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After a hard and long-lasting winter we have been looking forward to the first April weekend, when the fourth gathering of leopard dogs breeders and owners should take place. The preparations started already during January and February as it was necessary to find a suitable place, where the gathering could be realized. This time we have decided to organize it in Moravia and it should be partly devoted to coursing. Although this dogs sport was originally established for greyhounds now it becomes all breed discipline. Unfortunately, at least three different localities, where suitable area should be available for such an activity, could not be used because of some reconstructions there. At the beginning of February during International Dog Show in Brno we decided to arrange our gathering here as this place is easily accessible from all parts of the Czech Republic. Moreover, Hotel Jelenice, which is placed nearby Brno Dam, offers a reasonable accommodation for larger groups of guests and dogs are allowed in rooms.

During February and March we had been waiting impatiently for the end of winter. When it happened finally, one extreme turned to another and terrible floods started over the whole country. Thus, even until last moment we had no idea, who would be able to participate in our meeting.

We promised last October that the fourth gathering would be devoted to coursing. Two days before our arrival to Brno, bad news came. The last from possible areas for coursing was flooded. After that we spent the whole Thursday looking for a new place, but there was a wet or icy ground everywhere. Finally, when we almost gave up, somebody directed us to a horse ridding school in Soběšice. This was a good idea because this place is located on the top of a hill and there was a dry ground free of ice. On Friday morning the sun appeared, perhaps for the first time this year. Mostly new dogs arrived, particularly those from the kennel "Z Povětrńáku". First exercises in obedience started around the hotel. Soon became clear who is who. At least a half of participants were newcomers and in the comparison with "old matadors" the difference was clearly apparent. Anyway, there is always a lot what can be improved. After lunch, we started with training for scooter or bikering with dogs and some time was devoted also to blood tracking. Mr. Rýgl, who should have this discipline under his command and promised also to bring a blood for this purpose, did not manage to come because of floods in his home place. Fortunately, thanks to our good relations with MaxCanin, the company whose owners are also involved in hunting training activity, we obtained the blood for our training. This part of our programme could succeeded also thanks to Vláďa Soukup, who picked some tricks from Mr. Rýgl during our last gathering. The late afternoon was devoted again to obedience and agility. In meantime, other participants, who were arriving one by one, became immediately involved in our exercising. After dinner, a discussion concerning catahoula breeding and training was running. Soon, discussing people moved to a nearby bar.

Saturday programme started soon at 6 a.m. as we all had to move immediately after breakfast to Soběšice, where coursing took place. Originally planned start had to be postponed because Barča Zdráhalová from Association of Moravian-Slezian Coursing (AMSC), who organized it, was unable to be there in time. She was a member of anti-flooding commission in Otrokovice and the situation there was nearly critical at that time. Fortunately, Libor Macháček from a civic association Dogma was already here. He was invited as an instructor for training focused on aspects of a proper behaviour of dogs in a normal life. Thus, we did not loose any minute. Two hours spent with such a training seemed even short. Moreover, Libor Macháček managed to take advantage of nearby stables. He engaged in his exercises also a passing horse rider. It was a bit risky moment because most of us have only a little opportunity to meet horses everyday and herding instincts of catahoulas are usually activated in such a situation. Luckily, we all managed it surprisingly well. At this moment, there were 24 leopard dogs, two Australian cattle dogs, and two beagles.

Coursing finally started at 11 a.m. For us, it was another test of abilities of our dogs. The majority of dogs has never tried coursing and even their masters have never seen it before. Our experience confirmed again that if dog owns this ability (they call it "prey instinct") then it would run even when he is doing it for the first time. If a dog is not interested for the first time, then there is still some hope. Everyone might sooner or later run after a proper stimulation, but it is a lot easier with those naturally gifted. It was unambiguous what we saw. The attitude to coursing was usually typical for all individuals from the same litter of respective parents. The littermates from one litter showed marvelous runs, the littermates from other one (with different parents) run less enthusiastically or gave up at a half way. Fortunately, this was only minority. By this way I would like to thank to Barča and her colleagues from AMSC for a perfect organization and cooperation during our gathering.

Coursing won't be probably the main discipline of our following meetings because it is too time consuming and we already have troubles to manage all within three days. Now, it is up to everybody to decide if it is worthy for him or his dog to continue with coursing. But there is a possibility to organize specialized gathering for this purpose. Shortly after lunch, Libor Macháček took hold of the afternoon excercise. We really enjoyed it. The participants, who were not familiar with him or his methods, were surprised, when he get them into unexpected situations. Many funny but demanding situations arose from it, but all owners succeeded to manage their dogs. Luckily, there were no casualties even when we worked under very cramped conditions.

Saturday aftrenoon ended by testing for an interest in flyball. This was under the control of the experienced agility instructor Eva Cenková from Agility FirstMate Mokré Lazce. In the evening, the dogs and their masters were surely tired. The former were stabilized in their rooms or in their crates and the latter went through a bit theory and further discussions. The most interesting part concerned of an explanation of training for tracking, which was done by Zoltán Tatarko from Slovakia. He was also the only foreigner participant of our gathering. The practical performance of this discipline was shown on Sunday morning. Saturday night was very long and pleasant and there was also dancing.

Sunday is usually very short, because it is the last day, thus the best discipline was hold for the end. The world premiere of a new sport (we call it dog-orienteering), which is orienteering with a dog, was ahead of us. I have suggested a separation into two different variants according to the performance, i.e. "for speed" (for sportsmen) or "for beauty" (for ordinary people). Thus, it was so. Thanks to Eva Valentová and her friends (i.e. sportsmen). They prepared for us (i.e. total amateurs in this discipline) two a bit too demanding and complicated routes that crossed each other. Some of us succeeded and found proper signs and the right route, the others lost their own track, but they found all signs from the other one. Some were running, some were walking but all were happy to be back and unharmed. Eva, thanks once more. It was superior and the new sport was born due to catahoulas.

After lunch we took our "medals and diplomas" and went back home. I would like also to thank to Radim Holub, born and living in Brno, who arranged a lot of "small" but necessary things at this place. We also want to thank to all staff of the hotel Jelenice at Brno Dam. If you go there with your dog you will be surely welcome.

Written by RNDr. Helena Synkové CSc., Dipl. Ing Gerhard Stein
Translated by Helena Synková





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