For the uninitiated, Brevet, Ring I, Ring 2, Ring 3 are all titles that can be earned in French Ring Sport, a competitive sport that’s been developing in France into its present form for about 100 years, but not introduced into North America until 1986. Fast, intense, and difficult, various exercises in both obedience and protection consist of a handler and dog team, and an aggressor known as the “decoy.” Exercises are scored on a point basis, and a certain number of points must be accumulated to pass the routine. The Brevet and Levels 1-3 contain 100, 200, 300, and 400 points, respectively. Each team has to have two passing scores under two different “legs” (or routines) to advance to the next level.
As far as we can tell, the biggest differences between French Ring and Schutzhund is that FR has no tracking, the order of exercises is random, the decoy wears a full body suit so that the dog can bite anywhere on the suit, and when the team walks on the field, they complete the exercises all at once. In Schutzhund, there is tracking, the decoy only wears a sleeve, and the trial is broken up into three portions: Tracking, obedience, and protection. A break between exercises is allowed. We don’t think that food is involved in Schutzhund other than as bait, but in one French Ring work competition, a dog has to refuse any food thrown his way while he is in the “down stay” position. If we read the rules correctly, four pieces of food are thrown down, and the dog must refuse to eat them. If a piece accidentally lands in the dog’s mouth, the dog has to spit it out. As “over-the-top” exacting as this seems, it makes sense if one considers “bad guys” trying to incapacitate a guard dog with poisoned meat.
French Ring competition is so demanding that France has over 700 ring sport clubs, and more than 2,000 dogs start the trial year hoping to make it to the “Coupe de France” championship that occurs every June in France. Ultimately, however, only around 25 dogs are invited to the championship trial, and only two awards are given at the end: The Champion of France in Ring is given to the dog with the highest score totaling the scores of the selectives and the “Coupe,” the other is winner of the “Coupe.”
Not surprisingly in a sport that focuses on working protection dogs, common breeds seen competing are Dutch Shepherds and German Shepherd Dogs, along with some Rottweilers, Dobermans, and American Bulldogs. A staggering number of “BBMs,” however, appear on any list of French Ring Sport champions regardless of county, and that is the Berger Belge Malinois, or Belgian Malinois.
Click here if you have an hour and a half to watch the 2017 French Championship. We did find a two minute version that included the food refusal bit:
We’d love to hear from readers who’ve participated in French Ring Sport!
About our image: Although unrelated to French Ring Sport, we share a photograph above of a life-size bronze statue of a MARSOC* dog in front of the multi-purpose canine facility at Camp Lejeune. The Belgian Malinois wearing a full deployment kit honors fallen MPC Flex and all military dogs, and in particular, it may remember “Flex,” a Belgian Malinois killed while trying to save the Marines killed in 2013 while conducting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan. The attack killed Flex’s handler, Corporal David M. Sonkam, and Marine Staff Sgt. Eric D. Christian. We will never forget their sacrifice.
*MARSOC: Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command