Training Your Borzoi to Lure Course without Interfering.

Bonnie Dalzell, MA © 1995
      One of the major problems encountered in lure coursing a Borzoi is successfully bringing a young dog into competition. This is especially true of males. The following techniques and training tips have enabled me to successfully course a high percentage of the Borzoi that we have bred. These will not work with every dog, some Borzoi have such a high level of the natural instincts to chase dog shaped objects that they will never be competitive on the lure coursing field. However over the years I have observed a pattern in the dogs I have had that have interfered or that I have seen that have interfered. Notes about the Author - or why pay any attention to what she says?

Bonnie Dalzell,MA as of 1998, is the all time top breeder/trainer of lure coursing sighthounds having handled over 96 different individual lure coursing titled dogs. Many of these dogs have earned multiple lure coursing and racing titles.

She has had a Borzoi that was number one ASFA hound for two years(1981,1982) and has had numerous dogs in the top 10 and number one position in ASFA and AKC lure coursing. She has a very high ratio of coursing titled hounds to hounds produced and may be the only person to have bred an #1 lure coursing hound in two different breeds (Borzoi and Greyhound).

Credits: This article originally appeared in the 1995 ASFA Lure Coursing Book: Lure Coursing: 1990-1995.

The greatest problem in interference is owner denial. "Oh he is just playing.." as the dog charges across the field to flatten another dog. This leads to repeatedly entering the dog even though he is not mentally mature enough to course and not pulling him when an opportunity to interfere presents itself or when interference is noted by the owner or other exhibitors but missed by the judge(s). Oten the same owner will not move in to pick the dog up once the lure stops and may even urge the dog to run up to another hound that already has the lure in its mouth.

If owner denial could be eliminated half the Borzoi that are DQ'd would probably become successful coursers. The fancier suffering from owner denial repeatedly finds that the judges have unfairly dismissed their "poor" dog, they also may find that competitors really don't like to see them and the dog show up. If you think you might be suffering from owner denial ask someone who is not in your breed but is experienced in lure coursing to watch your dog through several events.

There are several things that may indicate the beginning of interfering behavior. One of the danger signs to watch for is if smaller dogs that do not interfere seem to quit whenever they run with your dog yet do full runs when they run with other hounds. Another warning sign is: your dog usually stops running shortly after the other dog in the course seems to loose interest and stop running. Dogs that are chasing (coursing) other dogs will follow another dog that goes wide on a turn rather than turning to follow the lure when it turns.

A second major component in producing the interfering Borzoi is puberty. In running dogs speed is a territorial challenge just as much as marking territory or barking at a fence line. Although puberty turns more male dogs into pushy young punks, females - especially as they approach their seasons - will also become more aggressive. The key to having a clean running Borzoi is for the dog to want to get the lure worse than it wants to get the other dogs. A dog can be quite aggressive to others but if it focuses on plastic bags to the exclusion of all other distractions it will course without interfering.

Early training of pups for intense play focus on rag lure toys helps to produce this degree of concentration. Running a dog alone to see if it is really interested in the lure is an important step before putting it into competition. Most Borzoi that fail to chase the lure alone have too little interest in the lure when running with another dog. They are likely to think that they are running to chase the other dog - eventually they will begin interfering. An additional test of focus is to do something to distract the dog just before releasing it to course the lure on a test run. One sort of distraction that I try is to put a muzzle on the dog and then slip it. Really focused dogs won't worry about the muzzle until the lure stops. Less focused dogs will ignore the lure and try to remove the muzzle.

Once the dog shows interest in chasing the lure on its own the next step is for it to have a number of experiences where it runs with other Borzoi and is not traumatized nor does it have the chance to successfully bully the other hounds. If an arrogant young dog with less than perfect concentration comes out to practice with timid dogs it may find that it can scare them off the lure. This is not good. Every successful experience with successful intimidation further reinforces the behavior. Similarly every experience where the dog is chased off the lure by an aggressive hound suppresses the victim's coursing behavior.

The trick is to practice the young hounds with experienced "no nonsense" older hounds. Dogs that are focused on the lure and are confident enough to ignore the youngster if it decides to pull some young-punk trick. If the mother of the litter lure courses she is an excellent choice for an initial practice dog. Few adolescent dogs will try and mess with "mom". We also have our adolescent dogs share their quarters with middle aged males -"uncles". These dogs are stable and don't let the teenage male pups think they are king of the pack. However these uncles are old enough that they no longer have something to prove.

Mixing teenage pups and recently matured hounds does not work as the young adults are still afflicted with their recent experience of gaining a position in the pecking order and are likely to be much to rough to the teenagers - truly terrifying them rather than merely showing them their place. If any of the aunts and uncles lure course they are excellent candidates for training the maturing young dogs. DO NOT practice young littermates together. This usually exaggerate the natural antagonisms between the young hounds or may result in the young hounds ganging up to course down a strange dog. I try and avoid running littermates together until they are at least 2 years old.

A additional component in interference is owner impatience. We all want to take a dog out on its first birthday and win Best In Field and then go on to be the Top Hound that year (the birthday being in January or February). Looking over my records for my 70 plus Lure Coursing titled Borzoi I can see that I have had more males with titles than females, however most of my most focused males, the dogs with long coursing careers, were not mentally ready for competition on their first birthday. They came into their own after emotional maturity and after learning how to behave around adult male dogs, strangers as well as kennel mates.

In summary: producing a clean running competitive Borzoi takes patience, access to training facilities and access to experienced hounds that course well. Young dogs need play with the lure toy to build lure focus and then they need practice with stable older coursers to develope a stable coursing style. The experience of successfully interfering with another hound can encourage further episodes of interference. The owner needs to become aware of some of the tell tale signs of aggression in coursing and monitor the young hound's performance.


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