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SwiftPaws Product Review

SwiftPaws Home Original kit is a system to help train dogs for Fast CAT competition and/or to simply give them some exercise. I’ve had mine for about two weeks now and wanted to report on what our experience has been with it. Up front, I purchased mine, it was not given to me, I receive no endorsements from SwiftPaws, so this is a very honest review.

Note: See update at the end of this blog post.

This specific kit, and yes they sell other kits (
https://swiftpaws.com), is a set of pulleys, one motorized, a remote control, a roll of flags, and lots and lots of string. It’s easy to put together and operate. There are instructional videos on their web site, and I’ll be posting our own video showing how Luna Belle and I set it up, use it, take it down, tips, etc. So, the motor spins, runs the string, and the flag goes racing along for a dog to chase it, it’s that simple.

After using it with Luna Belle for two weeks, I have to say I’m really impressed. And Luna Belle gets mega-excited over it! You see, I have a bad lower back issue, torn up cartilage in my right knee, and degenerate arthritis in both knees, although the arthritis hasn’t really caused me much issue yet, it’s going to get noticeable sooner or later. So as an older professional trainer in my 60s, who is not as fast or mobile as I was back when I was a young whipper-snapper of 40-something, I am always looking for ways to exercise and train without the need to be super flexible and athletic. In fact, that’s one of the focuses of my training, find and develop training and care techniques for older folks, and those with limited mobility. If you have any techniques along these lines you want to share,
drop us a line!

When I first saw SwiftPaws I was very hopeful, but wary. I’ve seen lots of products for dogs make lots of promises that just fall apart upon actual use. Not so with SwiftPaws, it lives up to its promises! Easy to set up, easy to operate, easy to pack up, and restricted for safety. When Luna Belle has completed a SwiftPaws session, she is so worn out, but not dangerously so, but she’s gotten a ton of exercise in a little bit of time. And on this note, let me point out it is very important to let the dog catch the flag often enough to make them happy and keep them interested! Sometimes Luna Belle catches it on her own, despite my best efforts to the contrary. But when she starts to get tired and slow down, I have to go slow, or stop suddenly so she can catch it. I always end a session with her catching it, so she remembers it was really fun and she can actually catch her flag.

So, the details about SwiftPaws are interesting. It has a top speed of about 30mph, so you’re hard pressed to find a dog that can keep up with it at full speed. On top of which you’re running in a big square or rectangle (or other shapes with extra pulleys added) so the dog has to turn corner, switch directions, etc. It’s a serious workout for any dog. And it is reversible which I love, because I just worry about Luna getting dizzy going round in circles so many times. It operates by a really comfortable pistol-grip remote that has two controls on it. Power button, and a lever to control speed and direction. Yes, you can slow it down and speed it up, which is vital to SwiftPaws being so successful, trust me.

Mine came with a 250 foot spool of bright pink string. I like the bright color so I can see it clearly, and I only use 200 feet. The maximum course you can set up, according to SwiftPaws is 300 feet. So you can adjust the string length to fit your space and needs. Plus they sell replacement parts and extra pulleys, which is really nice.

One really great resource, besides the training videos on their web site, is their user Facebook page. You can ask questions and share experiences with other users and the SwiftPaws folks themselves. I learned there that the pulley units are waterproof, so I don’t have to pack it up every day, I can leave it out. The motorized unit isn’t so that has to come inside, but that’s fine. I also pack mine up before a rain, or for mowing the lawn. That gives me a chance to inspect the for wear, damage, etc. ALWAYS inspect your dog toys and equipment often, don’t put your dog in needless danger! One user says he puts a bucket over each pulley unit when not in use so he never has to bring them in.

safety features include a function so that with very little resistance on the line, the motor stops dead in its tracks instantly, and won’t fire back up for about 10 seconds. Plus, the remote will only operate for about a minute and a half before it tells the motor to shut down and turns itself off. “Ben, a minute and a half isn’t much time,” I hear you saying about now. HA-HA! Trust me, that’s about all the time any dog should run this hard before being made to rest. I say “being made” to rest. Because Luna Belle gets so excited and loves this so much, she’ll run herself until she’s sick and/or injures herself. So after that minute and a half, what I call A Run, take a few minutes, let your dog catch their breath, then you can turn the remote back on and start again. The rechargeable battery in the motor will last for about 3 runs according to SwiftPaws, but often 4 in my personal experience, which is more than enough.

After those three or four Runs, the battery is done, and I call that A Session. Once that session is done, Luna is so worn out and panting hard, laps up a ton of water over the next 15 minutes or so, and stands at the door, wanting to go out and run some more. But as worn out as she is, it would be foolish to let her, even if I had an extra battery. So after using this for two weeks, I’ve decided 2 to 3 days per week, 1 session per day, that’s about all Luna needs. Let me repeat and stress this strongly; SwiftPaws will wear out most dogs easily!
Do NOT overwork your dog! They can get sick from dehydration, over heating, and/or simple exhaustion! Plus, when they get worn down, they make mistakes maneuvering and can injure themselves more easily! Please, the safety and health of your dog comes first! YOU decide when the dog runs, do NOT listen to the dog!

Also, as a professional, I want to add this
personal warning; Do NOT feed a dog within 30 minutes before or after any activity what will be physically stressful like this! It can wreck havoc on their digestive track, and I for one do NOT want your dog rushed to the emergency vet due to digestive issues, as that could in many cases result in surgery or death! I can not stress this strongly enough!

Needless to say, I’m totally sold on SwiftPaws. CEO and founder Meghan Wolfram did an amazing job with this product. It is very well thought out, very well executed, and the quality is rock solid. If you want to start training your dog for
Fast CAT, or simply give them exercise that will be about the most fun a dog can have, this is the product for you.

Another point of concern is the question of SwiftPaws encouraging prey drive. Well, yes, it relies on prey drive to be successful. BUT, you should also train your dog to come, walk loose leash, and respond to commands offleash, properly, so you can stop them chasing squirrels or other animals when not appropriate. Dogs can learn context specific things, and this is one of them. So for me, that’s not a concern, unless you don’t want to train your dog, in which case, you shouldn’t have a dog. I know that sounds harsh, but I see a lot of dogs returned to shelters because the owners were not informed of what it takes, or how easy training really is. So, not an issue IMHO as a professional trainer, if you handle your dog properly with training.

Here’s a link to our second SwiftPaws session. We will post another video soon showing how we set up, operate, and pack it up, so keep checking back.

12/17/2022 Update: OK, after having used SwiftPaws for a couple weeks plus now with my GSD, I've noticed a few things.
  • Mow the lawn, as the grass starts to grow back, it seems to cause the string to get wrapped up in Luna Belle’s legs, not much of an issue with a fresh mowed lawn.
  • She will try her best to outlast the battery, don't let her, she'll run herself sick, seriously.
  • She is getting smarter, the level of strategy she is now using to, not out-run, but out-maneuver the flag, is surprising. She's cutting across the course to where she knows the flag is going to be, smart dog! I reverse it last the last minute to keep her going, but she is starting to make this an actual challenge for me.
  • I let her catch it from time to time, sometimes she catches it on her own (not often), but she's way more interested in the chase and running, than she is catching the flag. When she does catch it, she drops it immediately and comes back to the motorized pulley (where I'm standing).
  • When starting up from dead stop, she will stand ready by the motorized pulley, legs jumpy, preparing to shoot either left or right, waiting for the flag to fly by. She won't go run across the yard after it from a dead stop. She's weird.
  • Bad weather days when we can't get outside to run her course, she's really bummed out. She lives for her SwiftPaws runs now! And she can last longer now before she slows down, meaning she's building endurance and strength, great to see!
  • If you leave your track set up outside all the time (I only bring it in for rain, bring motorized pulley in every night), the string will of course start to dry out. I gotta buy a LOT of new string.
  • I wish the speed control allowed me to run the flag slower than it does. It gets plenty fast enough, but occasionally I’d love to run it a bit slower than its able to do now.