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.

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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