DOGGIE FUN ZONE
Chattanooga Kennel Club
Promise discovered a new activity at the Chattanooga Kennel Club show in September, 2004, The Doggie Fun Zone Challenge Course. This is a patented concept by Doggie Fun Zone that mixes Lure Coursing with Agility. The participating dog doesn't need any prior training, just a natural instinct to play, have fun, and chase a white plastic garbage bag around the course. Promise fit all of these requirements. I have thought for years that Mals would make good sight hounds. That is, if you could get the game away from them after they caught it and before they ate it. Forget any thoughts that they might bring it back to you. I also have thought that Promise would like Agility if I could figure out a way to keep her interested in staying on course and not going over to the crowd for a little Malamute Clowning.
The Doggie Fun Zone had the answer. At first I was little apprehensive about turning a Malamute off lead at a dog show to run a course with only snow fencing as a barricade. (Here at the house we use 6 foot No-Climb Horse fencing.) But as soon as the lure jumped past her at the starting point I knew that I had nothing to worry about, The Chase Was ON!!
Lee Rebalko, owner and creator of Doggie Fun Zone, had thought this through. As Promise left the starting gate he had set up a photo sensor to start the course clock. He keeps the bunny (white plastic bag) far enough in front that the dogs never catch it, but close enough to hold their attention. For obstacles he uses tires, differing height jumps, A-frame, and a 6 foot tunnel for final leg home. As the dog exits the tunnel he has a second photo sensor set up to stop the course clock and gives you a course time. This course time he puts up on a white board to compare to all the other dogs that have run the course that day, including their breed. Also as Lee is running the dog and operating the lure machine, he is able to capture some really good photos of your dog in action.
But this was only half the fun. Have you ever tried to corral a Malamute that is truly determined to get it's prey? Let me tell you I knew it was difficult, but I was about to find out how difficult it really was. Promise ran the course as fast as any of the hounds in her breed size had, and proved that Malamutes can and do fly. She made cuts at the corners as though she had lure coursed all of her life, and amazed a few Mal breeders that a Malamute could cut so fast. Then it was up and over the A-Frame in a single bound, down the course 30 feet and a hard right through the tunnel.
I was waiting to catch her as she came out of the tunnel. I was lucky, well sort of lucky, as she came out I was able to snag my hand in her collar and got my other arm wrapped around her in order to get her stopped before the bunny went through the machine. Well this worked, for all of 3 seconds. The machine operator ran the bunny through the machine and she caught sight of it as it headed back out for another go around. The plan was for me to hold Promise, take her back to the starting point, we would reset the timer and she could run it again. The problem was that this was not Promise's plan. Her plan was to catch that bunny at all costs. So instead of holding Promise in place I found that I was now on my knees holding on for dear life trying to stop a Malamute determined to catch her prey. Ten feet further up the course and just beyond the starting point I managed to get her stopped. Lee was telling me to pull her back so he could get the course started again and I was telling Lee to forget the clock and just start the bunny so I could turn loose and get up. Well during all of this the bunny moved again and Promise noticed that not only did it move but so did the string running between her feet. So she did what any determined Malamute would do, she reached down and grabbed the string in her teeth to keep the bunny from getting away.
I finally got her to drop it, Lee figured out that I was holding a determined dog and he started the bunny running again. So I turned loose of Promise and the chase was on again. She had a ball chasing that plastic bag, and I had a ball watching her have fun and trying to catch her each time she came through the tunnel. So my recommendation is that if you ever have a chance to do the Doggie Fun Zone, by all means take it. It's the most fun you can have with a Malamute without any snow or cold weather.