For the Crotts, dog training runs in the family

Published 12:10 am Saturday, January 29, 2022

SALISBURY — A simple trick started it all.

On one of the first days of her puppy’s dog obedience class, Tracy Crotts was given a homework assignment. She was expected to teach her dog to roll over. Tracy, a certified public accountant, had named her dog after the Financial Accounting Standards Board, better known as FASB.

Fasb the dog was a quick learner and mastered the trick with relative ease.

“This little guy showed me he was capable of doing a lot more,” Tracy said.

Within a year, Tracy became a certified dog trainer. She taught Fasb, a small Spaniel breed called Papillon, dozens of tricks on her way to becoming a certified trick dog instructor. Since then, Tracy has also trained the family’s other four dogs, a 13-year-old smooth collie named Nexus, a 6-year-old Chinese crested named Sugar Bear, a 3-year-old Papillon named Cider and a 1-year-old poodle called Echo.

Tracy, who lives with her family near Faith, passed her propensity for training dogs on to her 12-year-old daughter Kara, who grew up among the family’s “pack” of dogs.

Kara’s time spent with the family’s canines recently paid off in ribbons, medals and a trophy.

In December, she was announced as the national winner of the 10-13 age group of the American Kennel Club’s virtual 2021 Trick Dog Competition. Kara was recognized for tricks she pulled off with Sugar Bear, the dog she picked out after seeing the breed on screen as Cruella de Vil’s personal pooch in the 101 Dalmatians franchise. Sugar Bear won the national title for his breed in the competition.

“I think it really surprised her,” Tracy said.

Kara also received recognition for qualifying at the novice level for trick routines she completed with Fasb, who will turn 16 years old in April.

Kara and the family’s eldest dog didn’t always have such a strong bond. When Kara was a newborn, Tracy said Fasb wasn’t too fond of another Kara for stealing his spotlight. But it didn’t take long for that to change.

“Fasb soon realized she was his best bud because she would throw food down,” Tracy said.

Kara was always playing with the dogs, and liked to crawl into their crates during games of hide-and-seek. When Tracy took the well-trained dogs to teach children’s ministry at her church, Kara was there to lend a helping hand.

“She’s the best assistant ever,” Tracy said.

Kara has also competed with their dogs in local trick competitions and shows. At 7 years old, she won first place at the junior 4-H dog show with Nexus. In 2016, Kara started competing in AKC competitions with Sugar Bear.

That’s why Tracy encouraged Kara to enter with both Sugar Bear and Fasb in the AKC’s virtual competition last year.

“She’s watched me do a lot and she’s done a few tricks,” Tracy said. “I told her, ‘I think you can do this.’ I didn’t know she would win it.”

Tracy filmed videos of Kara going through trick routines with Sugar Bear and Fasb, some on homemade props. One of the videos was filmed at Understanding Your Dog, a canine training business run by Theresa Pitner in downtown Salisbury. Tracy and Pitner have bonded over their shared love of dog training. During the Christmas season, Pitner hosted Tracy, Kara and Sugar Bear as the trio delivered a holiday-themed trick performance. The Christmas performance was only the most recent. Tracy and Sugar Bear also performed at Woofstock at Pitner Dog Park and hosted two Halloween shows.

Tracy’s is now turning her attention to spreading the gospel of good dog training. She’s preparing to teach a dog obedience and safety class through Rowan County 4-H. The five-week class will be held every Tuesday starting on April 5 at Pitner Dog Park beyond the Salisbury Civic Center.

“Trick training is a very good mental stimulation for your dog and it helps build focus,” Tracy said. “It helps develop partnership with you and your dog where you become a team.”

For her own dogs, Tracy is interested in getting them involved in animal acting. She even completed a virtual course to find out what it takes to prepare canines for the big screen.

“That’s my challenge now,” Crotts said.

Crotts is also proud of her work as a volunteer with Collie Rescue of the Carolinas and her past involvement in Therapy Dogs International with Nexus.

For more information or to register for the class, contact Rowan County 4-H Agent Laura Allen at 704-216-8970 or by email at laura_allen@ncsu.edu.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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