Dog owners are always on the lookout for new sporting events in which to register their canine friends; many are looking for outlets to help the dogs work off the energy that comes with being bred for a specific purpose. There are a variety of canine competitive events in which dogs can participate; it's just a question of finding which one or ones best suit your breed. Amstaff owners are no different and love to show off the skills of their amazing, yet poorly understood, breed. One of the events in which Amstaffs often participate and at which they often excel is French Ring Sport. This sport originally hails from France and was originally developed about one hundred years ago for the purpose of testing breeding stock for their ability to be good protection dogs. The sport was brought to North America in 1986; organizations have developed, as have internationally recognized titles.
French Ring Sport tests dogs on a variety of levels, including jumping, obedience and somewhat of a one on one confrontation between a dog and a decoy that involves courage, intelligence and speed. On the French Ring playing field, you'll see a dog, his handler, a decoy and two judges; one is the main judge, while the other is the deputy judge. This last figure is responsible for accompanying the dog handler from one exercise location to the next, holding the dog's collar, leash and muzzle and observing the handler during an exercise so as to report any cheating attempts to the main judge. There are various levels to the sport, with each successive level being harder than the previous one.
Essentially, the sport involves a dog performing a variety of exercises that fall into certain categories: jumps, obedience, protection, decoy work and attacks. The decoy is a man dressed in heavily padded clothing for protection, whose purpose it is to simulate attacks on the dog and/or handler; the dog must attack, disarm, immobilize and escort the decoy. The decoy's ultimate aim is to make the dogŁthe competition by exposing the dog's weaknesses. Before the dog meets the decoy, he must first perform some basic obedience exercises. The dog is required to heel on a leash and to heel with a muzzle; the latter exercise is done off leash and the dog must follow a complex pattern indicated by the main judge. The dog must also be able to perform a long sit or down and must be able to ignore strategically placed food baits. He must perform jumps of various heights and retrieves. The dog must then attack the decoy on command in various scenarios; the decoy could be facing the dog, running away, threatening with gestures or with a gun, hiding, attacking the handler, or trying to steal an object. Depending on how well the dog does, he is awarded points; these points are then added up and the dog earns titles for each level that he passes.