A Day of Lure Coursing

 

Blogging can be a challenge. I get bloggers block and have trouble coming up with interesting Greyhound topics when this happens I turn to my husband for inspiration. He suggested a chronicle of a day in the country lure coursing. I thought that he was onto something. I hope that you all enjoy this post and folks who haven’t been to the field decide to come out for a day of fun in the country.

Lure coursing is a weekend event. On Friday night I begin packing the van. I feel more organized this way. To aid me in my OCD organization I bought plastic bins that are organized with first aid supplies, leashes, blankets, and other lure coursing accouterments. I have crates for all the Greyhound set up in my car. I have learned my lesson about having loose Greyhounds in the car after Jethro locked me out of the car and jumped out through the sunroof!

I leave my house with plenty of time to get to the field. I generally pick up breakfast as oftentimes I am very busy at the trial and have a hard time bringing myself to eat.

The trial begins with inspection and check-in usually around 9AM. At large trials like the International Invitational, inspection can start before the sun is up! This is when the inspection committee watches your Greyhound’s gait and checks for lameness. They also check the bitches to make sure that they are not in season.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

After inspection, the field secretary completes the “draw” or the running order of the hounds. This is a blinded draw of the coursing hounds with a separate draw for each stake, open, field champions, and veterans.

While the draw is going on I usually walk my hounds. It is important to let your hound poop and pee prior to running—just ask Sashi – when nature calls, it calls.   I also like to stretch the hounds and warm them up, and the walk helps with this.

After the draw is posted the trial begins to get underway. I take a photo of the running order because I will forget—it is not fun to be at the line in the wrong blanket! I then head back to the van to get the hounds ready for their run. If the hounds are running on continuous loop I will wrap vetrap around the Greyhounds’ legs up to their stopper pad to prevent line burn. Also, if the ground is hard and dry I will tape their pads with elastikon to prevent a blown pad. When it is our turn I head to the line with my hounds in a slip lead and regular lead. I get in position, holding the slip lead with my right hand and place my left hand under the Greyhound’s tuck. Some people do not like to hold a Greyhound under the tuck but I find that it gives me more control of the dog. The lure starts to move and the Greyhounds lose their minds! The hounds are not released until the hunt-master says “Tally-Ho” when the lure is far enough in front of the dogs.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

I let the Greyhound go as soon as I hear “Tally-Ho.” Then I get to watch my most favorite thing: a big beautiful Greyhound doing what they are best at, chasing.

The Greyhounds are moving so fast it seems that the entire course only lasts seconds.

Once the Greyhounds are back at the line, I grab mine and hurry back to my van to remove any tape or vetrap and check them for any lameness or tenderness. Once the vetrap is removed I use a pressurized sprayer with water to rinse out their nail beds. When dogs run on turf they can get a build-up of debris in their nail beds. This can be painful and a potential cause for infection. If there is a little blood in the nail bed, that is okay and it should be cleaned with the sprayer. I do not give water at this time. After they appear to be sound I walk them until their breathing becomes more normal and they are able to close their mouths. Then give them a small amount of water.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

After all the dogs have ran in prelims the entire process is repeated, generally after lunch, which gives a nice break for the hounds. Once all dogs have run twice, the top hounds will run for best of breed. After best of breed is completed, all the breed winners are able to run for best in field.

Once all the running has been completed, awards are given out and photos of the winners are taken. Most often the placing dogs will get a toy (my hounds are very pleased with this).

After socializing with friends and some photos, we pack it up, head home, ready to repeat the following day.

 

Feature image credit: Cindy Frezon

How to get a solid recall

By now you have probably noticed there are a lot of pictures of my dogs running and playing without leashes. I want to make it clear that generally speaking my Greyhounds are leashed.  However, when we are in the country we allow our Greyhounds to be off leash.  Our dogs are familiar with our property and understand their “boundaries”.

My Greyhounds did not come with off-leash manners and it took a lot of work to train off-leash manners.  So how did I go about teaching my Greyhounds to come? Recall training is not a once and done type of command.  Recall training has to occur frequently and you have to be ready to give you Greyhound a huge payload when they come to you vs. following that amazing coyote scent or chasing an armadillo. 

At first we did a lot of work in the backyard.  I would send a Greyhound out and allow them to start their sniffing.  I would watch on the deck and when I noticed they were very interested in something I would call them and give them a high value treat—think canned dog food, mac&cheese, or raw tripe in a small container.  After they had successfully completed this on a small scale I increased the distraction and the distance. 

After mastering the backyard we would begin working on recalls at our local private dog park. This was a good location because it was safe but also full of new exciting smells and distractions.   Again I would wait until they became interested in something and then call them giving them a huge payload. 

We continued with this exercise until I felt they were ready to head to our country fields. 

The boys were relatively easy to teach a recall to.  Both Sashi and Jethro are huge momma’s boys.  They are not going far from me.  I can’t put on make-up without Sashi watching!  The cord was not cut with the boys.  Training a recall took a few huge payloads in a few different locations and they were hooked. 

Darla was not that simple.  Darla is a complicated Greyhound.  She is very independent and when I first got her she could take me or leave me.  However, she did want to hang close to Jethro and she loves food.  The issues with her recall came when she wanted to do more independent activities and realized that she could wonder off from Jethro.  This caused some stress—we thought all of our Greyhounds had great recalls but Darla did not.

Darla was deemed a flight risk and leashed.  Clint and I wanted Darla to enjoy the independence of sniffing and hunting around our fields.  We began reworking her recall and giving her another chance at off leash activities. 

We took her to the fields and the first time she did well and stayed with me, I thought that she had it!  The second time was not so pleasant.  As soon as we unleashed her she was off. Fortunately she was with Sashi and he has an excellent recall.  We called him and she remembered what she was supposed to be doing.  And came running back to us for her reward.  I want to note how important it was that we were happy and rewarded her when she came back.  She did not do exactly what we wanted her to do but we want her to associated coming to us with happiness and rewards, not us being frustrated.

After this experience we knew we had more work to do. We tried her off leash again this past week in our fields.  She did much better.  I have learned that once she is off leash she is going to run like crazy. The difference this time was that when we called her she did a turn-face and came back to us, ready for her jackpot reward. 

We will continue to do more and more off leash training with Darla and we will allow her more and more off leash time.  Hoping to balance her training with her positive experiences. 

No matter if you are considering allowing you Greyhound off leash or not, training your Greyhound to a recall is one of the most important things you can do.  We have to remember that accidents do happen and the better prepared you are the better chance you have a good outcome. Good solid recalls take time.  It is important to start slow and practice often.  Sometimes regression is part of the learning process and should not be considered a failure but an opportunity for learning.  Training you Greyhound should be a fun positive process for you and your Greyhound. 

For more off-leash training tips check out Jennifer Bachelor’s Blog Never Say Never Greyhounds.  This is the premier blog for training Greyhounds!

The Fovea has it

Science really gets me excited.  What is most exciting is when something new is discovered.  This could be a new treatment, new technology, or revisiting of a previously thought notion or idea.

Eyes are one of the coolest organs in the body.  They are windows to the brain and some would say to the soul.  In humans the vital sign of the eye is visual acuity—you know, when you have to cover one eye and read the eye chart.  20/20 vision means that you see the same as a normal eye would see at 20 feet.  20/100 vision means that you see what a normal eye would see at 100 feet.  As you might imagine it’s much more difficult to test the visual acuity of a dog’s eye—they can’t tell us what they see.  Due to this, some scientists believe that the visual acuity of the dog has been underestimated.

We know that dogs see differently than humans do.  For many years we have known that dogs can see much better in low light than us; they have rapid vision that allows them to detect rapid changes in the light, and, due to the placement of their eyes in their skulls, they have wider visual fields than we do (Miller & Murphy, 1995).

All of these qualities aid the dog, a predator, in its ability to hunt.  However, the acuity at which the dog can focus was thought to be diminished, as the dog is known to lack a fovea (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  Fovea centralis (fovea) is a structure in the human eye.  The fovea is a depression within the retina that contains a large number of densely packed cones type cells that are responsible for visual acuity (Beltran et al., 2014).

For years scientists have felt that the dog’s visual streak was responsible for their visual acuity.  The visual streak is an area in the retina with increased amounts of photosensitive retinal ganglionic cells and cone cells (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  However, in 2014 things changed.

In 2014 the canine retina was evaluated with in vivo (in life) and ex vivo (in death) imaging (Beltran et al., 2014).  The researchers found an area in the retina very similar to a non-human primate fovea, which they deemed the area centralis.  This area was tiny but full of densely packed cone cells (Beltran et al., 2014).  This area was not a fovea-like depression but was very similar from a histologic standpoint to what is seen in the center of the human fovea, the foveola (Beltran et al., 2014).

You may be asking why is she so excited about this? This information is incredibly important.  This indicates that a dog’s visual acuity is actually better than previously thought.  The visual acuity of a dog was thought to be about 20/50 (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  Based on the findings in this study, the visual acuity of the dog would be between 20/24 and 20/13 (Beltran et al., 2014).  That means that dogs could be able to see at 20 feet what a normal eye would see at 13 feet!

The canine eye is an important structure for multiple reasons.  For our Greyhounds the eye is important for racing, lure coursing, coursing, hunting, fetching, running through agility obstacles, and their everyday lives.  Just imagine having better than perfect vision and then adding a wider visual field, the ability to detect rapid changes in light, and the ability to see in low light—I would be overwhelmed with that much stimuli going through my brain all the time!  Dogs are complex animals and the more we learn about them the more I amazed by all they do!

Beltran, W. A., Cideciyan, A. V., Guziewicz, K. E., Iwabe, S., Swider, M., Scott, E. M., Aguirre, G. D. (2014). Canine retina has a primate fovea-like bouquet of cone photoreceptors which is affected by inherited macular degenerations. PLoS One, 9(3), e90390. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090390
Miller, P. E., & Murphy, C. J. (1995). Vision in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 207(12), 1623-1634.

 

 

Collars: To Martingale or not to Martingale

Besides poop-bags, the other most commonly used product for the greyhound is a collar.  When you adopt your greyhound most likely they will be equipped with a muzzle and a martingale collar. 

When I got my first greyhound I read a lot about the martingale collar.  Everyone seemed to recommend this as greyhounds have skinny necks and can “back out of their collars.”  What I was not clear on was that martingale collars should only be used for training or walking.

Unfortunately I found this out the hard way.  One day Jethro and Darla were playing.  They both had on martingale collars.  Something happened and Jethro got Darla’s collar wrapped around his mouth.  He was struggling to free himself and choking Darla in the process.  Both Greyhounds were squealing and I was freaking out.  I knew I had to act quickly.  The saving grace was that Darla’s collar was too big and by a miracle I was able to pull Jethro close enough to Darla to give the collar some slack and pull it over her head.  Darla and Jethro were OK; however, this could have ended in disaster if I had not been right there.  I vowed only to use a Martingale collars while training.

Greyhounds can be flight risks and per their adoption agreement they need collars on all the time.  I was frustrated with what I was going to do. 

I first ordered leather fishtail collars.  These collars are beautiful and I love to see Greyhounds sporting these collars, as they look so regal.  Overall they are very effective but there was one drawback.  My hounds are quite rambunctious and they have been known to take a notion to jump in the pool with a collar on.  Their leather collars were quite worn at about a year.  Sashi has been banned from leather.  He chewed through one collar and did some damage to another.  There had to be a better product.

One day I was watching a Greyhound race and noticed that the Greyhounds were being walked to the starting box with plastic buckle collars. I found Gun Dog Supply online and ordered a TufFlex collar for Sashi.  These collars also included a brass nameplate that is riveted to the collar.  They gave off a plastic smell when I first opened the package, but it dissipated overnight.

I love love love these TufFlex collars.  Now all three Greyhounds wear these collars.  They are easy to clean, pick up no odor from the dogs, and fit incredibly well.  My Greyhounds cannot back out of these collars as long as they are adjusted in the correct position.  I have been using these collars for about one year and can’t say anything negative about them. 

However, for most Greyhounds the safest walking collar is a martingale.  If you are concerned that you will forget to take it on and off, I highly recommend buying a martingale with a buckle.  I have used these collars in the past and they are effective but get dirty quickly–or maybe Sashi just gets dirty quickly!

 

I hope that one of these collar options suits you and your Greyhound!

Amateur Running Sports: LGRA

Photo Credit: Carl Doby

I hope you all found the lure coursing piece useful and fun.  Today I want to discuss sprint racing, also know as LGRA as it is organized by the large gazehound racing association.    

LGRA is a favorite of mine.  I love the raw speed that sprint racing provides.  I also like LGRA because the fastest dog wins, which removes any subjectivity from the event.  However, it is not perfect.  Today I will talk about what LGRA racing is and what you should think about if you decide this is the sport for you and your hound.

First, make sure you are aware of any injuries your Greyhound may have had on the pro track.  Make sure that your Greyhound is at racing weight and well conditioned.  As always, please check with your vet before beginning in amateur running sports to make sure your Greyhound is healthy enough to sustain these activities. 

OK, now what is LGRA?  LGRA is a sprint race of 200 yards with three programs.  Generally four dogs compete in each race, this number can change depending on the entrants. Dogs are usually boxed at the start just like in pro racing and then they chase a drag lure for 200 yards.  The hound that gets to the finish line first wins the race.  LGRA is simple and a blast to watch.  My dogs love it!  Based on the number of entries, the dogs are awarded points.   The larger the entry the more points for the winner and placing dogs.  Once your dog has accumulated enough points they are able to obtain titles.  (I have never seen a Greyhound get excited about a title, but the competition is fun for the owners.)

Photo Credit: Carl Doby

Besides having a fit dog, you need a muzzle and racing blankets for LGRA (1-4). Usually there are plenty of experienced Greyhound people at these events and will allow you to borrow blankets or muzzles if needed. Prior to arriving at the meet you need to contact the race secretary to register your dog and check if they need a certification run.  Dogs that have raced in NOTRA or have raced professionally generally do not need a certification. However, it might be helpful to run some practice runs prior to your official meet to see how things work and get the hang of boxing your Greyhound. 

I overall enjoy LGRA racing.  I like that LGRA focuses on raw speed – the Greyhound does not have to consider manipulating turns or when is the best time to really turn up the speed.  There are two things that I wish were different.  I wish the length of the sprint were longer.  I feel that Greyhounds are just getting up to top speed when the race is over and another 100 yards would be better for a lot of Greyhounds.  I also wish there was a trap for the lure.  When the lure stops, after the sprint with plenty of run out (area for the Greyhound to decelerate) all the dogs clobber the lure.  Removing a Greyhound off a lure is very difficult and I have a very small bitch.  I cannot imagine having to manipulate a 65+ pound Greyhound off a lure!

LGRA is rather safe, as it is a straight line without any turns; however, these Greyhounds are running hard and as with any strenuous athletic activity, injuries can occur.  As always check your Greyhound’s feet after each run.  If the ground is hard and you are wrapping pads, it is important to remove the vetrap after each run to make sure their feet are OK.  I generally leave the elastikon in place if they haven’t run it off. 

LGRA is a great sport for retired racers.  It focuses on the Greyhound’s raw speed and is a blast to watch.  I hope you now know a little more about LGRA and how much fun it is!  Tune in next week for another post on amateur running sports.  


Feature Photo credit: Carl Doby

My Favorite Things

Today I am going to take a break from my regular blog post. 

Once a month I am going to dedicate a post to a Greyhound-friendly product that I love.  I love to shop and have tried various products for my Greyhounds.  I hope that my experience will help when you are deciding on what toys, collars, beds, and other hound needs to purchase.    

If you have looked at the photos on this blog you know my Greyhounds love a good ball. 

Balls are fair game in our house. You leave some brand new tennis balls lying around and you are sure to come back to some slobbery fuzz-less balls.  Balls are king in our house for humans and hounds alike!

You may be thinking balls are a dime a dozen and there can’t be one ball better than all the rest.  Well, I disagree!

When I look for a ball I want something that can easily be held in a Greyhound’s mouth, not too heavy and has some give; Jethro likes to squeeze and pump the balls in his mouth.  The ball also needs to hold up against heavy use, chewing, be able to float, and can easily be cleaned. 

Hands down the best ball meeting the criteria above is the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Orbee ball.  This ball is shaped like a globe and the continents are elevated and textured which is fun for chewing.  I thought those elevated continents were going to be goners but we have had this ball for about two years and the continents are still intact.  This ball does have some give, comes in various sizes, and is not heavy.  Orbee-Tuff toys are non-toxic and recyclable.  They are made out of thermo plastic elastomer (TPE) and have Olefinic oil and Peppermint oil to soften the toy.  The Peppermint oil also makes the toy and your Greyhound’s breath smell fresh. 

This ball was a game changer.  I use it most often for fetch, but if I need the boys to be extra good I will give one each of them and they will play and occupy themselves for extended periods of time.   Darla is always extra good!

Hope you try out the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Orbee ball and let me know what you think!

The Peanut

I admit I struggle to get my dogs exercised when it is raining.  I hate being outside when it is wet and I hate them getting so dirty.  I dislike rain.

So what is a savvy greyhound owner to do with her hyperactive and under stimulated hounds… Well, my friends, that sounds like a job for the peanut.  
The peanut is designed by FitPAWS.   It is an oblong shaped ball that the dog stands on to help increase their core awareness.  Just like core training in the human world, this is hard work.  I ask the hound the stand on it for three minutes at a time repeating three times.  This gives them a brain and core break and allows them to focus when it is their turn.  

 

 

My boys adore the peanut, as soon as I get it out excitement erupts with barking, running, and all together spazzing-out.  Darla, is not a peanut fan.  The upside for her is the food; girlfriend is a foodie and will do just about anything for salmon.  
The good thing about the Peanut is, that it works the dog physically and mentally.  This gives you a nicely exercised calm dog that will not wreck your home when it is raining, snowing, or just icky outside.  

When all else fails, just move the coffee table, throw a toy down with a squawker, and let them go!  As you can see, the Diva loves her stuffed toys and NO ONE is getting on her bed

 

 

 

 

Have a good weekend and enjoy those nice, calm, happy hounds!

LGRA

I am always ready to get the dogs out and let them play.  I was planning to attend the ASFA region 7 invitational; however, I had an engagement that could not be rescheduled.  Fortunately, there was a LGRAmeet within a day’s drive on the same weekend.  I loaded up the hounds and we decided to try racing.  

I have to admit that my dogs adore this sport.  I am partial to lure coursing, mostly due to the location.  I love being out in the country, but the hounds love racing.  I think it has everything to do with the lure that is used in racing.  Jethro and Darla thought the squawker lure was the greatest invention on earth.  Sashi was a little unsure, but after some training, he loves the squawker as well.  
This was Darla’s first time running this season.  I was very impressed with the Diva.  Darla’s running can be very capricious.  She loves to run but on her terms.  If something irritates her or she is just not feeling like it she will not give it her all.  I have talked with my vets and trainers and we feel that that is just her.  I never know what I am going to get, but girlfriend came prepared for this race.  She did excellently against a very nice and very fast bitch.   She came in second and I was very pleased with her.
Jethro on the other hand, had bloody nail beds after his first run.  The ground was really hard and he is not accustomed to that, so he lounged in the car the rest of the day… Yeah right… He acted like a spoiled brat because he was not getting to run.  He ripped open a pack of cashews, spilled a bottle of water, and coffee over the seat of the car.   He was highly upset!
Overall, out first LGRA outing was a lot of fun.  Thanks again to great friends like Carl Doby and Jennifer Ng for their help and the wonderful photos!
Photo credit: Carl Doby and Jennifer Ng