PARKERSBURG — You can’t keep a good dog down — and that’s something Naz, a bomb-detection Dutch shepherd, knows for sure.
Naz and his handler/owner Robert Taylor recently competed on the A&E show, America’s Top Dog, a contest in which police K9s, working dogs like Naz and ordinary pets all compete in a variety of challenges to take the title.
Naz and Taylor competed on their first episode and came in second. But their story wasn’t over yet.
“All the second-place winners came back for a second chance redemption to get a shot at the finale,” Taylor said.
Taylor and Naz won that shot — and in the last episode, took the title of “America’s Top Dog.”
“It was a stressful way to do it,” Taylor said.
Taylor, a 2005 graduate of Parkersburg South High School, went to Fairmont and then joined the Air Force, being stationed in Las Vegas. In 2018, he went to a dog trainers’ school on his GI Bill.
“I didn’t know that dog trainer was a job,” he said. At first, he wanted to be a police officer, but then a friend mentioned how good he was with dogs.
“I went to a dog training school in Austin as part of an internship,” he said, learning how to help train dogs in basic obedience.
“Most people come because they want to take their dog to the park without it going crazy.”
And when he first met Naz, he hadn’t planned on keeping him, but was going to train him to be a friend’s pet.
“He had had three homes in 13 weeks before he was with me,” he said. “But when he was about 6 months, he really matured.”
Taylor saw the potential for Naz to be a working dog to help focus his high energy and drive, and eventually the duo got into a bomb detection school in Virginia. They trained for four months to get certification.
Now at 3 1/2, Naz, along with Taylor, does bomb-sweeping work in Las Vegas, for concerts, conventions, sporting events and casinos, helping to make sure everything is safe. And Taylor runs a dog training company in Las Vegas, Bar None K9, teaching dog obedience, including leash work, basic commands and tempering aggression.
Taylor saw the call for “America’s Top Dog” auditions, sent his in and then promptly forgot about it.
“I was surprised to get a call.”
After going through several rounds of interviews and panels, he and Naz were selected, with the third season of the show filming in September 2020, and airing in September 2021. Taylor said about 60 dogs were at the competition, including alternates.
The competition includes scent detection work and obstacle courses, with a water course and in the finale a large obstacle course with bite work at the end. The dogs and their handlers are timed to see who can get through the quickest. There are several runs each show, with the top three contestants competing for the final run, and then the winners of each show taking part in the final challenge.
Taylor said Naz competed in a total of six runs, with four of those breaking records. He made it through his first obstacle course, the K9 Combine, in just 1 minute, 47 seconds. He missed winning his first run at the Dog House course by only a few seconds.
On his second run at the K9 Combine, he broke his own record with 1 minute, 19 seconds. The second run at the Dog House they ran at 1 minute, 22 seconds, setting another record and cementing their competition in the finale. In the finale, he ran the K9 Combine in 1 minute, 12 seconds, beating his own record, and won the Dog House in his final run in only 1 minute, 38 seconds.
Taylor and Naz are settled back into their jobs in Vegas, and now have some other demands.
“We got a call to come work West Point,” Taylor said. “It wouldn’t have happened without the show.”
While the show already aired on A&E, episodes can still be found on A&E’s website and on Hulu, Apple TV, YouTube, Prime and more. The episodes Naz appears on are season 3, episodes 3, 7 and 8.
Amy Phelps can be reached at email@example.com.