Two more myths to break

Thanks to a comment to the recent “Myths and myths“-post, I found two more myths to break about lure-coursing. The first is that the owner of the dog has to be competitive personality to participate in a lure-coursing event and the other is that the dog has to be trained especially to be able to course. Both are myths and support each other. Let me tell you why I think so.

Lure-coursing isn’t competition in the first place: in FCI ruling it is the working class trial for sighthound. A way to measure the dog’s natural affinity to the work it was originally created for. In this pretext it should be mandatory for a sighthound owner to be at least vaguely interested in how the dog they own does show this natural instinct in action. The owner doesn’t have to be competitive to take the dog to a lure-coursing event, only interested in the natural instinct and performance of their dog.

Sadly the system is such that the dogs are rated on points, and when there is a numerical evaluation, there is always a competition of sorts. In lure-coursing the owners are rewarded for their dog’s performance much like in dog racing: the best will get the merit of being the winner, even though each and every dog passing the set point limit to qualify have passed the test!

Like I mentioned in the earlier Myth post, training is not hard work as such: what we consider training is just normal living with big sighthound. Long walkies in the woods, dog running free as much as possible. The main thing is that the dog is fit enough to run the 700-1000m on one stretch, at full speed. What I would like to add to this, the dog should be able to handle the warming up (30-60 min.) and cooling down (another 30-50 min) walkies. And all this twice in a lure-coursing event day.

That is the fitness the dog requires to participate in a lure coursing event. It doesn’t require a set training schedule or planned training. Instead, it requires continuous interest in the dog’s general health and adequate walkies to maintain that level. I saw one TV-program from the series “It’s Me or the Dog” in which dog trainer Victoria Stilwell tackles problem dogs which are straining families’ or couples’ lives. In this show the couple had a boxer which was terrorizing the house. In the show Ms. Stilwell stated that a healthy active boxer requires 2 hours of exercise each day to keep it calm at home.

2 hours aday.

Sighthounds, especially larger ones like Irish Wolfhounds, are deceiving in this regard: they are very calm and ‘uninterested’ at home (except for the food bowl). So it’s easy to think that the 15 minutes walkies for them a couple of times a day is enough. It’s enough to keep them alive, that’s all. It is not enough to keep them healthy, fit and in good enough condition to work the way they have been intended to do.

By breaking the myth of competitiveness and high training requirements in your head you are easily one step closer to participating a lure-coursing event. If your dogs can handle a couple of hours walkies aday (give or take few in a week, the dog has to rest, too!) for a month or so before the event, then they are ready to take the trial for sure.

And who knows, by taking part in a lure-coursing event you may well catch the lure yourself: a new and exciting way of seeing your own belowed pet. An Irish Wolfhound chasing the lure is a sight worth seeing.

It’s the way all sighthounds were meant to be, after all. Working dogs, chasing the prey.

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The safest way

What I learned yesterday on our long walk was that the safest way you think is not necessarily the safest anyhow. Simply because you have to expect the unexpected all the time.

And because accidents happen.

We had been walking about 20 minutes when a rabbit decided to test his skills in speed and agility, pitting his existence against three Irish Wolfhounds in decent fitness. All warmed up and ready to go.

And off they went.

It was a short chase, though, because the terrain and undergrowth of the forest gave the rabbit a distinct competitive advantage. Two of the three came back all intact, while the third, the most keen on the living prey, came back slightly limping. After a short inspection we deducted that it was nothing, just a small scrape on her toe, which we tended there and then.

We continued the rest of the walkies, total of 2 hours and 15 minutes, and noticed how this dog was not up to her standard movement, as if she was sore all over.

At home it became apparent that she has injured herself in a way or another: most probably the rabbit has taken straight 90 degree turn to the left, cutting in between two piles of logs, and the dog has done the same, spraining something in doing it. 5 kg causes much less strain to the body than 45 kg, simple physics.

So she’s forced to rest. The European Championships are a bit over a week from here.

She’s giving the other competitors a head start.

Panic in the woods

Everything has gone way too well after our male got his paw stitched. And because we haven’t been living true to my mantra to be prepared for the unexpected situations. Meaning, that we have been going out to the woods without our trusty first aid kit for the dogs.

Which would come hand yesterday, when we left for the 7 km walkies in the cooled down woods. The weather was excellent, slightly cloudy and the dogs were in extremely alert mood. Something I hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks due to the heatwave.

After about 10 minutes of walking I started to wonder why our bitch Zaida started to get foam in her mouth and drool a bit. Usually this is a sign of prey in the vincinity, and because both of the dogs had been very alert and smelling around the bushes, I quickly dismissed the thought being anything dangerous.

At about 15 minutes Zaida started to claw her mouth and that was the moment we got alert: we had seen this before last summer. So back we turned, her tongue slowly swelling up and causing extreme discomfort to her. The situation is such that the dog may even bite her tongue due to the pain, so my wife had to resort to the last measure to prevent this from happening. That is to keep your hand in the biting dogs mouth, thus preventing the dog from harming her tongue and making it easier for her to breathe.

For me this meant only one thing: sprint back to the car and quickly collect both the dog and the handler so we can get quickly to home.

Yes. Zaida was stung by a bee, again in her tongue.

At home we gave her medication, hydrocortison pills.

After an hour the tongue swelling was gone. After three hours the dog seemed to be alright.

And she was alright still when I left for work today, so we’re over that one with a sigh of relief.

But this only reminded us about one thing: you have to be prepared and keep the immediate medication with you all the time. The dogs are extremely keen on hunting all the things from bees and wasps to snakes and deer, so you can never know what may happen.

Thankfully the weather wasn’t any warmer: the hotter weather might have been more dangerous to the dog which couldn’t have breathed as effectively as needed.

So be prepared.

Due update

We took a short walk in the woods yesterday with our prime runners, Ness and Zaida. Our intention was just to take them out to walk and maybe take one or two sprints up a slope on the trail we were going to. Ness’ toe, which was almost cut to half about 1.5 months ago, has healed well, even though we still try to protect the soft new skin from further tearing and damages.

So he had a protective boot on his foot, tied with some self-adhesive bandage so the boot wouldn’t fall off if he decided to sprint into the woods.

Your guess is as good as was mine when we arrived to the beginning of our trail. First of all, just before parking we saw a raccoon dog sprint into the bushes. Not a good sign, because this means that there will be scents which drive our dogs crazy and drooling. Nevertheless, a decision is a decision. Besides, that raccoon dog ran to the opposite direction than our trail was going, so off we went.

The beginning of the walk was just nice, brisk going: we got to walk ourself the speed we wanted to, which is quite normal in the beginning. The dogs were going from one side of the trail to another, finding scents and looking for something to chase. Whether a bird, raccoon dog or a deer, that usually doesn’t matter.

Like I’ve described, all went a bit too well, considering that Ness was without a leash: we thought that the boot would take care of the paw and weren’t even concerned over it. And we have noticed that the mere presence of the boot makes him move a bit more cautiously than normally. A lot, actually: it’s like a constant reminder that his foot is sore.

We were talking about the dogs, work, kids and such, when either of us made a notion that the dogs were drooling unnaturally lot. Their mouths were covered with foam, actually.

And just as that was said… off they went. Zaida came back on the third whistle. Ness, however, took of to an area from which the trees had been harvested a year or two ago: area filled with branches, twigs and broken earth, just the same as the area where he hurt his toe!

We could see him run, jump and sprint around the area, some 100-150 meters from us, taking no heed on our calls and commands. He was circling the area and trying to find something. When he came back after a few minutes (only!), we noticed that his boot was gone. As expected I might say.

We searched for it for a while, but the ground was so covered with rubble, it’s a bit mudd and broken and all in all it was impossible to say where this genleman had roamed, so we decided to call it as lost.

Back to home and that was it.

The positive: the paw is now in such a shape that it can withstand a normal walking and running. I doubt, however, it will endure a good sprint on gravel, though.

All the while I was tracking our walkie with Nokia Sportstracker service. Click here to see where, how and how long it took for us.

Monday diary post

Thus far my entries have been pretty much on a topic: this is the first, though not the last ‘diary type’ posting I’ll make in this blog. The reason? I’ve covered the crude basics in the earlier posts, so now it’s time to move on.

Last week was merely recovering our male, Ness, from his paw injury: seven stitches in one toe is enough to keep this guy reasonably still for a couple of weeks still. However, the less he may move, the more he has energy and stamina to actually run! Which makes the normal visit to the yard an adventure at the best, a nightmare at the worst, when he bursts out of the door with the rest of the pack! Then again, when on leash, he acts like the gentleman he is: no pulling, no stretching the handler’s arms.

Due to my work and other activities, I haven’t been on the longer walks lately: my wife, however has done some with the bitches. Much to her annoyance, the girls are even more active than before. Maybe the fact that the ‘alpha male’ (Ness, not me) is lacking gives them the ‘right’ to be more active.

Their longer walk in the forest on Sunday was an excellent example of that. The girls ran to and from for the first two and half hours before they settled even remotely to a ‘manageable pace’ and were anywhere near to be controlled! The leader of this activity was the youngest one, our one year old Duana, who certainly is going to have a some kind of lure coursing/running career ahead of her.

If she stays fit and doesn’t break herself with all the fuzz and fury…  But as long as she’s regulating her own movement and exercise, she’ll be fine.

But you never know about the accidents that are bound to happen when the dog’s roam on their own in the woods. 

You can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Breed specific exercise needs

I just checked out of curiosity the search words used to find this blog, as it is about a month old now. Much to my pleasure the blog had been found by “lure coursing” quite often. Then again, much to my utter surprise someone had been looking for “dog which doesn’t need exercise“. Thankfully that search found my sarcastic post on the subject, and I hope the visitor had the guts to read that one through and change his mind.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that very few people think about the requirements of their dog. Even less about the breed specific needs of their pet. Recent ‘global dog news’ about President Obama’s new dog has risen this issue to the discussion, as the Portuguese Water Spaniel which they decided to get ‘for the girls’ actually needs quite a lot exercise and activity to stay fit, both mentally and physically. Does the White House staff have time for that? Just asking, because Mr. and Mrs. President most probably won’t, and you should never, ever give a living animal to your children alone as a pet without supervision, let alone as a present. The horrifying warning was seen in Britain earlier this week. Not for the faint!

Each breed has their own, breed specific needs for exercise. Chihuahua most certainly isn’t the best partner for a long jog, nor a Mastino Napoletano with it’s bear like movement. Quite on the other end of the spectrum would be a Whippet for an elderly people to stay in the confines of four walls and a window. By recognizing the requirements and natural affinity of the breed should be one of the first things to note when one is selecting a proper breed for themselves.

Like I stated in my earlier post about this issue, there is no such breed which wouldn’t need exercise: daily walkies to the nearby lamp post and back isn’t sufficient for any dog of any breed. To avoid unnecessary criticism I have to add that this applies naturally to the healthy dog with no medically related restrictions. For a healthy dog the daily walkies should be at least 1.5 hours a day, as much of it without a leash as possible. That actually comes up pretty fast if you think that you take her out for a 15 minutes six times a day… Which I think isn’t quite enough for an active dog.

For an Irish Wolfhound as a breed it should mean a healthy free running about for that hour or 1.5 hours at a time. In addition to the several visits to the lamp post. Sighthounds are creatures which have been made to run, so they should be given this opportunity to express their inner need for sprinting. Irish Wolfhounds, which are bred especially for the big game hunting and long lasting chasing, should be able to run that hour or so constantly: that would be the approximation of a healthy Irish Wolfhound which would be capable of fulfilling the expectations of a mighty hunter. Or a lure courser.

I’m not saying this should be daily: for us the longer walkies are done every other day, maybe 3-4 times a week, while the daily routines outside of these walkies fulfill the minimum requirements.  This is merely because our dogs are roaming free for about 2 hours on a normal trip to the woods and about 3-4 hours during the longer one during weekend, and they have to rest properly if they take off to chase anything during the trip. 

Which they so often do… So they really need the rest of an easier day every now and then.

Sure, Irish Wolfhounds are the easiest and nicest creatures when they are at home: sleeping or laying across the floor, taking very small space and acting very graciously and quietly. But this appearance -combined with the size- gives people the false assumption that Irish Wolfhounds don’t need any exercise. And as much as I hate to think of it, this leads to the fact that so many IW’s in their maturity are way overweight and suffer from joint and/or back problems.

Have you taken care of the breed specific exercise needs of your dog?

How about your OWN breed specific exercise needs?

I thought so… 

Be prepared…

Than boy scout motto seems to be the saviour for us from time to time: you see, we have always quite an arsenal of stuff with us both in competitions and on normal -longer- walkies. The competition set has everything from emergency first aid material to pliers and cutters in case the muzzle breaks. Hopefully we never have to use them, but you never know. The walkies first aid kit is just for the emergencies, and it’s a bit lighter version of the competition one: then again, in the competitions there is always a veterinarian available, so the need for anything more than the basic bandages is exaggeration.

As it happens, Lady Luck has her ways on evening things out. Our dogs were victorious during the weekend, so it was time to bring us down to the earth again. My wife took the three competing ones to a light and short walk to the woods to help the recovery from the competition. As if they really needed it, as they were so active and alive already… Never the less, even though the dogs don’t show that they are sore from the activity, they need to move to keep the muscles recovering and ‘pumping’ the excessive waste from the muscles. The lactic acid and it’s burned out residues don’t just dissipate from the muscle, but they have to be transferred to the blood stream from which they are filtered to urine.

So off to the woods they went. And from the woods they returned after some 10-15 minutes, during which time the following happened:

1. Fiona, the first time competitor, was constantly on the move, trying to find a prey to chase: something she had already done earlier, but this time she was completely out of control.
2. The older dogs, Ness and Zaida, also were extremely active, taking the cue of the youngster. So they roamed around the woods with way more speed and energy than was needed.
3. As it happens, Ness got a deep cut in his paw.

So, one cut and off to the vet, blood dripping from the foot.

Sole of one toe was cut cleanly for about 2/3 of the whole sole, to the depth of about half a centimeter. It took a sedation and seven stitches to repair the damage, after which the foot was bandaged so that it looks like the big feller has a boxing glove on his foot…

So, the next two weeks are very, very quiet for Ness, after which we have to start the fitness building almost from nothing. First the kennel cough, then the first foot cut (cut a blood vessel in the foot that time…) and now this. I’m beginning to wonder whether we’ve been too lucky so far and lady luck is really trying to even things out.

It takes time, and patience, but in the end, it pays to be prepared.

Have you checked your first aid kit? How about your dog’s kit?