Rally at the Tennis Court

The weather being gloriously sunny and warm for mid-November, three of us went to the dogs on Sunday. Loose translation: We took over the public tennis courts for an hour and filmed ourselves and our dogs doing a Rally-O course. Yes, these are the same tennis courts featured at the top of this blog. In November there are no locks on the gate.

We study the course before a Rally run.

Rally — the “O” stands for Obedience — is the dog sport that Travvy and I have been competing in. To horse people I describe it as “dressage for dogs.” Dog-and-handler teams complete a course of from 12 to 20 stations, depending on the level, each of which requires the team to perform a different exercise. The exercises range from very simple — “Halt. Sit.” or “Left Turn” — to fairly complex, like “Call Front, Finish Right” and “Sit, Stand, Walk Around Dog.” Having finished our APDT Level 2 title, we’re now learning the advanced exercises required at Level 3, like “Drop on Recall” (you call the dog to you from a distance then signal him to lie down when he’s halfway there) and “Retrieve” (not an inbred skill for most Alaskan malamutes).

Rally comes in several varieties — we’re currently competing in the one organized by APDT, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. The newest kid on the block is Cyber Rally-O (CRO). CRO differs in several significant respects from other kinds of Rally. A big one is that you don’t have to travel anywhere. You download the signs, set up one of the prescribed courses in your backyard or another convenient location, have someone video you and your dog doing it, then upload your video to YouTube so the judges can judge it. Registration is all electronic.

For us, competing in off-island trials starts and ends with a ferry trip ($59 round-trip in the off-season, $88 in summer) and usually involves one or two nights away from home. Virtual competition has an obvious appeal for island dwellers!

So Sunday Karen Ogden, Katy Upson, and I Rallied (so to speak) at the West Tisbury tennis court to do our thing. We were, of course, accompanied by Nolan (Australian shepherd), Dundee (Scottie), and Travvy (Alaskan malamute), respectively. Karen is the proprietor of Positive Rewards Dog Training, where Katy and I both train. We managed to get some good runs in before a nice fellow and his daughter showed up to play tennis.

I’m pleased to report that Travvy and I earned our first leg toward our CRO-1 (Level 1) title. (Titles, unlike dogs, only require three legs.) Each entry requires a walk-through (handler only) to show that the course is set up correctly, a demonstration of the dog’s equipment (collar, harness, and/or leash — prong collars, choke chains, and the like are not permitted), and the run itself. Here are some still shots lifted from our video. (The whole run, plus walk-through, can be seen on YouTube.)

Equipment check. Travvy wears a "limited slip" collar. We didn't use the leash.

Here we execute the “Serpentine, Weave Twice,” in which the team weaves through four cones and then returns to the first cone. Big dogs have to be agile and attentive to avoid knocking a cone over. Handlers have to be agile and attentive and remember that you always enter the cones from the right.

The sign here says “Call Front, Finish Right.” Here Travvy is in front position and I am making the hand signal that tells him to “finish right” — go around behind me and wind up in heel position, at my left side.

We finish the course! When taping a Cyber Rally-O run, the handler raises her hand as the team passes the start and finish lines. This is to make it easy for the judges to tell where the course starts and ends. The maximum time allowed for a run is five minutes. This particular course didn’t require even half that. Note: My exposed right sock is not a fashion statement. I’m just a sloppy dresser.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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3 Responses to Rally at the Tennis Court

  1. If anyone wants to see our whole run, plus walk-through, it’s on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oltDnCCTMw0

    I added the link to the blog. Travvy noticed that I forgot it the first time.


  2. Sharon Stewart says:

    What great rapport! No matter what you’re doing in these photos, Travvy is looking up at you intently.


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