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FastCAT with a Reactive Dog

“I feel stuck inside my home”

“Neighborhood walks are tiring and frustrating”

“I can’t do anything with my dog”

I hear statements like these from clients, and I’ve said a few of them myself as well. Reactivity is one of those behaviors that makes you feel alone, lost, frustrated, and isn’t the type of life that comes to mind to most folks when they think about owning a dog.

But what if I told you that there was an activity that you could do with your dog without any judgment and doesn’t involve micromanaging your dog?

Enter the world of dog sports and in this specific case: FastCAT.

Let me set the scene from my latest adventure with my reactive 4 year old German Shepherd. I wake up early in the morning and pack my car full of water, treats, a kennel, fans, and more. Preparing for a one hour drive into Ohio with both of my dogs plus two humans. We signed up a month in advance on a Sunday, with hopes that most folks would be heading home, for a grand total of $15 USD. As we travel the plains of Pennsylvania and Ohio we reach the fairground and head to the very back lot. Somehow my Shepherd hears the joyful prance of a Golden and barks while kenneled.

“Oh boy”

It’s my first time ever attending an event like this and I was nervous. I talked to folks and watched videos but you never really know what you’re getting into until you actually dive in. We find a back row and set up camp:

A large white canopy tent is set up behind a Suburu Forester that has an aluminet over to keep cool. There is a large kennel in the open trunk and a pen containing a small puppy under the tent.
Our cart tent setup for two dogs at the Ohio FastCAT

My game plan:

  • Set up the car

  • Keep her in the car until she was needed

  • Check in

  • Run

  • Head back

The plan was simple and we were ready. If you’re not familiar with FastCAT it’s a 100 yard dash where the dog chases a plastic bag on a pulley system. The dog is timed and speed is recorded by an electronic system. The rules are to run forward and not eliminate on the field as someone catches the dog on the other end of the enclosed track.

I throw open the door and immediately I hear dogs barking. Big, small, purebred, and rescues all sounding off in excitement about what comes next. I walk over with my Shepherd to the check in table armed to the teeth with cheese. While I waited we practiced our skills to help keep her calm and make sure that we’re far enough away from other dogs. We walk up and she immediately jumps on the judge.


Except the judge laughs and comments how much she loves Shepherds instead of the usual look of “why isn’t your dog trained?” that some folks give. We walk up and down in front of the judge to prove that she’s fit to run and she gets a quick tissue wipe to prove she wasn’t in heat.

We’re in!

She went back into the car and it was a relief. She did bark at a dog or two but there’s so much noise it didn’t matter. Everyone’s dogs are excited and let everyone know how pumped they were to run. I wasn’t alone. My dog wasn’t the “bad dog” in the room.

It was time to run.

We walked over and waited in line with the dogs going before and after us. People gave us plenty of space and we practiced our calming skills. Surprisingly she did great on the reactivity front. Whatever noise she made didn’t matter and she ended up quieter than some of the dogs on the property.

We get into our enclosed area and the gate shuts behind us. The man standing to my right yells “TALLY HO” and I release her. She runs 8 ft and turns back to look at me. My mistake: I should have been the catcher.

We laughed and I ended up Disqualifying by running the whole 100 yards with her. I only paid for one run but honestly it was fun even without a ribbon.

In the end we did something, surrounded by dogs, and had fun. That’s all that mattered. Reactive dogs can have fun too.

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