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.

To perform its function better

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the same issue I posted about last autumn about the form and function aspects of a sighthound breed. I have been lucky to attend to a training in which there was a prominent dog show judge speaking about the form and importance of understanding the original function of the breed in the breeding. In fact he stated something along the following lines:

The breeders and dog owners have gotten maybe a bit too far from the idea of the function the dog breed has had in the beginning and what the original use of the breed has been. The fighting dogs have a clear reason for their form and appearance, as well as the shepherd type dogs and sighthounds. The breeding should take this original use of the breed more into account and put more emphasis on preserving the traits of the original use.

This was a kind of revelation to me, as I have risen up the concern over the breeds separating into the working class and show class types: greyhound and whippet being the prime examples of this in the sighthound family. The show and competition greyhounds differ so much from each other that you could say that they are almost different breeds, and the show dog could never, ever compete at the same level as a competition runner. On the other hand, the same applies the other way around: runner couldn’t expect to receive the recognition in a show like a show dog does.

In the Irish Wolfhound we’re in a situation that the breed has not (yet) been split to the two separate functions. But there are signs of that kind of proceedings in the air. Running dogs are being bred regardless of distinct faults by the breed standard purely because of their speed and other abilities supporting the coursing. Show dogs are being bred to show excessively prominent traits which would make its running impossible. And the two ‘lines’ are not crossing due to the fact that the show dogs used to breeding are selected from the certified show dogs, which most probably have no results from the coursing field.

I have been reading my Alfred de Quoy lately. In his excellent – and still very valuable – book “The Irish Wolfhound Guide” (copy I have loaned from our breeder is from year 1987) he states about the breed standard as follows (emphasis mine):

Every requirement stated in the Standard should have a sound reason for its existence. Preferably this reason should be that possession of the quality noted and absence of the faults enable the particular breed to perform its function better (or did so in the past) such as the pursuit and killing of wolves or that it adds to the beauty of the animal.

This particular view can be read also from Capt. Graham’s texts, though not in as direct and strong as de Quoy has put it.

The strange part of the story in here is the difference between the current Irish Wolfhound breed and the pictures in the book of the Capt. Graham’s winning dog. Where as our current breed – both the show dogs and the lighter coursing dogs – is more a heavy, strongly built creature closer to the Great Dane, the ‘original’ pictures of the breed resemble much more an oversized Deerhound. As it happens, both of the dogs have been used to describe the qualities of the Irish Wolfhound in the Capt. Graham’s original monograph, even though he stated himself that he’d rather see more of the traits of the Deerhound in the breed than the massive Great Dane.

The question is, have we owners and breeders strayed too far from the original use and working traits of the breed in our search for the beauty in the breed? Should we take a step back, look at the breed with the eyes of the celtic high chief whose life depends on the ability of the dog to track, chase and fall the prey, be it a stag or a wolf, and see if we are willing to put our life on those shoulders? Would the dog look like it could perform that feat, or should there be something differently in its outlook?

Would we survive the next winter with the nourishment our great, wonderful companion would help us hunt down?

Light

Sun has replaced the torn clouds. Snow – which we had in abundance – has deserted us.

Spring is here.

We’re out of shape, dogs are out of shape and the competition season is just around the corner. Where as last year we had just recovered from kennel cough and cut paw, we have now been just bare lazy.

May the Light show the way.

Onwards.

New year is dawning

Year changed all of a sudden. Thank you all friends for your greetings and warm wishes, I’m sorry I haven’t responded. I’m kind of a slacker on those kinds of things, you see.

I suppose the new year has gotten me to write again. It’s not a New Year’s resolution or anything, just something that clicked while I was having two weeks of vacation around Christmas: I like to write.

We have a lovely winter in here, some 15-25 cm snow everywhere. The negative side of a great winter weather is the fact that there is also some freezing temperatures involved, recently as low as -25 deg C (this year’s record in Finland is -36 …), which somehow slows down the walkies with the dogs: I think anything below -15 warrants the fact that the dog shouldn’t be exercised, that is, made run. Especially these deep chested breeds are pretty susceptible to respiratory inflammations, so let’s be careful out there.

Anyhow, I’ll be active again. Not daily, maybe weekly posts about things that make me wonder in the dog world… and hopefully even something about lure-coursing and training, too!

Long silence

It seems I haven’t been updating the blog as often as I should. Biggest part of this is due to the fact that the season in here is over and the life is more or less the same routine with the walkies and feeding as ever. Everyone with dogs lives the same way in their own life. Though the current hunting season has changed our walkies quite a bit due to the fact that our normal routes are around the most active hunting areas in the neighbourhood.

This being said, the updates may come every now and then, but I will not put up nor work with a set schedule.

Thank you all for commenting and visiting: keep visiting, because you never know what or when something might pop up.

Event without competition

Have you ever been in a lure-coursing event in which there is really no competition, just enjoying the dogs running after the lure time and again? Different breeds and even non-sighthounds being evaluated with the same scale (though ‘official’ with real judges).

Have you ever seen the joy in the face of a sighthound owner who is attending to such an event for the first time, sees how his dog launches to the lure for the first time ever and gets rewarded with a trophy for attending?

Those are really the moments which I cherish myself in the lure-coursing. They always remind me that it’s not about the winning nor titles, not about being the best or being better than others, but about doing something with your dogs and finding new things to enjoy with them.

Now that the competing season is closing up here, it’s time to start taking down the dogs’ exercises and go to the upkeep ‘program’. Only long walkies without unnecessary pulls and sprints. Just relaxing and keeping the dogs in shape.

Letting the dogs rest and enjoy life.

My dog is so fast…

The topic is one misconception people seem to have, in addition to the thought that speed is everything in lure-coursing. The dog may be fast in the backyard or in the ‘training’ where the pulls are 250m. But the real challenge of the 600-1000m lure coursing trial is something completely different.

How to tell the difference? In the backyard (or normal walkie), use a watch to time the actual time your dogs are running at a time. Constantly running, that is, at their full -or playfull- speed before giving in to trot. You might be surprised how little they really run, especially if you compare that to the time the dogs run in a lure-coursing trial.

How long is a trial, then? Depending on the track, at the average speed of 40km/h the normal track from 600-1000 m lasts anything from 1 minute to 1.5 minutes. On average the run craze of a dog at the back yard takes about 10-15 seconds and after that the dog is ready to go in. It may run like a lunatic, fast as lightning and all, but the real challenge is avoided.

The lactic acid threshold.

At about 100 meter point, which is about 6 seconds from the start, the dog has used the immediate energy reserves in the system and the lactic acid starts to mount into the muscles. This causes ache, stiffness and discomfort, and the dog will cease running if the reason to run is not strong enough. At the backyard the reason may be to release some tension and it’s over in the 10 seconds. In the trial it is the instinct to chase the lure, and it may not be enough to keep the dog interested after coming tired and stiff.

Each and every dog is the best in the world to it’s owner, that’s for sure. But the dog running at backyard/training/walkies is not necessarily the fastest or best in the lure-coursing trial, if it hasn’t gotten used to straining herself beyond the threshold.

Even then there may be something which causes her to quit before the trial is over. But that’s another story alltogether.