As the nights seem to be getting longer and there is a definite ‘nip’ in the air in the mornings now, I started to think about how I prepare for the upcoming race season. The UK canicross and bikejoring race season tends to begin in September when the temperatures can still be a little warm for racing but often cool enough to just get away with it. If you have not been doing a lot of training with your dog over the summer, then September seems like a good time to start up again and if you’re taking part in the European Canicross Championships, which are usually held in the second week in October, it’s a good idea to have started some training even before this.
The following are just a few things I think can help get you and your dogs organised and ready for racing again. With more and more events being run either specifically for canicross, or just allowing a canicross entry, there are plenty of events now to fill almost every weekend between September and May!
1. Work on your voice commands – this is probably the easiest thing to do and the thing I am guilty of ignoring the most. If you are walking your dog on a lead at all, then you can do directional command training and try to keep fresh in your dogs’ mind all the important voice commands you use when competing. If only I could master ‘steady’ and for it to not come out like a squawk every time we see some small furry wildlife when going downhill…
2. Get your dog (and yourself) checked for any minor strains and sprains – I am a great believer in prevention is better than cure when it comes to injury and by taking your dog to see a qualified massage therapist, such as one from the Canine Massage Guild (http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk/) then you can identify any potential problems before they become a hinderance. I also get regular sports massage therapy myself, as although I don’t consider myself an athlete, I can feel the benefits of having a regular treatment.
3. Invest in repairing or buying new kit – this is the time to get a new harness for your dog, waistbelt or trainers for yourself and repair any old items you want to continue using. If you are looking to try a new set up, do it when you are building up the training again so you can see the effects any new kit might have over a period time before you ‘need’ it to perform for you. I always get new trainers over the summer months and break them in so I don’t suffer blisters when it counts. I also try different harnesses on my dogs in training and different combinations of harnesses, waistbelts and lines to find what is going to work best for me and my dogs when we get to races. For inspiration visit our website: http://www.k9trailtime.com
4. Give your dog a good groom and pamper session – you might do this all the time but most of us don’t find the time to sit down and check every inch of our dogs all the time. Set aside some time to comb through everything, check the pads, claws, eyes, ears, tail, inch by inch and note down any lumps or bumps you might find or feel so that you can keep an eye on them. This should be done all year round and by keeping a close eye on your dogs’ coat and skin you can help monitor health and notice any changes that an increase in activity might bring about.
5. Save some money and hire a PA! – in all seriousness, it’s not cheap competing in dog sports events in the UK, mainly because of the fuel involved to travel to them. The events that have camping actually work out as a fairly cheap way to spend a weekend away with your dog (in great company of course!) but once fuel is taken into account, this can add up. It is worth having a look at the events taking place and being organised about which you are prepared to travel to, fairly early on in the season. Many of the events have closing dates for entries only a week or so in advance so you can make last minute decisions on entry but I think it’s good to familiarise yourself with the dates of events, not only so you can budget but also so you can train appropriately. It’s quite different doing a one day 5km race to competing over a whole weekend where there may be 3 or 4 races to participate in and you need to be sure you and your dogs are fit and prepared so you can both get the best experience out of it.
With all of that said I’m looking forward to seeing what this next season holds for us – Happy Trails!