On adequate exercise

I came across a nice descriptive blog post over at PetChats about lure-coursing in US. The post itself is a rip off from a book or magazine, with all the relevant contact information and all, and the blog seems to be a fancy money-making portal in a blog format. I came to the latter conclusion after I had posted a comment on that particular post twice without getting it approved. EDIT: I was proven to be wrong on this: the blog really is a blog as its owner emailed me about this post. Sorry.

I wanted to comment that post about lure-coursing because of few misconceptions mentioned. First of all the article suggests that lure-coursing is a good recreational activity for any dog, even if that dog is ‘pleasantly plump’. Even though the article suggest that the activity may cause excessive strain to the knees and joints of such a dog, it does pose that lure-coursing is suitable for all dogs of any health or condition.

This comes clear from the phrase later in the post:

This sport works best for dogs with an instinct to chase. Not much training is required. In fact, if you choose not to compete, no training is required.

As the writer has earlier mentioned, lure coursing is a demanding sport, this contradicts the whole thing.

Lure-coursing is a sport. The dog – having the instinct to chase – runs at the maximum capacity. The dog chasing gives out 110% on the trial, if not more. I’ve seen a dog, a greyhound, break its toe to splinters (the bones, not the toe itself) and still run excellent points in a trial. The toe was later amputated and the dog will never run in a competition again, but it shows how strong the instinct can be. The dog without adequate condition and training will break itself if the instinct is strong enough.

A dog which is ‘pleasantly plump’ is prone to break itself even more easily. First, if the dog is having extra weight, the forces in its knees and joints grow extremely much. Also a plump dog hasn’t had enough exercise to counter the effect of the increased weight, meaning that its condition and agility is decreased. A dog without proper agility and dexterity will either fall or break itself in turning from high – if not maximum – speed.

The last part is the fact that a dog which hasn’t been trained and is of ‘plump’ persuasion will not be warmed up, cooled down and massage and tended properly after a lure-coursing trial. It will suffer from stiffness and muscle pain later on, and will not find the activity fun or rewarding. Of course it will run next time and after that, but only as long as it makes the connection lure-coursing = pain for the next few days.

This happens to dogs which are properly trained and kept in condition, too. Without proper recovery with proper warm up/cool down, the dog soon starts to connect the dots. Some – who are more sensitive to pain – earlier, some – who have stronger instinct – later, but in the end they will.

In this post I mean by training the exercise to improve the dogs overall condition, not activity based training. For lure-coursing you don’t have to teach or train the dog specifically, only make sure that the instinct is there, strengthen it if necessary and keep the dog in good physical condition.

Walkie three times a day to the local lamp-post or fire-post isn’t enough to give the dog enough exercise, nor the twice a day around the block stroll. The dog needs in addition to the normal pee walkie at least 40 minutes of ‘training’ in form of free running, playing and activity.

Consider yourself going for a 800 meter run. Would you go there and give your best directly from the couch? With the exercise level you currently have (driving to work, driving to the store, walking only when necessary)?

I bet you wouldn’t. I hope you don’t expect that from your  –  or anyone else’s – dog, either.

At the side of the field

Summer is almost gone and only one of our dogs has run during this time. First the winter was at the extreme cold, preventing us from even the normal walkies. Then came the spring with sudden heat wave, which was continued for the best of the summer. In between freezing cold and simmering heat our ‘old lady’ had her season, disrupting the promising start. And finally, when our youngest took her first trial in the lure-coursing, her season started at the site!

Despite of having no luck in having my own dogs running, I have been in several lure-coursing events, working. Doing this and that from the office work to designing the track. I have also been running the weekly lure-coursing training in the club I belong, so I’ve seen quite a few dogs run.

At one point or another the question arises, why do I find myself at the side of the lure-coursing field time and again, even without my own dogs?

I have found several reasons, actually.

  1. Like every good hobby, you start to yearn for more as you learn more. After seeing how our male performed on his first two seasons, I wanted to see how it looks like when the dogs run. How the judges see it, how the pulling machine operator sees it and how the view differs. Then I was doing things in the field, working in the start, checking dogs gear and working in the office. Now I have started my price judges training, part of which was the track master training a couple of weeks ago.
  2. The people involved in the arranging the events are like-minded. This means that it’s easy to co-operate with them, as all have the same aim: to create an event in which the dogs and their owners enjoy being.
  3. The dog owners, especially the newcomers to whom everything is uncertain. “This dog is first time lure-coursing, so he may not run the full track” is the most common phrase I’ve heard this summer in the club training sessions. Guess what? Every newcomer has run the whole training track, with enthusiasm I hope remains when they come to official lure-coursing event!
  4. Last but not least. One excellent performance of a dog or a pair in which the dogs fly after the lure like well oiled machines, only one thing in their mind, to catch the lure and kill the prey. There is next to nothing to compare with that sight, and its only once or twice in a lure-coursing event that you see such a performance.

As a novice (who has had some luck in the beginning, admitted) all I can say that if you haven’t participated in a lure-coursing event as one of the people arranging it, you have missed a great big part of the thrill. When you see the dogs run from the judges point of view for the first time, you will not see how the judges can separate the dogs from each other, but the later views will open your eyes to the finesses the judges have to deal with.

The mastery of any hobby lies in the details and will to know more.  It is the same in lure-coursing.

And that’s why I enjoy my time at the side of the field, making the events possible for others.