Mastering Rally Skills: Teaching Your Dog to Ignore Rally Signs and Cones with Ease

March 23, 2024

Embarking on the journey of rally with your dog can be rewarding, but it’s crucial not to overlook a skill that’s often underestimated – ignore the signs and cones on the ground. In the competitive world of rally, these seemingly insignificant objects can become significant distractions for your dog. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to train your dog to gracefully navigate through the course, paying little attention to the signs and cones that may try to steal their focus.


Acclimating to Distractions


Before even contemplating entering the rally ring, it’s essential to ensure that your dog is acclimated to the presence of signs and has been trained to handle the distractions they may pose. Additionally, these seemingly innocent objects can be surprisingly distracting for dogs with a history of enthusiastically running around cones. The key is gradually introducing your dog to these elements and training them to focus on you amidst potential distractions.



Training Techniques to Ignore Rally Signs


To start this training journey, position a sign against a cone or use a sign holder, opting for cardstock for added thickness. When introducing your dog to the setup, encourage them to inspect the sign and cone, rewarding them generously when they shift their attention back to you. Gradually move around the room, reinforcing attention with treats. As your dog becomes more adept at ignoring the sign, introduce a cue like “get it” and reward them for checking in after the treat is thrown past the sign.


Progressing Through Distractions


As your dog becomes proficient at ignoring the signs, take the training a step further. Stand near the sign and cue simple behaviors, such as sitting, gradually progressing to heeling around the sign.


Striking a Balance


During the course, signs will often be on your right, except for those indicating a change of direction, which will be directly in front of you and your dog. Get your dog used to working all around the signs. Striking the right balance is crucial, as you need to perform the sign within two feet of it. Ensure your dog is comfortable working in close proximity without knocking the sign over, which could result in point deductions.



Patience and Progress


Take your time acclimating your dog to signs and cones on the ground. If your dog seems overwhelmed, gradually increase the distance and only cue behaviors when they willingly offer you attention. A patient approach ensures that your dog builds confidence and masters the art of ignoring distractions effectively.


Real-Life Example: Ignore Rally Signs


Watch the following video of me and Excel working on ignoring signs during a rally course. Notice the gradual progression from rewarding eye contact to confidently heeling around the signs. Excel’s readiness to move on is evident when he offers to get into heel position after a few rounds of offering eye contact.



Teaching your dog to ignore rally signs and cones is an integral part of rally training. By patiently reinforcing positive behaviors, you’ll equip your dog with the skills needed to navigate the course, undeterred by distractions.


If you need help training your dog to ignore distractions, check out my April 2024 class Rally Beyond the Basics!  This course covers many skills including ignoring rally signs and courses.  You can find more information here!

Do you want to up your rally game??

If you’ve started dabbling in Rally but am not sure where to go from here, I’ve got the class for you!  Improve foundation skills, heeling, connection, and more in my class, Rally: Beyond the Basics!  Prepare yourself for trials too, by learning how to memorize signs and courses, reduce stress, and prevent common errors.  Topics such as distractions, generalization, and building longer chains will also be covered.

Wherever you are in your Rally journey, I will meet you there!

Registration opens on March 22nd.  The 6-week class will start on April 1st!


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