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The Canine Sports Scene

Photo by Leaping Lizard

Hunting and Racing: Well-respected Sports for Hounds


Canine sports can be divided into two categories: activities using the dog's instincts (working independently of a handler) and activities requiring extensive training (working with a handler).


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Independent activities popular in the United States include Open Field Coursing (OFC) and lure coursing. These rely on the strong hunting instincts instilled in hounds over thousands of years, and can produce interesting results. It is possible for a dog to excel in OFC, yet refuse to follow the plastic bag on a lure course, and the reverse is also true. It is important to remember that simulated hunts are not reliable indicators of true hunting instincts and abilities. This raises excellent discussion among breeders and fanciers. Does one preserve the breed exactly as it has been for so long, or allow it to change and adapt to our current desires?

OFC most closely resembles the traditional Ibizan hunt, where hares are flushed and hunted, and points are assigned to the dog on such elements as speed, enthusiasm, agility, endurance, and contact with the prey. There are few places in the United States where this kind of hunt is legal, and it takes a special kind of devoted owner to endure the rigors of hunting on foot, knowing the possibility that no game will be found all day.


wpe25.jpg (13301 bytes) Lure coursing simulates a hunt without prey, using a pulley or drag system to move white plastic bags in rapid, irregular patterns over an open field in a predetermined course. Dogs are scored based on overall ability or enthusiasm, following the "prey", speed, agility, and endurance.


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These hunting/chasing sports do not require extensive training, but rely on instincts carefully maintained in the breed. They are the most popular activities for most hound fanciers.


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Teamwork: The Dog and Handler Connection






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The fastest-growing canine sports in the United States are those involving close teamwork between dog and handler. Here is a very brief summary of some of the most popular sports, and their descriptions:
  • Agility has enjoyed the greatest explosion in popularity, and is currently developing variations on its basic theme. Originally based on a military training course, it consists of a handler directing the dog over and through various obstacles in a timed trial. The action is athletic, fast, with colorful obstacles and dogs in high excitement. A relatively new sport, agility events take place in a typically friendly, fun-loving atmosphere, where the enjoyment of both dog and handler are of paramount importance. The sport is rigorous and requires careful training and athletic conditioning.
  • Conformation showing is the initial proving-ground for prospective breeding stock. Entrants are judged against the Breed Standard to select the specimens that most closely meet the Standard on that given day. This is only the first step in evaluating a given animal for worthiness for breeding; with rare exceptions, it should be an expected one. Training for this sport is minimal.
  • Competition Obedience consists of a series of precision exercises performed by dog and handler. One of the earliest of the canine sports, it has evolved into a set routine. When done well, dog and handler offer a complex display of subtle choreography and close teamwork. Beyond the Novice level, athletic conditioning is recommended to  prevent injury and improve performance. Training is extensive for this sport.
  • Tracking is based on search and rescue models, but can be enjoyed purely as sport. A trial consists of a course of scent laid for the dog to successfully follow. Training is extensive. Unlike the other sports mentioned here, it does not ascribe points, but is pass/fail only.
  • Other Canine sports are enjoying a growing number of participants, including flyball, musical freestyle, canine eventing, and frisbee. Whether these sports become as extensively established as those listed above is yet to be seen. There is some controversy whether flyball and frisbee expose the dog to a higher risk of injury than more established activities. While there is no agreement on these issues, this site does not address them.
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Breed Standards

Living with an Ibizan Hound

What's So Special

Sports Training

Breeders' Ethics

Find a Good Breeder