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The preparations for this event started already at our April meeting. This new one took place traditionally in Strašín u Sušice in October 13-16th, 2005. It was one week earlier than the originally planned due to the Rare Breed Dog Show, which was shifted to that date. Finally, it was even better because our training included also handling dogs in a show ring and it could help to less experienced owners to improve their performance during the following exhibition.

This time, our gathering was one day longer than usually as the programme was time consuming. With coming date it became clear that a hotel capacity is not sufficient. Fortunatelly, another hotel in nearby village helped us to accommodate all late coming participants.

The first group of brave participants arrived on Thursday. Evening disscusion focused on Friday programme. This was our first scooter race. We have been training our dogs for this discipline since our first gathering. Thus, everybody has got ca six months for more serious preparation of dogs since our last meeting.

On Friday morning, we all set off for the woods nearby Strašín and the First World Catahoula Scooter Race could start. Nine competitors with three different types of scooter participated. This is not extremly high number, however, when we started with sledge dogs twenty years ago, the situation was not better and only a few guys were competing.

The race started after collective checking a track. The first part was the most difficult as it included a moderate but long ascending which proved physical readiness of both masters and their dogs. Fortunately, the road was firm and dry, but stony in some parts. The first competitors reached an average speed ca 23 km per hour at 2.2 km long track, which I consider as a good result. The race proved not only the skills of the masters and their dogs, but it proved also advantages or faults of different scooter types. None of them proved to be perfect.

After a small picknick in the nature, another discipline was waiting for us. We all were very curious, because none of us had any experience with tests for hunting ability of catahoulas. The first test included blood tracking. The blood scented trace was layed down by Mr. Rýgl and his son separately for each dog, but it was shorter than it is usual during an official examination. Although our dogs did this for the first time in their lives, the results were extremely promising.

The test for catahoula interest in a wild hog was a summit of Friday programme. Everybody has seen pictures from American A- or B-bay competitions, but nobody here has tried it yet. As we had no suitable corral or any good fenced area for the hog we decided to do it by our own simpler way. Mr. Novotný, the local hog owner, brought the small wild pig in a wooden crate. This was the safest and for most participants also the most acceptable version. Although our dogs could not be in direct contact with the hog, they were strongly excited by its presence. Nevertheless, some differences in their response were observed, probably in dependence on dog's age. The observers and local experts highly evaluated their performance. Younger dogs usually exhibited less affection than the older ones, but this improved at the presence of another dog near the crate.

Friday programme was exhausting for all and we were happy to get back to the hotel for the dinner. Evening discussion lasted long and focused on our impressions from both tests and the race and the evaluation of what we had reached that day.

The main programme started on Saturday morning at nine o´clock. After a necessary introduction of all participants and their dogs training in four groups began. All had to go through the preparation for a dog show in the ring, then some behavioral tests, a basic agility training, and a blood tracking for those, who did not try on Friday. Those, who passed through one activity, went for another. This took until the noon. After lunch, we again moved to the woods. Those, who arrived on Friday evening and wanted, could try scooter, blood tracking or crated wild hog. Others took part in training of several excercises of Obedience for Novices, e.g. recall over high jump. However, one by one our dogs went through another test of their hunting abilities that we have never tried before. This was tracking of dead body of freshly killed rabbit. I am pleased that none of our catahoulas failed in this test and we all were pleased by their working abilities.

We got back to our hotel just before sunset. Although the weather was very pleasant for this season and sun was shining the whole day, most owners and their dogs were tired, particularly those younger ones. Nevertheless, we had to summarize results of the day and introduce Sunday programme. And then a banquet was waiting for us. The top that was a choccolate cake with edible pictures of our catahoulas.

Sunday programme was divided into two parts. The first ca one hour was devoted as usually to a short collective walk. It was quite pleasant, although we unexpectedly had to pass a herd of cows. Catahoulas are used also for herding in America, thus their herding insticts could awake anytime. This time it was necessary to keep them quiet, because we had to walk a narrow path along a pasture that was fenced only by a thin electrical fence and cows with calves were there. Fortunately, all owners and dogs passed successfully this test and no troubles occurred.

The walk was shorter this time, because we wanted to excercise other tasks from Odedience for Novices. The Obedience trials are held also for catahoulas in America. The preparation for Obedience competitions is one of activities which we have tried to introduce to catahoula owners as it is very useful and it can help them in everyday life. After recall from a long distance, we successeded to perform all basic excericeses of Obedience for Novices. All were not so successful as they could. Those, who had been already working on it for some time, reached better results. The main reason is that this was not only a test of working ability, but the results of systematical work with the dog.

Summarizing our gathering, 23 catahoulas and six dogs of other breeds (one Viszla, one Poodle, one German Shepard, one Australian Cattle Dog, one Hokkaido-ken, and one mixbreed) and more than 40 owners participated. We all realized that our catahoulas are extremely versatile dogs and it is up to us how we would be able to utilize it.

At 1 p.m. we finished our training. After lunch and packing luggage, a journey to differently distant homes waited for most of us. However, we have already started together with Moravian Coursing Association the preparation for the next gathering. I want to thank all participants. So see you in April 2006.

Written by Ing. Gerhard Stein
Translated by RNDr. Helena Synková, PhD.
Published in Czech in Pes přítel člověka 1/2006







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