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PSA Dog Sport – Everything You Need to Know

Protection Sports Association also known as PSA is one of the newest K9 sports. PSA was founded by Jerry Bradshaw of Tarheel Canine Training in 2001. Dogs in PSA are tested in both obedience and protection. To qualify to trial in PSA, the dogs need to earn a Protection Dog Certificate (PDC). Following this there are three levels of trials, PSA1, PSA2 and PSA3. A dog and handler team needs to pass two legs of each level in order to earn a title in that level. 

Obedience program for PSA Dog  

PSA differentiates itself by having decoys on the field actively agitating dogs during its obedience. In order to pass, the dog must perform its obedience routine without being distracted by decoys. 

In PSA 1, a decoy is deployed to sit in a chair during the entire routine and serves a distraction for the dog. The handler must be able to recall the dog into the heel position despite a decoy being right in front of the dog.  In PSA 2, more than one decoy jogs around the dog and the handler team. During this, the decoys verbally interact with the team and provide food refusal exercises and distraction. During the routine, along with food refusal and distractions, the dogs are given position-changing exercises like jumping, retrieving and heeling.   

The handler team knows the potential routines for PSA 1 and PSA 2. The PSA 3 obedience routine remains unknown to the handler team until the day of the trial.

In PSA 3, the decoys run up on the dog in an agitated manner, and actively try to get the dog to bite them. Despite this, the dog must continue to obey all of its handler’s commands and avoid biting a decoy. 

PSA Protection Program  

The Protection Dog Certificate and PSA 1 have hidden sleeve bites during the scenario of car-jacking, handler attacks, and courage tests. The PSA 1 courage test is said to be the signature exercise for PSA Dogs. The protection routine in PSA 1 contains five surprise scenarios. The judge picks one of the five surprise scenarios for the trial day.   

The hidden sleeve bite is mandatory in PDC and PSA 1 and is optional, based on the judges’ discretion in the upper levels. PSA 2 has four protection scenarios for PSA dogs. Three protection programs are known to the competitors ahead of time. Three of these are Fended Off Attack Behind the Vehicle, Call-Off, 2 Decoy courage tests, and one is the surprise scenario, which the judges determine on the day of trial. For PSA 3, there are broad guidelines, which are provided to the judges to create scenarios based on call-off, environmental stability test, searching exercise or a muzzle attack, and a courage test. The handlers only learn about the scenarios on trial day. 

PDC (Protection Dog Certificate)  

PDC is the entry-level program which has two divisions. One is the Sleeve Division, and the other is the Suit Division. To earn the right to compete in the higher-level competitions, dogs must receive the Suit Division certificate.   

PSA 1  

To be eligible for PSA 1, the dog should earn have earned its PDC. The dog must then earn the passing score for obedience and protection in order to earn its PSA 1 title.

PSA 2  

Once a dog has successfully passed the PSA 1 level, it is eligible for PSA 2. A  dog should have a passing score for both obedience and protection, earning them one leg of its’  PSA 2 title. The dog must then repeat this feat at another trial in order to earn its PSA 2 title.    

PSA 3  

Dogs who have earned their PSA 2 can compete for PSA 3 level. Teams should secure passing scores for obedience and protection separately in two different trials in order to earn their PSA 3. Upon the completion of both, the PSA 3 title is awarded. Once a dog is awarded PSA 3 title, they enter into the PSA 3 Club.   

The PSA 3 Club is the one of the most exclusive groups in dog sports. Only 24 dog and handler teams have made it into this club in the sport’s 20 year history. The difficulty of earning a PSA 3 sets the sport apart from others such as IGP, French Ring, Mondio Ring etc. 

Members of the PSA 3 Club  

  • K9 Ricardo – handler Jerry Bradshaw  
  • K9 Porter – handler Lamont Houson  
  • K9 Senna – handler Robert Wademan  
  • K9 Rocky – handler Jerry Bradshaw  
  • K9 Bullet – handler Tom Roach  
  • K9 Asja – handler Greg Williams  
  • K9 Blitzen – handler Arial Peldunas  
  • K9 Rex – handler Hillel Schwartzman  
  • K9 Zuko – handler Janet Dooley  
  • K9 Uzi – handler Jonathan Katz  
  • K9 Copa – handler Tai Nero  
  • K9 Moses – handler Joe Parks  
  • K9 Seven – handler Georgia Estes  
  • K9 Fosko – handler Steve Roberts  
  • K9 Odin – handler Kerry Engels  
  • K9 Rocky – handler Ray Medina  
  • K9 Feloyn – handler Megan Hamby  
  • K9 Ichi – handler Kieli Atherton  
  • K9 Danny – handler Janet Edwards  
  • K9 Tuco – handler Stacey Beller  
  • K9 Cougar – handler Jonathan Katz  
  • K9 Kasino – handler Darrick Rose  
  • K9 Cosmo – handler Bob Campanile  
  • K9 Riot – handler Walt Quense  

PSA Hall of Fame

A few of these dog and handler teams have made it into the PSA hall of fame. For both the handler and the dog, the Hall of fame is an honor. 

  • K9 Moses: Moses earned the title of PSA 1 when he was two years old. To earn PSA 2, Moses took 12 chances to pass the PSA 2 level. It was the 13th time when Moses earned the PSA 2 title. He received PSA 3 title in 2014. He was the 12 PSA dogs who achieved PSA 3. In 2016, Moses passed away and earned the honor of the posthumous Hall of fame in 2017.   
  • K9 Zuko: Zuko earned the title of PSA 1 in 2007. Zuko was the National Champion in 2007. It was in 2009 when Zuko earned PSA 2. After PSA 2, Zuko suffered from Lymes disease but fought back and earned the PSA 3 title in 2012. In the year 2016, Zuko received the Hall of fame title.   
  • K9 Asja: Asja received the titles of PSA 2 in 2007. In 2008 she was the East Coast Regional Champ. Her handler Greg introduced her to PSA 3 in 2009 and earned the title at once. She developed lymphosarcoma in 2005 and then passed away two months later in September. She was honored with the Hall of fame in 2015.  

Conclusion

One of the hardest dog sports, PSA is less about exact precision in obedience but more about testing a dog and handler team’s ability to succeed together on the field and achieve the goals set out to them. PSA is a dream sport for handlers and dogs, who go through strict discipline and commands while training to overcome any obstacle and distraction. PSA is not for the feint of heart and requires many years of training and adhering to a strict regimen.  

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