Lure Coursing Ability Tests
Lure coursing allows enthusiasts to test their dog’s natural ability to chase prey by allowing the dog to chase an artificial lure across a field. The lure is usually a plastic bag called a “bunny” that moves across the field at speeds up to 50 mph.
The Hunt Master operates a mechanical pulley system and adjusts the speed to keep the bunny just out of reach of the chasing dogs until the course is completed. The course may have turns to simulate the natural movement of prey and can be from 300 – 600 yards in length.
AKC Lure Coursing events and titles have traditionally been opened to limited breeds of dogs, mainly sight hounds but in February 2011 the new Coursing Ability Tests (CAT) were introduced to the fancy. The CATs are open to all dogs at least 12 months of age that are registered with the AKC, FSS, PAL or the AKC Canine Partners program. Lame dogs and bitches in season are not allowed to compete.
Any club licensed to hold an AKC Lure Coursing event is automatically licensed to hold a Coursing Ability Test. All Breed clubs that are licensed to hold conformation, obedience or agility can also apply for a license to hold a CAT event. The club designs the course with safety in mind. Dogs run singularly and the course will not have any turns greater than 90 degrees.
Dogs that are shorter than 12” at the withers will run a 300-yard course and dogs over 12” will run a 600-yard course. At the judge’s discretion, a veteran dog larger than 12” may be allowed to run the 300-yard course. To get a qualifying score, the dog must complete the course with enthusiasm and without interruption within the maximum time allowed (1 1/2 minutes for the 300-yard course and 2 minutes for the 600-yard course).
This is a pass or fail event decided by the judge. A pass will be awarded a ribbon and count as a qualifying run towards an AKC title. Three qualifying runs will earn the dog a CA (Coursing Ability) title, ten qualifying runs is a CAA (Coursing Ability Advanced), 25 qualifying runs is a CAX (Coursing Ability Excellent) and 50 qualifying runs is a CAX2 (Coursing Ability Excellent 2). For every additional 25 qualifying runs, the dog will be awarded a higher numbered CAX title.
To find upcoming events in your area, visit the AKC’s website.
A Day At The Races With My Chinese Crested
I recently attended my first Coursing Ability Test. This was not my first time coursing since our local breed club sponsors an annual event with just-for-fun lure coursing. I knew coursing could be hit or miss with Cresteds. Like everything else, you just never know what they will do. Nevertheless, I brought my 2-year-old hairless girl “Sooner” hoping that she wouldn’t embarrass me too badly. She had never seen a lure course in her life and the only real life experience that might help in this endeavor involved chasing white Powderpuffs around the back yard (they look a little like bunnies when they are running fast). I had no idea what to expect. The judge introduced herself and told us what to expect. She asked if we had any questions. I had a question. Can we wait until after the morning run to enter the afternoon run? After all, who wants to pay another entry fee to be embarrassed twice in the same day? The answer was yes... shoo… one less thing.
They began roll call and asked us to move the dog down and back to check for lameness. OK. I can do this. The judge was not impressed when I free stacked my dog in front of her. Note to self: lure coursing judges are not impressed by the same thing that impresses conformation judges. Next, they checked to make sure she was not in season (moment of panic) and pronounced her fit to run. Then we waited.
The nice thing about dog people is that they gladly share their knowledge and experience. While we were waiting, this is what they told me to do; first, carry your dog to the edge of the course and let her get a good look at the lure. Let her watch it zoom across the field being chased by that slobbering Mastiff. As soon as she gets really interested, walk away so she can’t see it anymore. Wait a few minutes and repeat. Thing is… if you let a new courser watch the lure zooming across the field for 20 minutes without being able to chase it, they may lose interest. However, it is good for them to see the other more experienced coursers patiently waiting their turn. Did I say patiently? Scratch that. Let’s just say that the excitement is contagious for both the dogs and the handlers. Who knew a Boston Terrier could make sounds like that?
Finally, it was my turn to run. As I was walking up to the judge with much trepidation and anxiety, it started raining. Yes, the judge already told us that we had to run in the rain. Oh, terrific… my hairless Crested doesn’t like to get her feet wet so there is no way she will chase a lure while it is raining so hard. I looked down expecting my girl to be melting but all I saw was her intently staring at the stationary lure. Go figure.
I put her on the ground at the starting point. I picked her up and put her back on the ground at the correct starting point. I held her tight. She couldn’t take her eyes off those white plastic bags. The judge said to wait until I hear the “T” in “Tally-ho” before releasing my dog. The judge asked if the Hunt Master was ready. He was. She asked if I was ready. I was. I released my dog and then the judge said “Tally-ho”, oops. Oh well, off they went.
I watched as my dog tore after that bunny and chased it as hard as she could. First turn, no problem, she stayed right on its tail. Second turn and she was gaining. Third turn and she banked like a NASCAR driver at Bristol. She almost had it! Then, there was a sudden burst of energy from the bunny. It was getting away! Sooner kicked it into overdrive and gave it everything she had. Yes! There it was! She almost had it, a little closer and Eureka! Got it!!! But wait, what’s this? A stupid plastic bag? No way. Where is the bunny? It was right here. Where did it go?
I quickly picked her up and told her she was a brilliant huntress. We took a nice long walk to cool down and reminisce over such a fine hunt. We were both hooked and I quickly made my way to the club table to pay for the afternoon run.
Later that afternoon… I was in line with my experienced courser patiently awaiting… scratch that… anxiously awaiting her turn to run. Thanks to my long hours of training and sacrafice, Sooner’s second run was better than her first. The Whippets were standing in awe of her hunting prowess.
One more qualifying run and she’ll have her new title. Yes. It is that easy.