In lure coursing event there are several officials and even more unofficial people working to make it all for the dog owners. In the field alone there are at least seven people watching and working for the dogs performance: three judges (evaluating), track master (design and working of the track), lure operator (pulling the lure), lure returning (well, returning the lure to start) and starter (making sure right dogs are running at the right time). However, there is one who can make or ruin the dog’s performance in the field. Make a guess.
It is the lure operator. Let me tell you why.
First and foremost, usually the lure operator is the one who sees the most of the field. It says in the FCI rules, that the lure operator has to have unobstructed visibility over the field. He is also the one, who regulates on how the dogs come into corners. The lure operator dances with the dogs, lure being the partner which the dogs are following.
And when the operator is up to the game, the run is as smooth and enjoyable as a dance for both participants.
A good lure operator can save an event where the course itself has faults. Thankfully, usually the lure operator is also the one who makes the track. Sometimes, however, the operator is there to give rest for the one who has made the track and it just doesn’t work the way it should. Or the field in question hasn’t been suited from the beginning to host a lure coursing event.
A good lure operator can read the terrain, dogs and the combination of these on the track. It takes good eye-hand-coordination to perform at the highest level, benefitting both the judges and the dogs in the event.
You see, when the dogs are running the best, they are also the easiest to evaluate. A good operator can tell what he has planned the track to bring out of the dogs: some speed and acceleration to the beginning, gradual turns to take the speed off, showing the intelligence, tighter turns for agility and endurance and uphill/downhill for real endurance. By doing this, the operator can tell the judges that he has really thought out the track, not just laid down the pulleys here and there.
Considering all this it feels odd that there are no training or guidelines for the lure operators and track masters covering the FCI coursing tracks. The quality and abilities of the lure operators vary strongly from one place to another, almost as much as the lure operating machines do. And as it is with the machines, some of them are better suited to the job than others. The best should be in use in European Championships, this is the only thing we dog owners can hope for.
Anyone can pull the lure. But there are only some who have taken it to their heart and want to see the dogs perform at their best.