DECATUR — The Chinese shar-pei, long considered the ultimate fighting dog, is not an easy breed to train.
That’s why Jennifer Kupish-Leach — a Decatur woman who’s won a number of awards for her work with shar-peis — feels so honored to be competing at the novice level with her newest dog Tsunami in a brand-new rally event Friday at the American Kennel Club’s National Obedience Championship in Tulsa, Okla.
Kupish-Leach said the rally, an event that combines elements of obedience with agility, will likely be dominated by more easily trained breeds, such as border collies, golden retrievers, Australian shepherds and Shetland sheepdogs.
“Shar-peis take lots of discipline, patience and love,” she said. “I’ve always liked a challenge.”
Kupish-Leach, an instructor at Northgate Dog Obedience Center, has been working with shar-peis ever since she adopted Kiwi 15 years ago from the Macon County Animal Control and Care Center.
“She had a broken foot, entropia (an eyelid disorder), and parvo,” Kupish-Leach recalls. “She ended up being the No. 1 shar-pei in the country for obedience.”
Angel, another fawn-colored female adopted 11 years ago from Homeward Bound, achieved the same national ranking as Kiwi.
Kupish-Leach has two 11-year-old black females she adopted from the care center the same year she got Angel but does not show them. “They are just couch potatoes,” she said.
Meyagi, her 7-year-old male, was also adopted from the center and has already achieved the top obedience spot for shar-peis in regional competition, despite being a black “horse coat.”
“This is what they used to use for fighting, and his coat is very prickly,” Kupish-Leach said. “They say horse coats are much more defiant than a brush coat, and I believe it.”
Kiwi passed away last summer, but before she died, Kupish-Leach’s husband gave her the money the previous Christmas to buy the flowered, or multicolored, shar-pei she’d been wanting.
When she visited the breeder, she was initially drawn to a male from the litter, but that pup kept growling at her while the female she eventually decided to take home kept climbing into her lap. Tsunami is 14 months old.
“She’s just very bright, and you can see it in her eyes,” Kupish-Leach said. “She actually picked me.”