Dogs, dogs, dogs

The dogs at the Fort Dodge Kennel Club’s annual show can seem pretty dignified at times, when they’re standing patiently in a ring for the judge’s inspection or showing off their ability to sit on command in the obedience trials.

But a new event Saturday afternoon at the Webster County Fairgrounds gave all sorts of dogs the chance to just get out and chase something.

It’s called coursing, and while the event was just for fun, it’s another way dogs of all breeds can win titles in the American Kennel Club.

Tammy Lorch, of Johnson, brought her dog, Sadie, up to the starting line, straining at the leash. Ahead of her, a long loop of line was stretched through the lawn with three plastic “rabbits” attached. At the word go, the dog was released and a gas motor pulled the line to send the rabbits shooting around the course.

“We got hooked on this three years ago, and it’s so much fun,” Lorch said.

The AKC’s Lure Coursing events have long been an option for sighthounds, such as greyhounds, whippets, Irish wolfhounds and Rhodesian ridgebacks. But about three years ago, Lorch said, a new event was created: the Coursing Ability Test, which is open to any breed, or even mutts.

So, yes, the event where dogs chase things is known as a CAT.

This was the first time coursing has been held in Fort Dodge, said show chair Liz Hawkins. The course was short – about 250 yards instead of 600 to 800 yards in a regulation CAT. But it was a good way to introduce more dog owners to the event.

“These are fun runs,” Lorch said. “We want to promote this here in Iowa.”

Sighthounds in Lure Coursing are given points in several categories based on their performance. In a CAT, the dogs either pass or fail.

“It’s based on how close they follow. Do they run with enthusiasm, do the complete the course in the designated time?” Lorch said.

Her dog is a Brittany, so it isn’t eligible for the Lure Coursing events. But pass enough CATs and you can win titles, she said.

“She’s a sporting dog, not a sight dog. But this is her favorite sport.”

Carrie Meyer’s dog, Sydney, does run in the Lure events. Meyer, of Omaha, and Lorch are both members of the Coursing Hounds of Iowa, which brought the event to Fort Dodge this year.

About 25 dogs made the fun run, Meyer said. Some were from the club, but others were newcomers to the sport.

“There were several that caught on pretty quickly. Two or three were right on,” Meyer said. “There was 10 or so that, with encouragement, could have caught on more later.”

Inside the building, dogs in the show were judged for their adherence to the published standard for their breed, while in the obedience trial dogs showed they could come, heel, stay on command, jump over obstacles, and retrieve the proper object.

Turnout was higher than usual, with about 550 dogs, Hawkins said.

“We’re up. I think it’s the judges,” she said. “I think some of the judges are pretty popular.”

The dog show and obedience trials will be held again today beginning at 8 a.m. The second day is a separate competition, and dogs may or may not enter in both days.