It’s customary to see Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, and Shetland Sheepdogs at the AKC National Obedience Championship. Among them in the 2023 competition is the shaggy, tawny, and powerful Briard, OTCH Classique Dior Jack of All Trades, also known as “Bruce Lee.”
Karol Paulus is Bruce Lee’s trainer, handler, and co-owner, along with Denise Simenauer of Dior Briards. Nine-year-old Bruce has been the top Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) Briard for the past four years and has been invited to compete at AKC NOC each of those years.
Getting Involved with Briards
During her career as a dog groomer, Paulus got to know a variety of dog breeds that she hadn’t been exposed to. When she got started in Obedience training, she started with Doberman Pinschers and then Bouvier des Flandres. It wasn’t until later that Briards came into the picture.
“The Briard is a strong, loyal herding dog. Their temperament and work ethic makes them easy to train and show,” Paulus explains. “Briards enjoy having a job to do, and obedience training is a good outlet for their energy and desire to be busy and to learn new things.” She competes with Briards in Conformation, AKC Rally, Obedience, and Agility.
Training Bruce Lee
The biggest challenge to training a Briard in obedience is their size, according to Paulus. The breed can reach 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 100 pounds. “When starting out in training, their size can be an issue when teaching positioning,” she says. With any dog, Paulus explains, the key is to start training when they’re young and to use positive reinforcement and rewards.
She usually trains her dogs in her own backyard, teaching them to be very attentive to her and respond to signals and verbal commands. “I use a step-by-step training program, being careful not to skip steps or take shortcuts. When getting ready for a trial, I just remind Bruce of the exercises and all the parts of each exercise. I keep show preparation simple. I don’t want my dogs to worry, but to feel comfortable performing.”
Obedient Dogs Make Good Companions
Working with a dog in Obedience yields benefits that go beyond the competition ring. “The biggest benefit is that you always will have a great house companion. Most of the skills taught in obedience carry over to home living, and I like a dog with good manners,” Paulus explains.
When asked what advice she would give to someone trying to choose a dog for obedience work, she says, “Pick a breed you have a love for. That makes training more fun. My dogs are family first and obedience workers second.”
She also suggests choosing a dog with energy and stamina, one who enjoys training. When a dog is food– or toy-motivated, that can help a lot with training. “And be sure to choose a dog whose energy level matches your lifestyle.”
Prioritizing Bruce’s Mental and Physical Stamina
Before they can compete successfully, dogs must be in good shape. Obedience training and competition require the dog to have great physical stamina, as well as the ability to focus mentally. Paulus makes sure her dogs have a proper diet and get plenty of rest.
When entering a competition, Paulus’ goal is to have Bruce Lee work at his highest level. On the day of the competition, before they enter the ring, she checks out the ring patterns, exercises, and running order. “I’ll be careful to notice if something distracts or upsets my dog or makes him uneasy.”
There’s always a chance something unexpected can happen during competition. “Like most exhibitors have experienced, my dogs have fouled—urinated in—the ring,” she recalls. “Whenever that happens, it’s very embarrassing, but you learn that this happens sometimes, and you just move on.”
What Does the Future Hold?
Paulus has set her sights on becoming a judge for Obedience and AKC Rally competitions. The judging process takes a long time and can be difficult, but she has submitted her application for Obedience and taken the first in a series of tests.
And for Bruce? “Obedience is a sport you can participate in for the lifetime of the dog,” says Paulus. So continue looking for this Briard showing off his hard work in the competition ring in years to come.