Coursing is when a dog sights, runs down and kills prey. Lure coursing is a dog sport made for sighthounds that mimics their original job and technique of hunting prey. The sport of lure coursing is set up to replicate what happens naturally when dogs chase prey. The sport is always held outside in a field that is a minimum of 5 acres, the normal lure coursing course is 600-1000 yards long and contains several turns. A series of ropes and pulleys are set up to move the lure along the course in an erratic flight pattern that stimulates the natural flight of prey; a simple white bag is usually used for the lure.
During the event, two or three sighthounds of the same breed will run together chasing the lure. The dogs are judged on five things: endurance, enthusiasm, speed, agility and their ability to follow the lure. During the event, each dog runs twice and their two scores are added together to get their final score. If a tie occurs, the tying dogs will do a tiebreaker run. The dogs in each breed with the highest marks are awarded the "Best in Breed" and are able to participate in a final run for the "Best of Field" award. The dog that gets the most point in the final run is awarded the "Best in Field." Unfortunately, Italian Greyhounds are not allowed to participate in the final run as their small size puts them in danger of being seen as prey by the larger dogs.
To participate in lure coursing dogs must be at least one year old. This is mandatory due to health reasons as the quick turns and manoeuvres done during the runs can damage growing bones and joints. However, owners with puppies are encouraged to play chase-oriented games to help bring out the puppy's natural coursing instincts.
To participate in lure coursing, owners of course need a sighthound, plus they will need a slip collar and a bright coloured race coat for their dog. Owners should also bring along a bowl and a big container of fresh water, a gallon per dog is recommended, and if desired a cage with a sun cover for the dog. Lure coursing comes naturally to sighthounds so training for the sport does not entail great amounts of work. However, all dogs participating must have basic obedience training and be well behaved at all times. Just like with human athletes, dogs should not lure course â€œcoldâ€, owners should warm their dogs up with a long walk before the race and cool them down after with another walk. Sighthounds should not eat for at least two hours before lure coursing to help prevent bloat.
All sighthounds can participate in lure coursing. Afghan Hounds, Basenji, Borzoi, Greyhounds, Whippets, Ibizan Hounds, Pharaoh Hounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Saluki, Scottish Deerhounds, Sloughi and Italian Greyhounds are all sighthounds.
Lure coursing is a great activity for sighthound owners to do with their dogs; it is great exercise, socialization and lots of fun. Sighthounds naturally course game, it is what they were developed and bred to do, and dogs are happiest when they can be dogs and do what is natural and instinctive to them.