A few weeks ago, as many of you know, we hosted a CARO rally trial. We offered most regular classes with the exception of Excellent Team and Versatility Excellent (not many folks working at this level yet). We also offered the new Working Level as a For Exhibition Only (FEO) run.
What is the Working Level?
If you are not familiar with the working level you can read the working handbook at the CARO website. Essentially the working level is a series of 10 exercises, broken into two groups. All of the exercises involve distance work, directional work, object discrimination and scent discrimination. Many of the exercises are similar to CKC (or AKC) Open and Utility exercises.
I designed a Working Level Novice I course (is attached below) because this is the current entry level for teams that have achieved their Canadian Rally Advanced (CRA) Title. In this instance it was not incredibly difficult to design the course because I had a 60′ x 70′ ring at my disposal but I think smaller venues will be challenged. I also have a feeling that we won’t see much variation in course design with this level because, there are only 5 stations and because competitors may complete exercises in any order they prefer. For a PDF version of the course above, click here.
Course Set Up
To say working level course set up is intensive is an understatement. It took us 30-40 minutes to set the course vs 20 minutes for a full course changeup in regular classes. I am sure part of this was because this was our first time but part was also because there was some confusion about exact measurements for the barrel racing exercise.
We had 3 teams participate. One team included a dog working at the Excellent level in CARO with a CKC OTCH, one team is working at the Excellent level and the other finished their Versatility title that weekend and is working in agility.
- All of the runs were completed in under 5 minutes so think the current allowance of 10 minutes to complete the course is very generous.
- All of the teams qualified in at least one exercise.
- None of the dogs or handlers seemed disturbed by the change in set up from a directional course to a “handler’s choice” course
Judging the runs is fairly simple, once a person understands the rules – I found myself referring to the rule book a lot however I think as Bear and I train more for this event and as I see more teams competing it will become easier.
I think the working level could be rather interesting, especially in an area where there are a lot of competitors working at the Excellent level or higher. There are certainly a lot of challenges, even for a dog that has attained an OTCH or a MACH.
Not so Good
I have a feeling trial offerings in the Working Stream will be rather slim for the following reasons
- Working level takes longer, and given the set up time required I don’t think it will be possible to fit as many runs in a day as with other levels. Clubs are going to have to charge more for a working run in order to be able to pay their judges.
- Less densely populated areas may have trouble drumming up entries based on the current entry point (after CRA title).
- It could be difficult to add Working Levels into an already packed day of Rally.
I think there are is one thing that might help make working level more accessible and therefore more feasible (financially) for trial hosts – another entry point for novice dogs and handlers. I have submitted a proposal to CARO executive and am looking forward to their feedback on this.
I think a lot of the foundation skills for the Working Level Novice exercises are great ‘thinking skills’ for dogs and I think owners will have a lot of fun teaching them. We’ve been successful locally with a class we call Canine Cross Training at Two Brown Dogs Canine Consultants which teaches dogs and handlers that works on a lot of skills that would be useful in in any dog sport – be it rally, obedience or agility. Typically I would say the dogs and owners in our Cross Training classes are great teams but not quite ready for the brain load that is Rally Obedience. For Some reason, a 5 exercise course (even with more difficult exercises) appeals to them more than a 20 exercise course.
I think the CARO Working Stream has a lot of potential and would love to “play” with my dog. We’re certainly going to stay up to date on developments here in Brandon, MB although I think we’re a while away from offering a trial.