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Lure Coursing: Complete Guide

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David Adams

December 31, 2023

Dog Enrichment

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* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *

There are a number of activities designed to keep dogs active, mentally engaged, physically stimulated, and bonded with their guardian. Dog sports — organized athletic activities where dog-owner teams compete alongside and against each other — are growing in popularity.

Some dogs are best suited to use their noses, while others are perfectly content to have their needs met by socializing with other dogs at the park or joining their favorite people for a jaunt around the block.

Other dogs, however, are extremely motivated by the thrill of the chase, be that a live squirrel in the woods or a mechanical toy around a track. Lure coursing, which involves the latter, is beloved by dogs with energy to burn, a knack for spotting movement, and a swiftness in their steps! Here’s everything you need to know to get started in this super fun, accessible dog sport.

What is lure coursing?

Lure coursing, sometimes known as lure chasing or lure racing, is an activity for dogs to engage their natural prey drive instinct to hunt. Not the same as simply chasing a tennis ball across an open field, lure courses are established paths made of pulleys with a target that dogs chase (called the lure).

In many lure coursing trials, dogs are released into the field in teams of around three, with each dog outfitted with a different colored fitted blanket to tell them apart. 

What exactly is the lure?

A typical lure coursing lure is an artificial object designed to simulate the movement of prey and entice dogs to chase it during lure coursing events. While the exact appearance may vary depending on the organization or event, there are some common characteristics of lure coursing lures.

Typically, a lure coursing lure is a long, slender object that is attached to a line or mechanism that allows it to be pulled along a course. The artificial lure is usually made of durable material, such as plastic or a strong fabric, to withstand the dogs' pursuit. Here are a few common types of lure coursing lures:

  1. Colored or White Plastic Bags: Many lure coursing events use plastic bags as lures. These bags are often brightly colored and can be shaped like streamers or strips to create visual stimulation and mimic the movement of prey.
  2. Fluffy Lures: Some lures are designed to resemble small animals like rabbits or squirrels. These lures are often made of fabric and feature a fluffy or fuzzy appearance to mimic the look and texture of prey.
  3. Coursing Machines: In certain lure coursing events, mechanized devices called coursing machines are used. These machines consist of a motorized mechanism that pulls a mechanical lure along the course at high speeds, replicating the unpredictable movements of prey.

History of lure coursing

Dog lure coursing was originally designed to simulate the chasing and hunting instincts of sighthound breeds — like Greyhounds, Whippets, Afghan Hounds, and Salukis. Today many competitions are open to all breeds and mixes!

What kinds of dogs enjoy lure coursing?

For dogs who are naturally drawn to chasing a moving object, lure coursing can provide countless benefits, both physical and mental. Physically, chasing items across a field will tire just about any dog out, and yields strong and fast canines who are generally in good health. Mentally, lure coursing is stimulating for dogs as it encourages focus, and it leaves them feeling more content and satisfied by allowing for their hard-wired, natural instincts to be indulged.

sight hounds lure coursing

Lure coursing is special because of the target's unpredictable movement

So, what makes lure coursing especially fun for dogs? When it comes to AKC lure coursing and other established organizations, the activity is so engaging because the target is controlled by a lure operator, who moves it around the track while still following the established course. This erratic movement simulates the unpredictability that comes with chasing actual live prey in the wild, who don't often just run in a straight line or around a smooth circle to get away from their predators. The moving target forces dogs to zig zag through fields in an attempt to capture their target, and requires constant focus and engagement, traits that coursing dogs are naturally prone to rely on.

What are lure coursing titles?

There are various organizations that offer lure coursing events and titles, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the International Sighthound Field Association (ISFA). Here are some common lure coursing suffix titles:

  1. Junior Courser (JC): This is usually the introductory title earned by a dog. The dog must demonstrate basic ability and enthusiasm for lure coursing.
  2. Senior Courser (SC): This title is earned by dogs that have shown proficiency and skill in lure coursing. Dogs must meet specific criteria and accumulate a certain number of points or wins.
  3. Master Courser (MC): This is an advanced cumulative title for dogs that have achieved a high level of proficiency in lure coursing. Dogs must accumulate a significant number of points or wins in designated stakes.

In addition to these titles, there may be other distinctions or awards given based on a dog's performance, such as Best in Field or High Scoring Champion.

It's important to note that the specific requirements and titles may vary between organizations, so it's best to consult the specific organization's rulebook or guidelines for the most accurate and up-to-date information on lure coursing titles.

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Is my dog a fit for lure coursing?

While lure coursing is possibly the most fun and rewarding activity for some dogs, not all dogs are especially excited by it. Those that are most instinctually adept at dog lure coursing are breeds that fall into the sighthound category. Sighthounds, which are sometimes called gazehounds, rely on their well-attuned sense of sight and their natural ability to run at high speeds to hunt prey. Sighthound breeds include:

  • Greyhounds
  • Whippets
  • Afghan hounds
  • Borzoi
  • Irish Wolfhounds
  • Salukis, among others. 

These dogs are most often born with a few common traits which equip them to spot a target and hunt it down with speed and proficiency, like pointed snouts, long legs, high hips, and slender waists. 

Lure coursing competitions are open to many dogs!

Of course, any dog, regardless of their breed, size, and age can enjoy and excel at lure coursing for fun if they naturally enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Not sure if your dog may be a coursing dog? One way to find out is to keep an eye on what grabs your dog’s attention on walks, at the park, or even while they’re looking out the window – if you have a canine who whips their head around at the slightest movement, or may pull you toward a bag blowing in the breeze, they may enjoy lure coursing as an exercise activity. You can also create your own DIY lures on a much smaller scale by attaching a bag or other bait to a pole, then moving it around to see if your dog takes an interest. It is not advised that anyone just learning about lure coursing attempt to set up their own course, however, as an improperly designed course could potentially injure a dog.

dog lure coursing with muzzle

How to get started

If you’re interested in learning about lure coursing, there are a number of steps you can take to familiarize you and your dog with the sport. 

Attend a trial run in person

If you’d like to see if lure coursing is for your dog, it's recommended that you attend a trial to see what it’s like. There, you can talk to people about their experiences with training, and possibly learn tips for how to get started.

To find a lure coursing club in your area, you can check with the American Sighthound Field Association, or the American Kennel Club for ideas and calendars with upcoming events. The AKC offers coursing ability tests for dogs of any breed aged one year or older to introduce more people and dogs to the sport.

Additionally, if you know other sighthound pet parents or can joins groups online, like this one on Facebook, they may have ideas for getting started as well, whatever your dog’s experience level may be. 

Try some basic lure coursing movements at home

One easy way to frustrate your dog is to get them involved in an activity they aren’t naturally prone toward, or simply don’t enjoy. Not all dogs will enjoy lure coursing, but the one that do usually lend a few easy-to-read cues that you can look out for. Keep an eye on what your dog lends their attention toward, or try creating a homemade lure on your own and see if your dog goes after it. 

Try an official lure coursing test

If your dog seems like they might enjoy lure coursing, look into instinct testing events in your area. Here, dogs are given the opportunity to chase an artificial lure alone, without the distraction of other dogs, to see if they might be a fit for lure coursing. Although some dogs are naturally prone to chase, the focus and precision is usually practiced in a testing environment, which can keep things fun and safe for your dog and the dogs around them. Established lure coursing training complete with lure coursing equipment can teach your dog the basics of what to look out for, as well.

Lure coursing can be a casual activity or a competitive passion

Many people start out with lure course testing as an informal way to offer their dog an outlet for physical exercise and mental stimulation . Eventually, some people may go on to participate in more formal, competitive events — although these are only attended by dogs who have experience with lure training. Informal activities are known as tests, while formal activities are referred to as trials. Dogs are ranked by the variety of lure coursing titles mentioned above. These suffix titles are obtained by earning points during tests and trials, and judges measure a dog's aptitude at speed, following, agility, and endurance.

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Trainer that reviewed this article

There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content. 

This is the trainer that reviewed this article:

Julie Pitt
AKC CGC Evaluator
Former board member and president of the Rainier Agility Team
Former board member and president of the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation

David Adams photo

David Adams

December 31, 2023

Dog Enrichment

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