Top 4 Walking Harnesses – For those who want to take it steady

Inspired by a recent request for help choosing a walking harness, I put together the list below of my top 4 harnesses (in no particular order) for walking with a short list of their pros and cons which may help anyone looking for a decent harness to walk their dog in. We can’t run our dogs all the time after all!

1. Non-stop Line harness

Pros:

Waterproof material

Very adjustable around the ribs

Very strong and durable

Reflective piping on the shoulders

Ring underneath the dogs’ ribs for training line to be attached in addition to the top ring

Can also be used as a running harness

Cons:

Possibly not as comfy as a fleece harness for a dog getting used to being walked in harness
http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-line-harness.html

The Non-Stop Line harness

The Non-Stop Line harness

2. Reflective and Padded shoulder harness

Pros:

Waterproof material

Very adjustable around the ribs

Strong and durable

Reflective piping all over it (the best by far in low light conditions)

2 rings on the top of the harness for different points of lead attachment.

Can also be used as a running harness

Cons:

Material can be a bit stiff to begin with until it moulds to dogs’ shape

Needs to be snug over the head which some dogs don’t like
http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/reflective-shoulder-harness.html

The Reflective and Padded shoulder harness

The Reflective and Padded shoulder harness

3. ManMat Deluxe shoulder harness

Pros:

Hardwearing and soft material

Very adjustable around the ribs

2 rings on the top of the harness for different points of lead attachment

Can also be used as a running harness

Cons:

Not as waterproof as the first two

No reflective (3m) strips on it
http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/manmat-shoulder-harness.html

The ManMat Deluxe Shoulder harness

The ManMat Deluxe Shoulder harness

4. Fleece Walking harness

Pros:

Very soft and cosy material

Very adjustable around the ribs

2 rings for a training lead to be attached to, one on the top and one on the breastbone,

Developed with TTouch practitioners for the comfort of your dog when walking and training

One of the cheapest options for a walking harness I sell

Cons:

Not waterproof so can get heavy when wet

No reflective on it

It’s designed for walking only
http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/xtra-dog-fleece-walking-harness.html

The Fleece Walking harness

The Fleece Walking harness

Please do contact me if you need any further information on any harness we sell, as I test them all out with my own dogs so I am able to offer the best advice on each one.

Product Feature – Skijor Deluxe Padded Canicross Waist Belt

This product feature is dedicated to the Skijor Deluxe Padded Canicross Waist Belt which is the most expensive belt we stock here at K9 Trail Time and with good reason, as the features it has are unrivaled.

The main section of the belt is made from thick but flexible and soft foam ,which is covered in it’s entirety with hard wearing fleece. This makes the belt extremely comfortable to wear from day one of purchase, unlike some other belts on the market which take time to mould to your shape.

The Skijor belt was designed originally for the sport of Skijor (skiing with your dog) but has been specifically tailored to suit the canicross runner and has detachable leg straps, so you have the choice of whether to use them or not (most skijor belts would have them as standard). The belt also has a very useful quick release integrated into it, so there is no need for a caribiner or additional clip on the line to provide quick release in an emergency situation. I have found this particularly useful where we have encountered styles and the dogs need to be un-clipped quickly and without fuss.

The Skijor belt is a top of the range canicross belt because of all it's features

The Skijor belt is a top of the range canicross belt because of all it’s features

I like the fact this belt can be adjusted to sit either on your waist, if this is what you prefer, or lower down on your hips, which is what I prefer, and the leg straps can be adjusted to secure the belt in whatever position you require to get the best experience from your canicross runs.

But probably the best feature from my point of view is the integral bungee in the straps that hold the quick release clip you attach the dogs’ line to, as having the additional bungee (on top of what you would have in the line) provides more comfort for both you and your dog if it suddenly jerks forward. I run with dogs whose combined weight equals my own and so for me, protecting my back from the force of them pulling if they see a rabbit or deer on the trail is very important and this belt allows much of the forward motion to be absorbed through these bungee straps.

For more information on the Skijor Canicross belt and to buy follow this link: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-waistbelts/canix-deluxe-waistbelt.html

I love the Skijor Deluxe Padded Canicross Waist Belt for both Long and Short runs

I love the Skijor Deluxe Padded Canicross Waist Belt for both long and short canicross runs

(Photo courtesy of www.philoconnor.com at The South Downs Marathon 2011)

The Road to Stonehenge – Half Marathon Training (Canicross Style)

As the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Neolithic Marathon and Half Marathon approaches I am beginning to wonder what possessed me to do the CaniX Half Marathon this year, then I remember… A good friend of mine recently lost her Staffy ‘Ronnie’ to Canine Epilepsy and I wanted to challenge myself to do something to show my support for her and her dogs. The Animal Health Trust has been the charity CaniX have supported this season and it seemed appropriate in so many ways that I raise funds for them as they fund research into Canine Epilepsy among many, many other things.

Ronnie is on the right in this picture, accompanied by Reggie at a CaniX race - Photo courtesy of CaniX, Olwen Middleton and copyright Chillpics

Ronnie is on the right in this picture, accompanied by Reggie at a CaniX race – Photo courtesy of CaniX, Olwen Middleton and copyright Chillpics

I haven’t really given myself enough time to train for this challenge, as I hadn’t run more than 5 miles in 2013 when I signed up and in spite of doing a lot of long distance training in 2010, the furthest I’d canicrossed since then was 8 miles. I have every faith in my dogs being able to manage the half marathon but will I?!

The starting point for me to find out whether I could manage it or not was a local canicross run organised through my own group Cotswold Canicross, which is a group of friends of mine who regularly meet up for a social run somewhere.

I set up a 12 mile run around the local Cotswold Water Parks and did my usual mid-week runs leading up to the 12 miles on the Saturday. I always take water for the dogs with me on anything over 5 miles and sometimes even less when the weather is warmer. I am well equipped from previous challenges with a back pack containing a camelbak for me, water bottles, bowl, first aid supplies for the dogs and the obligatory poo bags with somewhere to store full ones if a bin can’t be found!

I was joined on the run by two friends and we enjoyed a lovely sunny, spring morning which incorporated part of the Thames Path en route. The dogs (as predicted) coped absolutely fine with the upping in miles and although I would not normally recommend going straight from 5 miles runs to a 12 mile run, I am sure our previous fitness (20 mile training) still helps us with increasing the distances now. I am always very careful to ensure the dogs’ paws and joints are not put under too much pressure by keeping to off road routes and stopping regularly to check them over for any signs of wear and tear. I also use Pawz dog boots (more information can be found here: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/other-activities/pawz-dog-boots.html) to protect them when I know the route may be hard going on their paws.

A blurry shot from the Thames Path!

A blurry shot from the Thames Path!

I felt quite confident after this run that I could probably complete the 13.1 miles (21 kms) but to be sure I wanted to fit in another long run two weeks before the half marathon, so again I appealed to my running group friends and arranged a 13 mile run around a picturesque part of the Cotswolds known as the Coln Valley. I was a little nervous as I turned my ankle the week before and it had been niggling me on my shorter runs (it’s an old injury and it saps my confidence massively if it rears it’s ugly head again!) but I thought better to find out sooner rather than later if it was going to pose a problem.

With the run arranged and a few lovely people to accompany me, we set off on a rather sunny Saturday afternoon to complete the loop. Some friends had also joined us on mountain bikes as there were a few quiet roads and they offered to head and tail the canicrossers so we could be sure of our safety. This arrangement worked perfectly and although the temperature was creeping up above what I would consider ideal for running (it was around 14 degrees) we simply walked where we felt the dogs were warm and carried litres of water and collapsible bowls to make sure the dogs were kept comfortable.

One of the natural points on the Coln Valley run - I am getting a bit of a reputation for deep water on the routes!

One of the natural water points on the Coln Valley run – I am getting a bit of a reputation for deep water on the routes!

I did find that near the end of the 12.8 miles, Judo was looking sore on his back paws which has never happened before. It’s always been his front paws that suffer due to the friction of him pulling on the tough ground but luckily I keep plenty of pairs of boots in my backpack and I just popped a pair on to save his pads for the last couple of miles. I am concerned that with the reports of flinty trails for the Stonehenge Half Marathon he will need all 4 paws protected, so I will be doing all our training runs between now and then with him fully booted up so he gets used to the feel of back paw boots too.

So that’s it now, a couple of longer distances under our (canicross) belt to ensure we can complete the distance and our previous experience of the longer distance training for fueling our bodies all refreshed and revised, we are as ready as we can be in a short time frame to tackle the event on the 5th of May. There’s still time for anyone who wants to support us and the Animal Health Trust to donate through my JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/account/your-pages/Emily-Thomas-Animal-Health-Trust

All support is greatly appreciated and I’d like to thank those who have already donated on the page for my challenge.

For more information on the run itself look here: http://www.wiltshirewildlife.org/sarsen-trail and specifically for the canicross entries here: http://www.cani-cross.co.uk/Neolithic_CaniCross.shtml

Product Feature – Pawz Dog Boots

The Pawz dog boots are a great multi-purpose dog boot, ideal to keep in your veterinary kit for unexpected paw injuries or to be used on your dog as a preventative measure where rough ground might damage your dogs’ paws. I have used them on my dogs for a number of years now for both purposes and found them to be very good value for money as they are re-usable and tend to last for half a dozen uses before they tear. Each box contains 12 of the boots and they come in 5 standard sizes on our website, with 2 tiny sizes available on request.

Pawz boots can be used for both injuries and to prevent damage to your dogs' pads where the ground may be rough

The Pawz dog boots look similar to a balloon with a tight top

The boots are unusual because they are made from tough waterproof rubber and resemble a balloon to look at. They have quite a tight, narrow top which has to be stretched over the dogs’ paw but once in place are very difficult to slide off, unlike some other boots we have tried in the past.

The only drawback of the boots is that they cannot be used for long lengths of time as dogs lose heat through their paws and so you shouldn’t leave the Pawz boots on for prolonged periods of time.

Tegan demonstrating the use of the Pawz boots to protect an injury - Photo copyright Chris Clark

Tegan demonstrating the use of the Pawz boots to protect an injury – Photo copyright Chris Clark

Judo demonstrating the use of boots for protection on rough surfaces - Photo copyright of Chillpics

Judo demonstrating the use of boots for protection on rough surfaces – Photo copyright of Chillpics

One of the biggest advantages of the Pawz boots is that because they are very natural feeling when on your dogs’ paws, the dogs tend to adjust to them better than other boots which can be bulky and therefore these boots can suit dogs who don’t otherwise run very well in the more solid dog boots.

For more information on the boots or to purchase, visit: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pawz-dog-boots.html

Pembrey CaniX Race Report

The CaniX races held in Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli in Wales are the highlight of the season in my opinion. The races have been held over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend for the last 3 years with a night race on Good Friday evening and a beach race on Easter Monday at a time when the tides permit the race to happen. The best part about the racing at Pembrey is the venue, the races are set in a huge country park about a mile away from the nearest road (although there are access roads into and around the park). The miles and miles of unspoilt beach is about a 20 minute walk from the start and finish area, through the woods that surround the main camping area.

Arriving early on the Friday is highly recommended and even the Thursday if you can, as the race start times for both the night canicross race and the beach race can be a bit vague as they rely on the weather and the tides. As a rule the night race is usually preceded by a briefing around 6pm and you really do need to attend, as it’s amazing how running in the dark can alter your perception and if you’re like me, you need a good head torch and to use all your senses to get your round safely, as everyone ran past me and left me behind!

The runners line up in waves at the start of the night race - Photo courtesy of Vicki Warwick

The runners line up in waves at the start of the night race – Photo courtesy of Vicki Warwick

The runners are all required to wear high-viz and head torches, the dogs wearing lights is optional and all the starts at Pembrey are mass starts, arranged in waves, so you need to know which wave you are in ready for the off. The night race mass start is by far the most exhilarating race start in the CaniX calender and you really need to experience it to know what I mean, thankfully they haven’t allowed the bikes and scooters to take part yet!

The course is well marshalled and marked with glow sticks with red, meaning a turn coming up on that side and yellow, meaning you’ve gone the right way. In spite of this there were some who did get lost this year but they were rounded up by the quad in the end and no-one gets left out on the course for long. The night race course was (as normal) a very short course of about 1.5 miles, all flat and as even ground as is possible when running cross country. My dogs loved it and I think most who took part felt the same way.

The Saturday and Sunday races are run in the same format as a normal race weekend, so the same 5km course is run over the two days and a prize giving is held for the two days racing alone, in addition to the ‘Yellow Collar’ prize given to the fastest time in all 4 races for each category over the weekend, awarded on the Monday afternoon.

As I mentioned, all the starts are mass starts (except the bikes and scooters on the Saturday & Sunday) and take you down the long grassy chute to a very narrow bend into the tracks in the woods. The tracks twist and turn gently through the woods until you are brought out onto a wide forestry track and turn left. This year as the track rises, there was the addition of a hill in the course which caught a lot of dogs out as they were used to the old route and didn’t want to turn right up the hill. The trail became very tight and twisty at this point until it brought you out at the top of a steep, sandy downhill.

Now this downhill was not a problem on foot, for those taking part in the canicross race, however on a bike or the scooter, any hint of using your brakes made the wheeled vehicle slide around, as I discovered when I tried to brake on the bike when checking out the course. It was a case of hang on and hope for the best for me with the scooter on the Saturday and the bike on the Sunday.

The look on my face says it all! - Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright Chillpics

The look on my face says it all! – Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright Chillpics

Following on from the downhill, the course took you through some gently undulating dunes in the woods, a left, then a right and another left onto the dunes right near the beach itself. You can’t actually see the beach but you are aware of it. Forestry works in the woods have widened the trails this year and made it both easier and more difficult. It was easier to pass people but there were a lot more exposed roots to trip over or catch the wheels on.

Near the end of the dunes a left turn slightly uphill away from the beach took you down and then left to join one of the main tracks near the lake and then a sharp right and the lake appears right in front of you. I marshalled at that point a couple of years ago when I was injured and had great fun watching everyone’s dogs drag then in for a drink or a swim.

The course then winds you back, mainly on wide open tracks to the finish area back at the start. I had a good race both days but opted for the bikejor on the Sunday as I was keen to give the hill a go on the bike in a race situation and have to say I loved every minute of it.

Easter Monday brought the beach race, which is the only race we do on the bike and scooter with a mass start too. We had to wait until about 12pm for the tide to be right for us to race but the weather was gloomy on the beach and so plenty cool enough for the dogs. There is nothing quite like the mass start on the beach and was the highlight of my weekend. The race itself is only 2 miles, straight down the beach up to a large mound of rocks, around them if canicrossing, around a stick just before them if bikejoring or scootering and straight back down to the finish.

Some of the bikjorers and scooterers on the outward run of the beach race - Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright of Chillpics

Some of the bikjorers and scooterers on the outward run of the beach race – Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright of Chillpics

The dogs love it because they can chase the whole race, as they can see the other dogs and competitors the whole time. The only issue some had was when the dogs who were heading home passed the dogs still on the outward section, as the dogs still on the outward section can get confused and want to turn early to follow the others. We had a great run however, and I only had to scoot hard at the end when I was fighting to be the first female scooterer home. I managed it but only by the nose of my lead dog Judo.

In all we had yet another fantastic weekend of racing here and I am so glad this is to be the venue for the CaniX Worlds in October – for more information on this click here: http://canix.co.uk/cwc2013_home.shtml

I will always recommend the Pembrey races as they are suitable for novice and experienced canicrossers, bikjorers and scooterers alike and there is something here for everyone with the miles of fields, woods and beach to keep you and your dogs happy between racing.

Does my harness fit?

I am always being asked the question ‘does my harness fit my dog properly?’ and although I think that as the person who sees your dog the most, you are the one who can tell the best if your dog appears comfortable and moving freely, there are a few things which are vital for a correctly fitting harness which I will briefly describe below.

The neck

This is by far the most important place for the harness to fit because most of the pressure put on the harness (and your dog) will be directed from the front of the harness, around the neck and shoulder area. Many people feel that the fit around the neck on a correctly fitting harness is quite snug and worry it is too tight, but you wouldn’t want the neck of the harness to slip up or down, as this could restrict either the dogs’ breathing or shoulder movement, neither of which are very good for your dog. As a rule, if you can get the harness comfortably over your dogs’ head and fit a few fingers under the material when it is pulled tight against the neck, then it should be fitting correctly.

The harness must fit snug around the neck but not restrict the shoulders or rise up into the throat

The harness must fit snug around the neck but not restrict the shoulders or rise up into the throat (Zima X-back harness in picture)

The harness must fit snug around the neck but not restrict the shoulders or rise up into the throat

The harness must fit snug around the neck but not restrict the shoulders or rise up into the throat (Zima Multi-Sport harness in picture)

The girth

It is important the girth of the harness is not too tight on your dog and allows your dogs’ ribs to expand when breathing heavily but it is also important the harness does not slide around too much, as this could cause muscular problems if your dogs tends to run one sided (much as we are right or left handed, dogs too can favour a particular side). The straps of the harness which sit around your dogs’ ribs should clear your dogs’  front legs to ensure the harness does not rub under the armpits and allow your dog to move freely. However, the harness straps should also not sit too far back on your dogs’ ribs, as any inward pressure on the dogs’ stomach and internal organs could cause harm.

It is easier to adjust the straps on the shorter, shoulder harnesses and all harnesses K9 Trail Time sells, except the X-back and Zero DC Euro Long, are adjustable around the girth area. That’s not to say these harnesses won’t fit your dog, but the adjustable ones can be beneficial if you think your dog might ‘bulk out’ over time. Because every dog is an individual it is important to judge the harness on your own dogs’ physiology, taking into consideration where your dogs’ ribs end and ensuring the the straps of the harness do not put any inward pressure behind the rib cage.

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs' ribs to allow them to breathe fully

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs’ ribs to allow them to breathe fully (Zero DC Euro Short harness in picture)

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs' ribs to allow them to breathe fully

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs’ ribs to allow them to breathe fully (Non-Stop Line harness in picture)

The length

The length of the harness is probably less important than the other two elements but can still cause problems for your dog if not the correct length for the dog and suitable for the sport you are participating in. For example it is more common for dogs participating in dryland mushing to wear X-back harnesses or other longer length styles such as the Non-Stop Freemotion or Zero DC Euro Long harness. This is due to the angle at which the line attaches to the dogs’ harness being low to the ground and although you do see some shoulder harnesses being worn, it is generally accepted that the longer style harness allows the dog to move more freely when the point of attachment is low.

In the sports of canicross and bikejor you may more frequently see shoulder harnesses used because the line angle can be much steeper from a runner or a bike to a smaller dog and the X-back in particular was not designed to be be used with a steep upward line angle. This can be avoided by using a longer line to decrease the angle however, both the Zero DC Euro Long and Non-Stop Freemotion harnesses have been designed with a steeper line angle in mind and the ‘pull’ is directed from underneath the dog rather than just along the top of the harness. If you’re in any doubt about which style of harness to use for the sports you are participating in we are always happy to offer advice based on our own experiences.

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs' ribs to allow them to breathe fully

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs’ ribs to allow them to breathe fully (Non-Stop Freemotion harness in picture)

The best length for the the harness depends on your dog and the activities you will be taking part in

The best length for the the harness depends on your dog and the activities you will be taking part in (Zero DC Euro Long harness in picture)

Product Feature – PupLight

This blog would probably have made more sense if I’d written it at the beginning of the winter but even with the lighter nights here now, you can still use this torch for your dog as the temperatures rise and push canicross runs into the dark again. We have used these PupLights throughout the whole of this winter and cannot recommend them highly enough. They even allow you to get home safely if your own head torch fails you (yes it has happened and more than once!) and the little AAA batteries are cheap and easy to recharge or replace.

The PupLight was developed and made in the USA and is used for working dogs over there such as the U.S. Secret Service working dogs because it lights up an area up to 30 feet ahead of the dog wearing it and not only allows you to clearly see the dog but also helps the dog see things in low light conditions more easily.

The PupLight is designed to keep a bright 'halo' of light around and in front of your dog

The PupLight is designed to keep a bright ‘halo’ of light around and in front of your dog

The two main functions of the PupLight, are firstly to make your dog visible to you when walking off lead in the dark, as the light can be seen up to a mile away and secondly to light up the path and surrounding area in front of your dog for dogs with failing sight or who need to be able to see the trails ahead. The PupLights were even tested on the Junior Iditarod Sled Dog teams and they found the teams made better times in the dark when wearing them.

The design of the PupLight ensures that even when worn by long haired dogs, the light is not covered up by the dogs’ fur as it has a fur guard which prevents the light being covered over and keeps the light focused forwards.

The PupLight can be used on big or small dogs as the collar is fully adjustable

The PupLight can be used on big or small dogs as the collar is fully adjustable

It comes with an easy on/easy off adjustable elastic band to keep it separate from the collar and is much less expensive to use over time when compared to other lighted dog products as you can also use re-chargeable batteries with it. The batteries are long lasting (up to 150 hours) and easy to change.

This is the most durable and long-lasting dog light on the market that I have managed to find and that is why I wanted to share it with you and your dogs. For more information and to order visit http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/puplight.html