JOPLIN, Mo. —
A dog's award-winning proficiency at obedience never would have happened without its disobedience.
"The first night I had put him in the kennel, he let himself and two other dogs out," said Ronda Murphy of her standard poodle, Bailey. "The next night, he let all of the dogs out. I realized he was too smart for his own good, and it was time to go to training."
Training began about four years ago for Bailey. The latest result is a first-place finish at a recent American Kennel Club competition. The AKX Rally Obedience National Competition, held this month in Tulsa, featured 168 teams from 38 states and Canada.
Bailey and Murphy finished in first place with scores of 99 and 98. The competition included tests of agility and obedience manifested in an obstacle course of sorts. As the handler moves through the course and gives commands, the dog is judged by its ability to maneuver the course and obey.
Qualifying for the national competition required four first-place finishes in lower class rankings at regional competitions, Murphy said.
"What people don't realize is that this kind of competition exists," Murphy said. "They know about Westminster, but this is about the athletic side of a dog, its agility."
Murphy, 48, is an experienced dog owner. She has owned all sorts of breeds, from miniature poodles to a Norwegian elk hound. For a while she raised and bred long-haired Daschunds.
But for the longest time, she wanted a standard poodle. After visiting a breeder, she chose a puppy that kept coming back to her. Her boyfriend ended up giving the dog his name: Bailey Black Bear.
"He looked like a bear as a puppy," Murphy said. "We had no idea that he would turn out to be the biggest standard poodle I've ever seen."
Measuring 29 inches at the shoulders and weighing 98 pounds, Bailey still thinks of himself as a lapdog. He has an outgoing personality and isn't shy in the least, Murphy said.
Bigger than toy and miniature poodles, standard poodles were bred originally as retrievers and hunters, she said.
"They aren't like the smaller breeds, where they chew (constantly)," Murphy said. "They don't shed, they are hypoallergenic and one of the smartest breeds out there. You see a lot of them at competitions."
Murphy found out early on how smart Bailey was, after his episode of letting the other dogs out. She started training him at the Tri-State Kennel Club in Joplin about four years ago, and got her first look at obedience and agility courses.
"When I saw what they were doing, I thought that I wanted my dog to do that, and I was hooked," Murphy said.
After showing off some good skills, other members recommended entering Bailey into some obedience competitions. After entering their first show in 2010, Bailey won third place.
"Now I'm really hooked," Murphy said.
After training hard for two years, Murphy and Bailey now train occasionally and compete often. Murphy sticks to competitions that are an easy drive away, so that Bailey doesn't have to sleep in a different place.