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Andrew Howells, Animal Photography
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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
A lurcher is a sighthound such as a Greyhound crossed with a terrier, herding breed, or large scenthound with the idea of bringing in greater tenacity, intelligence, or scenting ability. Lurchers are primarily hunting dogs, prized for their stealth and silence. They are calm, affectionate (except around cats or other furry critters), active, and intelligent.
Lurchers vary in size and coat type, depending on the cross used to create them. They may be as small as a Whippet or as large as a Greyhound or Scottish Deerhound, with a weight range of 35 to 100 pounds.
Originally known as the poacher’s dog, the Lurcher is bred for speed, hunting ability, intelligence, and tenacity. Besides those talents, the lurcher’s value to the poacher is his silence. He hunts quietly, never giving voice.
They are not recognized as a breed and are used primarily for hunting — legally, these days, in most cases — although some are now making a name for themselves in agility, lure coursing and other dog sports that call for speed, intelligence and nimble movement.
Confine a Lurcher to your yard with a fence that provides a visual barrier. An underground electronic fence that gives a shock when the dog crosses it is useless with this cross breed. He may blow right through it.
The Lurcher loves the great outdoors, but he is also a social animal who loves people. It’s an unhappy Lurcher who is relegated to the backyard with little attention from his family.
A Lurcher is a classic working crossbreed: the result of a cross between a sighthound and a herding or terrier breed, depending on the goals of the breeder. Common crosses include Greyhounds, Whippets, Salukis, Scottish Deerhounds, or Irish Wolfhounds with Border Collies or Bedlington Terriers or Bull Terriers. A great Lurcher has speed, courage, intelligence and endurance.
In Great Britain, Lurchers have their own shows, can be raced or coursed, and are used for hunting, primarily rabbits, hares, foxes, game birds, and rats. In the United States, some people may use Lurchers to hunt coyotes, foxes, or jackrabbits in areas where they are considered pests or just for the thrill of the chase. Lurchers are also ace lure coursing dogs.
No registry recognizes lurchers, and there is no movement to gain American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club recognition for them. They are, as they have always been, strictly working dogs.
The Lurcher’s temperament is typically like that of the sighthound — calm and affectionate but not demonstrative, with a strong desire to run — boosted by the gameness or intensity of the terrier or herding breed that is in its heritage. Early and frequent socialization is essential to help prevent the development of timidity or aggression.
A Lurcher will appreciate a long daily walk and the opportunity to run free in a large, safely enclosed area. He should always be walked on leash, or he is likely to take off after some small, furry critter. Lurchers are generally not a good choice for homes with other pets such as cats or rabbits.
The Lurcher is an independent thinker but intelligent and highly trainable. He can learn the basics of good dog behavior, plus much more, if you use positive reinforcement techniques, particularly food rewards. Begin training when he is young and still somewhat malleable, keep training sessions short and fun, and avoid harsh corrections. Never forget, however, that a Lurcher is a master of the fine art of thievery. Do not leave food out, even if you think it is out of reach.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.
If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed. Invite people to your home as well so he becomes accustomed to visitors. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Lurcher, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
That said, Lurchers are considered a pretty healthy cross-breed. The main health concerns for Lurchers are gastric torsion, torn toenails, foot or muscle injuries, and heatstroke or heat exhaustion. They may also be prone to osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Lurchers with herding breeds in their ancestry may be prone to eye problems. Hypothyroidism is common in many dog breeds.
Ask if the breeder has screened the puppy’s parents for thyroid disease and eye health. A thyroid evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and certification of eye health from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation are points in a breeder’s favor.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Lurcher at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Lurcher may have a rough or smooth coat. Weekly brushing will keep the coat healthy and free of dead hair. Introduce him to grooming early in life so that he learns to accept it willingly and patiently.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails as needed, usually once a month, and keep his ears clean and dry. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.
Good dental hygiene is also important. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life. Look for more information about the Lurcher at the websites of the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association and the Lurcher and Tumbler Welfare and Breed Club (Britain).
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an Lurcher puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Lurcher might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a Lurcher in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Lurchers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Lurcher. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Lurcher, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Lurcher to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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