What luck to have a Saluki as a companion he is truly the most natural of sportsmen! A variety of activities is at your fingertips, waiting to be enjoyed with your Saluki. One of the notable assets of the breed is that many of the things they do best require little organized training. We must never forget that the Saluki is a premier hunting hound, not a couch dog, and should be offered varied mental and physical challenges throughout his life.
No matter how you choose to spend your time together, it is the stable, conditioned hound that will give you the most enjoyment. Like all dogs, Salukis require a consistent, loving environment. By focusing on the Saluki's specific talents, you will be able to take full advantage of his natural inclinations. For guidance, consult the many Saluki books and publications available today and don't be afraid to ask for advice. More experienced Saluki owners will already be aware of this breed's predilection to prey drive and sensitivity to training techniques, and most are happy to share their knowledge.
Throughout the world, we see Salukis performing at the highest levels in championship shows, lure coursing, agility, fly ball, exhibition jumping, scent hurdling, oval track racing, obedience and tracking, and as therapy dogs. In every arena, the Saluki is the glamorous showman. He displays the sharp intelligence the breed is known for and an easy natural ability to join his beloved human in adventure. Undoubtedly in some dog sports, the Saluki is simply - the BEST!
One of the most popular sports that Saluki folk enjoy is lure coursing. Although it was organized in the US by some of the same individuals who established the official clubs for open field coursing, the two sports have relatively little in common. Factors such as each lure course's brief length and the lure chasing hounds' inability to 'work' the game illustrate two major differences. In lure coursing, your Saluki chases a plastic lure attached to a motor operated line approximately 600 to 1200 yards long, stretched out in an irregular, zigzag pattern over a field. Slipped singly or with one or two other hounds, the Saluki follows this fast-moving lure and is graded on his agility, speed and other attributes. Salukis that excel at this sport are exceptionally keen to chase the ‘plastic bunny’ and follow the lure closely, cutting into the corners deeply and showing blazing bursts of speed. Most lure coursing judges admit that the Saluki is the most beautiful of the sighthounds to watch run the lure.
Coursing demands that your hound be absolutely fit and experienced at running on varied turf. Remember to warm up and cool down your Saluki with adequate stretching and walking before and after his run. Preparation for competitive youngsters includes much off lead running in fields and forests with other dogs, from puppyhood and throughout their competitive years, to produce Salukis that can manage the ground under them and understand the cues from their running mates. This sort of experience also produces hounds that are reliable off lead. Many owners continue to course older hounds who may be past their prime, and as long as the dogs are fit enough to handle the sprint, it's a wonderful way to spend the day.
This sport is somewhat more dangerous than are the others. Opportunities for high-speed crashes abound, especially with inexperienced hounds. Your Saluki must also be able to run without being aggressive to the other hounds on the field with him, and must be tested as running clean prior to entering an official lure coursing event.
Lure coursing organizations include the American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) and the American Kennel Club. Titles range from Junior Courser (JC) to Field Champion (FCh or FC) to Lure Courser of Merit (LCM). Many coursing trials are held around the country and throughout the year, depending on the climate in each region. Lure coursing clubs all offer testing at their trials, and once your Saluki is certified, you can enter just by going to the trial on the morning it starts but make sure you arrive well before Roll Call!
Lure coursing allows you to stay in one spot, so enthusiasts tend to bring along a lot of gear on the day. Chairs, water and tents for shade are the basics. On a hot day a small inflatable swimming pool, filled with ice cubes which melt slowly into cool water, can supply a welcome respite for your Saluki. For winter trials, warm coats are in order.
Camaraderie and watching your Saluki do something he really enjoys are wonderful reasons to take up this sport on a casual basis. Excelling at lure coursing also demonstrates your Saluki's ability to focus, his mental resiliency, his ability to forgive competitor aggressions and his overall health in what, during a prolonged competitive season, can prove to be a physically demanding sport.
Agility is a very positive and fast moving sport, and most Salukis respond to it. The basic elements of agility - running, jumping, and climbing - are tailor made for this athletic breed. You will find no "corrections" in this activity; motivation, praise, and short, positive sessions are a must. And the rewards are vast. It's great exercise, demanding a high level of fitness of both Saluki and handler. The directional commands and off lead control taught in agility classes can come in handy in many real life situations.
If you can get access to the equipment and have lots of patience and a sense of humor, agility can offer you and your Saluki an incredible experience built on teamwork, trust, and cooperation.
There are several agility organizations in North America, the major players being the American Kennel Club, the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) and the North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC).Titles range from Novice to Masters. Roughly modeled after equestrian competitions, a typical agility course consists of about 15 varied obstacles. The event is timed, and few if any faults are allowed. Obstacles include single jumps, triple jumps, oxers, weave poles, chutes, A-frames, high catwalks, and for good measure, a teeter-totter.
Along with open field, and to a lesser degree lure coursing, agility is a sport that requires dogs to do high-octane work off lead in close quarters with other loose dogs, often in the midst of quite frenzied activity. To go through the training classes and gain an agility title implies that a hound is stable in personality, well-socialized, and not aggressive to other dogs.
Recently introduced to North America from its European origins, agility is the fastest growing of the dog sports. At its pinnacle it is cutting edge, demanding extremely sharp verbal and body language communication with your Saluki. Because of the mental challenge for both team members, an agility title is considered one of the hardest to acquire. Although classes are springing up everywhere, be careful to take your training under experienced instructors using the latest techniques, who keep safe technique their priority. As breeds are motivated differently, you will want to train with someone who can work with the Saluki's desire to chase. Operant conditioning will play a big part in your routine, as you watch your Saluki fly out of the chute and follow the airborne toy ahead of him. Training techniques are evolving rapidly and you should take advantage of the very best resources.
As you progress in the sport, you will find yourself in your dog's mind, cues from you coming at the time the dog is thinking about the next obstacle, not when he is already on it. You will be surprised at the finesse you will develop. Some experienced enthusiasts say that we have to speed up our thinking to match the dog a challenge, to be sure!
When you work with a breed as intuitive as the Saluki, agility offers the ultimate team building experience between handler and hound. Most of all, your Saluki will absolutely thrive on the jazz and stimulation that agility offers.
Why obedience train a Saluki? So much of it is counterpoint to our frame of reference for a sighthound. After all, aren't they aloof, dignified, easily bored, independent and cat-like? If, however, you can find a motivator that works (food, praise, back rub or favorite toy), and have lots of patience, a sense of humor, and know when to quit, obedience training can be rewarding and useful, even a lifesaver.
What Saluki shouldn't walk on a lead without tugging, tolerate strangers touching him, and come when he's called? Coming when called could save a dog's life in a dangerous situation. These basic skills should be required of every Saluki. They are also the basic obedience skills. Add sits, downs, stays and the finish, and all of a sudden you and your Saluki are doing the thing we call obedience.
Whether a Saluki enjoys obedience work or not is as individual as the dog himself. Some love it, others tolerate it, and some would rather do absolutely anything else. An upbeat approach is all-important in the training of any sighthound. Never punish or use harsh corrections with a Saluki or you will lose its respect and be ‘tuned out’. Keep practice sessions short and fun, especially in the beginning and with young dogs. Above all, be patient.
You can begin teaching simple exercises at eight weeks of age. Baby Saluki puppies can learn to sit or down for treats, and are quite proud of themselves for doing so. As they mature, you can build up to longer sits, longer downs, try some heeling and teach the stay. By shaping behavior through positive reinforcement while your Saluki is still a puppy, you are teaching it how to learn. Future training becomes much easier once you have this foundation.
Training, however, is not just for the young, as older dogs will blossom with all the attention they receive when an obedience program is embarked upon. It truly is sport for all ages. Saluki owners who question the value of obedience training, who say they only want a good companion and are not interested in competition, should understand that the practical advantages to obedience training go far beyond mere titles and ribbons. Training can build confidence in the shy dog and develop responsiveness in the independent. A reliable recall or sit-stay can literally be a lifesaver. The obedience trained Saluki is much less likely to panic and run should it accidentally slip its lead, as it has had a taste of the responsibility that goes along with freedom.
The American Kennel Club offers competitive events and official titles. These titles begin at the Companion Dog (CD) level, and advance to Utility Dog Excellent (UDX). Additionally, the AKC offers an interesting title called Canine Good Citizen (CGC) that is probably the most basic test of manners and suitable temperament.
Will the obedience trained Saluki sit in the conformation ring? Not if you train it not to. When you introduce the sit-stay, also teach the stand-stay. Salukis are smart enough to learn these two things as separate exercises. In fact, the goal you are striving for in the conformation ring, a dog that will stand-stay after gaiting, is very like the Utility class exercise called the "moving stand". Working in obedience will expose you to facets of your Saluki's personality that you never knew existed. It can deepen your relationship with even the most aloof of individuals and cement a bond with the exuberant.
Salukis are notorious for their creativity, and the stimulation provided by training can keep their energies channeled into a positive vein. Obedience training is well worth the time spent, as not only will you understand your Saluki better, you will have a more well-rounded, confident individual as your companion.
TRACKINGTracking is an invisible sport. You can't see the track and there are no ring ropes, jumps, or placements. There is just a Saluki in harness with his handler at the end of a 20-foot lead. It is quiet, just one dog and one handler working at a time, and it's not competitive, the team receiving no score, just a Pass or Fail. There are no time limits. Furthermore, the dog is always right when tracking, something that seems to appeal to the Saluki.
AKC titles include Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), VST (Variable Surface Tracking) and (CT) Champion Tracker. The latter title, CT, meaning the dog has completed all three of the prior titles, appears before the dog's name, while the other three appear as suffixes.
Tracking is a confidence builder for hound and handler, individually and together as a team. Most of all, tracking requires faith in your Saluki. After all, the dog has the keen sense of smell and an innate ability to follow a scent, something humans will never be able to understand completely or do themselves.
Tracking equipment includes a harness, lead, track markers, and articles - usually leather gloves or wallets. Several books are available to get you started in tracking. Just remember to modify the training schedule to fit you and your Saluki. You can start in a small area, and build up to longer tracks.
Tracking also requires that the dog and handler be in good physical shape. Although you are not running, you will walk longer distances as your training progresses. There is something special about tracking in the early morning. The day is new, the sun is rising, and the hounds are excited to track. A handler "lays" a track, leaving articles for the hound to find. As the training progresses, the track increases in distance and age (time), turns are introduced, and challenges are used to keep the dog interested. It's amazing how much the dogs love to track. More amazing is the bond that forms between Saluki and handler. It is invisible and silent, but built on faith and respect.
Showing is the most popular and established organized activity in which you can participate with your hound. Attending AKC conformation shows or match shows offers you an important opportunity to see other Salukis, chat with people who have Salukis, and increase your knowledge of the breed. In the dog world there is lots of new learning to share. Being part of the dog show scene also widens your circle of friends both human and doggie, and that's always a good thing!
The Saluki Specialty, a conformation show just for Salukis, is, as its name suggests, something special. In North America, the largest Saluki Specialty is the Saluki Club of America's national show held annually in Lexington, Kentucky. With a typical entry of over 500 Salukis, breed seminars and display booths, it's an event to put on your calendar. Other Saluki Specialties are held in Arizona, California, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Washington, and SCOA also offers two Regional Specialties that change locations yearly. Specialties are held in other countries, too. Many enthusiasts travel north to Canada or abroad to visit these events and view different lineages.
Showing your Saluki to its best advantage requires a certain amount of preparatory work. Fortunately, show handling classes sponsored by local dog clubs are available in most major centers around the country, providing an introduction to the basics of showing for both dog and handler. Your Saluki will learn how to behave in a line up of trotting dogs and to stand and accept being touched all over by a stranger. Classes will teach you showing techniques, offer new ways of looking at things and, at the more advanced levels, fine tune skills. Most successful Saluki owner-handlers still attend classes regularly with their dogs.
Regular practice at home and in your neighborhood will ensure that your show ring performance is up to standard on the big day. By treating show ring training as an enjoyable game, keeping the training lessons short and motivating, you and your Saluki will form a new kind of bond. You will also be laying the foundation for other activities, and many of the commands your Saluki will learn doing show ring exercises will transfer to day to day living. A perfect stand for examination always impresses the vet!
To earn an AKC Championship title, a Saluki must be awarded 15 points, including two major wins, and win under at least three separate judges. Taking Best of Breed allows your hound to compete at the next higher level, the Group. Placing first in the Group puts your Saluki among the other group winning dogs in the very small lineup vying for Best in Show. Many owner handled Salukis have achieved Group placements, some going on to make breed history by winning multiple Best in Shows.
The pride of exhibiting your Saluki, well trained in ring etiquette and in gleaming health, to a blue ribbon is a special feeling indeed. With your friends at ringside, it is an afternoon well spent.