Lodi hosted the Bay Area Ring Club's French Ring Trial on Saturday. There were lots of beautiful Germans, Belgians, and Dutchies, plus some Cane Corsas, Dobermans, and a pit bull. The ringside bleachers were cheerful, filled with spectators and young sport dogs-- because apparently, dogs are allowed to the fence at French Ring Trials. The result is dogs who are composed and focused in the midst of crowds, clapping, gunshots, and wild activity on the field.

The competing dogs put on a great display of strength, speed, and poise. Seeing the harmony between dog and handler as they navigate a very complex and demanding series of exercises is a marvel. The sweetness and cooperation of these powerful and confident dogs and the skill of the handlers in communicating with them has few comparisons on earth.

I have only been to a couple of trials and have a hard time sorting the difference between a "French Ring" and "Mondio Ring". If you are not familiar with protection sports, here is a brief intro to the different disciplines:

IPO (formerly Schutzhund): big 'ol German shepherds and some other dogs jump over things, sniff the ground, and bite guys on the arm while they wave a stick. Short routines but trials go for several days. Field is exceedingly neat and appears freshly mowed. Spectators slightly drunk.

French Ring: Michelin Man hops around like a grasshopper, gets bit all over by fired up Malinois'; thrashing, firing blanks and beating the dogs with a stick doesn't save him. Dog leap over huge jumps; routines are long. Bleepy horn honks in background. Field is neat and orderly. Spectators tipsy but supportive.

Mondio Ring: Michelin Man gets bit on the leg and arm by fired up dogs of all shapes and sizes; sometimes he waves things in dogs' faces and occasionally fires blanks. Dogs leap over huge jumps; routines are long. Bleepy horn attempts to keep order. Spectators moderately raucous and always on the side of the dog. Weird junk and art projects strewn all over the field.

Belgian Ring: Crazy dogs rip through all obstacles to hammer guys standing around in bitesuits. Huge jumps. Dogs sometimes get to muzzle-whip peasants. Pleasant bell jingles. Field is an creative obstacle course.

Dutch KNPV: Serious German, Belgian & Dutch Shepherds with biting and guarding fetishes. Lots of bicycles.