Kathy Greenwood has always loved animals, especially dogs. She’s owned many different breeds over the years, including retired racing Greyhounds and a Borzoi, which introduced her to Lure Coursing. Kathy currently has a Pomeranian, and a Shih Tzu who was her first AKC Performance Dog.
The first time Kathy saw a Carolina Dog, she fell in love with the breed. She had been retired for several years and had a quiet life and lots of spare time. (When Kathy brought home a puppy, however, that all changed overnight!)
She now has three Carolina Dogs in her pack. Training, dog shows, and Performance Sports have taken Kathy out of retirement. She even went back to work part-time as a professional limo driver to help with expenses. (Being a soccer mom to three dogs can get expensive!) Kathy loves the wild spirit the Carolina Dogs have, which shows in everything they do. When she watches them running through the forest, wading through swamps, and hunting for prey, it brings her back to the days when these dogs were running in packs out in the wild. Every day with a Carolina Dog is an adventure, and this is certainly true in Kathy’s life!
Six years ago, I was introduced to AKC Performance Sports. Here in Tallahassee, Florida, we have an annual cluster of dog shows, which in addition to AKC Conformation also includes many Performance Sports such as CAT, Fast CAT, Dock Diving, Agility, and at one time, Barn Hunt. I had my Carolina Dog, “Tanka,” do a fun run in Fast CAT, which is a timed 100-yard dash for dogs, and from then on we were hooked.
The nice thing about Fast CAT is that there is little to no training required. Most dogs with at least a moderate prey drive will instinctively chase the lure with a little coaxing. Tanka has gone on to get his FCAT and still enjoys chasing the plastic bunnies, even though he isn’t as fast as he used to be.
I have since added two more Carolina Dogs to my pack. “Jemma” came as a seven-month-old rescue who was quite shy at first. Once she was old enough to run FastCAT, we tried a few fun runs. Jemma was hesitant at first, especially since she was nervous about strangers releasing her. But once I found a person she felt comfortable with, Jemma was chasing the lure at full speed and soon had her DCAT title, and she is getting close to her FCAT.
My youngest Carolina Dog, “Star,” came from a litter sired by Tanka. She took to Fast CAT immediately and is the most enthusiastic about staying on top of the lure. I decided to try her in CAT, which is similar to Fast CAT as far as chasing a lure, but instead of a straight 100-yard run it involves a course of 600 yards with twists and turns. The dog must stay with the lure for the entire course and finish within a set amount of time. In her first weekend of trials, Star had no problem getting her first titles in both CAT and Fast CAT.
Another nice thing about FastCAT is that there is little to no training required. If the dog is at least one year old and in good physical condition, they are eligible to compete.
Going back six years, the weekend that Tanka and I tried Fast CAT, we were walking around checking out all the different activities at this cluster show. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the fun and started gathering information on where to start.
The only limit for these dogs is me trying to keep up with them!
There was one booth where a lady had a display set up for Scent Work. She had several bottles of essential oils and little containers with cotton swabs in them. I watched her do a demonstration with her Corgi; this looked like another fun game for us to try! She offered to show me the basics and where to order the supplies to get started. She also had me buy a harness to use only for Scent Work, and suggested that I use string cheese as a training treat.
Once I got all of my training supplies, she brought over several identical white boxes. We started off with an open box with a piece of cheese in it. As soon as Tanka showed interest, I rewarded him with a piece of cheese from my hand but did not allow him to take the cheese from the box. This showed him that he was to look to me for the reward, and not the treat in the box. We worked up to more boxes, one with cheese while the others were empty. He caught on to this quickly and had no problem letting me know when he found the “hot” box to get his reward!
The next step was to add a swab with scent on it along with the cheese in the “hot” box. We continued to add more boxes, and gradually discontinued the cheese in the hot box. Once he understood how to play this fun game of hide and seek, I started hiding the scented swabs in different places around the house, the yard, Home Depot shelves, and even a deserted playground!
Our first Scent Work trial was very intimidating, but everyone there was very helpful and we did great, especially after I learned to trust my dog!
Both Jemma and Star were easy to train, thanks to Tanka. They would watch him search and were anxious to try it themselves. Jemma needed to take some Scent Work classes to get more comfortable being around strange people and other dogs, and to make her alert to the hides more apparent to me. She has since done very well and has her overall Novice title and one title in the Advanced level. She has earned a High in Trial twice, which is an amazing accomplishment for us.
Star has been to one trial and has qualified twice in her Exterior searches. She is very subtle about alerting when she finds the hide, so we will be doing some more practicing and taking some classes to perfect her technique.
Carolina Dogs are an extremely active breed and need activities that use mental energy as much as physical. Fast CAT and CAT are excellent ways for them to use their physical energy, but I have found Scent Work will wear them out just as much—if not more! Just 15 or 20 minutes of searching around the house or yard will result in “dog-tired” pups!
Teaching them tricks is another fun way to challenge their energy. All three of my dogs have Trick Dog titles and are always eager to learn more. There are many good videos on the AKC website showing you how to teach your dog to do silly dog tricks—and earn titles doing them!
All that is needed to get started in the fun is reaching out to a local club or searching online resources. The best way is to attend some trials to observe, or even better, volunteer to help, which will give you firsthand knowledge of how it works. You will need an AKC, PAL, or Canine Partner registration number for AKC sports. Other activities such as Barn Hunt and Dock Diving have their own registration process.
Being a “soccer mom” to my pups has changed my life. We enjoy competing in trials (and I do feel proud when we earn titles), but the most rewarding part of Performance Sports is the bond that you create with your dog by working as a team. It’s all about having fun, making friends, and trusting your dog!
Carolina Dog Breed Magazine
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