My Newest Favorite Dog Sport
Sometimes I think I am a Golden Retriever cause I get so excited about things!
Okay, so the sport is BRAND SPANKING NEW but that makes it even more exciting for me. I may get to be one of the inaugural, successful competitors (okay I may be giving myself props that I don’t deserve here) but I have set my ambitions high.
Those of you who know me, or read my articles often, know that in previous times I have hated competition. In some ways I don’t like how it feels, I don’t like being in the spotlight. I hate feeling judged (I am a classic introvert in most cases), but I love spending time with my dog and I love WINNING.
I know that sounds arrogant! But when I finally found a protection sport I thought I liked, I began competing in another more easily found AKC obedience sport to get me over my butterflies and my desire to vomit prior to going into the competition ring.
Fury and I spent most of our short, little Rally career winning, and I don’t want to brag but it felt kind of good. And, although some people were nice to us, a lot of them hated seeing us coming because she has a pretty good focused heel.
I didn’t even realize it but I got an email in February that we had qualified for AKC Rally Nationals. I know some people work really hard to get invited to a National event; they watch their scores and keep an eye on competitors and probably even know when they have qualified; not me!
I actually almost deleted our invite because I thought it was spam! When I calmed down and got over the awe of the experience, I was proud of both of us, not only did I do something that was totally out of my comfort zone I had done it well enough to beat out thousands of other competitors.
And, I have kind of caught the competition bug even though I still want to vomit prior to going in the ring and I have a lot of work to do. I LOVE (love, love) doggy protection sports and I love them because they are fun and they are not easy to play and title in!
Funny thing is the AKC Obedience world is a lot less precise than the Protection Dog Sport world (which is where I want to be) and I have a lot of learning to do. For all my accomplishments and my years of training I feel like a tiny fish in an ocean of sharks (kind sharks by the way ;) most of the people in this world of sports are wonderfully kind and accepting).
I Dabbled in Schutzhund…
I dabbled in Schutzhund for a few years but I found a lot of the aspects of it boring and quite frankly so did my dog he even found the bite work repetitive and tedious, it just wasn’t as fun as I thought it should be.
I learned a lot about training, and eye contact and focus and more precise obedience with more control (for more on eye contact and focus click here).
You see if you do protection work with your dog, it requires a superior amount of control because you are actively teaching your dog a biting sport and you want control over those lips and teeth ;)
I Like Ring Sports
French Ring and Mondio Ring I find extremely intriguing and LOVE watching (especially the French decoys) but there are aspects of each of these sports and some dangers that they pose to my dog’s body that I have not been completely comfortable with and on top of that it is hard to find a training club here in the US.
I may reconsider these sports at some point in my life but for right now they aren’t right for me and my current dog.
I Got Started in PSA
I got started in PSA and I love some aspects of the sport, but until the introduction of this new sport this was the avenue I had chosen for me and my dogs.
But there are some things I HATE about this sport and some things I love. It is truly a love/hate relationship.
In the upper levels of this sport there are no rules, and by that I mean… well, there are no set rules.
Of course you have to have a well-trained dog and you have to be a fantastic trainer but you don’t always know what to train for, the individual judge gets to decide what the people and their dogs will do (sometimes the night before) in the level 3.
It still intrigues me, I must confess, but because there are no set specifics and sometimes the judging is dependent more on the judge than the skill it makes it almost impossible to train for and achieve a title.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to have this kind of obedience and will still strive for it… but I also want to win and achieve some titles. I don’t want to be trialing for years with little hope of success. And, trust me, I have seen some great dogs fail over and over and over again!
In PSA’s 11 year history there have been approximately 1000 members and numerous dogs compete but only approximately 10 dogs have received their PSA 3 title. Again, this is intriguing to try and attain something that is nearly impossible to achieve, and yet I know my dog (the one I have right now) will never make it.
It isn’t very structured in a lot of aspects and scenarios and things are constantly changing (sometimes just a few brief weeks before you think you are ready for trial... this happened to me). Sometimes I think it is just getting more difficult which makes it exasperating to train towards.
And sometimes it seems there goal is to run dogs from the field and whereas I understand they want to only title tough dogs, I think it is sad to want to ruin or traumatize a dog.
I will probably continue to dabble and do some of the training and attend some trials but for now I want a more structured protection dog training sport where we stand a chance.
I love this sport because there is amazing structure without losing the aspect of fun for the competitor and the dog (my dog LOVES it).
NADF is all set patterns and set exercises.
I know exactly what to train for at home and how many points will be deducted when I (or my dog) make a mistake because the judges score sheets are made public on their website. This also means that it shouldn’t matter what judge you or anyone else trials under the score should be the same across the board and no matter who or where you are (or what breed you have).
That makes it sound easy right? It is far from “easy” it is definitely a challenge and yet with dedication and training all titles and levels should be attainable.
It is a compilation of all the sports I have mentioned and some others but it has its own flair and excitement. The sport includes skills and exercises that will promote hander success while rigorously testing the training and quality of the dog and still be fun.
And, time and consideration was taken to ensure the safety of the dogs and the decoys. It isn’t all about testosterone (although there is plenty of that to fill your needs) it is more important that dogs and decoys are as safe as possible.
This is especially important to me as the owner of a “pet dog”; she is no working dog, she is never going to have a litter of puppies (she is spayed) let’s face it… she is an upside down house sloth when she isn’t training. So her health and longevity especially in her old age is really important to me; I don’t want a 5 year old dog that feels like she is 12 or 13, which would break my heart.
Whereas I understand protection dog training sports are full contact, I want her to be as safe as possible!
And, although they are looking for tough dogs too, and only tough dogs will make it through to get their titles; their goal is not to run dogs from the trial field and I like that!
Want to Play or (more appropriately) Compete?
Have you always wanted to delve into the world of Protection Dog Sports you are thinking about finding a puppy or a dog and you want to spend every waking moment eating, sleeping and breathing dog training (okay maybe it’s not this bad but protection sports take a lot of time and energy!).
Or maybe you already have a dog that you do protection sports with but want to try something else, new and different!
Check out their website at www.NADFK9.org
Come out to training weekends, find a club, start a club or just start training the obedience at home until one crops up in your area.
There are incredible benefits for becoming a club.
If you are a judge for another similar sport or a decoy/helper check them out and see about crossing your skills over and becoming a foundation member.
I would like for those of us in America to have a sport that we can put our names on and be proud of; a sport that truly tests the dog and handler and sets our region and countries apart so we can compete with some of the European Dog Sports and I would like to see this one succeed!
So share this with all your friends and let’s make it happen and someday I look forward to meeting you and your dog on the trial field!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.