away. You are prepared. Your dog is prepared. You are Rockin’ Rally-O.

* * * * *

Rockin’ Rally-O is an A-Z Rally curriculum. It can be watched or read and has 10 comprehensive levels of content. (That’s 3 hours and 12 minutes of webinars.) The course covers heelwork from beginning to the finished product, positions and stays, drive and enthusiasm, proofing for competition environments, and more. It was written to be appropriate for dogs with a basic set of skills, those with extensive foundations ready to put the pieces together, as well as teams who have started competing but are looking to up their game. You can purchase the course for a one-time fee, or sign up for the monthly subscription and receive one-on-one coaching and feedback from the instructor. You'll also have access to a private group forum to ask questions, share progress, celebrate success, and connect with a dedicated community of students. Click here to read more about the Rockin' Rally-O Group.

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