Originally known as the poacher’s dog, a Lurcher is a cross between a sighthound and a dog of another type, such as a terrier or a herding dog. The cross is intended to produce dogs with the speed of the sighthound and the tenacity or intelligence of the terrier or herding dog. 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. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Lurcher.
Is the Lurcher the Right Dog for You?
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 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.
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’ll blow right through that without a second thought.
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.
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.
The Lurcher may have a rough or smooth coat. Weekly brushing will keep the coat healthy and free of dead hair. Trim his nails as needed, and keep his ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Good dental hygiene is also important.
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.
5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Lurcher Puppy
- Finding a good breeder is more important than finding 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.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Lurchers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Lurcher can live to be 12 to 14 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
- Puppy or adult, take your Lurcher to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Lurchers
All purebred 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 a pretty healthy 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. Lurchers with herding breeds in their ancestry may be prone to eye problems. Autoimmune thyroiditis is common in many dog breeds.
Pet Insurance for Lurchers
Pet insurance for Lurchers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Lurchers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Lurchers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Lurcher is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.