trō'jən - "...Of courageous determination or energy.  One who shows the pluck, endurance,

     determined energy, or the like, attributed to the defenders of Troy."

Rottweiler Breeder, German Rottweilers, German rottweiler puppies, Rottweiler Stud dog, Rotti puppies, British Columbia, Rotties, Rotts,


By Bob Dixon

In July of 1986, a seminar was held in Parker, Colorado. This seminar was the introduction of French Ring Sport to the American working dog population. Many of the Trainers and working dog enthusiasts that attended the seminar were totally impressed with the degree of training, the difficulty of some of the exercises and totally shocked at the degree of control that the French trainers had achieved with their Ring Dogs. The 5 days of seminar left most of us walking around  babbling about what we had witnessed. Some of the French training theories were totally opposite from the theories that had been around in this country for many years. The French approach to the methods of training were very simple and methodical. Many of us were so impressed that we had several meetings, hastily put together, in the evenings and off hours to organize a National Ring Sport Association which was later called the American Ring Federation, A.R.F. The person that got this movement going was Stuart Hilliard of Larkspur, Colorado. Several dignitaries from France volunteered to come to America, at their own expense, to share their very popular Sport with us. Ms. Bernard Ajoulas, a long standing Judge of the Sport and President of the French Ring Sub-Commission, Jean Claude LaLanne a very experienced Decoy brought over his Ring III, Belgian Malinois, Snap. Jean Michael Moreau, also a very accomplished Decoy and suit maker and Michael Hasbrook, a very knowledgeable enthusiast of Ring and the Author of a Column in Dog Sport Magazine, called "The European Scene" and his Ring III, German Shepherd, "Sioux" were the dignitaries that conducted the seminar. 

The Agility Exercises:

The very first exercise that got our complete and undivided attention was the "Palisades". The Palisades is a vertical wall 8 foot 3 inches tall. The handler and dog walked up to about 6 feet from the wall, where the dog was given a stay command, the handler then walked forward to the wall, leaned against it and commanded his dog to jump, the dog, without hesitation, leaped up the wall and down the back side in an almost effortless fashion. The crowd all stood there looking at this in disbelief. About the time that we convinced ourselves that we really did not see what we had just seen, the handler commanded the dog to jump again. The dog plummeted up the wall, down the front side and immediately ran and sat at Heel position with his tail wagging away. Most of us have been around Police dog training or at least were familiar with the Police 6 foot wall, but 8'3"? The United States Police Canine Association has dropped the six foot wall from their program because many of their dogs had too much difficulty doing the exercise and because they had too many injuries and they had a catch platform on the back side of the wall, so the dogs only had to come down about 3 feet to the platform, then another 3 feet down to the ground. The handler, then, heeled his dog over to another Jump that looked like a standard A.K.C. Obedience Hurdle, but as we approached it, we saw that it was about 4 feet high and it had a pit in the ground in front of the hurdle. The pit was 5 feet square so the dog had to jump over the pit and be high enough in the air to clear the 4 foot hurdle. Once the dog cleared the hurdle and the pit, he was commanded to "down", after a moment the handler commanded the dog to jump back over the hurdle and the pit. The return jump is executed with the dog jumping over the hurdle and pit, which means that the dog cannot see the pit, yet he cleared the entire jump and hurdle with no problem at all. This was very impressive, especially in the age where A.K.C. is lowering their 36 inch hurdle because of the degree of difficulty and the "danger" to the dog. We later found out that their dogs are seldom ever hurt on this jump, if the dog is sound and you teach "proper" jumping techniques. " The object is not just to get the dog over the jump, the object is to teach the dog to jump correctly just as you would teach any athlete to jump correctly, so that it requires the least amount of effort, combined with the maximum degree of safety." Since that time we have been working our dogs on these jumps and have "never" had an injury in four years.

At first these jumps looked like impossible feats, much too difficult for our dogs, but as we learned the proper training methods, we found out that we were just "fearing the unknown". After working in Ring Sport for four years, these jumps are just another exercise. Our club has several 90 - 95 pound shepherds that are doing these jumps. The jumps are much easier for light bodied dogs like the Malinois, but the bigger dogs can also do the jumps. The really heavy dogs may never get to maximum point levels such as the heights that I have been mentioning. These heights are for maximum points at Ring III level. The Hurdle starts off at 39", over a 5' pit, at Ring I level. Ring II level is 43" and Ring III is 47", so don't think that 47" is what all dogs have to jump. For example, at Ring III level if your dog can only jump a 43" hurdle he will receive 16 points, instead or 20 points for doing 47". The palisades exercise does not start until Ring II level and maximum height is only 6', which is like rolling off a log. At Ring II level there is also a Broad jump. The Broad jump is 9"9" minimum and 12"6" for maximum points at Ring II level. Ring III level is 14'10" for maximum points. Most heavy dogs like the 95 pound Shepherd can do a broad jump of 12"6". To some people this sounds like a very difficult jump, when they are used to the A.K.C. Broad jump, which is under 6' long but it really is not all that difficult, it is just that a 6' Broad Jump in ridiculously short and the Ring Dogs can have any reasonable running distance for the dog to clear the jump. they are not limited to and 8' running start. Most of the dogs use about a 20' running distance before the Broad Jump. 

The 3 Retrieves:

The retrieves are a little different than the retrieves that most people are used to doing. The first one is a standard Thrown Retrieve.  The handler has the dog sitting beside him on a stay command, he removes a retrieve item from his pocket, throws the item approximately 5 meters and, upon the Judges signal, he sends the dog to get it. The dog must return the item by sitting in close front of the handler and the handler takes the item from the dog's mouth and commands the dog to Heel. The exercise is timed, the dog has 5 seconds to return the item to the handler, because the exercise is timed you do not want to throw the item too much further than the 5 meters. The second retrieve is a "Seen Retrieve". The handler and dog are Heeling down the field, the handler removes a retrieve item from the side pocket of the jacket, on the same side as the dog is heeling on and drops the item, the dog must break off from the Heel, without a command, and retrieve the item. The dog must run past the handler and return the item by sitting in front of the handler, the handler removes the item from the dog's mouth and sends the dog to Heel position. The third retrieve is an "Unseen Retrieve". The handler heels the dog down field, dropping the item from the pocket on the opposite side from where the dog is Heeling, so the dog does not see the item drop, the team walks down to the 30 meter line, turns to face back in the direction they came from and upon the Judges signal, the handler sends his dog back down field to find and retrieve the item in the usual manner.

Ring I has the Thrown Retrieve, Ring II has the Thrown Retrieve and the Seen Retrieve and Ring III has all three retrieves. 

Heel On Leash/Heel Off Leash with a Muzzle:

The heeling exercises are far more practical than A.K.C. where you have to put a square across in front of the dog to make sure that the dog is sitting perfectly aligned with the handler or in Schutzhund where the handler walks at 90 miles per hour with their arms swinging like a windmill. In French Ring Sport the handler is required to walk in a "natural" fashion and the turns are also done in a natural fashion instead of square turns, etc. The major difference is that at the beginning of the exercise the handler commands the dog to "heel" and no matter how many times he stops or starts, the command cannot be repeated, the dog is to Heel until told to do otherwise. If, during the exercise, the leash comes up tight, the dog will receive a zero for the Heel on Leash. The "Heel Off Leash" is done the same way, but the dog is wearing a muzzle. In Europe, you can take your dog to public places and if anyone complains or feels threatened by the presence of your dog, you must either, remove your dog or put a muzzle on the dog and the persons complaining have to accept the presence of your dog. (That is something that the U.S. should adopt). So because of this fact, the dogs in Europe are generally trained to function with a muzzle. 

Food Refusal Exercise:

The dog is placed on a Down, Stay while the handler goes to a place of concealment. The assistant to the Judge will go to about 3 meters from the dog and throw four pieces of food to the dog, the dog is not allowed to touch or lick the food or leave the spot where he was left. In Ring II and III the Judge will place six more pieces of food on the ground in key locations where the Judge knows the dog will be for some of the other exercises. The Food Refusal exercise does not end until the dog leaves the field after all his competition work is over. The food may be poultry, fish, beef or cheese and the size of the pieces must not be any larger than a fist.

The Six Changes of Position:

The Judge, before the Trial, will draw the order of the positions from a hat. The positions are sit, down and stand. The handler leaves his dog at a pre-determined spot on the field and walks to a line about 18 meters away from the dog, the handler turns and faces the dog with the Deputy Judge standing behind the handler. The Deputy Judge will whisper the position to the handler. The handler then commands his dog to assume that position and this is repeated until all six positions have been completed. The dog is penalized for missed positions and for each one half meter that the dog moves forward as he/she is changing into the positions. The exercise ends after the dog is recalled to the handler and the dog recalls to heel position. This exercise is in all three levels of Ring.

The Long Sit/Down

In Ring I the exercise is always a long down. In Ring II and III the position is drawn from a hat to see if it will be a long sit or a long down. The handler commands his/her dog to sit or down and then walks to a place of hiding. The sit or the down is for a period of one minute from the time the handler disappears from the dog, which may be a considerable distance away from the dog. If the handler looks back at his dog as he/she is going to the place of concealment, they will be penalized 5 points. Also at Ring II and III there will probably be a nice, big piece of food laying at the spot where the dog is sitting or laying. If the dog touches the bait it will cost them 20 points. 

The Send Away:

The dog and handler walk to a line of departure, a starting line, where the handler will command his dog to run straight down field until the dog crosses the 30 meter line and the handler will recall his dog and the dog returns and sits at heel position. This is a 12 point exercise and the dog is penalized for not going straight and the dog must return at the same speed that he went out. 

That concludes the Agility and the Obedience exercises of French Ring Sport. The next article I will cover is the Protection exercises. There are seven exercises in the Protection Phase and the controls are instant and they must be that way or the penalties are severe. The control requirements of this sport are the reason that attracted me to the sport in the first place. 

The Most Misunderstood Concept in America: 

Protection sport training is probably the most misunderstood training in existence in the United States. Many people think that sport protection training is making the dogs vicious and aggressive towards people. The handlers that are involved with the training get a big laugh about this situation, but this confusion does not help the popularity of the Sports. The dogs are not taught to bite the person, but to bite the fabric. In the basic training the dog is taught to play with a burlap sack, sort of a tug of war. The dog is then graduated to seizing a tube or burlap and stuffing. Then the dog is graduated to a leg sleeve and then to a Ring suit. If the decoy, the man in the suit, were to take off the suit and shake it around the dog will grab the suit and start a tug of war, in the same manner as he/she did with the burlap sack. If the decoy were to run away holding the suit, dangling from an out stretched hand, exposing the rest of the man to the dog, the dog would grasp the suit and pay no attention to the man. The dog is taught to grab the fabric. The decoy is friendly towards the dog and many times, in training, the dog will climb up in the decoy's lap and lick his face, immediately after the protection session is over. We encourage this behavior all through the training, after all this is a "Sport". The dogs can leave the protection field and mingle with total strangers, which occurs at all the trials as the dog is leaving the trial field and there has never been an incident because the dogs like people. If you watched a dog on the field tugging away at the suit on the man, you would see his tail wagging away, because he likes his tug of war game. This is what Sport Protection training is all about, a tug of war on the fabric! Now on to the exercises. 

Defense of the Handler:

The handler and the dog start Heeling down field and the decoy walks towards them from the other end of the field. The handler can only command his dog to heel at the beginning of the exercise and this command cannot be repeated through out the exercise. The decoy and dog team meet, they carry on a conversation, shake hands and the dog must be tolerant of the decoy. The decoy walks off to the rear of the team and the team walks forward. Once the decoy has walk behind them by about 5 paces, he turns and starts to follow them. The decoy walks faster than the team and when he catches up to them, the decoy attacks the handler from behind. The dog must defend the handler immediately, by seizing the decoy. The decoy will fight the dog for approximately 10 seconds, at which time, the Judge signals the handler to "out" his dog. The handler commands his dog "Fido, out" and the dog must instantly let go of the decoy and remain in a close guard until the handler commands his dog to "Heel". Once the dog is back in heel position, the Judge will signal the end of the exercise. The dog will be penalized at a rate of 2 1/2 points per second for each second the dog stays on the fabric after the command. In order to qualify in the Brevet level, the lowest level, the team must receive at least 75% of the score for each protection exercise and 75% of the overall score available. For example, all the Obedience and Protection exercises total up to 100 points. The team must receive 75 points, over all, to qualify. They must, also, get 22.5 points out of 30 on each one of the Protection exercises. So, if the team loses more than 7.5 points on any one of the Protection exercises, they will be disqualified and they will have to try again at another Trial. Two seconds of biting after the command to stop will be 2.5 points from being disqualified, that is considering that they did not lose any points somewhere else in the exercise. The Guard, itself, is worth 5 points. So, you can see, it is very easy to disqualify, unless your dog is superbly trained.

Jim and Eifel....the first Ring III bitch in North America

The Face Attaque:

The handler places his dog in a sit, down or stand stay, on one command and the handler cannot move or touch his dog until the exercise is over. The decoy comes out in front of the dog and handler, threatens them, rattles a bamboo stick and then runs down field to about the 30 meter line. The Judge signals the handler to send his dog. The decoy turns and faces the dog, threatening him with the stick as he approaches, the dog must immediately seize him. The dog will be struck several times with the stick during the 15 second fight with the decoy. The stick hits make more noise than inflicting pain because of the design of the split bamboo stick. The sound produced by the split bamboo is a very unnerving sound which would scare off many dogs. Therefore the dog must have a very stable temperament. After about 15 seconds of struggling with the decoy, the Judge will signal the handler to recall his dog. Once the dog is commanded to cease biting, with one command, the dog must immediately let go and be back at the handlers side within 30 seconds or get zero for the exercise. 

The Stopped Attaque:

The Stopped Attaque is set up exactly like the Face Attaque except that after the dog is sent and when he arrives within 2 meters, 6 feet 6 inches from the decoy, the handler commands the dog to Heel. The dog must immediately break off, without touching the decoy and return to the handler and sit at heel position. This was the exercise that sold me on the Sport. The dog is running at about 30 to 35 miles per hour and yet he will immediately respond to the call off, very impressive!

The Fleeing Exercise:

This exercise is set up just like the last two exercises except that the decoy does not turn to face the dog. He continues to run away. The dog grasps the fabric and struggles with the decoy who continues to try to get away, while threatening with the bamboo stick. After about 15 seconds the Judge will signal and the handler commands his dog to heel. The dog must immediately release his grip and return to the handler's side and the Judge ends the exercise.

The Revolver Exercise:

The handler heels his dog to the line of departure and commands him into position (sit, down or stand) followed by the command him to STAY. The decoy will run down field to the 40 meter line and upon the Judges signal the handler sends his dog. As the dog approaches the decoy, he will fire a single shot when the dog is 12 meters from him, again at 7 meters and a third shot once the dog is in grasp. The decoy will combat the dog for 15 seconds and upon the Judges signal, the handler commands the dog to release the fabric, once the dog has released the handler commands him to "Guard" and the dog must stay close to the decoy to prevent him from escaping. The Judge will wait 10 seconds before giving the decoy a hand signal to escape and the decoy can wait a few more seconds if he feels he can escape the dog at a moment of inattention from the dog. The decoy will freeze once he is firmly grasped and the handler commands the dog to release and guard. After a 5 second guard the decoy will receive a hand signal from the Judge for a second escape. After the escape and once he is firmly grabbed, he will freeze and the handler commands the dog to release and guard again. After another 5 seconds the judge will signal you to go downfield to disarm the decoy. Your dog must guard the decoy until you arrive and disarm the decoy. The dog is commanded to heel and the dog must break away from the decoy and heel away with the handler. The Judge will signal the end of the exercise. 

The Search and Transport:

The dog is brought to the line of departure and placed for the send. The dog is sent out to find the decoy, who is hiding in one of six blinds that are scattered about the field. Once the dog finds the decoy, the dog stays close to him and barks until the handler arrives at the blind. The decoy tries to escape, firing a shot from a blank gun and the dog immediately grasps the fabric. The handler commands the dog to release. Once the dog releases the decoy makes another escape firing the gun and the dog grasps the fabric again. This time the handler disarms the decoy, walks to the rear of the decoy and the dog has to guard the decoy as he walks a pattern on the field on the way back to the Judge's table. During this transport, the decoy will make 2 attempts to get away and each time the dog grasps the fabric and is commanded to cease. At the end of the transport the handler commands the dog to guard, while the handler walks to the Judge's table and places the gun on the table and returns to the dog's side, ending the exercise by heeling the dog away.

The Guard of the Object:

The most difficult of all the exercises is the Guard of the Object. The handler takes a suitcase or cooler or basket out onto the field and leaves the dog with the object, telling him to guard. The handler walks away and goes into hiding. The decoy comes out and tries to steal the object. The dog cannot leave the object by more than 1 meter, 39 inches, without out a penalty. The decoy tries to play head games with the dog to get him to leave the object to try to steal some points from him. Once the decoy is within 1 meter form the object the dog should grasp the fabric. The decoy will freeze for 5 seconds and then try to drag the dog away from the object, the dog is not to leave the object, so he is to let go and return to the object. When the dog lets go, the decoy will walk away and return for another attempt. The handler is in hiding so there is no way that he can help the dog or command him in any way. It is between the decoy and the dog. The Judge can authorize 2 more attempts if he is not satisfied with the dog's vigilance or if the last attempt was shaky. This exercise requires many months of training to perfect, if it is ever "perfected". 

This is the most challenging sport that I have ever seen and is a very exciting sport. It requires a commitment to achieve the higher levels. Most people like a sport that you can get you titles after three or four months of training. A good handler that has a good Training Director will be in training for about 9 months to a year before they achieve their first title in Ring Sport. The handlers and dogs that have any Ring titles have "Earned it the Old Fashion way", they truly worked for it. If a title is easy to get, then everyone would have one. In Ring Sport it takes a well balanced, confident dog because this sport is definitely a test of the dog's mind and body! 







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