Let Rally Handlers Judge AKC Rally

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We the undersigned, respectfully call on the American Kennel Club to change the requirements for Rally judges. Currently, prospective judges are required to have trained and titled at least one dog to the Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) level and to the Rally Excellent (RE) level. With all of the recent changes to Rally and with the popularity of the sport, we believe that these requirements are outdated and prevent experienced trainers and handlers who focus their efforts on Rally from being considered as judges. For this reason, we request that the obedience titles be dropped from the requirements and that the Rally Excellent title requirement be replaced with the Rally Master title.

We feel that Rally judging, as well as the sport itself will only be strengthened by changing these requirements.

Background and Support

1) Outdated judging requirements. Judging requirements for Rally were developed in 2005, when the sport was added to AKC Companion Events. These judging requirements were written to allow experienced obedience judges to become Rally judges. When Rally was a new sport, these requirements made sense: it was the quickest, most efficient way to enlist judges and took advantage of attracting judges in a related sport. Many of these early judges have not continued to show in Rally. Neither have they acquired enough experience in higher titling competition to appreciate the finer points of the sport.

2) Stand-alone sport. Rally has evolved into a stand-alone sport. It now has its own clubs, rule book, champion-level title and national competition. The popularity of this sport continues to grow. Many Rally handlers are uninterested in and will not compete in traditional obedience. As such, Rally would benefit by having its own specialized judges, unrelated to another sport. We now have Rally competitors with significant experience who have specifically chosen Rally as their sport, many of whom would step up and support Rally as judges. However, the lack of traditional obedience titles is preventing them.

3) Scoring familiarity. Rally competitors are familiar with the specialized scoring requirements of the sport, without referring back to traditional obedience regulations. The ½ point reference was very effective in helping traditional obedience judges understand the differences between scoring requirements; however, it is unnecessary for experienced Rally handlers. In addition, with the advent of new levels, some traditional obedience-based judges may lack the experience required to adequately score the new signs.

4) Other organizations. Specialized Rally judges who lack traditional obedience titles have been utilized with success in other organizations. This success indicates that Rally handlers possess the knowledge and experience to judge their own sport. Rally handlers who have achieved the Rally Master title with one or more dogs have learned the skills necessary to understand the scoring process for all of the signs required at all levels. In addition, these handlers have the physical familiarity with sign performance and course flow at all levels of Rally competition. These factors ensure that the Rally Master title requirement for becoming a judge is more than adequate to teach Rally handlers the finer points of Rally judging and to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to score runs properly, rendering the traditional obedience requirement moot.

Based on the above-stated reasons, we respectfully request the American Kennel Club to review and reflect upon the growth and development of Rally, as well as the value of our recommendation submitted herein. We ask the organization's consideration of aligning and enhancing the current requirements of an American Kennel Club Rally judge to conform more to the sport itself, without the prerequisite of obedience titles.

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