Interview with Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek of Kominek Afghan Hounds
We are Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek of Kominek Afghan Hounds. We strive to breed and prove functional Afghan Hounds by competing in Conformation, Lure Coursing, Straight Racing, and Open Field Coursing/Hunting with our stock. We live on 102 acres in Eastern Tennessee and hold Lure Coursing, Racing, and Specialty Conformation events on our property throughout the entire year. We are both Lure Coursing Judges in AKC/ASFA and are working towards our Conformation judging licenses.
We strive to breed and prove functional Afghan Hounds by competing in Conformation, Lure Coursing, Straight Racing, and Open Field Coursing/Hunting with our stock.
How were you introduced to the Afghan Hound?
My wife had wanted an Afghan Hound since she was in grade school, and I know because I’ve seen the doodles of them in her sixth grade notebook. She finally convinced me to get our first in 2000, insisting she would do all the grooming and showing. Being new to the world of purebreds, of course, our first was bought from a newspaper and didn’t do well showing. Over the years, we became acquainted with the fancy and were able to acquire stock better-suited to showing, and then, coursing.
As Selma transitioned to her neurosurgical career, I’ve since taken up the mantle of groomer and handler, but we both enjoy all the sports our dogs participate in, primarily Conformation and Lure Coursing, but we try to take them out West once a year to open field course jackrabbits. Our fourth Afghan Hound and first Dual Champion, “Soleil,” is the foundation of our breeding program, now on our third generation, and is still with us at 13.
When did your Afghan Hounds begin Lure Coursing?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: Our first experience lure coursing was a Junior Courser (JC) Test at a large show cluster in Perry, Georgia, in 2005, put on by the Pharaoh Hound Club of America. It was a novel experience for us, and it hit us that THIS was THE sighthound sport. Both of our Afghan Hounds that weekend, “Joey” and “Phoebe,” immediately “got it,” and Phoebe earned her JC title. We’d known about companion events and had dabbled in Obedience and Rally with our guys, and while we had fun, nothing seemed to make them as happy as chasing plastic bunnies.
Our next Afghan Hound, “Reza,” would be our first Field Champion, and campaigning her around the Southeast to many American Kennel Club (AKC) & American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) lure coursing field trials introduced us to the community. We found such camaraderie among the people involved in sighthound lure coursing field trials that it became our preferred pastime. I began learning several working positions on the field such as hunt master, lure operator, field trial secretary, etc. I chaired our first field trial with the Tara Afghan Hound Club in Perry in 2007.
Every Afghan Hound we’ve had since the beginning has had a lure coursing career, some more prolific than others. A Kominek Afghan Hound has won Best in Event at the AHCA National Specialty Lure Coursing trials since 2014.
What exactly is Lure Coursing? How did the sport get its start?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: Lure coursing can be thought of as a simulation of open field coursing. Open field coursing of live, wild game has been a popular pastime in the American West since the time of General Custer and his pack of staghounds. Organized open field coursing was growing in popularity among many sighthound owners in the 1960s and ‘70s, and several of those hunters were looking for a way to condition hounds in the off-season with the use of an artificial lure, dragged along the ground and pulled by a hand-powered contraption made from an old bicycle.
Lyle Gillette and others began the American Sighthound Field Association in the early ‘70s to bring lure coursing to the rest of the United States as a way for sighthound owners to evaluate the running capabilities of their sighthounds and with the intent that the sport be adopted by the American Kennel Club, eventually.
Lure coursing trials borrowed much of the running format and evaluation rules from open field coursing. Courses can be anywhere from 600-1200 yards in length, and are set out on a field using nylon string going around several pulleys and driven by an electric or gas-powered machine with three plastic bag “bunnies” tied to the string. Sighthounds run in courses of trios or braces, wearing blankets colored either yellow, pink or blue, and are evaluated against each other categorically on aspects such as speed, agility, endurance, follow, and enthusiasm.
Afghan Hounds were the most popular breed at the sport’s inception; on a two-day weekend, Saturday would be devoted to Afghan Hounds and Sunday was “everything else.” Times have changed, and while Whippets are the most popular breed, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Ibizan Hounds are both a close second.
Is there any preparation required for Lure Coursing? Conditioning? Training?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: We begin exposing our puppies to a “flirt pole” (fancy term for a horse lunge whip with a fur or bag tied on the end) at about 5 weeks of age and use that to evaluate them for homes. At 8 weeks, we’re not looking for the fastest, but can differentiate puppies on their interest, determination, tenacity, resilience, competitiveness, and coordination, and it gives us an idea which ones should go to homes that would like to pursue a performance career. Thus far, we’ve been pretty accurate in our predictions.
We expose puppies to a “real lure” once they’re bigger than the lure itself, so at about 10-12 weeks, and we do “puppy bumps” where the lure only moves a few feet, and the puppies can pounce and attack it. At about 6 months, we can start doing 50 yard down-and-back straights. At 9 months, we’ll put them through their first easy turn on a down-and-back, doing about 100-150 yards, and by the time they’re 11-12 months they can run full courses provided they’re not too complicated.
We usually council our owners to wait until 14-plus months for bitches and 18-plus months for dogs, when their growth plates close, before they begin a lure coursing career with their hounds. Most sighthounds don’t fully develop and run hard until they’re 2 years old, reaching their peak performance from 2.5 years to 5 years old.
As far as conditioning: don’t run a fat dog, as it’s dangerous for their joints and increases their chances of falling. Free-running is the best conditioning you can provide a sighthound, as they’re moving themselves at full gallop speed and learning how to use their unencumbered and unrestrained body. We’ve rollerbladed the dogs in the past for exercise, and while it helps for cardio, you cannot build a proper loin and coursing condition this way. We now let our dogs have free access to two-plus shaded acres, and they self-exercise the entire day. Our pack doesn’t have an exotic diet; we feed Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend Adult Chicken and Rice.
Free-running is the best conditioning you can provide a sighthound, as they’re moving themselves at full gallop speed and learning how to use their unencumbered and unrestrained body.
Do Afghan Hounds Lure Course differently than other Hound breeds?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: Each breed runs a little bit differently; as a lure operator, you learn this fact early. The ASFA Judge’s Handbook does a great job describing each breed’s original purpose and aspects of their running style that differentiates them. Afghan Hounds are not the fastest breed in sighthound lure coursing: they’re usually about as fast as a good Ibizan Hound or fast Rhodesian Ridgeback, but slower than Greyhounds, Whippets, Borzoi, and Salukis.
Afghan Hounds should excel in agility, with fast braking and quick acceleration due to their large, padded feet, their high, wide-set hips, and their compact, square structure—as long as they are of a standard size; bitches being 24-26 inches and males 26-28 inches. They are a very intelligent yet self-serving breed, and this can eventually lead to “cheating,” where the dog begins cutting corners and guessing where the lure is going to go. If your dog is running well, it’s best to knock out any large competition wins and titles early before they decide to play the game by their own rules.
What are the benefits of Lure Coursing? The risks?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: For us, the biggest benefit to competitive lure coursing is as an evaluative tool for breeding. I like to be able to compare my dogs’ capabilities in head-to-head competition against each other as well to other owners’ and breeders’ dogs. Every run in lure coursing will vary slightly, course to course. The speed of the lure can be adjusted to the speed of the dog, and it is very difficult to judge two dogs’ speed in different courses; therefore, it is much more useful to me to evaluate the dogs running side-by-side.
FastCAT can be a useful tool, but it is too short, in my opinion, for sighthound evaluation. LGRA, even at 200 yards, is a bit on the short side. I don’t see lure coursing as a conditioning tool; sighthounds should be conditioned for lure coursing trials, which are evaluation and exhibition events. (You don’t enter a marathon for training; you train for a marathon and enter to compete and win.)
As far as risks, there are risks anytime our hounds run loose with other dogs. We’ve had more injuries in the backyard than on the lure coursing field. Sometimes there are minor line burns where the dogs might pick up the string with their leg for a second.
Rare are the injurious accidents, which can result from the line wrapping a leg, a dog falling at full speed, or a mid-field collision, and all of these can be mitigated with a competent field crew that includes hunt masters ready with a knife to cut the line and seasoned lure operators showing corners and avoiding potential collisions. By having so much control over things such as field selection, course design, and working personnel, lure coursing can be measurably safer than open field coursing with unknown terrain, barbed wire fences, and unbound fields.
For us, the biggest benefit to competitive lure coursing is as an evaluative tool for breeding. I like to be able to compare my dogs’ capabilities in head-to-head competition against each other as well to other owners’ and breeders’ dogs.
Can Afghan Hounds compete in both Conformation and Lure Coursing?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: Absolutely! We strive to put Dual Champion titles on our dogs. “DC” is a title awarded by the AKC to dogs which have completed their Conformation Champion (CH) and Field Champion (FC) titles. We begin a dog’s show career earlier because they are allowed to compete at 6 months. No coursing sports allow dogs under 12 months, so we wait until maturity to begin working on their lure coursing titles.
In Lure Coursing, does each breed compete individually? How are titles earned?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: Events such as Junior Courser (JC) tests, Coursing Ability Tests (CAT), FastCAT, ASFA Lure Coursing Instinct (LCI) stakes and AKC/ASFA Singles stakes will have a sightound (or non-sighthound depending on the event) running singularly. Competitive lure coursing at AKC and ASFA Field Trials will have 2-3 dogs running in the same course, head-to-head. Both venues will require a certification run with another hound to ensure the dog runs intently and cleanly, without interfering, before they can enter a trial. Hounds will run twice, once in Prelims and then in Finals, and their scores from each course are added together; the highest hound in each stake takes first place.
Both organizations have three stakes:
- Field Champion
The first place from each stake will run off for Best of Breed. Points are earned for placements and depend on the number of dogs in each stake. In AKC, majors are earned for a first placement and vary by breed for the number of dogs required. Field Champion titles (FC for AKC, FCh for ASFA) are earned in the Open stake against other non-champions. The AKC point requirements for a FC are similar to Conformation, with 15 points and 2 majors. ASFA has a different point schedule, and awards requiring 100 points and certain placements over competition. Once in the Field Champion (ASFA) or Specials (AKC) stakes, sighthounds can further compete for Lure Courser of Merit (LCM, ASFA) or Lure Coursing Excellent (LCX, AKC) iterative titles. ASFA also has a Veteran line of titles which can be earned from the Veterans stake.
Would you recommend Lure Coursing to breeders and owners of Afghan Hounds?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: Absolutely. As breeders, our favorite homes are those that will keep a dog in a healthy, running condition and get them out to performance events. It’s an easier learning curve for new Afghan Hound owners than Conformation or Companion events, and a weekend out lure coursing gets you a couple days outside, hanging out with like-minded sighthound owners who are letting their dogs do what they were instinctually bred to do.
Where can Afghan Hound owners go to compete in Lure Coursing events?
Eddie & Dr. Selma Kominek: Our property in Limestone, Tennessee! We host several AKC and ASFA lure coursing trial weekends every year as well as many LGRA race meets.
- We’re members of the Gazehound Association of the Smoky Mountains and our events are up at: https://gasm.club
- AKC Lure Coursing events can be found using the AKC Event Search & Results page at: https://webapps.akc.org/event-search/
- ASFA has their trial schedule listed here: https://www.asfa.org/event/index.htm
Some areas of the country might prefer one venue over another, but others will be a mix of the two venues. Hope to see you out on the field!
Are you looking for an Afghan Hound puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home an Afghan Hound dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
Afghan Hound Dog Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the versatile Afghan Hound dog breed with articles and information in our Afghan Hound Dog Breed Magazine.
Afghan Hound Breed Magazine - Showsight