Anita Langford, chair of the Dogs Australia Lure Coursing committee, discusses the link between Lure Coursing and natural instincts, and how the sport can help satisfy those natural instincts.
Each of the dog sports recognised under Dogs Australia has a committee that oversees the sports regulations and reports to the Dogs Australia Board.
Anita is a Lure Coursing judge and competes in Lure Coursing and Endurance. Breeding Salukis, she shares her home with Salukis Leo, Lilith, Auster, Banou, Summer, Sooty and Minnie.
“We also have an Irish Wolfhound called Konnyr, and an Afghan Hound called Drum.”
“It definitely is a sighthound home.”
Lure Coursing was designed for sighthounds who are strongly motivated by movement. “It’s movement that is the trigger for them wanting to chase, whereas for other dogs it might be smell.”, Anita said.
Historically most sighthounds were used to hunt in open fields, using their line of sight to run after whatever their prey was.
In Russia and parts of Ireland, it was wolves, in England, deer, hare and rabbits, the Middle East, hare and gazelle.
“That ability still sits behind all those sighthounds.”
“You’ll see greyhound and whippets who are incredibly powerful sprinters, and Salukis and Afghan Hounds who have great endurance and agility, like a cross country runner.”
Lure Coursing relies on the natural instinct of a dog to chase. It can be difficult to create a drive to chase, it is usually a natural response. Dogs that don’t have the natural inclination to chase, may be more successful in another dog sport.
Lure Coursing is the home sport for sighthounds, but it is open to all dogs. All dogs who might have a drive to chase are welcome.
With recall being a high priority for most dog owners, at the start, some dogs may be hesitant to chase after a lure and confused about what to do.
“You can train a recall and not interfere with lure coursing, but if a dog is very handler focused and waiting for instructions, Obedience might suit them very well.”
Dogs with an independent nature who tend to make their own decisions perform well at Lure Coursing. Similar to the sport of Earthdog, where dogs independently search and dig in burrows.
Courses are set out to best suit the breeds in attendance and provide safety. “There are things that occurred in historic situations with hares, like hard turns that double back on the direction of travel, or running into a bank of trees.”
“There would be a risk of injury if we copied that, so we do as much as possible to simulate what would naturally happen but modify so it’s safe for the dogs.”, she said.
Dogs need to be physically sound and fit and it can be very strenuous.
Courses are customised depending on the breeds present.
“Afghan hounds are like an all-terrain vehicle, bred and developed in Afghanistan which is a very harsh environment, lots of mountains, heat, cold and rough underfoot.”
“Different to the home country of the Whippet, lots of green fields and small paddocks.”
“You wouldn’t use a Ferrari on the mountains or a four-wheel-drive at the formula 1.
Not all hound breeds suit lure coursing with some scent hounds like the Dachshund going to ground. hunting by smell, others might instead excel at tracking sports. Some quite enjoy lure coursing and have fun with it.
“Sighthounds are great at it, the long legged athletic-looking breeds, Whippets, Salukis, Afghan Hounds, Irish Wolfhounds, all the way down to the Italian Greyhound.”
Sighthounds are more inclined to use their sight than others, it is a really good fit for them.”
Small independent breeds like the Border Terrier and larger terriers suit Lure Coursing along with herding breeds.
“Herding breeds try to herd the lure rather than chase it and you see them get a bit cranky when the lure doesn’t obey them, and they bark at it!”
Belief that dogs will chase the family cat after lure coursing is a myth.
Anita says dogs vary a lot when it comes to what they want to chase.
“There’s dogs who chase the lure and other animals, dogs who do neither, or one or the other.”
“It won’t increase the dog’s desire to go after real animals. That desire is already either present or not present. Ultimately a plastic lure is the same as a plastic ball, it just travels further.”
Image Credit: Pinnicle Photography