Tips from A Lure Operator

Most clubs have enacted onsite restrictions to minimize the number of people onsite at any given time, to help minimize exposure. Still, you'll likely be onsite for at least awhile during check-in, waiting for your first run and then your second. Bring plenty of water and necessary food / treats for your dog and yourself. At some events, these items may be available, but at most, they aren’t, or they aren’t convenient, or may not be what you / your dog want. Bring any comfort items you’ll need, such as jackets, fresh shoes/socks, hats, chair’s, sunscreen, etc. Don’t forget a second leash and any special release collars you may choose to use. Most importantly, bring plenty of patience and a pleasant attitude!
A releaser AND catcher are required for each run. Please bring both a catcher AND releaser with you. While there may be volunteers onhand to assist those without both, it's not a requirement and is purely a courtesy. If you haven't brought someone to assist you and there are no volunteer releasers/catchers available, ask around to see if you might share these duties with someone else. Who knows, you might make a new best friend in doing so!
It's critical to know your dog and whether or not they are comfortable with a potential stranger either releasing or catching them and also if you would be comfortable helping someone else, if you choose to do so. This applies to large and small dogs as well as all breeds! The last thing anyone wants is for an injury to occur due to a nervous or reactive dog. This is YOUR responsibility!
Be sure to warm-up and cool-down your dog before and after their run. The warm-up should include a walk that also serves as a potty opportunity, which may help avoid an embarrassing NQ due to elimination on the field during a run.

Eliminating on the field is so very unfair to dogs running after this occurs. It leaves a potential huge distraction on the field for subsequent runs, possibly causing more eliminations and NQ’s, or perhaps just hesitations in running and slower run times... WALK YOUR DOG just before entering the course! Seriously... do this immediately before running to minimize the likelihood of your dog eliminating on the course.  This is the single best thing you can do to avoid eliminations and subsequent NQ's and I'm often struck by how few people make a point of doing this.

Before crating after your run, ensure your dog’s breathing has returned to normal and they are fully cooled down and they have access to water. In Fast CAT, this typically doesn’t take too long for most breeds, due to it only being 100 yards. It’s still important however and neither the warm-up, nor the cool-down should be overlooked or rushed.
As soon as you are able, determine if your dog is Lure or Handler/Treat/Reward driven. You’ll probably know within the first one or two runs, if not before.

If Handler driven, you’ll want the person the dog will most likely run to, positioned in the finish area. It may be helpful to have them attempt to keep the dog’s attention as they walk to the finish area. Be sure to have the catcher get the dogs attention from the finish area as best they can and back off the finish line by at least 20+ yards well before the dog crosses it. If they remain too close as the dog approaches, your dog may begin slowing before it crosses the line, resulting in a slower runtime and thus less points. Minimize or better yet, completely avoid encouragement from anyone other than the catcher once the dog starts it’s run. Anyone else other than the catcher calling may confuse the dog, leading to them not finishing the run, or not getting their best time.

If Lure driven, don't distract your dog with noise, or actions that take its attention off the Lure while running and do encourage your dog to “get the bunny” at the end! (Although I don't WANT the dogs to actually shred the bags, changing damaged ones is a pretty easy operation.)

BTW, don’t let ANYONE tell you that you can’t call or encourage your dog. While you can’t entice them with anything artificial (treats, toys, whistles, etc.) prior to them crossing the finish line, you can do almost whatever you want yourself to encourage them down the course if necessary. Call them, whistle, jump up and down, or stand on your head and twirl your legs! (I’m still waiting for someone to actually do that last one.)

As a Lure Operator, I appreciate a dog with a strong prey drive that’s lure driven as much as anyone, but there is nothing wrong with encouraging your dog if that’s what YOUR dog needs to complete the course. I advise people to try to get their dog interested in the Lure if possible, but not every dog has the drive, nor does every handler have the desire for this behavior. It ISN’T a requirement for competing in Fast CAT regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter.
This one is important to know and understand and warranted it’s own stand-alone tip. DON’T try to catch, or grab your dog as they go by you at the finish! I see too many people trying to grab their dog as they run past them at near full speed, in an attempt to keep them off the bags. It's counter-productive and potentially quite dangerous for the dog and handler. I will gladly replace the bags if your dog is a “bag-eater”, as opposed to seeing the lengths some people go to in order to keep their dogs off them! In fact, I’d prefer the handler to encourage the dog to get the Lure. If you ever expect to move on to CAT or other Lure Coursing opportunities, a recall will likely be of little to no help on the course, whereas strong prey drive will. If your dog just gave you everything it had trying to “get the bunny”, resulting in getting from the start line to the finish as quick as it could, let it have its prize! Get the Bunny! (But don't let them shred them.) Next up...
Once your dogs run is complete, please leash your dog and exit the course quickly.  You can speak with the photographer over the fence after exiting, or with others waiting to catch their dog next if desired, but as long as the dog remains inside the fence, everything is on hold until your dog exits.  The Lure can't be returned for the next run until then. Were all waiting for you!  Dont hurt yourself or dog, or stress yourselves over it, but do please make effort to secure you dog and exit quickly.

It disappoints me to have to say this, but DO NOT ALLOW YOUR DOG TO PEE ON ANY EQUIPMENT, FENCES, GATES OR TENTS! The crew has to handle all these items and they are often transported / stored in people vehicles or homes.  This is just common sense, but we all know how rare that seems to be for many.
In the unfortunate instance of a re-run being necessary for any reason, do try to remain positive and understanding. This can occur due to timer failures or other equipment problems, or other issues related to a dog not completing the course within the rules. (An identifiable reason must be determined for a re- run to occur. It’s not given just because the handler didn’t like the time, or the dog didn’t run on it’s own...) If a re-run is offered, take enough time to rest your dog as needed and try to look at is as if you just received a free practice run on the previous one that didn’t count! While everyone would like for every run to take place without incident, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and occasionally, they do. Try to remain positive!
This one is rather important to me (and to you as well!) as it helps me help you and your dog achieve better times!

After you and your dog have gained some experience and knowledge of your dog’s running, share what you know of them with the Lure Operator! You can either call it out to the Lure Operator directly if close enough, or ask the Hunt Master to relay it to the Lure Operator when you bring your dog to the line. Tell them if you know your dog likes the Lure close, or far out in front.

There is a common misunderstanding that running the Lure “faster” will cause the dog to run faster. (It’s actually the other way around in that a fast dog will lead to the Lure going faster...) In reality, running the Lure too fast often discourages the dog and may cause it to slow down if that’s not actually what the dog wants. However, if the Lure is kept at a distance the dog desires, that may result in a great run and time! Different breeds and individual dogs within breeds may like it close or far, during the entire run. Others respond well to the bag getting farther way as the run progresses, as it encourages them to try harder, while still others respond better when they feel like they’re gaining on the Lure. Then, there are those that like it when the Lure runs away and gets closer randomly... While many specific breeds have obvious tendencies (Herders only wanting to chase and not catch, Sighthounds preferring a greater distance...), within each breed there is great variation. While most sighthounds may prefer the Lure to be kept relatively far in front, it’s up the LO to observe each dog while running and gauge if the dog is losing interest if too far out, or breaking down to “take the prey”, If too close. With only 100 yards on a Fast CAT course, there isn’t much time to figure all that out in a single run, so anything you can share with your LO may help get you a faster time! (Just keep in mind that the LO is running dog after dog and may only have a few seconds to hear your request and then must remember which dog the request was for. Be brief and be specific!)

A comment that will typically elicit a chuckle and/or eye-roll in the Lure Tent is “Fast dog, just hold down the button!” I’ve done that at a fun-run once, after a handler rather rudely insisted I “just do as asked”, after I asked them to clarify if the dog had a preference for Lure positioning, as opposed to just running it “faster”. They had previously asked that I “hold down the button” and “run it faster” even though I previously observed their dog losing interest due to the bag getting too far out. The Lure crossed the finish line in about 3 seconds. Their “fast dog” did not. It wasn’t really all that fast compared to most sighthounds... or Lure Machines...
I’ve noticed some people holding their dogs at the start line, sometimes for several seconds after the Lure has started and the Tally-Ho has been given. I’ve discussed it with other Lure Operators and the overwhelming consensus is that it’s not a good practice. When I’ve asked handlers why they’re doing it, I’ve usually been told it’s to allow the Lure to get far enough ahead so their dog doesn’t catch it before the end... There's a better way! What it may lead to is the LO stopping the Lure in the belief the dog either isn’t running or that there may be a problem with the release. Then, when the dog is released, the Lure is stopped and the LO must react quickly to stay ahead of the dog, leading to the Lure now launching too quickly and getting too far in front of the dog. If you release your dog at the Tally-Ho, it won’t catch the Lure unless there is a mistake on the LO’s part, or a mechanical issue.

Instead, if you know your dog’s needs, tell the LO what your dog wants in terms of how far in front it wants the Lure (actual numbers, such as 10 yards, etc. are best!) Statements such as “way out” or “really close” are open to interpretation and lead to potential frustration. Most LO’s take great pride in getting good times for dogs running. Instead of saying "Fast Dog!" when your dog comes to the line, tell the Hunt Master your dogs typical time, or speed and ask them to relay it to the LO on the radio.  That's real information we can work with instead of trying to interpret what you mean when you just say "Fast Dog" for your Beagle, or your Whippet... We all want the same thing! Most importantly, BE SAFE and have fun!
It's not uncommon for new dogs and even occasionally some experienced dogs to run part way down the course and stop. Sometimes it's just a hesitation, while other times they'll turn around and run back to the start line, or just bounce around being goofy! (After all, it's a dog's right to do so when the mood strikes...)

This can be caused by any number of things, but is typically caused either by uncertainty (fear) about something on or near the course and/or, a lack of prey drive or interest in chasing the Lure. All is not lost!

If this is the dogs first run, or even if the dog has previously run well, they may stop if something has distracted them. It may be something as simple as a butterfly, or another dog near the course, or possibly the Lure Operator or machine, or a previous run involving a dog eliminating on the course. I encourage people to let the Lure Operator know if it's a new dog, or if you know it's prone to stopping or turning around. When I know this is the case, I'll typically back away from the course when the dog is running and get the Lure far enough ahead of the dog to allow it to coast safely when the dog is near my position, so I won't have to run the Lure Machine with the dog near me. This is to avoid the noise of the clicking solenoid or motor whirring being a distraction. I'll also make a point not to look directly at the dog, or acknowledge it in any way.

For first timers that won't run, or just don't know what to do, it may be helpful to run the course with them the first time or even couple of times, either partially, or the entire distance. (Under new rules issued at the end of the 2022 season by the AKC, this will result in an NQ if done during an official run, but it might allow the dog to learn what it's supposed to do on future runs. Confirm it's OK with the Paddock and Hunt Masters before doing so!) You might also try having the releaser take the dog down and have the catcher come forward until the dog sees them and is ready to go to them. Be aware that if the releaser crosses the start line, and/or the catcher crosses the finish line while the dog is on the course, it will result in an NQ, but if the dog won't run, you have nothing to lose at that point. If they'll run with you, then at least use the entry to take them down the course. If necessary, put them on lead to take them down. Again, it's an NQ, but it was going to be so anyway if they won't run and maybe taking them down will help them understand how it works.

It may be necessary to work on the dogs prey drive or reward expectations as well. Let's talk about that next time...
While some breeds are born with high prey drive and a desire to chase anything that moves, others are less inclined to be bothered with such a trivial thing. Almost all dogs however are motivated by something and that’s generally food related.

With sighthounds being the champions for prey drive and chasing, they aren’t the only ones with a high prey drive, nor will all sighthounds instinctively run. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve a dogs interest in the chase, whether sighthound or not.

Most people are aware of the use of a Flirt Pole for training a dog to chase, but often stop there. A lot of dogs simply don’t have the desire to chase, whether it’s a plastic bag, a fuzzy toy, or a squirrel in the backyard. If this is your dog, try adding hi-value treats to the mix! You can try playing with your dog with the bag and mixing in treats to introduce the idea that when they see the bag, good things are about to happen! Strongly encourage any behavior indicating they’re interested in the bag. You might try placing treats inside the bag, or rubbing something sticky / stinky like goose or liver pate on the bag, but remember that if you drag it along the ground, the dog may potentially lose interest in that bag and put their nose to the ground instead, along with every other dog, cat, or other critter that happens along. Try to keep them interested in the bag. After a while, start leading them farther and farther with this until you get the sense that they’ve figured it out and know to chase the bag.

If you have good sit/wait training (and you should!), have your dog wait while you get farther and farther away with the treats and bag and always associate them with the bag. Have someone hold the dog if they won’t wait. Let them see you walking away with it and get them excited to come and get it. Intermix this with chasing.

Once you have their attention fully and they’re focused on the bag, begin working with a clean bag, but be sure to reward them immediately when they get it. With this, you’ll be able to get them off the bags more easily in the catch area. (I don’t mind them catching and shredding the bags, but not all Lure Operators feel the same... While I enjoy watching them have fun doing so, it really is best to get them off the bags and out of the catch area quickly, so the event can progress.) Eventually, they should be happy to chase the bag, since they now relate that to getting the treats they so much desire. You might want to reserve a very special item for the end, such as tuna, or pate of your choice, but be sure not to have it out or visible to the dog before they cross the finish line! In fact, waiting until you exit the catch area before treating will help you get them off the course quicker, which is best for everyone. The goal should be to get your dog interested in chasing the Lure, but if it just won’t do it, then treats are acceptable, but just don’t have them out before the dog crosses the finish line. (I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s an important item as this can result in an NQ under current AKC rules, which nobody wants to see happen after a dog has done exactly what you asked it to do!)

On the topic of treats... It doesn’t have to be a pound of steak or a whole cheese stick or hot dog each time your dog does what you ask! Give your dog the tiniest little pinch of whatever treat you’re offering. Just enough to taste and want more. You don’t want your dog “filling up” on treats. Find a balance that works, but it really shouldn’t be more than just a tiny little spec each time. Go forth and work on the chase and be safe and enjoy. Get the bunny!

One other point. PLEASE be very careful with any treats you use and pick up EVERYTHING you or your dog may have dropped. Some dogs are highly alergic to various foods or treats and you wouldn't like to be responsible for a future dog on the course getting sick or worse, due to your lack of tidiness or care. Secure your treats so they won't fall or pop out of your pockets or hands anytime onsite at an event. This is more than just courtesy.  

Whatever happened to "Midwest-Nice"?! This is another tip I wish I didn't have to post, but it's sometimes shocking to see how mean and demanding some few people can be, either on-site, or online.  Sadly, once someone sees another person acting this way, it's easier for them to then follow suit and become less than kind to others.

Almost everyone working at an event are volunteers and nobody is getting paid to endure nastiness from anyone.  IF you have a problem with someone or something happening at an event, simply smile and kindly seek out the Secretary, or Chair, or Lure Operator and ask them for help or advice on how to handle the situation.  AKC has a Code of Sportsmanship ( ) that we will enforce at all events we are involved in.  Unsportsmanlike behavior will not be tolerated.  This includes but isn't limited to yelling, profanity, threats or any other aggressive behavior.

It costs you nothing to be kind and respectful, but it may cost you eligibility to partake in AKC events, if you can't adhere to this obvious and common practice.  Just be kind...