Racing Etiquette – Canicross, Bikejor and Dog Scooter Racing

The races for canicross, bikejor and dog scootering are getting so popular now and we are attending so many races on a monthly basis, that I gave up writing race reports a long time ago! From Cornwall to Scotland and everything in between, there are so many club and individual races you can attend with your dog, that the choice is increasing year on year for participants to take part.

Not only have you got dog sport specific races but we are also being welcomed and supported in many trail races designed for off road runners. Clearly this is limited to canicross but it has opened up a number of seriously good trail races to the dog sport world and we are making up a large part of the entry in some events.

Many trail races are now allowing canicross entries which is great news for all dog runners!

Many trail races are now allowing canicross entries which is great news for all dog runners!

What I wanted to write about in this blog is how I think we can improve how these races flow by following some simple rules and racing etiquette to make sure everyone gets the best from their race. The tips below are things I have picked up from a number of years of racing experience and knowing what I have to watch for in my dogs and be vigilant of in others.

So to enjoy my racing I try to follow these simple rules:

1 – If you are overtaking always let the person in front know you are coming – By calling ahead in plenty of time to let the person know you are approaching them, you are giving that person time to move out of your way, which is in your interests and theirs. One of the accepted terms to call is ‘trail right’ or ‘trail left’ depending on which side you intend to overtake on but the most important thing is to give as much warning and be as clear as you can so the person in front can react.

You might catch up with people in races and as you do make sure you call out to let other competitors know you are approaching

You might catch up with people in races and as you do, make sure you call out to let other competitors know you are approaching

2 – Do not sit on the heels of the team in front – This is something that can be very frustrating for both teams, as it can distract the team in front and the way to win races isn’t by allowing your dog to take a ‘tow’ off someone in front all the time. You may also upset non-dog runners in canicross friendly races if you allow your dog to be ‘breathing down the neck’ of the runner in front, so just make sure you leave an acceptable gap until or unless, you are ready to overtake.

Leaving space between competitors is especially important on bikes or scooters - Photo courtesy of Sharon Reid

Leaving space between competitors is especially important on bikes or scooters – Photo courtesy of Sharon Reid

3 – If you are being overtaken, move over – Once the person behind you has caught you, move aside on the trail and allow them to overtake cleanly. Ideally you will have taught your dog an ‘over’ command so that your dog will move on the side of the trail you have directed. Even if you are on a bike or scooter, you should attempt to move your dog over. I have seen many people simply move themselves or their bike or scooter over and the dog is still across the trail; this leaves the line blocking the path of the person behind, preventing them from getting past, which is frustrating for everyone and risks your dog getting in a tangle with theirs.

Moving over on the trail will allow people to overtake you without tangles - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Moving over on the trail will allow people to overtake you without tangles – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

4 – Do not allow your dog to lunge at other dogs (or people) during the race – Even if your dog is only being friendly, you are in a race situation and other competitors will not want your dog interfering with theirs (or them) even if it not being aggressive. The best thing to do if you know your dog is prone to this, is move right out of the way if possible. If it not possible then you must pull your dog in and even pull over to prevent this. If you are being overtaken then it will benefit you to allow the person a clear passage past you and then you can follow on. If you are overtaking and know your dog is prone to lunging you should be working hard during training on a strong ‘on by’, ‘leave’, or ‘straight on’ command, whichever is the most effective for your dog. In this particular situation it is often better to try and get past as quickly as possible and provided the person you’re overtaking is co-operative, it will be better not to slow down and allow your dog time to consider lunging as an option.

Training your dog to be able to pass without problems is a huge part of dog sport racing

Training your dog to be able to pass without problems is a huge part of dog sport racing – Photo courtesy of Tracy Evans

5 – Be mindful of how your voice commands might affect other dogs (or people) on the course – Just be aware as you are coming up behind or being overtaken by another team that suddenly shouting at your dog might spook other dogs (or people) around you. It can be quite intimidating for a nervous dog to be overtaken by someone loudly encouraging their own dog and for this reason it is worth trying to keep commands to a minimum on the course (keeping in mind that it is better to have your dog under your control than not) but again training is the key to this.

In situations where you are surrounded by other competitors, be aware that your voice commands might have an impact on others - Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

In situations where you are surrounded by other competitors, be aware that your voice commands might have an impact on others – Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

If you can master all of the above then you should have a safe and pleasant racing experience. It is always worth doing as much training with other people before and in between races to ensure you and your dog are as relaxed as possible when racing, as adrenalin can run high in both of you. At the end of the day these dog sports events are put on for us to have fun with our dogs and so the main thing is to enjoy your run, whilst being courteous to those around you. Happy Trails!

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Canicross Challenge – Building up the distance

Here at K9 Trail time we are soon to take part in the second long distance canicross challenge we have participated in. So this is a quick blog on building up your canicross distances, as the realisation of our challenge for May has finally hit home and I am beginning to think about how to increase our distances safely.

The main thing I always have to do is put the dogs’ safety first, their comfort and health is the number one priority in any training we do. There are several things I do differently to ordinary training runs when increasing mileage and I will briefly outline them below. The list is not exhaustive but gives you an idea of what to be looking for when you’re upping the miles and activity with your dog.

1 – Always carry more water than I think I will need – this is something I do religiously. I will very often come home with all the water I left with because I tend to plan routes with natural water points for the dogs. However I would never forgive myself if I didn’t have enough, so I carry more than enough water for the number of dogs I’m running.

I am frequently seen with a back pack filled with water for the dogs!

I am frequently seen with a back pack filled with water for the dogs!

2 – Take a basic first aid kit with me in a back pack – again this is a must for me for any canicross runs over 10km. I don’t carry a huge range of things but a few Pawz boots (http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pawz-dog-boots.html) in case of paw damage, a roll or two of bandage, a sterile dressing, some sterile solution and some piraton are the very basics of what I carry. Now you might think I’m being paranoid but the piraton I carry in case we should ever have a dog bitten by an adder. It’s rare in the UK but not unheard of and because I know piraton is safe for dogs, if any of mine were to display any signs of bites I would use the piraton as a precautionary measure. It would also work if your dog (or you) were stung by a bee or wasp and had a reaction.

Pawz dog boots are a useful addition to a first aid kit

Pawz dog boots are a useful addition to a first aid kit

3 – Feed for the increase in mileage – now this is not to say I feed my dogs a load more food because I know we are doing more work. I am very careful about how I feed the dogs leaving plenty of time before and after big runs for their digestion to work without being under stress. I will however, feed extra protein to give the dogs the energy they require and in some cases will take a brand of ‘fat’ bar (designed to provide the dogs almost instant energy in a way that can be safely digested) with me on the run.

Think carefully about your dogs nutrition if you are increasing milage, much in the way you would consider your own

Think carefully about your dogs nutrition if you are increasing milage, much in the way you would consider your own

4 – Check paws more often for signs of wear or damage – this is really important if you’re increasing your miles. Your dogs’ paws may be tough over your regular distances but if you’re increasing this, you need to be making sure your dogs’ pads can cope.

Make sure you are especially vigilant of checking your dogs' paws when covering longer distances

Make sure you are especially vigilant with your dogs’ paws when covering longer distances

5 – Set aside designated rest days – I am quite strict about this and even though the dogs might not always think they need ‘down time’, I know from my own experience of training and recovery that they do. It is very important they have a chance to recover between big runs, so their muscles do not pick up repetitive strains leading to injury. It is also worth getting them regularly checked out by a qualified canine massage therapist, a list of UK registered practitioners can be found here: http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk/therapist-register/

Rest days are very important for all the team!

Rest days are very important for all the team!

6 – Cross train with a variety of activities and vary the terrain we are running on – in the summer months I will use wild swimming as a form of cross training for the dogs and ideally through the winter they will go to hydrotherapy once a month as it is such a great form of no-impact exercise for them. Aside from this, we have walking, house games and various other low impact activities that help keep the dogs fit and focused without continually running in harness. I will also make sure we incorporate roads, tracks, fields and thick mud into our runs to ensure that we are all ready for any terrain we might encounter on longer runs. I also even try and get a few runs in on sand even though we’re not close to the coast.

We love wild swimming in the summer months

We love wild swimming in the summer months

7 – Increase the distance slowly – you wouldn’t expect your body to feel good if you just doubled your miles overnight and the same applies to your dog. Build in a mile or so extra at a time and if you have any doubts about your dogs’ capacity for longer distance running, make sure you consult your vet before you do anything above the average milage you’ve been doing.

8 – Finally, I make sure I’m in tip top condition. It’s no good expecting my dogs to pull me over an increase in miles if I’m not fit for it and in the best shape I can be in. I am using a range of products now to help with my weight management, support my immune system, recovery and also endurance. Nothing beats having a healthy and balanced diet but I have always struggled to be as dedicated to my own health as that of my dogs. However, I’ve found that by making sure I am being the best runner I can be (I still love cake and wine by the way!) I am helping my dogs by being less of a burden to them and ensure we are working as a team.

My fitness and training routine is supported by a great nutritional supplement programme

My fitness and training routine is supported by a great nutritional supplement programme

I hope that gives you an insight into how we prepare for longer canicross runs and we’re keeping our fingers and paws crossed for some cool spring days to complete our challenge in May. Happy trails!