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As usually, the main problem was to find any optimal date to avoid main dog shows held during this period of the year. Finally, we decided for October 12-14, 2007. It was the third autumn gathering held in Strašín u Sušice. It was the best choice again, because colorful autumn is a pleasant time in Šumava mountains, particularly if the weather is good. We were lucky and the sun was shining most of time. Among most numerous Catahoulas, several Australian Cattle Dogs (acd), German Shepard, Howavart, Cane Corso, and Dogo Canario were present.

  

We started our programme on Thursday evening by our first discipline, which was very successful last time in Brno. It was "the night marking". This time, every participants got a hand torch into his pocket. The task was to lighten a bushed up person immediately when a dog points him out in the darkness. Easy, but not for dogs highly interested in cattle. The small road, where the person was hidden along, went through fenced fields full of grazing and resting cattle. Cows are usually very curious, thus it was not strange that they concentrated close to the road, where our night games were going on. Thus, Toledo showed me all cows first and then at last, a hidden person, Jakub (Kuba) Hertel, our police dog trainer. The night marking is now one of the most popular discipline among our participants, therefore people were impatiently waiting outside the hotel for their turn. Kuba had to evaluate from his position a dog's behaviour, but it was sometimes difficult to do it properly. The owners were not often alert enough to recognize that their dog was signalling a "danger" already, and they dragged him away mindlessly. Then the dog was evaluated by 10 points (maximum) and the master by zero. One of acd jumped in a direction of hidden Kuba, but his lady-master calmed him by words: " Let mouse go!" Fortunately, she blinked by her torch in the right direction, and what a surprise! Kuba was there. Thus, 10 points award was obtained just by chance. When my turn came, I could hardly see my black Catahoula in front of me in such a darkness, no chance to see Kuba in his black suit. And what is a lesson out of it? Do trust more your dog! Nevertheless, most of us have to learn how to recognize signals that our dogs give us.

    

On Friday and also on Saturday morning, we started with large group excercises and handling dogs at a ring mimicing dog shows. This time we took our opportunity to get some information concerning Catahoula head parameters, which seem to show tendency to prolong a muzzle part in some of recently born litters. We measured a head width, and a total head lenght and a muzzle part lenght. It proved to be also a good excercise for dog's selfcontrol, because most of them did not like it at all.

  

On Friday, the third competition in scooter took place. Atila Carmen Moravia and her master, Martin Pešek, were prepared well and they won this race, three seconds ahead of the second one. After that, a barbecue was waiting for us. In meantime, dog's manageability testing and other disciplines were going on at nearby forest.

Blood tracking was one of disciplines, which we repeated several times during our previous gathering, anyway it was still interesting namely for new comers. Airis Venus Genetrix showed the best work on the blood trace, even though she had tried for the first time. Before they started, her lady-owner asked what she was supposed to do. The answer was clear: "Hold on to the leash!"' So, she did. Her young Catahoula female just sniffed a blood and then they immediately started running and stopped just at the end of the trail.



  


Manageability and mutual confidence between owner-handler and his dog were tested by several "easy" tasks that should be carried out. The results showed that obedience is not the same as trust and respect to handler, although some people are not able to distinguish it. Thus, many dogs exhibited tendency to solve unexpected situations according to their own minds and not to follow their masters. It means for many of them that a lot of work is ahead to establish an healthy relationship between dogs and their masters. There was a time for lure coursing, too. This time, we were running at the hotel garden. The course went along a swimming pool and it caused fear among owners how dogs would manage to work out such an obstacle. Fortunately, all managed to avoid it and nobody was swimming after all.


  

On Saturday, we launched two more disciplines for the first time. One of them was searching for a master at an open area, as the basic search and rescue discipline. Another was testing of dog's selfconfidence and behaviour in absence of its master. Dogs were one by one staked and their masters left them alone. Then Kuba, as a figurant, tried to get closer to a dog and if possible to touch him. It was not the test of guarding abilities, but rather a simulation of a situation when it is necessary to leave your dog alone somewhere for a while. Catahoulas (at least most of them) proved to be stable and well socialized among people, they sustained it without any strong emotions such as fear or aggressivity towards stranger. Acd solved this situation in a different way: Kuba was able to get closer or to touch only two of them, the rest showed a scale of reactions from a very reserved behaviour to barking out of fear. Howavart female behaved according to her breed characteristics, i.e. she was guarding the place. In spite of our doubts, some dogs succeeded better than we had expected. It was the case of my old Cat Cradle's Car and youngsters from Venus Genetrix kennel.

On Sunday, we were leaving after a lunch. We all have found out something new about our dogs and ourselves, too. Next gathering is going to be organized at another place, but we will return to Strašín some day again.

Written by Gerhard Stein and Helena Synková
Translated by Helena Synková





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