Bikejor: A Brief Introduction

What is ‘Bikejor’?

Bikejor is the sport of cross country biking with your dog attached to your bike, it can be much faster and more exhilarating than canicross and is particularly suitable for dogs who really embrace running.

What do I need to start bikejoring?

Aside from the obvious (a mountain bike, safety equipment such as hat, glasses and gloves), you will need a comfortable fitting harness for your dog, an attachment for your bike and a long bungee lead to connect you both.

Bikejor is fast and fun for both of you - Photo courtesy of horsesforcourses photography

Bikejor is fast and fun for both of you – Photo courtesy of horsesforcourses photography

Dog Harness

The dog harness will take the pressure of pulling away from your dogs throat, which is essential if your dog is going to be pulling in front of your bike. More information on how to choose a suitable harness for your dog can be found here:

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

Bike Attachment

The attachment for the bike helps to prevent the line from dropping into the front wheel if your dog slows down or stops suddenly. It is not a fail-safe but will dramatically reduce the amount of tangles you have. More information on how to choose a bikejor attachment can be found here:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/bikejor-attachments-which-one-for-you/

Bungee Line

The bungee lead is the shock absorbing element of your equipment and protects both you and your dog from the force of your dog pulling suddenly. When bikejoring, the line length needs to be longer than with canicross to help ensure your dog has enough space and is running clear of the front wheel.

A brief note on bikes

You can start bikejoring with any bike but one which is substantial enough for cross country riding is best. A basic ‘hardtail’ mountain bike is a great starting point. Brakes need to be good and many bikejorers prefer disc brakes as for safety reasons you will need to rely on them!

With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country - Photo courtesy of Chillpics

With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country – Photo courtesy of Chillpics

How do I start training for bikejor?

The best way to start your training is by training voice commands on walks, decide early on what your left and right commands will be and try to get a good ‘slow down’ command from the outset.You can use your line or lead to guide your dog in the direction you want them to go and also physically slow them down when you use your ‘steady’ commands.

There are no hard and fast rules about what commands to use and people often use different ones but traditional sled dog commands are based on:

Gee = Right turn

Haw = Left turn

Hike / Mush = Go forward (starts or encourages the dog to move)

On by = To pass another dog or team of dogs

Straight on = To stay straight on the trail if there are many options

Easy = Slow down

Whoa = Stop

Things you can do to encourage your dog to run out front:

Use a higher pitched voice to signal you would like them to up their energy and prepare them for activity. It might sound silly but dogs do respond to pitch changes in voice and if you raise this your dog will learn this means fun!

Go out in a group with more experienced dogs. Dogs learn from each other and will often naturally compete with their peers

Get someone to run or bike in front of you. Again dogs naturally like to chase and by having someone in front of you, they may be more motivated to stay out front. You can even use a favourite toy to encourage your dog to fetch it.

However, try not to rely on this method and always encourage your dog to run independently because it is not always advisable to train your dog to chase! Use the method as a tool and work on building your dogs confidence.

Getting someone to run out in front of you can help teach your dog to pull - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Getting someone to run out in front of you can help teach your dog to pull – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Our advice at K9 Trail Time is to try and find a group of people who have kit you can borrow. Failing that, have a look at all the options available to you and speak with people who have used the products you are looking to buy.

We try and test all the products on our website http://www.k9trailtime.com so that we can provide you with useful information and comparisons.

You also need to check where you are allowed to train with a bike or scooter locally, as this can be more complex than canicross.

We recommend taking out some kind of sports insurance to cover yourself, when training and racing.

Some Forestry Commission land requires you to have a permit to train and these permits generally require £5 million public liability insurance.

The thing to remember is keep it short (at first), fun and safe, when you get more confidence you can then work on getting faster and even enter some races!

Happy trails! 🙂

Canicross – An Introduction

The sport of canicross is rapidly growing in the UK as more people discover it and the benefits it can bring for both human and canine alike.

Canicross in it’s simplest form is running cross country (on trails and paths, rather than roads) with your dog and many people have been doing this with their dogs without even realising there is a name for it, or that it is a sport which has it’s own competitions.

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Why canicross? I’ve divided this into the 3 sections I feel are most important

Behaviour – Many rescued and high energy dogs have benefitted from participating in outdoor pursuits with their owners such as running (canicross) biking (bikejor) and scootering in addition to the more established outdoor dog activities. The effect of activity is to allow your dog an outlet for energy which might otherwise be used for destructive and unwanted behaviours around the home & garden. Canicross is a great way to exercise a dog who can’t otherwise be let off lead due to (among other things) a high hunting instinct, which is why you will see many different breeds participating from terriers to malamutes.

Health – Recent studies estimate that as many as one third of dogs nationwide are overweight and this figure is set to rise to over half of all dogs by 2022. Obesity is linked with diabetes, orthopaedic disease, heart disease, respiratory distress, high blood pressure, skin diseases & cancer (much the same as in people) so you might even be prolonging your own life as well as your dogs’ with consistent exercise!

Fun – Taking part in dog sports usually means you and your dog get to socialise with likeminded people but even if it’s just you and your dog, you will be strengthening your bond with your dog which is very rewarding and great fun too.

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

What do I need to canicross? The basic kit for canicrossing properly is a comfortable, well fitting harness for your dog, a bungee line to absorb the shock from any pull for both you and your dog and a waist belt so you are hands free when running. These 3 main elements form the basis for a pleasant experience when running with your dog. Without the harness you risk pulling on your dog’s neck, without the bungee you can find yourself jerked after something interesting on your route and without the waist belt your may find your neck, shoulders and back ache from holding a lead.

What harness? There is now a huge variety of choice for all sizes and shapes of dogs, with new products being brought out regularly. Which harness is best suited for your dog depends on a number of factors but at K9 Trail Time we offer a free consultation to help get you started in the right direction, or to help you choose I have written another article here: http://www.k9trailtime.com/information/team-thomas-harnesses

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

What line? As long as there is bungee for shock absorption then most lines will be fine. Some are made from webbing and some from stronger polypro braid but which you choose is personal preference. The standard canicross lines are approximately 2 metres when stretched but many people run with shorter or longer lines based on their own requirements. Some races have rules on line length, so do ask if you’re thinking of competing in canicross competitions and we can inform you of the rules.

Zero DC Lines

Zero DC Lines

What waistbelt? The style of waist belt which you choose is down to what you would like from it and what you find most comfortable. I’ve written about choosing a belt here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/belt-braces-how-to-choose-a-canicross-belt/ but the basic things you need to ask yourself are: Do I want something padded or lightweight? Do I want leg straps? Do I want pockets? Once you know the answer to these then it makes choosing a belt much easier. The purpose of the belt is for your comfort and to ensure canicrossing with your dog does not damage your back, shoulders, neck or arms.

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

How do I get started? The best way to get started is to find a group of people locally who are already canicrossing, as there are many social groups now encouraging new people to join them. A group will most likely have spare kit they could loan you to kit to try out and will be able to offer advice about training your dog with voice commands for directions etc.

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started - Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started – Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Lastly, but most importantly, your dog needs to be fit and fully developed before you begin canicrossing. Most races will not allow a dog under 1 year old to compete and it is recommended you start your dog off very gently at around the year old stage and not before. You also have to ensure you will be putting your dog’s health first and to avoid any problems, stick to running in cool temperatures (never in the heat of the day in summer) and carrying water with you in case your dog needs it.

If you would like any more information on canicross or the equipment you need to begin please do contact me at K9 Trail Time and I will be happy to help you. There is also a lot of information on my website http://www.k9trailtime.com and on my wordpress blog:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com