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Lure Coursing Dog Sport

Side photo of a purebred Sloughi running while participating in Lure Coursing.
Submitted by: Daniela Bruhwiler

About Lure Coursing

Lure Coursing is a thrilling sport where dogs chase an artificial lure across an open field. Originally designed for sighthounds, the sport now welcomes fit and functional dogs of several additional breeds. The key to this popular sport is the dog’s natural instinct to chase, which this event channels into a safe and controlled activity.

At competitions, dogs are judged on their speed, agility, and enthusiasm as they follow a course that mimics the unpredictability of chasing live prey. The sport not only provides a physical workout for the dogs, it also offers a mental challenge that stimulates each dog’s natural instinct to chase.

Lure Coursing is also an engaging spectator sport. It appeals to a wide audience, especially people who love to watch a dog run at full-speed. This action-packed activity showcases the grace and speed that many dogs naturally possess, and it offers an opportunity for greater understanding of one of the domestic dog’s natural behaviors; the strong desire to chase anything that moves.

History of Lure Coursing

Lure Coursing has its origins in the ancient practice of coursing, where sighthounds were used for hunting by virtue of their exceptional speed and keen eyesight. Historical records indicate that coursing live game with hounds dates back to ancient Egypt, Persia, and later, in medieval Europe. The sport initially served a practical purpose, providing food and demonstrating the prowess of the hounds. Over time, it has evolved to become an exciting dog sport and recreational entertainment.

Transition to a Modern Sport

The modern version of Lure Coursing began to take shape in the early 20th century. The shift from live game coursing to the use of artificial lures was driven by a growing awareness and concern for animal welfare as well as the practical challenges of using live prey. The first mechanical lures were simple, often just a bag or a rag tied to a string and manually pulled to simulate the movement of game.

Formalization & Growth

The formalization of Lure Coursing as a sport is largely attributed to Lyle Gillette and his wife, Dorothy, in the United States during the 1970s. The Gilletes developed a more sophisticated mechanical lure system that allowed for greater control and variety in the coursing path. Their innovative device more effectively mimicked the unpredictability of chasing live prey and was instrumental for standardizing the sport and making it more accessible.

In 1972, the Gillettes founded the sport’s first organization, the Lure Coursing Enthusiasts Association. Their efforts led to the establishment of rules and organized competitions, laying the foundation for the performance event as it’s known today.

Expansion & Recognition

Lure Coursing gained significant momentum in the late 20th century, with national and international bodies recognizing it as a formal canine sport. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) were among the first to include Lure Coursing in their competitive events. This recognition brought structured rules, standardized courses, and official titles and championships.

Today, Lure Coursing continues to evolve, embracing technological advancements in lure systems and expanding to include a wider variety of dog breeds beyond traditional sighthounds. It remains a celebration of the chase instinct of the eligible breeds, and it provides a safe and controlled environment for demonstrating this natural behavior.

Sloughi running while participating in Lure Coursing,
Submitted by: Daniela Bruhwiler

Understanding the Basics of Lure Coursing

The primary objective in Lure Coursing is for the dog to chase an artificial lure across a field, following a course that simulates the unpredictable movements of prey. The sport tests a dog’s ability to sprint, change direction rapidly, and maintain focus on the moving lure. Unlike traditional racing, Lure Coursing is not just about speed; agility and the dog’s enthusiasm for the chase are equally important.

Roles in Lure Coursing

There are several key roles in Lure Coursing:

  • The Lure Operator: A crucial role, the lure operator controls the speed and direction of the lure, ensuring it moves in a way that is enticing and safe for the dogs.
  • The Judges: Judges observe and score a dog’s performance based on criteria such as enthusiasm, speed, agility, and endurance. They make sure the rules of the competition are followed and they determine the winners.
  • Handlers & Owners: Handlers and owners prepare their dogs for the course, making sure they are fit, trained, and ready to compete.

Lure Coursing is a sport that demands both physical and mental fitness from the dogs. Handlers play a significant role in preparing their dogs for the challenges of the course, while the judges and lure operators work together to provide a fair and exciting competition that is safe for all participants.

Side photo of a Sloughi dog running while participating in Lure Coursing.
Submitted by: Daniela Bruhwiler

Breeds & Suitability for Lure Coursing

Traditionally, Lure Coursing has been associated with sighthounds. These breeds are known for their exceptional speed, keen vision, and strong chase instincts. Their rather aerodynamic forms and powerful legs make them natural contenders in the sport.

Lure Coursing, however, is not exclusive to sighthounds. Over the years, the sport has opened up to a few additional breeds that are eligible to compete, albeit with different running styles and motivations. Whatever the breed, dogs must be one year of age or older to compete. Spayed and neutered dogs are eligible to participate as are dogs with a Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) or Indefinite Listing Privilege (ILP). Females in season and monorchid/cryptorchid males are ineligible to participate.

Eligible Breeds

The following recognized breeds are eligible to compete in Lure Coursing:

*This breed may compete for suffix titles only in AKC Lure Coursing events.

Characteristics for Lure Coursing

The key attributes for a dog to excel in Lure Coursing include:

  • Speed & Agility: The ability to run fast and maneuver swiftly around the course.
  • Chase Instinct: A strong natural inclination to chase moving objects.
  • Focus & Drive: The capacity to concentrate on the lure and sustain pursuit.
  • Physical Fitness: Overall health and stamina needed to participate in a physically demanding activity.

Breed-Specific Considerations

For sighthounds, the sport of Lure Coursing is a natural extension of their inherent traits. Nevertheless, careful training and assessment are necessary to make sure each dog can participate safely and enjoyably.

Owners of eligible breeds who are interested in Lure Coursing should consider their dog’s conformation, physical health, and temperament. It’s important to note that while the sport is physically demanding, it should always be a fun and positive experience for the dog.

Side photo of a purebred Sloughi dog running while participating in Lure Coursing.
Submitted by: Daniela Bruhwiler

Lure Coursing Equipment

The primary equipment used in Lure Coursing includes:

  • The Lure: Typically made of plastic strips or a similar material, the lure is designed to catch and hold a dog’s attention. It must be visible and enticing enough to stimulate the dog’s chase instinct.
  • Lure Machine: This is the mechanism that drives the lure around the course. It consists of a motor, a spool, and a system of pulleys. The machine controls the speed and direction of the lure, allowing it to mimic the movements of live prey.
  • Course Layout: The course is laid out with a series of pulleys that guide the lure in a predetermined path. It includes straights, turns, and possibly obstacles, designed to test the agility and speed of the dogs.

Types of Lure Coursing Machines

Lure coursing machines vary in complexity and design. Some key types include:

  • Continuous Loop Systems: These are commonly used in formal competitions. The lure is attached to a continuous loop that runs through a series of pulleys, allowing for varied and complex course designs.
  • Portable & Home Systems: These are simpler and more suitable for casual training or home use. They often have fewer pulleys and a more straightforward setup.

Safety & Maintenance of Equipment

Safety is paramount in Lure Coursing. The equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained to make sure it operates smoothly and poses no risk to the dogs. Key considerations include:

  • Regular Inspection: Checking for wear and tear, especially on the pulleys, the line, and the motor, is crucial for the safety of a course.
  • Lure Condition: It is important to inspect the lure to be sure it is in good condition and securely attached.
  • Course Safety: Verifying that the course is free from hazards, and that the layout does not pose a risk of injury to the dogs, is essential.
Side photo of a purebred Sloughi running while participating in Lure Coursing dog sport.
Submitted by: Daniela Bruhwiler

Setting Up a Lure Course

Setting up a course is a critical aspect of Lure Coursing, requiring careful planning to balance the excitement of the chase with the safety of the participants. A well-designed course should mimic the unpredictability of chasing live prey while ensuring the safety of the dogs. Key elements include:

  • Course Layout: The course should have a mix of straight runs and turns, providing dogs with both speed and agility challenges. The layout is usually dictated by the space available and can range from simple oval shapes to more complex patterns with multiple turns.
  • Surface & Terrain: The ground on which a course is set up should be even and free of obstacles that could cause injury. Grass is commonly used, but sandy or dirt surfaces are also acceptable, as long as they are well-maintained and free of debris.
  • Course Size: The size can vary, but a typical course is generally between 600 to 1000 yards in length. It should provide enough space for the dogs to reach full speed and safely complete turns.

Setting Up a Professional Lure Course

For professional competitions, setting up a course involves:

  • Compliance with Regulations: The course must meet the specifications set by governing bodies, like AKC or ASFA.
  • Advanced Equipment: This includes high-quality lure machines and a well-planned pulley system that creates a challenging and varied course.
  • Safety Measures: Emergency procedures and safety equipment should be in place, along with trained personnel to handle any incidents that may occur.

Creating a Home Lure Course

For casual training or home enjoyment, a simpler setup can be used:

  • Portable Lure Machines: These are suitable for smaller, less complex courses.
  • Simplified Layout: The course can be shorter with fewer turns, tailored to the space available and the ability of the dogs.
  • Safety Considerations: Even in a home setting, the safety of the course and equipment is vital.

Maintenance & Safety Checks

Regular maintenance of the course and equipment is crucial. This includes checking the condition of the lure, ensuring the pulleys and line are functioning properly, and inspecting the course surface for hazards.

Setting up a course is a process that requires attention to detail and a focus on safety. Whether for professional competitions or home enjoyment, the course should provide an exciting and stimulating environment for the dogs, while prioritizing their well-being at all times.

Lure Coursing Organizations

As Lure Coursing has grown in popularity and recognition, a variety of organizations have emerged to support, regulate, and promote this dynamic dog sport. These bodies range from those dedicated solely to Lure Coursing to broader canine associations that include Lure Coursing among their range of activities. These organizations are instrumental in standardizing Lure Coursing events, establishing guidelines, and nurturing the community of enthusiasts and participants.

American Kennel Club (AKC)

  • About: Established in 1884, the AKC is a prominent organization in the United States that oversees various canine activities, including Lure Coursing.
  • Breed Acceptance: Welcomes all breeds, with specific events designed for sighthounds.
  • Eligibility: Refer to AKC Regulations for Lure Coursing Tests and Trials for eligibility requirements.

American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA)

  • About: The ASFA, founded specifically for Lure Coursing, focuses on preserving and promoting the sport, particularly for sighthound breeds.
  • Flagship Event: The ASFA International Invitational.
  • Breed Acceptance: Primarily targets sighthound breeds for participation.
  • Eligibility: Refer to ASFA Rulebook and Policies for eligibility requirements.

Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)

  • About: As an international canine organization, the FCI recognizes and oversees Lure Coursing competitions globally.
  • Flagship Event: The FCI International Lure Coursing Championships.
  • Breed Acceptance: Includes a diverse range of breeds as recognized by its member countries.
  • Eligibility: Refer to FCI Regulations for International Sighthound Racing and Lure Coursing Events for eligibility requirements.

United Kennel Club (UKC)

  • About: The UKC is known for its inclusive approach to canine sports and organizes Lure Coursing events as part of its diverse activities.
  • Breed Acceptance: Open to both purebred and mixed breed dogs.
  • Eligibility: Refer to Official UKC Lure Coursing Rulebook for eligibility requirements.
Side photo of a purebred Sloughi running while training for Lure Coursing.
Submitted by: Daniela Bruhwiler

Training for Lure Coursing

Training a dog for Lure Coursing is a multifaceted process that involves enhancing both physical abilities and mental acuity. It’s not just about developing a dog’s speed and agility; it also involves honing each dog’s focus and chase instincts, ensuring it is ready for the unique challenges of the sport.

Building a Solid Foundation

The journey to Lure Coursing begins with Basic Obedience training. This foundational step is crucial for safety and control during competitions. Alongside this, physical conditioning is gradually introduced with a focus on strengthening each dog’s endurance, speed, and flexibility. These early stages of training also involve nurturing the dog’s chase instinct, initially using simpler or slower-moving lures to build interest and focus.

Advanced Training Techniques

As the dog becomes more comfortable with the basics, training progresses to more advanced techniques. This includes introducing the dog to the actual lure used in competitions, allowing the dog to become familiar with the lure’s movement and speed. Simulating real course conditions plays a significant role during this stage, helping the dog learn how to navigate turns and straights efficiently and confidently.

Training also involves specialized exercises aimed at improving the dog’s sprinting ability as well as its agility. Speed and agility drills are incorporated into the routine, challenging the dog to change direction quickly while maintaining a steady pace.

Focus & Mental Readiness

Mental preparation is an integral part of Lure Coursing. Dogs must learn to focus on the lure, despite distractions, and maintain their composure in the stimulating environment of a competition. This includes exposure to different settings and situations, making sure the dog remains confident and focused regardless of any external factor.

Managing overexcitement is a common challenge in training for Lure Coursing. Trainers work to balance the dog’s enthusiasm with the need for control and focus. For some dogs, overcoming initial fear or nervousness related to the equipment or the competitive environment is necessary. This is addressed through gradual exposure and positive reinforcement, building the dog’s confidence and comfort level.

Health as a Priority

An essential aspect of training is monitoring a dog’s health and fitness. Regular health checks ensure the dog is in optimal condition for the physical demands of Lure Coursing. Adjustments in training routines are made as needed to prevent injury and manage fatigue.

Training for Lure Coursing is a comprehensive and ongoing process. It not only prepares the dog for the physical and mental demands of the sport, it also ensures its well-being and fosters enjoyment. A well-prepared dog is more likely to perform successfully and find pleasure in the thrill of the chase.


Lure Coursing Dog Sport


May 2024 Vol. 32 No. 5

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