First Nikki Berthold-Illias saw how well an obedience trainer tamed her Doberman pinscher. Then the trainer showed her how to train a much smaller, less-fierce dog - a papillon.
That was decades ago and Bert-hold-Illias has been training and showing papillons ever since.
A resident of Oregon, she is one of 300 people who came from across North America to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo's Imperial Ballroom to attend the 2011 Papillon Club of America dog show.
"It's a whole dog community that happens here," said Berthold-Illias, who is the corresponding secretary for the national club.
French for "butterfly," papillons get their name from their ears, which often stick straight up, like triangular wings.
"The essence of the breed is the butterfly ears," said Angela Pickett, a dog breeder and vice president of the Papillon Club of America.
It's the dog show where the ribbons are larger than the dogs, Pickett said.
"People always ask us what do you get," she said. "We get really big ribbons."
"This is our time that all of the people, the papillon fanciers from around the country come to have our national specialty with this one breed and we come together only once a year," said Pickett, who lives in Montana.
The average papillon is about 8 to 10 pounds and about 7 to 11 inches long, according to www.dogbreedinfo.com. A papillon is considered too big for competition if it is more than 12 inches long, Pickett said.
The winners of the regional papillon competitions get a huge ribbon and a dog courier bag, but the champions of the Chattanooga show could participate in the internationally known Westminster Dog Show, officials said.
"We just do it because we love the sport. We love the breed and the commitment to the breed," Pickett said.
Show organizers divided the Imperial Ballroom into two rings where exhibitors showed off their dogs' ability to sit, stay, jump and walk on command. Some dogs followed their owners' movements even when their was no verbal command given.
Stacy Newton, of Evansville, Ind., has an 11-year-old dog that was named the high scoring breed champion. The dog also won the high scoring veteran award given to dogs older than 10.
Dogs also have a body beautiful competition, said Berthold-Illias. Instead of how well they obey, the dogs are judged on their skeletal structure, breed standards and appearance. Judges look for the hallmark butterfly ears, said Pickett.