Or more accurately, a day at the lure-coursing competition. I think that I have covered some of the basics by now, to which I’ll return sooner or later again. Sooner most probably, as certain things will stick to my eye more often than others, usually the things being such basic things as
- endurance and stamina of the dog running
- warm up
- cool down
- reaction to the dog’s performance at the lure
- conduct at the start
- and so on.
Now I think it is time to go through the typical schedule for a competition. I’m doing this only because we’re having our first competition weekend this weekend, with two dogs on Saturday and one on Sunday. I’ll report about the event as soon as I get back to normal.
1. Arrival to the competition site
To be completely honest and up to the facts, this isn’t the first thing: the first things are to register to the competition, to gather all the gear to go with you (dog’s papers, mantle, muzzle and so on) and to make certain that the dog is healthy enough to perform in the competition. The first and most important thing, however, is to ensure that the dog is fit enough to compete!
Upon arrival you have to register the dog to the competition: it’s just to tell the officials that the dog has arrived, the papers are ok and that the competition lisences are up to date. In most cases the participation fee is paid at this time. Here in Finland we also leave the dog’s competition records to the officials for the competition’s results at this point.
After this the dogs usually are ushered to the veterinary examination, where the vet checks the general health of the dog alongside with the movement.
2. Warming up
After the vet it’s time to figure out how much time there is to the first trials: usually the veterinary exam is positioned so that you have something between 1/2 to 1 hour before the start. In our cases this means that we go to the car, grab the competition gear (mantle, muzzle) and head off from the competition area for our warm up walkie. Usually this means that we try to find out (reasonably) quiet and empty area, usually within some woods to take our dogs out of the competition fuzz. Naturally they are pretty pepped up at this point, which is a good sign in that sense that it tells they are expecting the race, looking forward to it.
We take our time in our own peace and try to come back to the competition site at about the time our start is scheduled. If we’re too early, we keep the dogs at least walking till the start. If we’re too late… well, we run to the start!
3. First trial
The dogs have their mantles on as they come to the start, and the officials tell you to put the muzzle on: usually the dogs are already in the competition by now, staring at the lure and completely out of this world, so the muzzle isn’t even noticed. Currently the international rules state that the owners release the dogs at the start, so you should make certain that you hold the dog well enough to warrant swift release when the start is issued. The main thing, especially with big dogs like Irish Wolfhounds, is to ensure your grasp of the collar is so that your palm is upwards: if you’re holding the collar from above, you risk your fingers as the dogs launch.
Before the start your duty is to keep the dog still. He may squirm and move restlessly, but stay firm and be prepared to dig your heels into the ground: sometimes a very anxious dog can stand on it’s hind legs at the start, and if that dog weighs some 60 kg, you can be sure you have to use all of your strength to keep her down!
After the release, stay calm and enjoy the poetry in motion.
4. Catch up
After the 45 seconds or so, the lure comes to rest and the dogs do their kills: what ever you do, do not call your dog away from the lure at this point! Instead, go to the dog and compliment her the best you can, making sure she gets all the praise you can give her: after all, she has done her best, to the maximum, 110% and everything in her power to catch the lure and beat the other dog(s), so you have to make it known that she’s done great. Something more than “Well done, pig. Well done.” as the farmer said in the movie Babe, but do not exxaggerate.
Because the current rules will punish you if you somehow affect the other dogs’ performance, I would suggest that you give the treats to the dog only after leaving the grounds and remove the muzzle. She will soon learn that the reward comes after the muzzle is removed. And still this enhances the satisfaction from the chase and catch.
5. Cool down
Muzzle and mantle off and something to drink. For the dog, naturally. Most probably she’ll relieve herself pretty soon after the trial. After this it’s off to the woods to cool down, as the points will be announced earliest about 30 minutes after the last trial in a race. There is mandatory resting time for all breeds which will be followed by another vet exam, so there is no real hurry to get back from the cooling down.
Except to give the dogs something restorative to eat and let them rest for good.
The routine for finals is similar to the first trials: visit the vet about 1 hour before the scheduled start, wait for the starting schedule, warm up, race, cool down and wait for the results. This part is usually the most agonizing, because it takes always so long to receive the final results and see how the dog really performed.
There you have it: a bit streamlined schedule for a normal lure-coursing competition with qualifiers and finals. All in all the competition takes usually almost the whole day, and with warm ups and cool downs you’ll be walking about 9-11 km during the whole day. It’s a great way to exercise yourself, too!
For the dog… well, it’s just another day at the races!