The Frenchring program was designed for the purposes of perpetuating working lines through breeding practices; and using this program as a means of standardization.
Assuming that the necessary genetic material exists; on average, it takes anywhere from 2-4 years (many variables influence the time frame) to complete the training of a dog from Brevet through Ring III. The program is divided into 3 sections in the following order: Jumping, Obedience, Protection. In Brevet, a dog must earn 75% of points in the two biting exercises, or will not earn its certificate, regardless of how well it does in the other exercises.
What attracted me to this discipline was the program’s flexibility in allowing every trainer’s creativity to ‘flow’. Every dog that I’ve seen compete, performed in a different manner. No two dogs worked in the same manner. The French believed that the program was so challenging, that it would filter out the weaker athletes (genetic), as well as those that performed below average due to weak training techniques. So in essence, it was designed to test the dog’s physical, and mental thresholds, as well as the handling and training techniques. As a result, in order to do well in this program, it’s essential that the dog is versatile, of sound mind and body, and the handler is proficient and knowledgeable in his training techniques. There are many variables that you cannot control, or prepare for in the bitework exercises. There are always surprises; especially with French Decoys!
A major component of this program demands that the dog be able to work and think independently and without direction. For lack of a better term, the dogs have to ‘make decisions on their own’ or ‘discriminate’ without direction from their handlers. Intelligence is a necessary component. There are several people on the trial field and some in close vicinity of the dog and handler; therefore temperament is crucial, as vicious dogs are not tolerated.
The Ring III level can be extremely grueling, as the dog works on the field without stopping for 40 minutes. There are no breaks. Endurance is another crucial component. As almost all trials are in the summer, the temperatures can be as high as 90+ degrees with no shade on the trial field. Conditioning plays a big role in Ring.
The French Decoys are some of the best athletes that a dog sport has to offer. They are the source of most of the stress for the dog. French Decoys are about art, finesse, and technique. It takes years of practice and experience to be able to reach this level of athleticism and ability. The program also allows for the Decoy to use a baton or bamboo stick that has been split several times to provide a loud clattering sound. Some dogs, even though seemingly sound with the gun, are intimidated by the sound and/or contact with the baton. Contact with the baton can be made as many as 30+ times in a 15 second bite (some much higher), in level III.
The jumps provide a problem for many Ring dogs, as the dog must be structurally sound and taught the proper technique in timing, judging height and distance, and landing correctly. If any of these are missing, then the dog will eventually break down, whether it’s due to training or structure. Again, this was designed to filter out the weak dogs from the strong ones.
The program also tries to ensure that the Ring III dogs are able to maintain their level of work. If a dog scores more than two times below a certain score, then it must go back to Ring II for a complete year, before it can attempt to trial again in Ring III. In each consecutive level, the intensity and stress increase proportionately, as does the judging. It’s not unusual to see numbers of competitors decrease dramatically the higher the level. There are numerous trials with no Ring III entries.
The obedience IMO is rather basic. The exercises are relatively simple and not too demanding. However they were not designed to assess precision, animation or level of difficulty. They were designed to assess compliancy and promptness. I have seen many dogs with great prey / bite drive, not even execute one obedience exercise. In other words the program has done the job it was designed to do.
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Author: B. Brinac Copyright © 2000 by Great Lakes Working Dogs. All rights reserved.