By now you are probably aware that I think greyhounds are much more than 45 miles per hour couch potatoes. You may be thinking, I would love for my greyhound to have a more active lifestyle, but where do I start?
When I first adopted Jethro I was in the same boat. I knew about lure coursing but the other greyhound running sports were a mystery to me.
I am going to create a three-part series about amateur running sports in America. I am going to give you the details on: lure coursing, LGRA, and NOTRA. I hope that you will better understand the various options of running sports and find one or two that are best suited for you and your hound!
I am going to start with my most favorite amateur running sport, lure coursing.
First things first, what is lure coursing? Lure coursing was created the mimic open field or hare coursing– I am not sure that lure coursing creates this but it does create a nice athletic event to evaluate your hound’s ability. The idea is that the course should represent how a hare would behave in the open field. To create this, two to three white plastic garbage bags (lure) are tied to a line, and then the line with the lure attached is pulled by pulleys that are propelled by a generator throughout the course. There are two main ways to move the lure around the course: continuous loop and drag operated. Continuous loop courses allow running of multiple dogs quickly, as the line never comes off the pulleys, creating a continuous loop. However, in some long straights of the course the line can “ride high” and cause line burn or other injuries to the hounds. Drag operated lure does not cause line burn and some feel more engaging for the hound to chase. I prefer running my dogs on drag lure. It does take additional time to restring the entire 600-900 yard course. However, this is minimal and does not usually slow down the trial.
Now that you’re looking forward to a beautiful day in the country, what does you Greyhound need to do? All dogs competing in lure coursing will get two opportunities to run. If they win their stakes they will have the opportunity to run for breed and if they win their breed they would have the opportunity to run in Best in Field. Your Greyhound might potentially have to run four times in a day – that’s a lot of yards!
Prior to beginning any amateur sport, your Greyhound needs to be in tiptop shape. The Greyhound needs to be at their racing weight and well conditioned. It is important that you know if they had any injuries while on the track as that could impact the decision to lure course them or not. As always, discuss this idea of running sports with your vet to make sure your Greyhound is healthy enough to compete.
So where do I go to find a trial? The good news is that there are lure coursing trials just about every weekend somewhere in the U.S. There are also three main organizations that host lure coursing events: American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA), American Kennel Club (AKC) and the National Lure Coursing Club (NLCC).
American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) is the original lure coursing organization. Mirroring ASFA, the AKC also holds lure coursing events that function in a similar format to ASFA. Both organizations have three stakes: open, specials (AKC)/field champions (ASFA), and veterans. Both organizations judge on enthusiasm/overall ability, speed, follow, agility, and endurance. Generally, three dogs will run together. There are two points to consider when running AKC. First you have to apply for an AKC registration number, as AKC does not recognize your Greyhound’s NGA registration and you will need a purebred alternative listing (PAL) number from AKC. Secondly, even if your hound is certified by ASFA, the AKC requires them to be recertified unless the Greyhound has obtained their field championship title with ASFA. I do not understand the AKC certification rule; it seems silly that a certified hound must have to recertify, as any dog that competes in ASFA long enough should be able to obtain their field championship.
The final lure coursing organization is the National Lure Coursing Club (NLCC). This organization runs a brace elimination format. Again the hounds will run at least twice and up to four times. The brace elimination format calls for two hounds running together at a time. The loser of the course will fall into the B bracket and the winner will move on in the A bracket. The beauty of NLCC lure coursing is the judging. Lure coursing is a subjective running sport; however, NLCC makes it as objective as possible. Scoring is in a tally format meaning that the dog that wins the run up (distance to first turn) is awarded 2-3 points, the hound that gets to the next turn first is awarded 1 point, if a hound passes another hound they are awarded 2 points, and the hound that gets to the stopped lure first is awarded 1-2 points. I like this format, as it is easier to assess how your hound is doing on the course and understand the judge’s pick.
Another important point is that all these organizations have a singles stake. This is very important to beginners. The singles stake allows hounds to run without another dog. This allows the hound to become accustom to the lure and running longer distances. These hounds are scored by the criteria per the organization that they are running with. Generally hounds compete in singles a few times prior to getting their certification to compete in the open stakes. I recommend running in the singles stake as it gets you, the handler, in a competitive mind frame. You are no longer waiting for breaks or the end of the meet to run your hound but part of the meet and you have to follow the order of the meet. Placements are awarded for this stake as well.
I hope that now you know more about lure coursing and the options in your area. This is an incredibly fun sport for you and your Greyhound. I hope to see you on the field soon!
Hope you check back next week to learn more about amateur running sports for your hound.
Photo credit: Cindy Frezon Photography