There were dogs that leapt feet off the ground to catch frisbees in mid-air and others who sniffed out a scented Q-tip in a field in no time flat. Breeds that love the water jumped from a pool ledge into cool water before making a splash landing.

It all happened in Greenback over the past six days at an event called Bark Week. Hosted by Karen Echternacht at her farm with sites also at Greenback High School and Greenback Depot, the canine competition brought families from all over. Bark Week even extended into Vonore with some events. Spectators are always welcome.

The fun began just after daylight and went long into the afternoon each day.

“There are 20 state represented,” Echternacht said on Friday, as the day’s events were ramping up. “It’s a safe assumption to say we’ve had hundreds of dogs here.”

Finny Farm is located off Morganton Road and spans 4 acres. Echternacht said she’s been organizing Bark Week for the last four or five years. It seems to grow from one year to the next, she said. This year, dog owners traveled from the state of Washington, Connecticut, Colorado and in between, this dog trainer said. They all come to enter their dogs in activities to test their speed, agility, herding, stunts, manners, farm skills, rally, dock diving and obedience.

Perry, Georgia, is the closest location where other events like Bark Week take place, Echternacht said. She said her locale is the largest performance cluster in the U.S., meaning it it the largest competition that holds multiple events.

Karen and her husband Scott moved here a few years ago after purchasing the farm, which they named for one of their cocker spaniels, who has passed away. They have 10 cocker spaniels currently and they all participate in Bark Week.

The oldest of the group, Puppet, is 14, Echternacht said. One day last week, she competed in the scent work, sniffing out a scented Q-tip in a field. She took the championship.

The barn hunt tests dogs’ sense of smell, too, as they have to locate rats and other objects. If it’s speed a dog wants to showcase, there is a 100-yard dash and also a 600-yard dash.

Finny Farm is one stop on a circuit of sport dog competitions. The Echternachts travel with their dogs when they aren’t hosting them at their farm.

“Almost all of the dogs here are athletes,” Echternacht said. “They are well-versed in competition. But all of them are first and foremost pets.”

The competitions do include novices. Some of the events even take walk-ons, but most require advance registration. Some of the handlers are young teens while others are more experienced, Echternacht said.

As for which breeds do best in competition, that’s hard to say, this trainer said. Border collies and great Danes show up. So do Belgian sheepdogs and shelties. Some non-traditional dogs perform great on agility tests. It just depends on the individual dog, Echternacht explained.

Throughout the week, dogs were rewarded with ribbons for their performances. Many are signed up for multiple disciplines. Last year, one dog racked up close to 40 championships over the six days. That was likely to happen this year, Echternacht predicted.

There is no monetary prize; the days are long and often hot, but those in the throes of competition don’t seem to mind. Echternacht said this is a year-round thrill for many.

“We are adrenaline junkies,” she said. “We like the rush.”

A special category has been established for special needs dogs. Dogs with only three legs or problems with their sight are allowed to compete. “They are dogs, too,” Echternacht said.

It is through social media where many of the dog owners connect. Getting to actually see one another in person at these events is something they look forward to. Getting that face-to-face with friends is nice, Echternacht said.

While she didn’t grow up in Greenback, Echternacht loves the farm life here. She is from another place in East Tennessee, Rhea County. “This is home to me,” she said.

Echternacht’s business is called Canines by Karen. She has been training dogs for many years. Agility, she said, is her passion. She’s already planning 2023 Bark Week.

It has been a long six days; rain postponed some events but all were eventually held. Echternacht said she welcomes any inquiries from individuals who are seeking dog training. More information can be found on her website, caninesbykaren.com.

“Just give me a week or so to recover,” she asked.

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Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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