Information for Rally Newcomers

Before the trial

You will need to apply for an APDT Rally registration number for each dog you plan to show.  Information on obtaining that number can be found by clicking on the following APDT Rally link.  The APDT Rally site includes  rules and guidelines and also has a calendar- of- events section which lists upcoming sanctioned rally trials, matches, seminars, etc.    The APDT Rally link is:

Need signs?   APDT Rally signs may be downloaded and printed at no charge by clicking on this APDT link:

(Scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find the signs.)

Matches and run-throughs are a great way to build  confidence for both you and your dog in a trial-like setting. 

Be sure to check the collar regulations in Chapter 1: General Competition under  Rally Rules and Guidelines.

Once your team is ready to enter a trial, you will need to obtain an entry form — often done by going to the sponsoring organization’s website. 

One of the great things about APDT is their inclusive approach to the sport of rally.  APDT specifically notes, “All dogs, purebred, mixed breeds and dogs with disabilities are encouraged to participate.”   Handlers with disabilities are also encouraged to participate in APDT rally and may submit a written description of how they intend to perform an exercise.  Detailed information on the modification rules can be found in Chapter 1: General Competition Guidelines under the Eligibility section which begins on page 2. 

Please note:  all modifications for either member of the team must be approved by the judge.   

Be sure you have measured your dog and know your dog’s jump height.  A chart of jump heights is included on the APDT website.

Comfortable, neat attire is best, including shoes that allow you to demonstrate your best work.  Remember: Level 1 includes a Fast exercise (#20) and Level 2 includes a Send Over Jump, Handler Runs By (#43), and a Fast Forward From Sit (#46.)     It has always been my belief that neat attire helps your team look its best and also shows the proper respect for both the judge and the wonderful sport of rally.

If you intend to use treats in the ring, pants or a vest with deep pockets are a must as treats must be hidden in your pocket, and treat bags are not allowed in the ring.   

Plan to arrive early so that you and your dog can get used to the sights and sounds.

It’s a good idea to bring a crate or exercise pen which will provide a safe place for your dog between runs.   Indoor space is usually limited, so exercise pens are used by people with very large or multiple dogs only. Also, many facilities ask that you bring something to put under the crate to help protect the matting.

APDT does not allow aggressive dogs.  However, not all dogs at trials are social butterflies.  Proper trial etiquette includes not allowing your dog to go up to another dog and also means not allowing your dog to sniff another dog’s derriere.  

Not all venues are air-conditioned, so during the summer months you may want to consider bringing a small cooling fan or cooling mat for your dog’s comfort (as well as plenty of water for your dog).  

Most people also want to bring a chair for themselves. 

If you have questions while at the trial, you can ask the APDT trial representative, club members, and, of course, the judge during your walk-through.  APDT rally people love their sport and are always happy to support each other whether you and your teammate are just getting starting or working on a championship level title.


Before your run

Remember to check-in with the ring or table steward before each of your runs so that the trial official knows you are present and will be running your dog. 

Prior to the walk-thru, each handler will receive a printed copy of the course map including the Bonus Exercise which has been chosen for that course by the judge.    

There will be ten minute walk-thru for each course during which time the judge will brief competitors.  This is also a time for you to walk the course (without your dog) and ask the judge any questions you might have about the course.   


Your rally run

The order of each team’s run will be posted beside the ring.  It is important for you to be nearby and ready for your run when your name is called.

Your dog must enter and leave the ring on leash.      

After entering the ring, remember to inform the judge as to whether you want to perform the Bonus Exercise at the end of the course. 

If you choose to feed your dog during your run, the food must be carried into the ring concealed in your pocket and may not be carried into the ring in your hand or mouth or bait bag.  

When you are ready to start, the judge will ask if you are ready to begin and once you indicate you are ready, you will proceed through the course without further direction from the judge.

Unless otherwise noted in the Exercise Descriptions, exercises are performed with the sign to the handler’s right.

On occasion, the judge will “marry” two signs by placing them directly beside each other.

You are strongly encouraged to talk with your dog during your run and to “use positive reinforcement and reward during APDT Rally competitions.”   This positive relationship between the dog and handler is at the very heart of APDT Rally.

The use of physical corrections or harsh verbal corrections is prohibited.

You may give your dog a verbal cue and hand signal at the same time, but in APDT rally you are limited to one such cue for each exercise or point deductions will occur.   The one exception is the Veteran Class where one additional cue is allowed per exercise. 

Food and touch rewards are allowed when the team has completed a stationary exercise.

Note:  Puppy and Veteran classes have more lenient feeding rules which can be found under the Puppy and Veteran class descriptions Chapters 6 and 7 respectively.  Just remember, even with more lenient feeding rules, you must still maintain a nice flow as you navigate the course. 

You may also feed your dog between two married signs.   

You must complete APDT Rally Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Puppy Level and Junior Level courses in 4 minutes or less. 

There is no maximum course time for the Veteran Level course.   


After your run

There will be an awards ceremony at the end of each trial when the ribbons for qualifying runs and titles are handed out.   It’s a great time to support one another, celebrate, and make rally friends! 

Please remember to celebrate with your canine teammate—ribbons or not!

A team earns a Rally title after successfully completing three course runs with qualifying scores under at least two different judges.   As before, I recommend visiting the APDT website for more information.   Once again, it’s at

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