Does your dog love to run?
If you had to put an MPH figure on it, what would your pup’s top speed actually be?
Who would win a hypothetical race between your beloved Greyhound and your best friend’s Whippet?
These are interesting questions, particularly for those of us who own energetic dog breeds who love nothing more than to sprint at full tilt when chasing down their favorite tennis ball. However, without investing in specialized equipment, or trying to precisely time how long it takes them to travel from point A to point B, there was no easy or accurate way to measure your dog’s actual speed – until recently.
Fast CAT is a relatively new sport introduced by the American Kennel Club, but it is gaining a strong following across the nation. This sport is simple to enter, a fun activity for you and your dog, and allows you to confirm exactly how fast they can run. In this article, we will learn more about Fast CAT; how you and your dog get involved; and what you need to get started.
What is Fast CAT?
Fast CAT (CAT stands for Coursing Ability Test) is perhaps the simplest dog sport you could imagine. At its most basic level, Fast CAT is a 100-yard dash for dogs. One at a time, dogs are released and sprint down the course, chasing after a lure (typically, a plastic bag or other object that resembles a small animal). Dogs are timed, and score points based on a combination of their speed and an adjustment for their size.
Fast CAT is easy for dogs and humans to understand. There are very few rules; the points scoring system is simple; and there is no need to invest in lots of expensive equipment to participate. Fast CAT harnesses a dog’s natural instincts and requires little formal training.
To enter a Fast CAT event, dogs must meet the following entry criteria:
- Be at least 12 months of age.
- Have an AKC number (note: Fast CAT is open to purebred and mixed breed dogs. Mixed breed dogs can be registered through AKC Canine Partners)
- Be physically capable of completing the course (a supervisor or inspector will verify the dog is healthy enough to compete)
- Spayed and neutered dogs are eligible to compete; females in heat are not allowed to take part in Fast CAT.
Fast CAT scoring system & titles
The scoring system in Fast CAT is straightforward. The dog’s MPH speed for the course is multiplied by a handicap based on their size, as follows:
- Dogs below 12 inches at the withers – Multiplier of 2.0
- Dogs between 12 and 18 inches at the withers – Multiplier of 1.5
- Dogs over 18 inches at the withers – Multiplier of 1.0
Suffix titles are awarded at the following intervals:
- 150 points – BCAT
- 500 points – DCAT
- 1,000 points – FCAT
Additional FCAT titles are awarded for each 500 point accumulation after 1,000 points.
How to get started
Once you have decided to enter Fast CAT with your dog, speak to your local AKC club, which should be able to offer you more details on upcoming events. Fast CAT events are becoming increasingly popular, so it is becoming ever more likely that there will be an event in your local area.
After finding out the date and time of your event, simply complete the entry form and pay any associated fees.
What to bring to a Fast CAT event
The list of necessary dog training equipment for Fast CAT is minimal when compared with some other dog sports. However, there are some items you will definitely need to bring to be able to participate successfully:
- Collar. The collar should be a comfortable fit, and crucially, should have no tags hanging from it. You may wish to use a separate collar entirely for Fast CAT events.
- Leash. You will need a leash to ensure your dog is under control before and after their Fast CAT run.
- Water and treats. It is important to ensure your dog is fully hydrated before taking part in a Fast CAT event. In addition, treats can be used to reward your pup after they have completed the course.
- A friend. Bringing a friend (ideally someone comfortable handling your dog) is very beneficial in Fast CAT. As the dog’s owner, you will typically stand at the end of the course to encourage your dog down the track, and catch them when they have finished their run – so you will need someone who can release your dog at the start line. Although other handlers may be able to help, there is no guarantee of this, and only one dog is allowed in the lure coursing area at a time. Bringing a friend mitigates any potential problems here.
- Enthusiasm. Fast CAT is lots of fun for you and your dog! An enthusiastic disposition will not only increase your enjoyment of the event, but it is also likely to encourage your dog to run more quickly as they sprint towards you.
Which dogs are good candidates for Fast CAT?
Although any dog meeting the entry criteria can enter a Fast CAT event, some breeds are better candidates for success than others.
Dogs with excellent energy levels and drive will excel at Fast CAT, and many of these are breeds with a proven pedigree when it comes to sprinting. It won’t surprise you to learn that perennial runners like Greyhounds, Whippets and Vizslas love to take part in Fast CAT.
If you own one of the breeds listed on our fastest dog breeds list, there’s a strong likelihood they will benefit from running in a Fast CAT event.
How fast can dogs run?
Greyhounds are often regarded as the fastest of all dog breeds, and have been known to hit top speeds of 45 mph. The AKC regularly updates a list of quickest Fast CAT speeds for each dog breed, with one Greyhound recording an average speed of 40.22 mph across their three fastest runs.
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