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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Lurcher
Average Cost to keep/care for a Lurcher
Breed Specific Buying Advice
Lurchers are a "crossbreed" with their parent breeds typically being the Terrier, Collie or Sheepdog crossed with the Greyhound. The dictionary describes a Lurcher as being a hunting dog that's often used by "hunters and poachers" although this is not the case at all. A Lurcher is an all-purpose hunting dog and is the result of crossing a sight hound with a pastoral breed of dog and they are not only popular with hunters, but they are highly regarded as family pets and companions too.
Lurchers are highly adaptable dogs being just at home in a family environment as they are when they are working out in the field which is why they have become one of the most popular dogs in the UK even though Lurcher-type dogs have been around for centuries and have always been highly prized for their hunting skills. They were originally known as "poacher's dogs" because they are so quiet when they go about chasing their prey. For the moment, Lurchers are not recognised as a breed by The Kennel Club or other international organisations, but over the years these elegant, charming dogs have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people here in the UK thanks to their kind and loyal natures.
Lurchers have always been highly prized for their hunting skills and in times past were a firm favourite at keeping rabbit and fox numbers under control. They are a result of crossing sighthounds with terrier or herding dogs with many crosses being between Border Collies, Bedlington Terriers, Bull Terriers and Greyhounds, Whippets, Scottish Deerhounds, Irish Wolfhounds and Salukis.
It is thought that Romany Gypsies and other travelling people native to Europe started to develop a dog in the 1600's. They wanted a dog that would be able to hunt rabbits, hares, game birds and deer as quietly as possible while at the same time boasting a loyal and intelligent nature. The result was the Lurcher and these athletic, graceful dogs soon became a very popular dog of choice with travelling communities both here in the UK and in Ireland.
In 1948, a standard was established by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald. However, these lovely dogs are yet to be recognised as a breed by The Kennel Club or any other international organisation even though they have remained a popular choice here in Britain for many years not only for their hunting skills, but also because they make such loyal and affectionate companions and family pets. With this said, anyone wishing to share a home with a Lurcher has a choice as to a dog's size with some Lurchers being quite a bit smaller than others as it depends on the size of their parent breeds.
Height at the withers: Males 55 - 71 cm, Females 55 - 71 cm
Average weight: Males 27 - 32 kg, Females 27 - 32 kg
Lurchers come in all sizes depending on how they have been bred. Some dogs with Irish Wolfhound in their lineage can be quite large, whereas others with the Whippet as one of their parent breeds can be quite a bit smaller. The one thing they all have in common is their elegant, athletic appearance which is very similar to that of a Greyhound.
Lurchers are athletic, muscular and nicely proportioned having long heads and necks which adds to their elegance. They have powerful jaws, well chiseled muzzles and a slight stop. Eyes are oval and dark in colour with Lurchers always having a keen, intelligent look about them. Their ears are small being fine to the touch and always alert.
They have strong jaws with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are long, well-muscled and nicely arched in an elegant fashion. Shoulders are well laid back, muscular being well defined and front legs are long, straight showing a good amount of bone.
Chests are deep with Lurchers having well sprung ribs which are carried well back. Their backs are long with powerful, nicely arched loins. Hindquarters are well muscled with Lurchers having strong back legs with muscular thighs and second thighs. Their feet are moderately long with well knuckled toes and strong pads. Tails are set low and long being wider at the root before tapering to the tip and which dogs carry low and curved slightly.
When it comes to their coat, Lurchers can have fine and close coats or they can have rougher, coarser coats or smoother ones depending on their parent breeds. The most commonly seen colours include the following:
Lurchers whether large, medium or smaller dogs are quick off the mark having a free and athletic as well as very elegant gait. They cover a tremendous amount of ground having a tremendous amount of power in their hindquarters and they are very good at turning tight corners and changing direction at high speeds.
Breed clubs always frown on any exaggerations in the breed and recommend that all potential owners ask breeders for the full lineage of a Lurcher parent breeds. Responsible breeders would always choose their stud dogs carefully to ensure their continued welfare of all Lurchers and their prodigy.
Lurchers have always been highly prized for their speed, stamina, courage and intelligence. With this said, a Lurcher's temperament and personality can be as different as their appearance because it really does depend on their parent breeds as to how a puppy turns out. Some Lurchers can be real "couch potatoes" whereas others are hyperactive, but the one constant is that they are usually kind and affectionate as well as extremely loyal to their owners and families. Once a Lurcher forms a bond with someone, this remains unbreakable for the rest of their lives. It would be fair to describe a Lurcher as being a loveable, mischievous and highly intelligent character and one that is loving and sensitive at the same time.
They make wonderful family pets in households where the children are slightly older and are not a particularly good choice for families with toddlers simply because Lurchers can be quite boisterous when they play, loving nothing better than to be able to run around when the mood takes them. The other thing to bear in mind is that these athletic dogs can have a strong "herding" instinct which is another reason why they are not a good choice for people with very young children.
It cannot be stressed strongly enough the importance of socialising a Lurcher from a young age so they grow up to be more outgoing, confident mature dogs. If they are not well socialised Lurchers can be a little shy. A timid Lurcher can often show a more aggressive side to their natures which is something to be avoided at all costs.
They are best suited to people who live in more rural areas of the country and who enjoy active, outdoor lives and in households where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house. They don't like to be left on their own for longer periods of time which could result in dogs developing some unwanted and destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are experiencing. A Lurcher is never happier than when they are in the great outdoors and as such, it is best to indulge their desire to run rather than to try to curb it which would only result in a very unhappy and frustrated dog.
Because they boast a high prey drive, care has to be taken as to where and when a Lurcher is allowed to run off their leads because even if they have been well trained with a strong "recall" command, they are very likely to take off if they spot any prey in the distance. It's important for a Lurcher's training to be started as soon as a puppy arrives in their new home and their education has to start with the basics, but once a dog has been fully vaccinated, it has to start in earnest paying particular attention to the “recall” command.
Lurchers are quite independent thinkers, but being highly intelligent it means in the right hands and environment, they are easy to train. Their training has to start early because it would be a mistake to wait until a dog is 6 months old. With this said, a Lurcher should never be trusted with any food that may be left out because they would not be able to resist helping themselves to it. In short, these handsome dogs are known to be "thieves" at heart no matter how well trained they happen to be.
Lurchers are not a good choice for first time dog owners because although they are lovely dogs by nature, training a Lurcher can prove challenging at the best of times. As such they are better suited to people who are familiar with the breed and their specific needs.
Lurchers have an extremely high prey drive having been bred to "hunt" which is a trait deeply embedded in a dog's psyche. Even in a home environment, a Lurcher would need to "express" themselves as they should for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters.
Lurchers are renowned for their playfulness and remain extremely puppy-like well into their senior years which can often be mistaken for a dog being mischievous and naughty. They adore playing interactive games which includes activities like "fetch" which they thoroughly enjoy and would typically tire an owner out well before they would give up retrieving whatever it is that's thrown for them.
Lurchers need the space to express themselves and therefore are not suited to apartment living. They are high-energy dogs that need to run free as often as possible in safe environments. They thrive in a country environment and in homes with large, extremely secure back gardens.
Lurchers form strong ties with their owners and never like it when they find themselves on their own for any length of time which is why they are better suited to people who lead active outdoor lives and would like a loyal and high-energy canine companion at their side.
Lurchers are not known to be "barkers" more especially as they were bred to be "stealthy" hunters. However, any dog that's left on their own for longer periods of time could well bark incessantly as a way of showing they are unhappy at the situation and it's their way of getting some attention.
Lurchers like their Greyhound cousins are not particularly fond of being in water and some of them don't even like getting their feet wet. With this said, some Lurchers don't mind taking a swim when the weather is hot, but care should always be taken as to where they can swim and care should be taken when walking a dog off their leads anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog falls in.
Lurchers are not particularly good watchdogs because they are so social by nature. With this said, they would be quick to let an owner know when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in the environment.
Lurchers are very intelligent characters and when well trained, they excel at many canine sports which includes activities like agility, flyball and obedience to name but three. In the right hands and environment, as previously mentioned, Lurchers are highly trainable and thoroughly enjoy the one-to-one attention they get during their training sessions and when they are competing. They thrive on doing something because it means their energy is being channeled in a very positive manner.
Socialising Lurchers at a young enough age helps them mature into more confident adult dogs and this goes a long way in making them more receptive to being trained in a positive manner. Much like Greyhounds, they are sensitive by nature and therefore they do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods. They do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement and high value food rewards which always brings the best out of these high energy, intelligent dogs.
The key to successfully training a Lurcher is to keep training sessions interesting and short because this helps dogs stay more focussed on what they are being asked to do. Longer more repetitive training sessions don’t work because Lurchers quickly become bored which means they find it a lot harder to concentrate. It's also a very good idea to enrol a young Lurcher into puppy classes at around 10 to 12 week's old once they've had all their jabs because not only is this a good way of socialising them, but it's a brilliant way of getting their training off to a good start in a safe and controlled environment.
Lurcher puppies need to be taught the basic commands right from the word go although there is never any guarantee they will obey although they will respond which can prove frustrating at times. The first commands they should be taught are as follows:
As previously mentioned, all Lurcher puppies should be taught the basics, bearing in mind that even when young, they have a mind of their own which is why they are better suited to people who are familiar with the breed rather than novice owners.
Lurchers are best suited to families where the children are older who therefore know how to behave around dogs the reason being that Lurchers are boisterous by nature and could therefore all too easily knock a small child over albeit by accident. Any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure things stay nice and calm.
They are not the best choice for households where there are smaller animals and pets because of a Lurcher's high prey drive and the fact these dogs might see small animals as "fair game" with disastrous results. However, if a Lurcher has grown up with a family cat in the home, they usually get on well together, but this is not to say, they would not chase any other cats they come across which includes the neighbour's cat.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Lurcher is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Lurcher is known to be a healthy and robust dog although there have been reports of them suffering from the following conditions which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active, high energy dogs:
Unfortunately, there are no genetic tests or screening available for Lurchers when it comes to a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) which affects larger dogs and more especially Lurchers with Deerhound in their lineage. The condition sees a dog's heart becoming enlarged and it tends to affect dogs when they are middle-aged.
Lurchers are more predisposed to suffering from gastric torsion because of their build and conformation having deep chests. The condition should be treated seriously and veterinary attention is needed sooner rather than later when a Lurcher shows any signs of suffering from bloat which could prove life threatening.
A Lurcher puppy would have had their first vaccinations before being sold, but after this it is important for them to have their follow-up shots with the schedule being as below:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures, As such, they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old which is the case for Lurchers. Anyone who has any concerns as to when a dog should be spayed or neutered should discuss things with a vet.
Sometimes when Lurchers are spayed and neutered they can put on weight so it is important to keep an eye on how much weight a Lurcher carries and to adjust their calorie intake if a dog seems to be gaining any weight and to limit the amount of food rewards they are given while upping their daily exercise. Carrying too much weight can seriously impact a dog's overall health and wellbeing with obese dogs living much shorter lives.
Some Lurchers develop dry and itchy skin with some dogs losing the hair on an affected area. There are many things that can trigger an allergic reaction with the most common being environment and food. If a Lurcher shows any signs of having developed a problem, it's time for a visit to the vet so they can be checked over. The sooner a dog is made to feel more comfortable, the better. Finding the trigger can prove challenging and it typically takes quite a bit of time. However, a vet would be able to treat the symptoms making a dog less itchy by prescribing specific medication to suit the dog.
Other triggers could include the following all of which would need to be eliminated before finding out which is the cause of a dog's allergic reaction:
There is a test for MDR1 which establishes whether a Lurcher has a sensitivity to Ivermectin or other anti-parastic products which Lurchers with Collie in their ancestry are predisposed to suffering from.
The Lurcher is not recognised by the Kennel Club and as such there are no breed specific breeding restrictions in place. With this said, potential owners should always ask breeders for proof of a puppy's parent dogs lineage and whether they have tested positive to any hereditary conditions the breed is known to suffer from.
Because the Lurcher is not recognised by the Kennel Club as a breed, there are no Assured Breeder requirements in place.
As with any other breed, Lurchers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives, bearing in mind that Lurchers are high-energy dogs and therefore they need a higher level of protein in their diets
Getting the home ready for a Lurcher puppy's arrival takes a bit of time and planning because it is essential that their new environment is safe for them to be in. Lurcher puppies are extremely playful and boisterous which can make their education a little more challenging than in other breeds and it also means that valuables need to be put safely away to avoid breakages. It's also a good idea to put electric cables and wires out of a puppy's reach because they might decide to chew them which could end up with an expensive trip to the vet.
Lurcher puppies need to be able to express themselves and the best place for them to do this is in a secure back garden until they have had all their vaccinations. Garden tools and other implements should be put away to avoid any accidents and toxic plants should be removed from flower beds and other areas of the garden.
Lurcher puppies need to nap a lot during the day in-between bouts of boisterous play and need a quiet place they can retreat to. This should not be too out of the way because a puppy needs to know someone is around and it's a good idea to keep an eye and ear on them more especially when they first arrive. If there are any children in the home, they need to be taught to leave puppy alone when they are napping and not to interfere with them when they are eating.
Lurcher puppies are clever and therefore quite easy to house train, but they are also very sensitive so if a puppy gets it wrong, it would be a mistake to tell them off too harshly which would end up scaring them. It's best to keep a close eye on when a puppy needs to go to the toilet and to get them outside or o a puppy mat as quickly and as gently as possible. It's also essential to reward them when they get it right with lots of praise and rewards.
All Lurcher puppies would have been wormed before being sold, but it's important to keep worming them at regular intervals to ensure they stay healthy. The worming schedule to follow is as follows:
There are lots of things needed to care for a Lurcher puppy which need to be purchased well in advance of their arrival. This includes the following items:
All puppies are very sensitive to loud noises so it is important to keep the volume of a television down and not to play music too loudly either because it could frighten a Rottweiler puppy and prevent them from napping as they should during the day.
All reputable Lurcher breeders would always ensure their puppies vaccinated before they are sold, but as previously mentioned, it is up to their new owners to make sure they are given their follow-up shots at the right time which should be as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
As Lurcher get older, they slow down more especially when they reach their golden years which is a time when they might start showing their age with more grey hairs appearing on their faces and more especially around their muzzles. Older dogs can put on a little too much weight because they are less active so it's important to keep an eye on their calorie intake and to adjust things accordingly.
Apart from a change in their appearance, a Lurcher's personality might change too and this includes on how quick they are to respond to a command or when their names are called. The reason for this is that many older dog's hearing is not as good as it once was. Other changes to watch out for include the following:
Lurchers can have either smooth or rough coats, but dogs with either are relatively low maintenance on the grooming front. A weekly or twice weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats in top condition and looking good. They shed all year round, only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to remove any dead and shed hair from a dog's coat.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Having the right grooming tools helps keep a Lurcher's coat and skin in top condition and this includes the following:
The Lurcher is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need anything from 1 hour to 2 hour's exercise a day and care has to be taken as to where and when they are allowed to run off their leads because of their extremely high prey drive. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Lurcher would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they may be feeling.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these high prey dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Lurcher puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Lurcher puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Once a puppy is 15 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Weight: Males 27 - 32 kg, Females 27 - 32 kg
Older Lurchers are not fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. Because Lurchers are predisposed to suffering from bloat, it's essential they not be exercised straight after having been fed and to wait until they have cooled down before feeding them too.
It's also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls which makes it easier for Lurchers to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from gastric torsion.
If you are looking to buy a Lurcher, you would need to pay anything from £100 to over £300 for a well-bred puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Lurcher in northern England would be £20.94 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £42.92 a month (quote as of August 2017). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Lurcher and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Lurcher would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred Lurcher puppy.