K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Vickie Pullin, National Champion

We have been covering lots of professions surrounding the dogs sports in our interviews but what about someone who has actually made a profession out of the dog sports themselves? We spoke to Vickie Pullin who runs a business taking people out with her sled dogs to show them how to run dogs safely and teaches people with their own dogs how to get the best out of them.

Vickie spends a lot of time with her dogs in her job, as well as training them for races

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

I run husky tours for the public from my base in Gloucestershire and race my own sprint sled dogs nationally and internationally, with the aim of improving my times and positions in the IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports) World rankings year on year.
I have been running my business, Arctic Quest, for 9 years now and racing seriously with my dogs for 5 years.

Recent results

Winter 2018/19 Results:

British champion in both

  1. Bikejor Women’s Elite Class Open &
  2. 4 Dog Open Class

Runner up in the Open 2 Dog Scooter Class

Gold and Bronze medals in the ICF World Champs plus 4th in the Open Scooter Class

Gold and 2 x Bronze medal in IFSS Euro champs plus 4th in the Open Bikejor Class

WSA World Champs: 4th

IFSS World Champs snow: 12th and 12th Mass start

WSA World Champs snow: 21st (and a comment from the vet: my dogs look in great condition – better than any medal 😉)

In the 2017 / 2018 I was British champion in 3 classes and had 5 top 10 results in the IFSS World Championships, picking up a silver in WSA World championships

https://youtu.be/FFk2PyN1goI

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

5am starts – letting the house dogs out and turning on the coffee machine and lap top… work with breakfast then dogs out and cleaning kennels.
Dog all then loaded up for work in the van and trailer … and down the road we head.
The mornings are spent doing Husky Rides at Croft Farm, we have a blast running dogs, educating people about sprint racing and sharing my life with the public. we meet some amazing people and enjoy food and drink around the campfire.
After the public leave, I train the race dogs, sometimes muscle, interval, speed, or overtaking and this can include coaching with other athletes

Vickie coaches others to race with their dogs in the mono sports of bikejoring and scootering

Back home to let the dogs out have a play and then chill in the kennels – now time to train me… so 1-2 hours either gym, running, biking etc
Then back to play and feed dogs and kennels
Evening is spent either having dogs out in the field, extra training for me, hydro treadmill for the race team or swimming for me and dogs
So normal day consists of DOGS!!!!!
Occasionally there will be a meeting here and there with important people like sponsors, partners, book keeper! We also go into schools, and do some filming and TV work with team so no day is ever the same… then in the winter around a normal day, we have the races…. then it all changes!
We travel around the world racing sprint sled dogs and its the best thing ever!!!!!

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Proudest moment for me is actually owning 29 fit healthy dogs – I try and take a moment everyday to appreciate that.
Everyday is a proud moment!

Vickie has raced both huskies and hounds in Europe on snow

 

We have had some big races and great wins on the last couple of years and thats the icing on the cake to an already amazing team if dogs!

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

  1. Love your dogs
  2. Have fun always
  3. Enjoy the moment

What are your plans for the future?

Love dogs, race dogs, work with dogs, – repeat! (the same as now!)

Vickie believes the key to success is a great relationship with her dogs

How can our followers get in touch with you?

Facebook: Vickie Pullin (feel free to add and follow us)

Websites:
www.arcticquest.co.uk

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When I get on a bike and attach my dog…

Since I’ve been biking with my youngest dog, Yogi, I’ve often thought about the differences between him and my other dogs when we’ve biked. Bikejoring is the sport of attaching your dog, in harness, to your bike via a bungee line and with an attachment to help keep your line away from the wheel if it drops suddenly. Many people seem to see it as hook your dog up and away you go! Although it’s really not that simple and that’s what I have been pondering when I do anything with Yogi on the bike.

Yogi is a very different dog to train than my other 3 were – Photo courtesy of Chris Hannan

As with my other dogs, we have always done a lot of canicrossing before even thinking about attaching them to a bike, their voice commands have been solid and I have been sure they will run (for the most part without distraction) in front of the bike and follow their trained commands. Yogi however is slightly different in that he is still easily distracted and I’ve not done a huge amount with him on the bike because of this.

Now you could argue that I should do more and train harder to try and get him focused on the job in hand. In some ways I would agree that might help get his ‘head in the game’ and teach him more about the job of running in front of the bike. However he is still young and I didn’t bike him until he was past the 18 month age restriction for competition, so I still think he has a lot of learning to do and haven’t ever pushed him in any training or racing we have done so far.

Yogi’s first ever bike race experience was a short section as part of the Tri Dog event – Photos courtesy of Take 2 Event Photos

My objective when I do anything with my dogs is not to get the most I can out of them, to see them working hard for me and push themselves to go faster and further but to allow them to have the most fun when they are out with me. For my other dogs (well the boys at least) the most fun IS running as fast as they can and working as hard as they can for me, but this isn’t the case with Yogi. Yogi likes to explore and he likes to chase and he likes to bob along and do his own thing too, which can be a little bit daunting when you attach him to a bike and go at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour!

So when I do get on a bike and attach my long legged, huskalukihound (my own name for his very special mix of rescue Husky, Greyhound, Saluki!) who I know full well runs fast but can get distracted in a millisecond by something as innocuous as a leaf, I have to have my wits about me at all times and hope that he will not do anything too random that might have awful consequences. This is where all the foundation work we have done comes into it’s own and it’s also when the trust between us gets tested.

With a young or inexperienced dog it can be hard to totally trust they will not do anything silly when faced with something new – Photo courtesy of Digital Events Photography

Bikejoring with your dog, in fact any wheeled sport with your dog or team of dogs where you rely on your training and trust, can be really rewarding because of the bond you have to build before you can relax and enjoy the experience. Once you have cracked this, it all becomes so much more fun and racing truly is just another opportunity to learn and strengthen this connection you have with your dog.

I personally think that’s why the wheeled sports are becoming more and more popular with people who get a taste for the fun you can have biking or scootering with your dog and end up like I have, regularly racing and training. The additional excitement and speed the wheels provide, mean you simply cannot just get on your bike and attach your dog and expect to have the requisite control and trust to enjoy it without fear or risk an accident. Therefore you learn to build that bond with your dog, the best partnerships being the ones where dog and ‘driver’ work together, overcoming obstacles, enjoying the sports with confidence in each other.

Working together as a team is the best part of bikejoring – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

If you’re thinking of taking up bikejoring with your dog and don’t know where to start, do get in touch as we have lots of information to help you gets started, from the equipment you will need, training tips, right through to your first race, just e-mail us at info@k9trailtime.com

Happy Trails!

 

Harness fit in a bit more depth

Here at K9 Trail Time we are constantly researching and learning more about dog anatomy and physiology to help us understand the impact working a dog in harness will have on the natural movement of the dog. Part of this study has involved reading the latest research into dog movement undertaken by Dr Martin Fischer in the Jena study and his most recent work which has yet to be published. The findings have been summarised nicely here:

https://www.dogsymposium.nl/professor-dr-martin-fischer/

You might be thinking ‘what has this got to do with me and my dog?’ but we believe that to understand the dogs’ natural motion helps us to understand why a harness may or may not work for your dog based on it’s skeletal structure and how it was designed to move.

The first thing to say is that dogs are designed to move most efficiently in a ‘trotting’ gait and so if your dog is a trotter when they are pulling, they are using their energy efficiently and moving minimally. If your dog is ‘bounding’ when pulling in harness, either in a canter or a gallop (more likely at higher speeds when attached to a bike or scooter but if you run fast enough then canicross too) then your dog is exerting more effort than the efficient trot pace and it is even more important you have the correct fitting harness to ensure they have the freedom of movement necessary so as not to restrict them in any way.

The single biggest problem we see is harnesses which are too big on the dog and so are inadvertently restricting shoulder movement because the neck of the harness is encroaching on the shoulder when the dog moves. It is so important the neck on your sport harness is nice and snug to avoid this restriction but also to avoid your harness slipping up into the armpit of your dog when they might pull to one side and this again then restricts shoulder movement.

Below are 4 pictures of one of the K9 Trail Time dogs, Yogi, in 4 different sizes of the Non-stop Freemotion harness and in all honestly to the untrained eye it might be hard to tell which fits and which doesn’t. From top to bottom Yogi is wearing the size 4 Yellow flash (too small) size 5 Red flash (perfect fit) size 6 Blue flash (too big) and size 7 White flash (far too big).

Now looking at these picture you might think the size 6 is the one which fits Yogi best and we’d agree that based purely on the photos, it does perhaps look like it is sitting in the best place but if you look closely the top of the shoulder is slightly restricted and when slotting your hand in the neck (you can’t tell that from the photo) there is a huge amount of room for the harness to slide around on his neck. The size 4 is obviously too small being too close behind his front legs and the angle is wrong on his ribs. The size 7 is obviously too big, coming too far back on his body and when he pulls into it, the straps on his ribs will come behind the last ribs and pull up into his soft stomach region – not good!

At this point it is also worth saying you cannot always tell correct harness fit from a photo. Yogi is an easier candidate to judge from a photo because he lacks thick fur but even then you can only tell the neck on the size 6 Freemotion was too loose by feeling the gap when it is pulled tight. We see a lot of people asking for advice on social media and lots of people who comment haven’t got the first idea what they are even looking for, let alone have the experience to make a critical evaluation of harness fit based on a couple of photos!

Our advice would be if you’re unsure about your dogs’ harness fit get along to see someone who is experienced with correct harness fit in person and let them have a feel of the harness on your dog and observe how they move in it, this is by far the best way to get proper advice on harness fit. By asking people on social media you risk getting bad advice and ending up with something which could potentially cause your dog damage in the long term.

Another thing to look out for is that your harness is not too long. This doesn’t happen so often with the shorter harnesses although you do have to ensure the harness is not coming back behind the last ribs and pulling up into the stomach area. Again I have used pictures of Yogi below to demonstrate this (because he lacks the thick fur of my others!).

In the first photo the Zero DC Short is too big and is sitting right on the end of his rib cage. When Yogi pulls forward properly in this harness it will come further back still from where it is sitting in the photo and pull up behind his ribs into his stomach. In the second photo the Zero DC Short is much more snugly fitting on his neck and sits better against his ribs, you can still see he has room behind his front legs for movement but because of his (relatively) deep chest compared to his length the harness is sitting further forward on him than it would ideally.

The below photo of Judo shows the Zero DC Short harness as an ideal fit on him and as you can see it sits much further back from the front legs than on Yogi, this is because Judo hasn’t got the deep chest that Yogi has but this harness is still fitting him correctly and not restricting his shoulder by being too big or by coming too far along the ribs and likely to pull into the stomach.

It is most important with the longer harnesses that they are not too long as this can really have an impact on the way your dog moves. With a harness such as an X-Back or even the Zero DC Long you need to be very careful that when the harness is pulled into that it doesn’t extend back beyond the base of the tail. This may mean that when the harness is not being pulled into it looks as if it may be too short. I think this is demonstrated perfectly in the photo below.

Donnie is wearing the Zero DC Cross harness and it’s the correct size for him, however when it’s not being pulled it seems to sit quite far up his back. You can’t really see (the problem with a hairy dog) but it’s sitting perfectly on his neck and has enough clearance behind his front legs so that it will not be restricting front shoulder movement in any way.

You can see from the photo of the harness being pulled that it’s now sitting further back on his body and along the ribs in the correct way. The black webbing straps (not the cord) come to the base of his tail when the harness is pulled and will come back even a fraction more if he were to pull strongly into it, so it is in the correct place for a well fitted x-back harness.

Below is a photo of Donnie in an x-back harness which he used to wear (when he was heavier) and you can see what a harness looks like if it is too long. The length of the side straps mean it’s coming right back onto his hips when it is pulled and this will be even worse when he pulls forward into the harness. The neck on this harness is actually still ok and not causing any restriction to his shoulder but that extra length means the harness will be putting pressure on his hips if he bounds forwards and really pulls into this harness which is not great for his natural movement and could cause him to get sore spots in this area with repeated use.

So hopefully this blog and these photos give you a bit more of an insight into how your dogs’ harness should fit on your dog. We offer a free harness consultation service for our customers and you can either come and see us in person at one of our trade stands or pop up shops listed here:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/K9TrailTime/events

or we do offer an online service for those who can’t make an event. If you are interested then e-mail us at info@k9trailtime.com after answering the questions here:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/information/harness-consultation-questions

If you can get to an event then that is always the best way to get a harness fitted for your dog, however we have successfully fitted thousands of happy, active, dogs with harnesses based on information taken online. So why not get in touch and see what might work best for your dog for the sport you take part in.

Happy trails!

Triathlon for dogs comes to the UK

Triathlon for dogs isn’t something that had been done before Tri Dog set up in the UK in 2016, probably because we have a climate which makes it very difficult to get the timing right for all three disciplines to be participated in at the same event. Traditionally the running and cycling elements of a triathlon are winter sports when dogs are involved, so that the dogs are running in cooler temperatures and are not likely to overheat. Of course this doesn’t relate so well to the open water swimming element and it is something we have considered at great length and have chosen our dates according to balancing these factors.

Choosing the right time of year for the Tri Dog events has been very important

The group of people behind Tri Dog events in the UK have all had a wealth of competitive experience with running and cycling dogs but the swimming is something we have only been doing to maintain fitness in the summer. We have taken inspiration from a competition which has been running in Europe for 8 consecutive years now called ‘Iron Dog’ and using their model we have begun to offer a programme of training and events to develop triathlon for dogs in the UK, mainly based around the Midlands area.

The main elements of a Tri Dog event are:

Canicross:

Running with dogs is now more commonly known as canicross and is defined as cross country running with your dog attached to you. To take part in canicross races, your dog must have a correctly fitting harness and be attached via a bungee lead to a waistbelt worn by the person. Canicross is a fast growing sport in the UK and there have been specific races for people to take part in with their dogs for over 10 years now.

Canicross – running with your dog

Bikejor:

Biking with dogs is known as bikejoring and although originates from the sled dog sports where people used bikes to keep their dogs fit in the spring and autumn when there was no snow for sledding, is now a sport in it’s own right. Riders usually have a mountain bike with an attachment which helps to keep the bungee line from falling in the wheel if the dog stops suddenly and the dog is in harness, attached to the bike via a bungee lead around the headstock of the bike. Bikejor is much faster than canicross and the top dog and rider combinations are reaching speeds of in excess of 30 mph on some of the trails.

Bikejor – biking with your dog

Swimming:

Swimming with dogs hasn’t got a specific name and isn’t yet a recognised sport. For the Tri Dog events being brought to the UK we are requesting that your dog is attached to you via a lead of some description for safety. The idea is to try and get your dog to either swim alongside you in the open water or if you’ve got a really strong swimmer, they can even pull you if they are wearing a comfortable harness.

Swimming with your dog

The Tri Dog series of training and events got underway in October 2016 with the first training weekend which sold out before the event. We welcomed a group of owners and their dogs along to Croft Farm, near Tewkesbury to come and participate in all three disciplines and also practice some vital race skills.

The bikejor group concentrated on bike skills for the people and then once some basic skills were established and practiced, the dogs were brought into the training sessions. Depending on previous experience, some people were tackling a specially designed skills trail and some were getting confidence with their dog being attached to the bike and running out in front.

The canicross group focused on the skills necessary for racing in a triathlon, this is very important when it comes to racing with dogs as you are responsible for your dogs’ behaviour as well as your own! Canicrossers were passing each other side by side and then progressing to head on passes encouraging the dogs to ignore each other and stay calm. Race starts were also practiced and the transitions were explained and then completed by all those taking part. We are using stake out lines to attach the dogs to whilst the owner changes the equipment for each phase, this enables the dog to see the owner at all times but not interfere with any other dog or person, keeping everyone involved separate and safe.

The swimming group worked on getting the dogs confidently into the water and for some this was the first time they had experienced open water swimming with their dogs, so making the process as calm and enjoyable as possible was vital to ensure the dogs (and their owners) would be happy to do this again. For the swimming element of the triathlon, the welfare of the dogs is paramount and we do not encourage owners to force their dogs to swim, with this in mind there is a wade option for those whose dogs are struggling with the swim.

The swim is the part most people worry about

The training weekend was a resounding success and we have already had calls for more training sessions which we are hoping to provide in 2019. We have our next Triathlon event in less than two week now with the biggest entry we’ve seen since we began the events, so it looks like it will be a good one!

If you would like to know more about Tri Dog and for the event and training information please visit the Facebook page Tri Dog and our website http://www.tri-dog.com, we’d love to get more people participating and enjoying this very new combination of dog sports with their beloved pets.

K9 Trail Time interview with an expert – Lisa Baker, Galen Myotherapist

As part of our ‘Interview with an expert’ series we spoke to a number of different therapists who have treated our dogs and the dogs of our friends. Lisa is not based in our area but we know Lisa through the canicross races we attend and many of our friends take their dogs to see Lisa for treatment of soft tissue injuries and maintenance of health in their sport dogs. We hope you enjoy finding out more about Galen Therapy from our interview.

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

I am a qualified and registered Galen Myotherapist, we specialise in targeted soft tissue manipulation, releasing compensatory chronic muscular issues built up from adaptive change due to muscular, orthopaedic or neurological conditions. We use a variety of soft tissue techniques as well as posture and exercise management. A Galen Myotherapist is one of very few canine massage therapists who gain an accredited qualification (Level 3 Diploma) we are required to complete a specific amount of CPD hours per year and belong to governing bodies for therapists including CAAM (Canine Association of Accredited Myotherapists) and IAAT (International Association of Animal Therapists) We work only by Veterinary Referral.

I became a Galen Therapist as I had experienced a worrying episode of my dog suffering with extreme muscle cramps after working him in the shooting field one day, I had no idea how to help him so I attended the Galen Therapy Centre workshop to learn techniques to help my own dog and found out about the Galen Anatomy and Physiology course which I did for two years before qualifying to join the Galen Diploma, I qualified after 3 years and was invited to join the Galen Therapy team. I have been qualified and practising for the last two and a half years and I love every second of it!

Galen Therapist Lisa had vast experience with dogs in general before completing her training

I have an extensive back ground in dogs in general, including being on the Weimaraner Breed Judging List at Open Show level, having passed numerous Kennel Club show judge assessments and exams. I also judge at Gundog Working Tests for HPRs (Hunt, Point, Retrievers) and have passed the Kennel Club Field Trial Judges Assessment and Exam. I have a keen interest in the biomechanics of dogs and know how important good conformation and muscle balance is for the dog to fulfil their job. I have recently taken up Canicross with my own dogs and know how important maintaining their form to be as injury free as possible is. I am keen to help others with the maintenance of their own sporting dogs and have built up a large client base of a variety of Gundogs, Agility and Canicross dogs. I also treat many older dogs suffering from different degenerative diseases including Osteo Arthritis, developing a treatment programme to work along side other modalities keeps the elderly dog maintained and as pain free as possible allowing them to lead a good quality of life.

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

I run my own business (Hampshire Canine Therapy) from home where I have a treatment room and work there from day to day, sometimes I do home visits but once a week I run a clinic in South East London at The Animal Therapy Room with 2 other Galen Myotherapists, where we treat a variety of clients including elderly animals, those who’ve suffered trauma and have become paralysed and those recovering from surgical procedures such as cruciate repair, hip replacements etc. It’s a long, full day in London but all very rewarding!

Lisa sees lot of clients at her clinic in Hampshire

Share with us your proudest moment so far

I don’t have one particular proud moment as I feel proud every time I receive a message from a client telling me how well their dog is doing since I saw them even if it’s when the dog was able to poo in one place! Every small change counts!! but my most proud moments are when I have prepared a dog for competition or a show and hear they have been placed and how well they have performed at that time. It makes all my hard work worth it!

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

1. Always ensure you warm your dog up and cool them down before and after walks, races or competitions. Cold muscles, tendon and ligaments injure much easier than warm ones! Gentle trotting on lead before allowing them off lead will help or you can attend a Galen Therapy Centre Workshop to learn specific techniques http://www.caninetherapy.co.uk

2. Learn to know the movement of your dog. It’s amazing how many owners don’t notice when their dog is looking uncomfortable and needs some help. If you get to know your dog’s movement, oddities can be picked up and dealt with quickly rather it becoming a chronic problem and taking longer to treat. Don’t wait for your dog to be broken! Find where your nearest Galen Myotherapist is and take your dog for an assessment, they can advise you on any muscular issues your dog may have and along with veterinary consent can treat your dog accordingly. Find your nearest therapist here http://www.caninetherapy.co.uk/contact-us/find-a-practitioner/

3. Ensure you have the correct harness for your dog, whether it be for running or general walking, the dog must have their shoulder completely free of obstruction to enable full length of stride. Wearing an incorrect fitting harness can cause muscular issues and lack of performance. K9 Trail Time can advise on harness fitting and what would suit your dog as all dogs are different and have different needs.

Lisa recommends you warm up your dog before any strenuous physical activity

What are your plans for the future?

As I have loved working with a variety of animals over the last two and a half years and seen many suffering with different conditions, I am now training as an Animal Physiotherapist and along with my Galen Diploma I will be able to offer the best possible care for rehabilitating animals back to health.

I will also be running a variety of muscle conditioning classes for groups of dogs including performance, arthritic and puppies.

How can our followers get in touch with you?

I can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @hampshirecanine or through my website http://www.hampshirecaninetherapy.co.uk

I am based in Portsmouth, Hampshire but serve neighbouring areas of West Sussex, Surrey and Dorset or if you live in the area of South East London / Kent I’m at The Animal Therapy Room (on Facebook) or email info@animaltherpayroom.co.uk

K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation

At K9 Trail Time we are always looking for ways to improve our dogs’ health and fitness and for many years now we have used hydrotherapy as a form of rehabilitation and exercise for the team. So who better to talk to than a small team of hydrotherapists working for the health and well being of dogs in their area about how hydrotherapy can benefit our canine companions.

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation is run by two couples who are passionate about dogs and have a range of qualifications and experience; each bringing their own skills to form a strong team of therapists offering hydrotherapy and related services.

Harriet: I have been a qualified hydrotherapist for 5 years, having completed my ABC Level 3 Certificate in Small Animal Hydrotherapy in 2013. My partner Richard and I were inspired to train in this area as we attended regular hydrotherapy with our Chocolate Labrador, Milo. I started my career by volunteering at a local centre and after a few months took the leap to full time hydrotherapist, also assisting the students on their level 3 certificate. We have 2 very active Labradors who use both the pool and water treadmill for fitness, so I am passionate about hydrotherapy not only for rehabilitation but as part of a healthy lifestyle for all dogs. Richard and I spent time working alongside each other and it was always a dream of ours to be able to open our own centre – which came true in November 2017.

Harriet with a client dog in the pool

Garth: My wife Joanna and I became interested in hydrotherapy when our adopted elderly Staffy, Eddie, needed treatment for elbow dysplasia. The amazing physical improvements that were achieved while we were taking him for hydrotherapy encouraged us both to pursue careers in small animal rehabilitation. I completed my ABC Level 3 Certificate in Small Animal Hydrotherapy during 2015 and since then I have also completed a Level 4 qualification in Canine Merishia Massage and Level 5 Diploma in Hydrotherapy for Small Animals. I am currently also completing the Canine Conditioning Academy Instructor Course which specialises in conditioning programmes to help build a dog’s total fitness. Both Jo and I have previously worked for a few other hydrotherapy centres; then in 2017 we had the opportunity to open our own and are now lucky to be able to work together in our dream job.

Garth with his own dog, Enzo

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes during an average day in a hydrotherapy centre, and a lot of time and thought is put into providing the best treatment possible for each dog that comes into our clinic.

Maintenance of the pool and water treadmill is imperative, and each day starts and finishes with testing the water to ensure it is properly sanitised. This is also monitored throughout the day, as having a safe environment is vital for the welfare of our clients. Each morning we also clean the pool and surrounding area ready for treatments, read through patient notes and discuss our cases for the coming day. We see a wide range of conditions in both the pool and treadmill, and every day is different. We treat post operative dogs, those with degenerative orthopaedic conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, dogs with neurological conditions, elderly dogs and pups, dogs who simply swim for general fitness, and athletic dogs coming to us for conditioning and to enhance their overall fitness for competition work. We are constantly assessing each dog from the moment they walk through our doors to the moment they leave. Talking to the owners is also a very important part of our role and we always strive to ensure that they are as happy as the dogs. We also keep detailed notes of each of our patients’ sessions so that we can monitor their progress, and re-evaluate treatment plans for all dogs regularly to ensure that they are receiving the most suitable treatment and getting the most out of their time with us. This means our evenings are often spent writing up notes and producing progress reports for clients’ vets. We all find that we never really ‘switch off’ from the job and are always thinking of ways we can improve things for a particular patient or what we can offer to our clients overall. Despite our busy schedule we always make sure we find time to take our own dogs for some fun and fitness time at the pool!

Garth and Jo with a client dog in the Hydrotherapy Treadmill

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Working in canine hydrotherapy is incredibly rewarding and we are proud of the things our patients achieve every day, however big or small – making it very difficult to single out one proudest moment as there are so many to choose from! One of our proudest moments would definitely be finally opening the doors of our business after many long days and months of work building our purpose built therapy centre from the ground up. Welcoming our first client was the most amazing feeling and the start of something very special. I think what makes us proudest, however, are the physical and mental improvements that we see in our patients. Some of our patients come to us with severe physical impairments and seeing a patient that initially can barely use one or more of their limbs begin to walk entirely on their own is amazing. They may also have been very depressed due to their condition and given up on life – hydrotherapy can give them back that spark they had lost and it is fantastic to see. Being able to share in the ups and downs and sheer pride of owners as they tell us about their dog’s rehab progress or hard earned competition success is very moving.

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

  1. When selecting a hydrotherapy centre to attend, ensure they are either NARCH or CHA registered; this means they should abide by certain minimum standards in the care and treatment of your dog. A good hydrotherapist should actively support and encourage your dog to get the best from them throughout the session, not just stand at one end of the pool throwing a toy for them to retrieve. Once you have located a good hydrotherapy centre, test their knowledge of the sports your dog competes in. Whilst it isn’t imperative that the therapist actively competes in the sports themselves (though this can definitely be an advantage), it is vital that they have a good understanding of the physical and mental requirements of each sport to enable them to formulate an effective conditioning programme.
  2. Don’t worry if your dog seems unsure about hydrotherapy initially. It can take several sessions for your dog to become entirely comfortable in a hydrotherapy clinic, and the hydrotherapist should introduce your dog to the pool at their own pace. Even ‘water babies’ who enjoy a swim in their local lake can find a therapy centre setting strange, especially a water treadmill!
  3. Ensure your dog gets a day off! Hydrotherapy conditioning works well alongside any other fitness training that you may be carrying out with your dogs; but dogs, just like humans, can suffer from burnout due to over exercising. It is therefore important that your dogs get regular opportunities to rest and recuperate, especially following a particularly hard hydrotherapy or training session, or after a day of competition. Enjoy some down time together.

The Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation centre hopes to go from strength to strength

What are your plans for the future?

We hope to continue growing Millhaven and to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of many more dogs from all walks of life, whilst also educating more people on the benefits of safe, controlled hydrotherapy. As a team we are constantly striving to increase our knowledge by completing further qualifications in the field of canine therapy to enable us to expand our services, and Richard is hoping to embark on the Level 5 Diploma in Canine Hydrotherapy next year. We are planning to provide group conditioning workshops at some local venues, and also hope to work with other therapists to offer a range of workshops for dog owners in complementary areas such as TTouch and therapeutic massage.

How can our followers get in touch with you?

We have a few ways for people to get in touch with us. Our email is info@millhavencaninerehab.com and our phone numbers are 01427 667755 / 07486 460550. We also welcome messages on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/millhavencaninerehab. People can also find out more about us at www.millhavencaninerehab.com.

Hitting the trails – Hiking with your dog (Harnesses)

During the summer months when it’s warmer we tend to do more walking with the dogs and take the opportunity to enjoy a slower pace when we are out and about. We still always use a harness on the dogs, even for our walks, because of the pressure on the neck that using a collar and lead exerts if your dog pulls at all. We also use a hands free system with a walking belt and bungee lead, even if some of the dogs are off lead most of the time, they have a line attached to a belt just in case they need to be under control if we come across livestock or need to cross a road.

We always use harnesses for dog walking but these are different to the ones we use for canicrossing

All of the harnesses we use for walking are also suitable for canicross but because they are shorter in style, allow you the flexibility to let your dog off lead safely in them, as there is less to get caught in undergrowth.

Our favourite hiking harness is the Non-stop Half Harness because it’s padded throughout with strong buckles and webbing straps either side which offer plenty of adjustment to ensure a snug fit on your dogs’ body. The Non-stop Harness was originally designed for tracking and features a concealed ring on the underside of the harness too. A snug fit on body and neck means the harness doesn’t move on your dogs’ back if they are off to one side or the other sniffing. This also makes it a good canicross harness for dogs who drop back and drop to the side but it’s perfect for our strong pullers when walking:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-half-harness.html

The Non-stop Half Harness is one of our favourite harnesses for walking / hiking

We also love the Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness because it too offers a great option for both canicross and walking. It has one strong plastic clip and adjustable webbing on the chest and is padded through the neck and chest section to offer comfort for your dog. The Distance harness offers two points for you to attach a line to, the ring on the back of the harness and a cord from the ring which sits further down the dogs’ back, this gives you the choice of how much freedom you give your dog on the walk. The ring offers closer control, the cord more freedom:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/howling-dog-distance-harness.html

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness has two points of line attachment

Another great multi purpose harness is the Neewa Adjustable Running Harness because it is padded through the neck and chest and as well as being adjustable on the chest, it is the only harness we stock which is also adjustable on the neck. The Neewa Running Harness is again great for walking your dog in because of the adjustment, ensuring a snug fit and that the harness doesn’t move around over your dogs’ back if you’re just wandering along and stopping for little breaks:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/neewa-running-harness.html

The Neewa Running harness being adjustable on the neck and chest was the perfect harness to get Yogi used to walking in one.

The Zero DC Short harness is another one than can be used for walking and of all the harnesses we sell is the most popular for canicross, dog walking and a range of other activities such as swimming and agility. The Zero DC Short, in spite of it’s name, sits the longest down the back of the harnesses we’ve suggested for walking. This means it does move a little more over the dogs’ back but this doesn’t cause any issues. We use these harnesses a lot for swimming as they are so lightweight and dry quickly:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/euro-short-zero-dc-sports-harness.html

The Zero DC Short harness

All of the harnesses we use for walking / hiking are lightweight, dry quickly if they get wet and can be used for canicross as well as off lead work such as agility and flyball.

So if you’re thinking of doing more walking with your dog, your dog pulls and / or you would like to be hands free for a more comfortable experience, you can look into getting your dog a hiking harness and belt set up with us to enjoy hitting the trails with your four legged friend.

Make your walks more enjoyable by getting yourself a proper walking / hiking set up

For a personalised harness consultation please e-mail info@k9trailtime.com

Happy Trails!