Obedience and flair helps Great Pyrenees vye for national title
Allan Ross, director of training at Best Friends Pet Care, leads Daizee Dawg over a jump Monday. The great pyrenees is training for a competition at the end of the month in Melrose Park that, if she succeeds, will earn her accolades no dog in her breed h
Updated: March 18, 2013 1:16AM
PRAIRIE VIEW — Hidden behind the surprising skills of possibly the most talented dog in the breed were the medical operations — and bills — that Sue Rogull would have to put Daizee Dawg through to bring those skills out.
Rogull made those choices, and by the end of this month, Daizee Dawg could be the first great pyrenees to win the Association of Pet Dog Trainers’s top award.
But what is most remarkable about Daizee Dawg, Rogull said, is what she has already achieved. She is the first great pyrenees to compete for that title — indeed, most experts in dog obedience told Rogull that what she and Daizee have done would normally be impossible.
“They are not bred to follow directions,” Rogull said Monday. “They want to be doing the thinking.”
Rogull and Daizee Dawg will compete from Jan. 26-27 at an APDT no-leash event in Melrose Park; if they bring in more of the 210-point perfect scores that they have become accustomed to, Daizee will be the first great pyrenees to earn the circuit’s combined championship. They show in the “rally obedience” division, in which owners verbally lead their partners through an obstacle course of sorts — a series of 20 stations at which the human gives the dog a command, but both have moves to carry out.
Rally obedience judges watch not only Daizee Dog’s moves, they watch Rogull’s footwork. Rogull said the team’s weak link was always its human half.
“Daizee always gets a perfect score,” she said. “I can make any mistake possible.
“And Allan can fix it.”
“Allan” is Allan Ross, the director of training at Best Friends Pet Care. In his practice facility, the walls are lined with ribbons that dogs owned by Rogull and his other clients have brought home. And while he played Rogull’s compliments off (“She wants to give me all the credit”), he confirmed that Daizee is the strong side of the team.
“Sue really isn’t that coordinated or that good, but she goes out there and gets perfect scores with Daizee,” he said.
The partnership’s roots go back to 2006, years before Daizee was born; Rogull wanted a companion for herself and the elderly aunt she lived with, and settled on Onslow, a golden labradoodle. What grabbed her attention, she said, was Onslow’s over-the-top friendliness — to be exact, his attempts to leap out of the pet store’s pen to get to Rogull.
A year into their relationship, Onslow’s energy had not calmed.
“Nothing was wrong with him, he was just wild,” Rogull said. “He was slamming into people, he was pulling me off my feet, he was knocking my aunt over. Exuberant.”
Rogull went on a Caribbean cruise in 2007, and deposited Onslow with Best Friends for a two-week stay. The labradoodle spent that time with Ross, and when Rogull returned, she found that she owned a completely different, obedient dog.
She enrolled her canine in Ross’s classes; in 2009, fellow student Cathi Overend learned about the APDT’s off-leash rally obedience competitions, and she and Rogull got their dogs involved. Onslow’s space on Ross’s wall started filling up with colorful accolades, and Rogull enjoyed showing.
In 2010, she wanted another dog, a great pyrenees. She went to Tip ‘N Chip breeders in Barrington and settled on a nine-week-old puppy who just seemed special.
She wanted to name her new friend Daisy. But, “There’s so many Daisys,” thus the unique spelling and the Dawg at the end.
The great pyrenees breed stems back at least 600 years to the same-named mountains of Spain and France, where shepherds trained the dogs to guard their sheep. Huge, muscular and naturally nocturnal, the breed is known to be aggressive toward predators, protective of weaker animals…and thinkers, meant to operate while their owners slept.
They do not do leashes — great for rally obedience competitions. But, they also do not do obedience classes.
“A pyrenees wants to please one person: herself,” Rogull said.
But she brought her new companion to Ross’s class regardless — and at that first visit, both could see that Daizee Dawg was different.
“Daizee is super, super willing to please,” Rogull said. “That’s what allows Daizee to work off-leash. But, even given that, pyrenees are stubborn. You’ve got to keep challenging them. You’ve got to keep that dog’s attention. Otherwise, they’re going to quit.”
But as they started training Daizee to do what tradition said could not be done, they found out that the road would be more difficult than it first appeared. Daisy turned out to suffer from a trio of health problems, none connected to her breeding: a misshapen back-left knee, a rare disorder that made her lethargic, and another disorder that kept her from metabolizing fat.
The knee required a surgery that would cost thousands; the lethargy required expensive medications; the digestive problem put major limitations on her diet. Rogull said she never considered holding back.
“That’s not what I’m made of,” she said.
The result: Daizee’s health returned, and she can now turn, stand and leap over hurdles with the best of the obedience-oriented breeds. Now more than 2 years old and a rally obedience veteran, Daizee’s portion of Ross’ wall is filling up with her own awards.
Next weekend, uncharted success awaits. Ross said his ultimate goal is for Daizee to compete for the American Kennel Club’s obedience title, an honor even Rogull said could be within reach.
“She’s the only pyrenees who can do it,” Rogull said.