What Comes After the Rally Novice Title? Differences Between Novice and Intermediate Rally

October 19, 2020

The virtual rally titling program has allowed so many teams to earn the Rally Novice title through the AKC.  Many people would like to continue but are a bit intimidated by the next level.

Intermediate Versus Advanced

The Intermediate and Advanced signs are exactly the same, with the one exception that there are no jumps in Intermediate.  The only other difference is that Intermediate is performed on leash, and Advanced is off leash.

The jump to the Intermediate/Advanced level isn’t as large as some people think, especially if your dog has well-trained foundations.  Each additional skill needed for Intermediate simply builds on skills your dog already knows from Novice.  Let’s get into the details of what additional skills you need for earning a virtual rally Intermediate title!

Additional Skills Needed For Intermediate

In Intermediate, you are introduced to turns after halts.  If your dog knows how to sit at halt, and how to heel with you regardless of the direction of travel, these skills are easy-peasy!  You will see the Halt About Turn Forward and Halt U Turn Forward signs.

Pivots are another new skill introduced in the Intermediate level.  So what’s the difference between a pivot and a turn?  A turn is a change of direction and includes your feet separating as you step out.  A pivot is a change of direction performed with your feet together.  Think of being on a paper plate and completing a direction change – that’s a pivot.

Here are a couple of videos showing the difference between a pivot and turn.



Judges are looking specifically at your turn verses pivot footwork on the following signs: Halt Turn Right 1 Step Call to Heel Halt, Halt 90 degree Pivot Halt, Halt 180 degree Pivot Halt, and Halt Pivot Forward.  Pay particular attention to your footwork on those signs.

The figure 8 exercise is the same as Novice, except you will have some distractions on the ground that you pass during your figure 8.  These distractions are usually 2 toys or 2 covered food bowls.

You will also have to build on your dog’s lateral movement skills.  In Novice, the sidestep was a moving one.  In Intermediate, you are introduced to Halt Side Step Right Halt.  The judge is looking for the dog to show an understanding of the sideways movement.  The other lateral sign is the 2 Side Steps Right Forward.  During this sign, you stop your forward movement and move directly to your right for two steps.  Your dog should stay parallel to you and move laterally with you.

In the Intermediate level, your dog has to show a more thorough understanding of the front position.  There are some signs which do not allow you to step backward as you call your dog to front, but instead your dog needs to be able to go from a halt in heel position to a front position without any foot movement on your part.  These signs include 3 sits: a sit at heel, a sit at front, and a second sit at heel position, and are the Halt Call Front Finish (Right or Left) signs.

You were introduced to position changes in heel position at the Novice level, and in Intermediate/Advanced they get slightly more complicated.  First, your dog will need to perform a stand from a sit in heel position.  One sign will require your dog to do the position change from sit to stand, and the other will ask for the same position change, but then you’ll have to walk around your dog.  Your dog will also need to perform a sit, down, sit in heel position.

Sign number 121, Leave 2 Steps Call to Heel Forward, is perhaps one of the most incorrectly-performed signs in rally, so I’m giving this sign it’s very own paragraph!  For this sign, you halt and your dog sits.  Tell your dog to stay, then move out 2 steps and pause.  Then at the same time, call your dog and step out.  Your dog should hurry to catch up with you.  The two common mistakes on this sign are forgetting the pause, or calling your dog and not leaving until he/she catches up.  Here’s a quick video example of how this sign should be performed.

There are a couple of turn signs during which the dog circles the handler.  I find them very fun, but they are trouble for some teams!  Your dog must have a very strong “around” cue or another word that means circle you.  These signs are Right Turn Dog Circles Right Forward and Left Turn Dog Circles Right Forward.  While heeling, you turn the correct direction and cue your dog to circle you, pausing until the dog clears your path, then heel forward.  Here’s what it looks like!

The last addition of skills to the Intermediate and Advanced Class is the ability for the dog to stay while you step to front, then finish.  These signs are the Halt Step in Front Finish Left/Right Forward.  This requires a simple stay and a good understanding of the finish.

Need Some Extra Help?

As you can see, all of the Intermediate/Advanced signs require skills that build on those you already have through Novice.  There is a bit of additional training required but overall your dog has the skills to move onto Intermediate!  Do you want some help earning that virtual Rally Intermediate title?  Check out my webinar, Rally ‘Round the Camera Continued: Earning a Virtual Rally Intermediate Title.  We’ll discuss how to video, how to set up your courses, rules, tips and tricks, and more!  In addition, we’ll walk through each of the 5 Rally Intermediate courses sign by sign and you’ll learn exactly how to perform the signs.  If your goal is a Rally Intermediate title and you want to take advantage of the virtual opportunity, please join me on Thursday Oct. 22.  Find out more information and register here:



Join me for my best rally class!

From Good to GREAT: Increasing Your Rally Scores is my favorite class to teach!  If you want strategies to implement immediately to better your scores, this class will do it!

We’ll also cover improving your skills so your dog is more accurate, as well as spending time working on learning signs so you know exactly what to do!

Your investment on this class will help you walk out of the ring with better scores!

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


  1. Carol Everetts

    Virtual Rally Intermediate … do Rally signs need to be standing on wire holders? Your video has signs flat on matting, is that just for clearer viewing of exercises? I submitted one video for Rally Intermediate #1 and got a pretty good score of 99 pts so hope to finish this title doing two more courses with my 2 yr old Golden.

    • Nicole Wiebusch

      Hi Carol! No they don’t need to be on holders for the virtual stuff. The judge just needs to see where you and the dog are in relation to the signs. They can be flat or upright, as long as they can be seen.

    • Judy becker

      Will my dog nq in rally intermediate virtual if at one point she stopped to scratch her ear? No one seems to know

      • Nicole Wiebusch

        No, your dog will no NQ. You will probably lose a point for out of position or slow to respond.

  2. KellyAnn

    For RI, is the leash 6 ft?

    • Nicole Wiebusch

      There is no leash length requirement in AKC Rally.


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