• J. Pope

Competitor Spotlight

Updated: Dec 22, 2019

Josh Kirby & Brew PSA1

I meet Josh just under two years ago at a PSA trial here in Houston. Most of the decoy's at this particular trial were from Tom Rose School (TRS), with the exception of Josh. Since I attended TRS, the alumni tend to gravitate towards one another at events. So we ended up talking about dogs and SDN. I was there to hone my skills as a photographer and see old friends.

We were able to link up with Josh in the beginning of Oct at a PSA Decoy Certification Camp hosted in Conway, AR. He happen to bring his pup Brew with him. Josh wanted some shots of Brew, since she just earned her PSA1 recently. She is a beautiful dog, we were happy to snap some pictures of her.

For as young as Brew is, her obedience is spot on. The level of control Josh has with her is extremely impressive.

So we asked Josh if he wouldn't mind being our first competitor spotlight and to answer a handful of questions related to his dog and the sport of PSA.

We were happy that he said yes. Check out the interview below. #dogs #sportdogs #PSAk9 #dogtrainer


SDN - How long have you been training dogs?

Josh - I’ve trained dogs since 2005 when I became a K-9 handler for my police department. Training looked a lot different than it does now. We were very “old school” in the methods we used at the time and almost exclusively trained obedience with compulsion in the positive punishment quadrant. Fortunately, we evolved and became better trainers and ultimately produced better dogs as a result.

SDN - Only mals?

Josh - Brew is my first mal, although I have trained many others. Both of my police dogs during my time in K-9 were GSD’s as the department preferred the breed.

SDN - Is Brew your first sport/working dog?

Josh - Brew is my first sport dog, and my third working dog.


SDN - Did your adventure in PSA start as a decoy?

Josh - I was a police K-9 handler at the time and heard about a personal protection trial happening close by. I went to check it out and happened to arrive at the beginning of level three obedience. I was blown away with what I saw, and knew that my dog or any of the dogs in my unit couldn’t do any of what I was witnessing.

That made me seek out Darrick Rose who really helped take my training to the next level and opened my eyes to the level of control that was actually possibly, while still having a tough street dog.

Of course, Darrick wanted me to decoy when I would come to his club, and decoys trained for free so I was all for it. That started my journey as a PSA decoy and I really enjoyed the training and importance of the decoy in building the dogs. #psadecoy #k9handler #dog #bitedogs

SDN - How long have you been a decoy?

Josh - I have decoyed since 2004, and decoyed for PSA since 2014.

SDN - You are the one of the senior decoys for PSA correct?

Josh - Yes, I am a senior decoy.

SDN - How did you become a senior decoy in PSA?

Josh - Senior decoy was formerly awarded after being a trial decoy for 4 years and having worked the minimum amount of trials each year (3 every two year period) and also be selected to work a regional or national event.

SDN - What responsibilities come with the title?

Josh - The process has changed for this year as senior decoys now have a greater responsibility at trials. Senior decoys are expected to complete evals on junior decoys at trials now, so the process for senior decoy selection has changed. On top of the former process, senior decoys now have to be approved by the board of directors and the director of decoys. 

Senior decoy is something I take seriously because you work with the judge to decide who will work each scenario. The senior decoy should also make sure the junior decoys are squared away with their responsibilities and know what to do.

SDN - Any perks?

Josh - I wouldn’t say there are any perks to being a senior decoy other than every trial must have a senior decoy so you end up being requested for more trials.

SDN - How many trials have you worked as a decoy?

Josh - I would estimate somewhere around 40 trials total. The last two years, I have worked 12-14 each year.

SDN - How many countries?

Josh - Three countries total: The US, Canada, and recently in India

SDN - As a decoy during trials, do you always agree with the judge’s call?

Josh - I really don’t pay a lot of attention to the judge’s scoring at a trial. I really stay focused on my job as a decoy and making sure the junior decoys are squared away and ready to go. I focus on being consistent with my work, smooth in the catch, and powerful in the drive. I will say that I feel the great majority of judging is very fair and consistent. There are judges with reputations of being harder than most, but they are consistently hard across the board.


SDN - Why start competing?

Josh - I didn’t start competing until I got Brew as a puppy. Competing is an afterthought for me. I still enjoy decoying more than working my dog. I compete because I’m around the sport so much and it gives me a better perspective of the sport as a whole and hopefully makes me a better decoy by seeing the field through the competitors eyes.

SDN - As a serious competitor what are your greatest challenges?

Josh - The biggest challenges I face personally are living up to the expectations of being part of a club like K9 Working Dogs of Dallas and training under Khoi Pham. Khoi’s club always has a high level of success and Khoi has trained several teams that have achieved their level three. Everywhere I go, people ask about our training and what it’s like training with Khoi. That pressure translates to the trial field because people want to see the product we put out. We train hard and typically don’t trial until we are not just ready, but very confident that we will do well.

SDN - Time is limited during the day. What do you do to manage your time between work, family, and training? #competitor #sportdog #bitedog

Josh - I honestly really struggle with this and it is hard to manage all of it. I have a lot of things that I’m part of outside of my job and although I love them all, it’s something I am trying to limit and keep under control. Saying “no” is something I've had to get better at.

SDN - What have you learned from your first trail about you and Brew’s endurance and over all capabilities?

Josh - Stacey Beller once told me that Tuco stepped up to another level at trials, like he knew he was trialing in a good way. I saw that first hand when I decoyed Tuco at trials. I decoyed Tuco all the time at training, but he absolutely hit me with another level of intensity at trials. I felt like Brew did that when she titled in the 1’s. She was spot on with her protection work and did everything I asked of her. Maybe it was the excitement of the trial, but I felt like she hit another gear at the trial like her daddy.

SDN - What did you learn about Brew’s and your limitations?

Josh - I’m well aware of our limitations and the holes in our training. Training under Khoi is incredible because he knows how to prepare you for trial. Khoi sees things in training that many people don’t and he knows how to fix problems and build a dog. Our training is always in preparation for Sean Siggins courage test. Khoi always tells us to train hard and trial easy, and having that mindset helps us realize, train, and conquer our limitations.

Daily / Weekly Routines?

SDN - How much time do you set aside to train?

Josh - Honestly, not a lot. If I do obedience, it’s probably only 5-10 minutes at the most, once a day. I do teach some new behaviors to my dog at home before she sees a club decoy and that might take 10-15 minutes, once a day. Short sessions.

SDN - Club level?

Josh - I only attend club once a week because of my other commitments and I’m usually there for three hours decoying. I’ll work my dog in obedience and bite work for 5-10 minutes during that time.

SDN - What type of diet do you have Brew on?

Josh - I have her on “Sport Dog” which she has done really well on. I only feed two cups a day and she looks great and seems to have great energy.

SDN - With bite sports, they are not a one person show. You need a team. Who are your teammates?

Josh - Firstly, my wife, Shannon, who lets me go all over the world for dogs. Secondly, my K9 Working Dogs of Dallas family, particularly the decoys: Khoi, Tim, Kim B., Chad, Daniel, Darrick, Risa, Milly, Aubrey, Colten, David, and Stacey.

We are also blessed to have some amazing trainers from different areas of the dog world. Apart from Khoi, we have trainers from the search and rescue world, IGP, and police K9 which gives great perspective and balance to our training.

SDN - Describe what they bring to the table to ensure success.

Josh - Every single club member is 100% committed to each other. No one in our club is in it for themselves. We absolutely celebrate each other’s success and train to make each other better. Our club is a family environment and we work hard for each other. It’s the perfect village.

SDN - What words of advice or encouragement do you have for other teams looking to compete in PSA?

Josh - It’s an extremely hard sport with a very high failure rate, don’t ever give up. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously. Enjoy your time on the field with your dog, because when you ride home together, your dog doesn’t know or care if you passed or failed, it’s just happy to be there with you.

Thank you

We would like to thank Josh Kirby for taking the time to answer our questions. We are looking forward to watching "Team Brew" on the field going for their PSA 2.

We would also like to thank K9 Working Dogs of Dallas PSA Club for the continued support. We have met so many great members from the Dallas club along with Josh. They are all quickly becoming our friends. I enjoy talking shop with them when I get the chance, they have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dogs. #malinois #belgianmalinois #workingdogs #servicedogs

If you happen to see Josh on the field decoying or competing, take the time to talk to him. Team Brew and the crew from Dallas are great ambassadors for PSA.

Protection Sports Association

The Mission of the Protection Sports Association (PSA) is to provide an outlet for civilian competition in canine obedience and controlled protection, and to recognize achievement with titles and prizes, and promote competition with club trials and championship tournaments.

To learn more about PSA, click on their logo.

Photos provided by Kimberly Balega and John Pope

Follow Josh & Brew @kirby_294

Kimberly Balega Photography @kimbalephoto

John Pope Photography @john_pope_foto

Sport Dog Network @sport_dog_network

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