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The Eighth gathering
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Nuova Fattoria




A year since our last gathering was gone and Thursday, October 23, started our 8th gathering of Catahoula owners and breeders (October 23-26, 2008). It was organized for the first time by a new club, i.e. the Catahoula Club EU (CC EU), which has been established during this year.

Systematic preparations started already in May, when we began looking for a new, suitable place for our gathering. Incidentally, we were invited to visit the American Bulldog Club show and trials, that was held in Albertovec, a horse breeding station, near Opava city (the Northen Moravia). Among other things, a competition called "The Iron Dog" was a part of this event. It has inspired us to set up our own competition for versatile dogs with rather different disciplines. Our aim was to design tasks or disciplines, which would suit better to our breeds, i.e. Catahoula and Australian Cattle Dog (acd). And thus the DUNCO Dog competition has come into being. Rules and orders for the competition were discussed in summer, during the Executive Committee meeting at Slapy Dam. However, we wanted to test disciplines during our 8th gathering, before launching a real trial.

On Thursday late morning, we arrived to Albertovec earlier than others. We set off an inspection and clearing right-of-way, found during our last visit. Unfortunately, heavy rains in past days damaged the most promising tracks. Places meant for our canicross discipline were wet, muddy, and useless, including interesting horse racing track. Furthermore, another problem arose from near-by phesantery. Owners let out most of their phesants one day before our arrival and many birds were walking all around that place. It could be very interesting for our dogs with their hunting instincts, but the owners seemed not to be happy with such a prospect. Therefore we were forced to find another place for our outdoor activities. Another drawback also arose from the fact that yearly evaluation of young horses (on Friday) and the Hubert horse riding (on Saturday) were planned in Albertovec. Thus a perfect schedule for both parties involved was necessary to set up in advance. Fortunately, all went according to that agreed schedule and we both were satisfied.

Almost all participants arrived already on Thursday evening. So we could start our Friday programme without any delays. There were 26 Catahoulas, 5 Australian Cattle Dogs (acd), and three German Shepards present during the weekend. Owners from Slovakia, Germany, and the Netherlands took part in this gathering.


On Friday morning, we gathered in front of the hotel. We formed a ring and introduced our dogs and ourselves as usually. After a few large group excercises we set for a walk to near-by woods. It was also a kind of training, because we wanted to prepare our participants for two disciplines of the DUNCO Dog competition. It is necessary to learn handling dogs when slower team (consisting of a handler and his dog) is overtaken by faster running one at a narrow path and vice versa. It could happen during canicross, dogtrekking or bikejoring, i.e. disciplines involved in the DUNCO Dog. Dogs excited by the race behave usually unlikely in comparison with a "normal" walk. Overtaking training at forest road fully confirmed our presumptions. The dogs were excited, barking, full of energy, and will to go ahead. The owners realized that more caution and strenght were necessary to handle their dogs properly.


On Friday afternoon, namely lovers of scooter or bikejoring appreciated a straight forest road with a perfect surface, which we found for this activity. Such conditions were unique, therefore no wonder that people were returning back during the whole weekend to train scooter again and again.


In meantime, another group of participants followed MVDr. Zoltán Tatarko and Jakub Hertel at a dog training place, where individual consultations concerning tracking or Schutzhund training went on.


On Friday night, our favorite night game, i.e. "the night marking", took place at a small side road along fenced fields for horses. Though no horses were there during the night to distract dog's attention. In spite of it, there were probably some "Sun maculae", because majority of dogs did not succeed well this time. Jakub Hertel, our hidden figurant, was not able to find any reasonable explanation for such a failure. He was marked properly only by two acd females, Bluespirit Seven of Nine and Abbey Red Camden Dog. He had to give for all other dogs an acoustic signal to draw attention to himself.

On Saturday, the main programme, focused on basic excercises for search and rescue, took place in a hall for horse training. Anke Boysen with her Catahoula male, Indigo Louis Šumící křídla, showed us first searching for a hidden person at such a closed area.


Later, all participants could test their dogs in searching for their masters, hidden under a fabric cover or paper box. By the way, it was another discipline of the DUNCO Dog, which we wanted to test there before launching it as a regular discipline. Nobody but Indigo has been trained for a such activity, thus we all were very curious for our dogs behaviour. All dog specialists and trainers present there agreed to that conditions were quite difficult for unexperienced dogs. The hall was the closed area with a strong smell of horses, a strong echo from a roof, and no air movement. No wonder that all hidden handlers had to call at least dog's name to draw his attention and to put him up to the right direction. Both Catahoula and acd are herding breeds, it was obvious in their working style. Except one Catahoula female, Fran Šumící křídla, who sniffed her master, all others were searching using their eyes first. However, we all were pleased after all, because there was no dog, who wouldn't be anxious to find his owner. Another point was that all, who made another attempt, succeeded much better than in previous case. On top, it was also one of tests for owner - dog relationship and there were no loosers.

On Saturday afternoon, some went again to enjoy bikejoring or scooter, others followed Zoltán and Jakub to excercise tracking or some obedience training.


Later, a lecture of our vet specialist, MVDr. Marek Pepřík, took place at newly reconstructed restaurant. The main topic was again hip dysplasia and its evaluation, namely in Catahoula breed. Many questions were answered and the discussion went on until a dinner time.

Saturday evening was devoted to the most important task of this gathering - the first General Assembly of CC EU members. We had to approve basic documents of our club, to elect members of several committees, and to discuss further directions of our club. The discussion went on for a few hours and all tasks were carried out satisfactorily. On Sunday, nobody was in a hurry to leave, so we set off to another walk to wood.

Anke showed us how Indigo was able to search at an open area, namely in woods. Indigo, who is the dominant male in his teenage years, proved that he was fully focused on his work and he managed to go past a pack of other dogs without noticing them. He succeeded in this true, unexpected test very well.

Before lunch, we tested our last DUNCO Dog discipline, i.e. to recall a dog from 100 m distance. Time is measured until a dog sits in front of or in heel position by owner's leg. This discipline also shows a master - dog relationship. Here, we all could see that the highest motivation for our dogs was the owner leaving them alone. All dogs were running fast towards their masters, but most of them lost precious seconds during setting themseves into a proper position. Ashley Venus Genetrix (female) was the fastest Catahoula in this discipline.

We would like to thank to staff of Albertovec, to our co-workers and to all participants for their activity, which made this gathering so pleasant and fruitful. We are looking forward to the first DUNCO Dog competition or to the next gathering.

Written by Gerhard Stein and Helena Synková
Translated by Helena Synková

© 2008 | Marek Macola