Celebrate the Whippet Breed

So You Want to Watch a Racing or Lure Coursing Event?

Short Primer on Racing and Lure Coursing

Jill Fichialos, Vice President, Huron Valley Italian Greyhound Club

Jill Fichialos has written a very well-organized primer on racing and lure coursing for those who are just learning about these activities.

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Want to come watch a lure coursing or racing event?

Courteous spectators are always welcome to come and watch lure coursing and racing events. If you are interested in getting your sighthound involved with these sports, it is important that you become familiar with them before you start. Watching and observing are the best way to begin. Here is some information that may help....

Short primer on lure coursing and racing......

These are hobby/amateur sports (no betting) for sighthounds. Lure coursing and racing are not the same thing. To put it simply, lure coursing trials measure a dogs hunting ability, racing events measure a dogs speed. Both events require that a dog run multiple times with other dogs (most often of the same breed) and chase after a lure (usually a plastic bag or furry squeaky thing called a “jack­ a-lure”) that is affectionately called the “bunny”. Both events are usually held in a large open field, often a park or a pasture. The main purpose is for the dogs and owners to have fun. Sighthounds were bred for centuries to chase and hunt and these sports give them the opportunity to show off their talents. Another incentive with lure coursing and racing is that if a dog has a successful run, they will be awarded points, and after earning a certain number of points they will be awarded a title. Many people who are involved in lure coursing and racing are asked if they win money, the answer is no, in fact we pay a lot of money (travel and entry fees) so that our dogs can participate.

Lure coursing trials are held by two different organizations: the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Field Association (ASFA). These organizations are separate from each other and use different rules, grading (points) systems and titles. To learn more go to their websites:

Lure Coursing Websites

AKC (lure coursing section): http://www.akc.org/dic/events/coursing/index.cfm

ASFA: http://www.asfa.org/

 

Racing is broken up into two types: straight and oval. Oval racing is similar to what most people think of when they imagine a professional greyhound racing track - a large oval. Straight racing is just what it says, racing in a straight line, sort of like sprinting races for the two legged types. Like lure coursing, there are separate organizations. Oval racing falls under the National Oval Track Racing Association (NOTRA). Straight racing for Whippets (they have their own organizations) falls under three different organizations: the Whippet Racing Association (WRA), North American Whippet Racing Association (NAWRA) and the Continental Whippet Association (CWA). All other sighthounds involved in straight racing compete under the Large Gazehound Racing Association (LGRA). To learn more go to their websites:

Oval Racing Website

NOTRA: http://www.notra.org/ and http://www.notraracing.org/

Straight Racing Website (except for Whippets) LGRA: http://www.lgra.org/index.shtml

Straight Racing Websites (for Whippets)

WRA: http://www.whippetracing.org/

NAWRA: http://www.nawra.com/

CWA: http://www.continentalwhippetalliance.org/

And for those of you who live in Canada there is the Canadian Amateur Racing Association: http://www.cara.reach.net/

When is the next event?  

Most events are held on weekends and are planned a few months in advance. To find an event you will need to go to an organizations website and check the calendar. The date, location and contact information (often listed as the club, race or trial secretary) should be found there. If you have a few weeks before the event, it is best to contact the trial secretary and ask for a “premium list”. A premium list has information about what time the event starts and gives directions or a map to the site. A premium list is also the official program and entry form, so it’s good to get familiar with it if you are planning on entering your dog someday. A trial secretary is also helpful if you have specific questions about the event; for example if you want to know if a particular breed is entered, or if you are interested in letting your dog have a practice try. If you plan to attend you may want to contact the trial secretary and let them know that you will be coming as a spectator; this is helpful because sometimes events are cancelled at the last minute and usually only the people who have entered their dogs are contacted. The trial secretary won’t always notify you in this case, but there is a lot better chance they will get in touch if they know you are coming.

How long does it last?

This is difficult to answer because it depends on how many dogs are entered and that is not finalized until the morning of the event. A good rule of thumb is that they always take three hours, and can go as long as eight hours. Most events fall in the four to six hour range. If you are just coming to watch (not planning on having your dog practice), it is usually wise to show up in the morning, about a half hour after the “roll call” time that is listed in the premium.

May I bring my dog?

You are welcome to bring your dog if you feel that you can keep him/her under control. There is a danger posed if dogs get loose on the field, so you must either keep your dog contained (crate or ex-pen) or keep a strong hold on the leash at all times. Avoid bringing your dog on a flexi or extendable leash. Please keep in mind that many organizations have a fine for dogs that are loose on the field, usually around $5.00. You will also want to keep your dog away (35 feet minimum) from the starting and finishing line, especially if they have a tendency to bark (this can be distracting to the dogs who are competing). Another tip would be to avoid letting your dog “meet” other dogs at the event unless you ask the owner first. Some dogs get very excited and they are not always using their best manners; a responsible owner will be able to tell you if their dog is friendly or not. If you follow these tips, your dog should be safe and welcome.

Can my dog give it a try?

This depends on the trial, to find out you should contact the trial secretary and ask if “practices” will be allowed. Usually if a practice is offered, it will be held either before the race, after the race, or on a break during the race. It will be very difficult for the trial secretary to tell you exactly when the practice will be held because it will depend on how many dogs are entered that day; but it’s always wise to ask when they are most likely to be held so you can make sure you are present at that time. Please keep in mind that practices are never guaranteed. They are only available if there is time and qualified people on hand to help. Sometimes a minimal fee will be charged for a practice. Dogs that are practicing are usually not required to have any equipment (a muzzle or blanket), just a collar and a leash. If you are planning on having your dog practice it is very helpful if you bring another person that the dog is familiar with (this is not a requirement, j ust a suggestion). That person can help release or catch your dog. This is especially important in straight racing. Because some of the fields are not fenced, you need to be sure that your dog will come when called. Another thing to be aware of is that when a dog is first learning, they run alone. So, if you bring more than one dog you should not plan on having them run together.

May I bring my children or friends?

Well behaved children and adults are always welcome. It will be important that they are closely watched and not allowed to wander the field. They should also be encouraged to ask before petting

an unfamiliar dog. Again, these dogs are excited and aren’t always using their best manners. Please keep in mind that a young child holding a dog is not a good combination at these events. It is very important that a dog doesn’t get loose, and the strength and agility of an excited dog may be too much to ask a young child to control.

What should I bring?

(Bring similar things as you would a picnic or short hiking trip.... this is definitely an outdoor activity)

For yourself:

-A chair or blanket to sit on

-Sunscreen

-Shade (umbrella, shade tent, etc.)

-Water

-Snacks

-Rain jacket and/or umbrella

-Comfortable shoes (you may do a lot of walking)

-Sunglasses -Bug spray

-A pen and paper (you will meet people that you may want to get contact information from)

-Some cash (sometimes vendors are there and you may see something you like AND occasionally the club that is hosting the event offers coffee, snacks and lunch for a nominal fee)

For your dog:

-An extra leash if you think your dog might practice

-Water and bowl

-Doggie snacks

-A warm coat if you think it might get cool

-A crate or expen if you have one

-A blanket to put over the crate or expen for shade or bad weather

-If it’s really hot, bring a spray bottle or wet towel so you can keep your dog cool

Other tips...

1. Safety is the number one priority!

2. Don’t let yourself get offended. Some people at these events are nervous, tired and stressed and forget that they are there to have fun (as with any competitive event). It is always wise to avoid approaching people who are obviously getting their dog ready for the next run or cooling their dog off after they have competed (it may look like they are just walking their dog); they are very focused and usually not very talkative. Once they are done working with their dog you can often have a friendly conversation with them. Another thing to keep in mind is that many of these people have been friends with each other for a long time and it is easy to feel like an “outsider”. Be patient, after coming to several events they will start to get to know you and you’ll find that they are as loyal and friendly as their dogs ☺.

3. Come willing to help. These events are very labor intensive. The best way to learn and get to know people is to offer to help. Even though you are “new,” there is still plenty that you can do, just ask the trial secretary and they can let you know what is needed.

4. People yell. They are usually not yelling at anyone in particular, they are just trying to keep everyone organized so the event will run quickly and smoothly.

5. If you decide that you would like to get your dog involved be sure to ask questions. Find out if there is anyone locally that has the same breed of dog that you have. Ask if anyone is known to be helpful about answering questions. Also find out if there is a local club in the area and who the contact person is. Last but not least, ask if anyone (especially the club) holds practices and when the next one is.

This is a lot of information, but if you keep these things in mind you’ll have a great time watching (and hopefully getting involved) with lure coursing and racing! There isn’t a better way to spend time with a sighthound unless it’s on the couch under a warm blanket!

Written by Jill Fichialos. Thanks to Teri Dickinson, Paul Shusterman and Jay Fichialos for their input and assistance. If you have any suggestions to improve this article, please contact Jill at granlusso@hotmail.com

Permission to post and print as long as content is not changed and author is listed.