The Allure of Lure Coursing; It’s not Just for Sighthounds anymore.
Photo courtesy of JRVL Photography
What is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and is able to leap tall blades of grass in a single bound? Why, a fox terrier lure coursing, of course.
What is Lure Coursing?
Lure coursing is a sport developed in the 1970s specifically for sighthounds. The idea was to simulate jack rabbit hunting for the hounds by avoiding unpredictable prey that would run the dogs into barbed wire. Lure coursing allows owners to test the functional requirements of their dogs without risking injury by running into nasty fences.
The dogs chase plastic bags on a course laid out to simulate escaping game. Most lure courses designed for hounds are 600-1000 yards long. The course is generally fenced in and is composed of a rope strung around strategically placed pulleys. A plastic bag (lure) is attached to the rope, which is operated by a motor that can vary the speed and direction of the lure. Sighthounds must first be “certified to run clean against a dog of a similar running style. In American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) competition, dogs are run in twos or threes based on the number of dogs available for the run. Dogs can run by themselves if there are no other dogs of the same breed entered, but their scores won’t qualify unless they defeat a hound in the Best of Breed run.
Hank was dubbed an “honorary sighthound” by event organizers
Photo courtesy of JRVL Photography
How do Foxies fit into all this?
Until recently, Lure Coursing events where the specific domain of the American Sighthound Field Association and the American Kennel Club (AKC), and only the following breeds were eligible:
Italian Greyhounds were banned because of their small size, it was feared the larger hounds would view them as prey.
AKC and the United Kennel Club (UKC) came to realize that most dogs have some prey drive and enjoy chasing game. So, they developed their own version of lure coursing for non sighthounds and mixed breeds. The dogs run alone (good thing for terriers) and the area is usually fenced in.
The first AKC Coursing Ability Test, (CAT) was held on February 23-27, 2011 in Calhoun, Georgia. There were 158 entries and 75 percent of the dogs earned qualifying scores. For many dogs entered, this was their first time out. The event was a huge success and more CATs are scheduled.
To find out where and when a lure coursing event is scheduled for your area, go to www.akc.org/events/lure_coursing for AKC events.
UKC events can be found at: www.ukcdogs.com/WebSite.nsf/News/UKCAnnouncestheAdditionof05192010102704AM
Reese, owned by Becky Malivuk, enjoying the chase.
The question most fox terrier owners ask is “How much training is involved?” The answer: very little. Some folks play with their dog in hopes of teaching them to follow a lure. The toy of choice is usually a piece of fur tied to the end of a whip; similar to a cat toy. Most dogs don’t need a lot of encouragement. In fact, dogs with high prey drive take to coursing right away. Of course, there are always exceptions. Some foxies are just too smart to chase a plastic bag around the field. I thought Hank; my wire fox terrier male would be that type. Quite frankly, he is a lazy boy unless he’s extremely aroused. So far, only squirrels and agility bring the wild dog out in him. Well, I soon learned he loves chasing a plastic bag around a large field. There was no orientation period needed for Hank. He saw it and took off. When he finally caught up with it, he “killed” the bag in true terrier fashion.
Billie, my timid wire, took to the lure with minimal coaching from me. I only had to say the words “get the squirrel” a couple of times and she was off in a flash. If dogs could smile, she was laughing. And the best part is, there is no training required!
Very little equipment is required for this sport, just the essentials such as a collar, leash, water bowl, crate and maybe a toy, but don’t forget the treats!
If you would like pictures, ask a friend to take them for you because you’ll miss your dogs run if you are trying to record it. Better yet, if there is a professional photographer capturing the event with high speed equipment, you’ll be sure to get some really nice photos.
Any breed or mixed breed can compete and title in the AKC Coursing Ability test as long as the dog is a year old and listed with AKC.
Dogs that pass the CAT three times will earn a Coursing Ability (CA) title. Dogs that pass ten times will earn a Coursing Ability Advanced (CAA) title, and dogs that pass twenty five times earn a Coursing Ability Excellent (CAX) title.
In order to pass, the dog must complete the course with enthusiasm and without interruption within a stated maximum time. The maximum time is generous and is only meant to prevent dogs that walk the course from passing. The maximum time for a 600 yard course is 2 minutes. A 300 yard long course must be completed in 1 ½ minutes.
Dogs under 12” at the withers and/or brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs run courses 300 yards in length. Dogs over 12” and that are not flat faced, run a 600 yard course.
Courses are designed with the dog’s safety in mind. No turns more acute than 90 degrees are allowed. This is because many breeds competing in the CAT are not as agile as sighthounds and safety first for the dogs is the utmost goal.
Gino, owned by Becky Malivuk
Tips for Terriers
Wire Fox Terriers Reese, Gino, Berry, Billie and Hank have kindly provided some tips for all you brave foxies who dare try this fun, new sport.
- Remind your human that just because you chase and kill vermin in your backyard, you may be a bit overwhelmed by the crowd and the sound of the pulley and lure. A little coaching from mom or dad can help kick in your prey drive.
- For your safety (you know how we terriers like to run) ask your human to verify the course will be fenced in before she signs you up. Although, a good romp in the field and forest beyond is an adventure for any fun loving fox terrier and is sure to get your human’s blood pumping as well.
- Watch the other dogs run before you give it a try. Not only does it get your juices flowing and increases your prey drive, it is such a hoot. Some of those herding dogs are really crazy. They would rather run circles around their human than chase a lure. Silly creatures! The bigger dogs and sporting breeds tend to waste time and energy by running the course bigger and wider than necessary. And some crazy dogs prefer to sniff the grass than chase a fast moving object. What are they thinking?
- Most of all, have fun and be your cute little self. Your human likes that. Isn’t that why she chose you in the first place?
To learn more about lure coursing, visit the AKC and UKC websites above and check out the ASFA site below.