as Taught by Sean Siggins
(PSA Director of Decoys)
The sport of PSA (Protection Sports Association) has evolved since its inception in 2001. Training, rules, and levels have all changed over the last 20+ years. Naturally decoying in the sport has also evolved. Trial decoys are critiqued openly by competitors and spectators, and privately (officially) by judges and senior decoys. There is a great level of pride, and professionalism for trial decoys, which also carries a burden of decoying within the rules of the sport, while also keeping dogs safe during trials, and returning them to their handlers in the same condition they were sent downfield to the decoy.
The below 13 points relating to the mechanics and techniques of the PSA catch, are a collection of personal notes I have taken while learning, assisting, and teaching PSA decoy certification camps under the guidance of Sean Siggins, PSA Director of Decoys.
While there are a variety of catches in the sport of PSA, including leg catches, the majority of catches from PDC to PSA3, follow the below guidelines for a left bicep targeting upper body dog. The following 13 points are a summary of how the PSA catch, in particular the PSA1 courage test, is taught to decoys at certification camps.
Bag: The bag is gripped in the left hand as the decoy runs toward the dog. The bag should be thrown in an under arm motion, early enough to make sure a clear presentation is given to the dog as it runs toward the decoy. The goal of the bag toss is to distract the dog and influence the dog’s commitment to the strike. The bag should be thrown in an underarm motion, low, across the path of the dog, toward the left shoulder of the dog. The bag should not strike the dog.
Spot: After the bag has been thrown, the decoy should naturally move their left arm up toward the dog “spotting the dog.” The decoy should be moving toward the line of the dog. If the dog’s line has drastically been altered due to a lack of commitment, or being distracted by the bag, the decoy should continue to run toward the dog and whatever new line has been established.
Open to 45: Once the dog is 20-25 feet from striking the decoy, the decoy should open their left arm up, straight, to a 45 degree angle, providing a clear presentation for the dog to bite. The left hand should not be lower than the chest, or higher than the chin.
Stutter: The decoy should gauge the speed of the dog to set their footwork correctly for the bite and transition. This can be accomplished through stuttering of the feet, while continuing to move forward toward the dog. Stuttering is not necessary if the decoy and dog have timed their bite perfectly, but is an acceptable method to put the decoy in the correct position for the catch. It is important for decoys to “hold their line” toward the dog, and not step or drift off line in an attempt to put the dog on the target arm.
Catch: As the dog is 6-10 feet away, and launching for the bite, the decoy should be on their left foot, moving toward the dog. As the dog is in the air, and entering the bicep to bite, the decoy should collapse their elbow, allowing the dog to be absorbed through the entry. Common mistakes are tracking the dog into the bite with the target arm, opening up the target arm too wide (past 45 degrees), closing the target arm, or dropping the bicep target down low, close to the torso as the decoy braces for contact.
Plant: At the point of contact, the decoy should be on their right foot, and opening up their hips to allow the dog to flow through safely. During this part of the catch, it is important for the decoy not to “fan” the dog, or allow it to fly out and away from the decoy. Fanning the dog can be dangerous for the dog as it eventually lands, and increases the likelihood of the decoy falling during the catch, as the center of gravity drifts outside the decoy’s core.
Get Low: As the energy and force of the dog meets the energy and force of the decoy, the decoy should lower their hips to drop their center of gravity which will help prevent the dog from taking the decoy to the ground. Lowering of the hips will allow the decoy to flow into the transition easier.
Transition: The decoy should stay wide with their feet, creating a solid base for movement and balance. The right foot is planted and the left foot sweeps around becoming the lead foot for the direction of travel in the drive. It is important for the decoy to sweep the left leg low and “kick up grass” maintaining a low center of gravity to stay in control and not allow the dog to dictate position or take advantage of a shift in center of gravity.
Hand to Hip: The correct drive position requires the left hand of the decoy to be on their right hip. This position keeps the dog tucked in a drive position that allows the decoy to control the direction of travel. Common problems in this phase of the catch, are allowing the dog to float in front of the decoy, which often leads to the decoy needing to reset their drive.
Right Leg Through: The decoys first step in the drive, after the transition, should be a powerful right leg movement through the front side of the dog. This motion puts the dog in the correct position by “clearing” and discourages the dog from posting its front legs on the decoy, and makes the dog behave in the drive, giving the decoy control in the drive.
Elbow in Direction of Travel: During the drive, the left elbow should be pointed in the direction of travel. The left elbow should be high in the drive, allowing the dog to flow across the decoy’s torso and hips. The left hand should low, attempting to touch the right hip.
Drive: The PSA drive should be powerful, fast, and consistent. During this part of the PSA catch sequence, the decoy has the opportunity to test the commitment of the dog while engaging on the bite. The drive should usually (depending on exercise or directions for surprise scenarios) be in the direction of the judge, allowing the judge to assess the grip and commitment of the dog in the drive.
Stick Hits: During the drive, the decoy is permitted to give three stick hits to the dog. In between the stick hits, the decoy should continue to make the stick “clatter” in a rhythmic motion over the dog. Ideally, one stick would occur as the drive begins, a second stick hit during the drive, and a third right before the judge or steward has indicated for the decoy to freeze up. Stick hits should be in a downward striking motion during the drive, aiming for the outside shoulder muscles of the dog. If the dog’s position in the drive does not allow the decoy to strike safely, the stick hit should not be performed until the decoy has corrected the position and is able to deliver a safe hit.
Written by Josh Kirby