Extreme sport for Spot
Published on Wednesday, 09 September 2015
Lure coursing is a sport where dogs chase after an artificial lure that simulates live prey, like a rabbit or mouse. It requires a big, open space, a small toy, and a lure machine—a simple contraption with a spool for string and a battery-operated motor to power it. The lure is attached to the end of the string, which is laid out on the field, forming the “course” to be run. The string is coiled around pulleys to design turns which are characteristic of prey animals. When ready, the machine retracts the string (with the attached lure), and the dogs are released to chase after it.
Machines hit speeds of up to 50km/h, making it virtually impossible for any hound to catch the target, which is the main premise of the sport. Popular American brand, Wicked Coursing, offers machines for every budget—from US$399 (S$547) for a basic Lure Baby Junior to US$3,995 (S$5,475) for a semi-professional HuntMaster K9 Racing package. In some parts of the world (like America), lure coursing is a recognised canine sport where dogs are evaluated for follow, speed, agility, endurance, and overall ability. While participation is strictly for purebred sighthound breeds only, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has a similar Coursing Ability Test that all breeds can take part in. In Singapore, luring is not viewed as a competitive sport, which means all furries can join in the recreational fun—as long as your furkid enjoys running and chasing. For slower and beginner dogs, owners can simply adjust the machine speed so it is just slightly faster than their pooches.
Ashley Chen, dog owner and founder of doggy daycare service, WOOGA!, shares, “I have five terrier dogs and this is perfect for them to release their energy and to satisfy their hunting instincts.” As one of the first few dog owners to give the sport a shot one and a half years ago, Ashley purchased her first machine online, and had it shipped here. Presently, she’s onto her second lure coursing device, which she received as a gift from a friend who customised it for her.
COURSING WITH CAUTION
So how exactly is lure coursing different from other forms of doggy exercise? Besides killing two birds with one stone by letting the dogs both play and “hunt”, the fact that no dog should be fast enough to catch the lure makes it such that the canines’ physical limits are pushed, resulting in better, more vigorous exercise. After burning excess energy with the intense workout, Fido should also go home better behaved. “The dog may be calmer after lure coursing because his energy is drained by the exercise,” shares Vivien Chin, dog trainer and founder of Rao Canine Academy. In fact, since making lure coursing a regular exercise regime for her dogs, Ashley has found that her furkids are more collected, and have stopped chasing passing squirrels and insects recklessly.
However, it is wise to note that while lure coursing may work to quell your dog’s desire to hunt, it may also be interpreted by your furkid as encouragement, fuelling his prey drive. “In some hounds, it may heighten their urge to hunt and make them more prone to chasing,” explains Vivien. Thankfully, there are simple precautions paw-rents can take to circumvent thisproblem. Vivien advises that owners train their pooches to recognise when they’re “allowed” to hunt. The aim is for the dog to realise that in a particular context—at the dog run with specific equipment—he’s allowed to go all out for the lure and in another context—on his daily walk where he is on leash and there is no equipment—he is not allowed to give chase to distractions. Additionally, it is unsuitable for puppies below one year of age, as the high impact sport may adversely affect their growing bones and developing joints.
For more on lure coursing, flip to Body and Soul of our Aug/Sep 2015 issue!