Amateur Dog Racing - LGRA, NOTRA, AOK9

Updated: May 4

Over the past year, we've thrown ourselves into amateur racing. At first, it was very much supposed to be an occasional past time, but we've ended up doing more racing than anything else recently because my dogs absolutely adore it. This post is going to focus on Large Gazehound Racing Association (LGRA) which is straight racing, National Oval Track Racing Association (NOTRA) which is oval track, and AOK9's Racing and Lure Coursing Program which offers straight, oval, and lure coursing options for all breeds. I am not going to be talking about Whippet Racing Association or Continental Whippet Association because I just have very limited experience with them.

I feel I would be remiss in not starting with: No money is involved in this. No betting. The only time money even comes up is for the entry fees I pay for my dogs to have the time of their lives. That's right. We don't win money. Contrary to popular opinion even most dog shows don't give money as prizes. This is all beside the fact of my own personal feelings about professional Greyhound Racing (which I support).

I take my dogs out to race or course or run agility because they love it. Anubi would happily race every single day. It's about finding something for my dog to do, giving them an outlet. If my dogs aren't having fun, I'm going to pull them. End of story.

Early on in our racing experience, there was a race where Ash just loped the entire first race instead of sprinting. I'm not sure if he was tired, I'm not sure if he was uncertain about being released by someone new, I'm not sure if it just seemed like a very long ways and he was mentally uncertain. Regardless, I pulled him from the other two races and to this day, I don't feel bad about it. Ash does less racing than he does lure coursing, because he just doesn't enjoy it quite as much. You can't make a dog run quickly, perform well, if they're unhappy. They do it for the joy of it and the instincts that have existed in them for thousands of years.

Now let's look at the various different racing organizations. I've talked about coursing, fast CAT, and CAT before, so if you want to learn more about those check my other post here.

Large Gazehound Racing Association (LGRA)

*This section talks about some universal facts about racing, so even if you're running AOK9 or NOTRA I suggest reading through it for the boxing explanation and point breakdown*

Rule Book:

LGRA allows the following sighthound breeds: Afghan Hounds, Azawakh, Basenji, Borzoi, Chart Polski, Cirneco dell’Etna, Greyhounds, Ibizan Hounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Italian Greyhounds, Magyar Agar, Pharaoh Hounds, Portuguese Podengo Medio/Grande, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Salukis, Scottish Deerhounds, Silken Windhounds, and Sloughi. As Whippets have their own straight racing organizations, they are not included in LGRA.

A race meet consists of three programs of 200 yards each. Each program consists of 2-4 dogs all of the same breed. If a breed has more than 4 dogs entered the are split into varying races according to ability (high-point, mid-point, low-point) and dogs move up and down in the races depending on how they do. Every dog runs blanketed in blankets numbered from 1-4 and muzzled. Ideally, there will be no interference in racing but the muzzles are to keep the dogs safe both from each other and from biting the line and cutting up their mouth. Dogs must certify that they can run cleanly with competition before being allowed to run with competition, this is done via a certification run where the person with the green dog must arrange for their own bye dog for their dog to race against. Meets can be either hand slipped (a person physically lets the dogs go) or boxed where they are put in racing boxes and when the lure starts the boxes are opened. In LGRA, the lure has a high value squawker attached to it which will often encourage hesitant dogs to run, even when they wouldn't if it was just plastic bags attached. If a dog is injured or tired or just not enjoying themselves they can be scratched in between programs.

Unlike in lure coursing, dogs must wear a collar with all of the racing organizations. Racing is generally a drag lure (reset via an ATV or similar) as opposed to continuous, so there is less concern about dogs getting hung up on the line. And it is very important with four other dogs at the lure that you catch your dog quickly.

The big hurdles to getting your dog into racing, in my opinion, are having your dog run with competition in close proximity, wearing a muzzle, and boxing.

Regarding the running with other dogs, lure coursing is easier in some respects because the dogs are more spread out and don't have to get in each others way. Amalu has struggled to run cleanly with her housemates in racing because she wants to play with them.

I am a strong proponent of muzzle training normally so in theory your dog should already be set to go, but sometimes the dogs get distracted by the muzzles. Having your dog practice running and playing in their muzzle is a great way to help them understand how to wear their muzzle while active.

Most, though not all, LGRA meets utilize race boxes. These are boxes where you load each dog into their own box from the back, check to make sure they are all facing forward, then when the lure starts moving the box operator opens the box and the dogs break out of it. This can feel quite unnatural to the dogs. For dogs that are comfortable in their crate, it seems to be slightly easier, but if you can, I highly recommend a dog practice boxing before being entered. It can be dangerous if a dog turns themselves around in the box or doesn't understand the game.

The above video is actually a NOTRA meet but the boxing process is the same. #2 is Ash who is experienced in boxing. Note he is down low and digging in to start as quickly as possible. #1 is a Saluki who is lovely but inexperienced in boxing (only boxed in one meet before), notice she's more hesitant and more hunched. She's a great runner but doesn't know the game yet.

The point system for racing is quite unique to most other point systems I've seen in other sports. It took awhile to get the hang of it, but now that I know it, I absolutely love how it works. To earn a Gazehound Racing Champion or Oval Racing Champion (NOTRA) title a dog needs to earn 12 Champion Points. In order to become a Supreme Gazehound Racing Champion or Supreme Oval Racing Champion dogs must earn 30 National Points. For each additional 30 National Points a number is added behind their supreme title suffix. Example: SGRC3

Dogs are eligible to earn Champion Points, if they are not already a GRC (or ORC). That means when I first started racing my Azawakh, whoever won the race took home a Champion Point toward their GRC. National Points are earned in parallel to Champion Points. So if you have a race where you have no GRC dogs the dogs that earn points with earn both Champion and National Points.

How many Champion or National points dogs earn depend on how many dogs of a breed are entered. Depending on how many dogs are entered, more than one dog can add points. I've attached the breakdown for both points below.