September 18, 2010

PSA Regional

I went to watch the PSA regional competition in Cincinnati today.  Very interesting.  It is a protection based sport and is more realistic that some of the other ones I have seen.  They start with basic obedience, including heeling along a trail of toys and other objects that might tempt the dog's attention to the ground. At higher levels, there are decoys in bite suits (the same guys the dog will bite on later) walking/running right next to the working team and the dog has to ignore them.  At higher levels, it also includes a retrieve of any object- this trial, the judge used a cordless drill with the battery removed (an odd shaped, off balance and heavy unusual object).  The dog has to maintain focus on the task at hand through the sound of gun fire too. On the stay, when the handler walks away, the decoys near the dog toss toys, food and other objects near the dog to try to see if the dog will break the stay.  It was impressive to see the dogs do all this.

Then after lunch was the protection phase for those dogs that passed their obedience portion. It started with a simulated car jacking (or in this case, a truck jacking):
It's hard to see, but the handler and dog are in the vehicle when the "bad guy" approached and "asked for directions". Just as he was turning away, he came back and raised his left arm, which had a "hidden sleeve"- meaning the protective sleeve that the dog bites was hidden by clothing and was not visible as a bite sleeve. When the dog gripped the sleeve, he fired two shots (one low, one high) while yelling.  When the judge (in blue) told him to freeze, the handler cued the dog to let go and the decoy moved away.

Another interesting scenario was the long distance send from the car/van. The handler in black is approached by a decoy who said "That guy just stole my keys!" as he points to the other decoy across the field (the guy in blue is the judge and he's stationed half way across the field when the dog gets sent).  The handler sends his dog to get the second handler who is all the way across the field and waving a stick and yelling at the dog.  But this exercise has two parts.  On one send, the dog is called off from the bite half way there and on the other send the dog is expected to go all the way to engagement.  But the handler doesn't know (until the day of the competition) which order those will happen.
At the higher level, there are 2 decoys that run toward the handler at the same time.  The dog is sent to engage one (his choice I think), but the second continues on to "attack" the handler. The handler has to call the dog off the decoy that is fighting the dog to have him engage the one attacking the handler.

There is also an exercise where the dog is sent by the handler around a "blind" (hiding place for the decoy) and the decoy does something to try to deter the dog from biting.  At this competition, the decoy dumped an entire bin full of toys, balls and empty water bottles on the dog as soon as he came around the corner (most of the pile of contents is not visible in this photo). Then used the empty bin as a shield as the dog circles and looks for an opening to a leg or arm.

One exercise I didn't get a photo of was where the dog was put in the front seat of the minivan and then the handler walked to the back of the vehicle.  A decoy came up from behind the vehicle and "attacked" the handler while yelling "Stay! Stay! Stay!".  One dog did hesitate, but most didn't.

It was very exiting to watch the dogs figure out how to get the "bad guy" (only when they were supposed to), and still be listening to the handler and stop as soon as they were told (even before the bite in some cases) and be able to focus on the handler and their job around the decoys and others on the field who weren't wearing bite suits.

So if you have an opportunity to watch a PSA (Protection Sports Association) trial, definitely go! The Nationals will be held in Columbus Ohio October 16-17.