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There are sports for dogs that love water, dogs that love to jump and climb, dogs with excellent fetching skills and more, and there is also a sporting ideal for dogs with a high prey drive! Did you ever think that your dog’s habit of chasing after birds and cats might be good for something and that there could be a way you could use it for exercise and activation? No? Well, there is, and it is called “Lure Coursing.”
It is a sport where the dogs chase after a mechanically driven artificial prey, and where they get to burn off steam by running as fast as they can on an often fenced-in area. Does it sound like something your dog would enjoy? If so, then perhaps it is time to do some research to see if there is Lure Coursing available in your area!
What is Lure Coursing?
Lure Coursing may sound completely unfamiliar to you, but the name can tell you almost exactly what it is; a lure put on a string, that is then pulled rapidly around a set course for your dog to chase. It is a very simple concept with a somewhat complex and very clever execution, and it is an activity any physically fit dog can participate in and enjoy. Not all dogs are eligible to compete in Lure Coursing, but more on that later.
The lure is pulled mechanically, using gear made especially for the sport of Lure Coursing. To set up a course, you need a dog lure coursing system, which is now sold by multiple manufacturers; the sport has gained popularity in recent years and the demand has resulted in a bigger product selection.
The equipment consists of a rolled up line that is used to set up the course and connected to this is a small engine and a battery. The game is played on a field or in an open area, where the dog will run a course of approximately 600-1000 yards, and the line is used to pre-set the course using a field pulley stuck in the ground at every planned turn or change of direction.
A regular white plastic bag is hooked onto the line; the reason being that it closely mimics the frantic movements of prey, and the idea is to awaken the dog’s prey drive and motivate it to initiate the chase.
The engine makes it move rapidly along the set-up course, and control allows a designated person to change the direction and make the plastic bag go back the way that it came. Have you ever seen a dog chase after a cat, a mouse or any other small animal? Lure Coursing is exactly that, only without live prey.
One to three dogs will race together, they all need to be over the age of 1 to be allowed to race (both in competitions and when running just for fun) due to the stress the quick turns would put on growing joints and bones, and be physically fit to race.
Finding a Place to Lure Course
Unless you want to purchase the equipment to set up your own Lure Course and course in your backyard – you will need to find a place where your dog can participate in lure coursing. The easiest way to do this is to contact your local kennel club and other canine organizations, to see if they organize Lure Coursing or if they know where you could engage your dog in the activity.
If this does not work out, the next step is a simple Google search on Lure Coursing in your immediate area, and if there is nothing – check where the closest location would be. You might have to travel to try it for the first time, but many people do, and it could potentially be worth the trip.
If you find that you like it, you can either travel back regularly to let your dog have a good run or gather a group of individuals in your hometown that would be interested in buying the gear needed for Lure Coursing. You can do it yourself too if you are willing to research to learn to do it correctly, but it is always more fun to be part of a group.
Lure Coursing Competitions
While many let their dogs do Lure Coursing just for exercise and fun, there is also an established competition circle where many go on to compete internationally. In competition, two dogs (braces) or three dogs (trios) will run at the same time depending on the total number of dogs in each class.
There is also the option for a dog to run alone, but their scores will not qualify towards an AKC title, unless they complete a ‘Best in Field’ run or a ‘Best of Breed’ run and defeats a hound. Dogs run depending on their breed and sometimes also speed if many dogs of the same breed are participating, and this is to give each dog a fair chance to win.
Each of the participating dogs will run twice; where the first run is a preliminary run, and the second is the final. During the finals, the dogs will run a reversed course. Once both the trials and the finals are completed, a dog is named Best of Breed in each breed group. All winners will then go on to compete for the title of ‘Best of Field’.
The dogs competing together do not start at the same time, and the order is determined by a draw. This means that the goal of the sport is not to catch the plastic bag, but instead, it is about how the dog performs during the race. The way the dogs are judged depends on the competition, as there are a few different judging guidelines currently in place, as can be seen below:
ASFA (American Sighthound Field Association). A point system of a maximum of 100 points is used to score the dog’s performance, and they are rated based on their enthusiasm, speed, endurance, agility, and something known as “follow.” ‘Follow’ refers to how well the dog follows the plastic bag (the lure), instead of just running after the other participating dogs. The maximum score for each category is as follows:
+ Enthusiasm – 15
+ Speed – 25
+ Endurance – 20
+ Agility – 25
+ Follow – 15
If the dog is released too soon, the judge or judges will then deduct 10 points from the dog’s final score as punishment, and the judges also have the right to disqualify or excuse a dog from the race if any misbehavior occurs.
AKC (American Kennel Club). The rules here are very similar when compared to the ASFA rules, but the scoring system is different, and the dogs are instead graded as follows with a maximal score of 50 points:
+ Speed – 10
+ Agility – 10
+ Ability – 10
+ Endurance – 10
+ Follow – 10
FCI (World Canine Organization). Last but far from least we have the FCI, used for international Lure Course competitions in Europe. Here the criteria on which the dogs are judged are Endurance, Enthusiasm, Speed, Agility, Intelligence, and the maximum score for each category is 20 (with a total max score of 100).
There are some countries in Europe where the judging rules and systems might differ slightly, such as in France and Germany, and these systems can be used internationally as well provided they comply with the general rules set by the FCI.
Each of these (FCI, AKC, and ASFA) also have their own additional titles available for champion runners and more, with differentiating requirements for each title.
This is where it gets interesting because while all dogs can practice Lure Coursing on a hobby level, only certain breeds are eligible to compete in official competitions. The reason for this is complicated, but it has to do with certain breeds being more naturally inclined to hunt and to focus on the prey. The following dog breeds are those eligible in accordance with the AKC rules, and they may differ when competing in competitions hosted by other organizations.
+ Pharaoh Hound
+ Scottish Deerhound
+ Italian Greyhound
+ Irish Wolfhound
+ Rhodesian Ridgeback
+ Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
+ Ibizan Hound
+ Afghan Hound
+ Thai Ridgeback (can only compete for suffix titles)
+ Portuguese Podengo Medio (can only compete for suffix titles)
+ Portuguese Podengo Grande (can only compete for suffix titles)
+ Norrbottenspets (can only compete for suffix titles)
If your dog’s breed is not on the list, or if you are the owner of an adorable mutt – don’t feel left out! You can still practice the sport and use it as a great exercise method (your dog will love it), and you can always compete in local and non-official competitions that are open to all dog breeds (and mixed breeds).
The rules change depending on the sanctioning organizations, and it is highly recommended that you reach out to the one best suited for your needs for an update on how their competitions work and whether your dog is eligible to participate. Certification may be required before your dog can compete in official Lure Coursing competitions.
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