Local dog lovers find passion for French sport

Local dog lovers find passion for French sport

RATHDRUM – Lynn Peacock’s simple command, “Ziva, attack,” sent her 1-year-old German shepherd into a full sprint until its teeth latched onto decoy, Saul Garcia, who was sporting a padded bite suit.

The defense of handler exercise was part of the Inland Empire Working Dog Club’s French Ring dog handler seminar over the weekend at Kelley and Craig Lewis’ property off Idaho state Highway 53 southwest of Rathdrum.

French Ring, which originated in France as the name suggests, is a sport that tests a dog’s obedience, jumping and protection skills.

“It’s a really interesting sport that dogs need to have a lot of self -control,” said Kelley Lewis, secretary and treasurer of the dog club.

Her husband, Craig Lewis, is president of the club.

The couple’s property includes a large lawn equipped with hurdles, broad jumps, blinds, painted field markings and other French Ring equipment.

That’s where Peacock, a member of the dog club, and about 10 others used French commands to lead their dogs through exercises Saturday under the guidance of Garcia and reigning Canadian French Ring champion Julie Valero in preparation for the sport’s trial season this summer.

Garcia and Valero offered tips and techniques as well as explained the sport’s new rules set last year .

Kelley Lewis said the two experts participated in Canadian, Mexican and French trials since last year and know what judges look for at the competitions. She said Valero won the Canadian national championship, took second place in the Mexican national championship and recently won in France.

Garcia, a certified Level 2 decoy, said decoys must ensure they can absorb the impact of a sprinting dog set to bite them, so the dogs don’t injure their necks and spines.

“Priority No. 1 is the safety of the dog,” he said.

The decoy is also responsible at trial for taking away points from the dog and handler for any mistakes.

Garcia, a Calgary, Alberta, resident and longtime employee of Air Canada, said he also trains dogs, including police and personal protection dogs, and is a French Ring dog handler. He said he’s working with Spokane police’s K-9 unit.

“I love watching the dogs developing and evolving in the sport,” he said.

Peacock hopes to earn her French Ring Brevet certificate at the dog club-hosted trial in July.

After earning the Brevet, dog handlers and their dogs can work toward Ring I, Ring II and Ring III levels. Each level gets more difficult and makes greater demands from the dog.

Peacock and Ziva train with the club on Saturdays.

“My kids are grown, so I’m used to spending Saturday mornings on a field,” Peacock said.

She said she likes when her dog has an “aha moment” while learning something new in the sport. She also enjoys the camaraderie among club members, who make the trainings feel like a team sport.

“I’m just glad I’ve managed to find the right people in the right place to do something I enjoy,” Peacock said.

Craig Perry, vice president of the club, trained with his 2-year-old Dutch shepherd, Talon, Saturday.

Perry said he enjoys training Talon and watching him have fun on the field.

Like Peacock, Perry also hopes to achieve his Brevet. His trial will be in June in Canada. He said he also wants to earn his Ring I in June but if he fails, he will try again at the Rathdrum trial in July.

“It’s a lot of time and commitment, truthfully,” Perry said of the sport.

Kelley Lewis took her and her husband’s 2-year-old Dutch shepherd, Tornade, through exercises over the weekend.

Tornade, which is French for “tornado,” and Talon are siblings.

Kelley Lewis said a handler must develop a strong bond with their dog to be successful in French Ring.

“It goes way beyond just having a pet,” she said. “Your connection with your dog is vital for getting through these exercises.”

Kelley Lewis also owns and operates Country Canine, where she grooms and trains dogs.

“That’s my life,” she said. “I train, I groom, I do everything dogs.”

Related Articles