The Sport of Canine Hoopers – An Introduction

We’re always interested in sports new to us and so we recently asked fellow dog sports enthusiast Hayley Laches to explain a little bit more about the dog sport known as ‘Canine Hoopers’.

Here’s what she and her friends put together for us…

Photo Credit to Zooming Pixels


‘Canine Hoopers is a fairly new dog-sport that has been gaining popularity throughout the UK. The dogs pass through hoops, tunnels and around barrels on a low-impact, smooth flowing course. The tunnels are 80cm diameter – much larger than agility tunnels. The larger tunnels, and the lack of twists and sharp turns on Hoopers courses, means the sport is all breeds inclusive; from tiny Chihuahuas and Daschunds to larger breeds like St Bernards, Great Danes and Newfoundlands. Another element of hoopers is the TanGo mat Tango mats are 900mm wide and 1800mm long. Mats must be made from a non-slip rubber material. It has marker poles can be free standing or can stick into the ground which are placed near each corner or the mat, the dog has to run across the mat making contact with at least one paw.

It is inclusive for people as well, those with limited mobility, mobility scooters and power chairs discover distance handling so they can send their dog round the course instead of trying to run with their canine friend. 

Dogs and their owners can accumulate points earned at Canine Hoopers UK (CHUK) competitions to progress through the five Hoopers levels; from Starters to Masters. Speed is not crucial to moving through the levels – slower dogs have equal opportunity to gain qualification points.

History

Canine Hoopers UK was formed in 2017. Clubs, societies and individuals are able to host Canine Hoopers UK shows, competitions and training by Accredited Instructors. Canine Hoopers UK strives to protect the long-term well-being of the dog by maintaining flowing courses of low impact obstacles and aims to be an inclusive dog sport making sure that this sport is accessible to all dogs and handlers. Canine Hoopers UK endeavours to promote only force free modern training techniques through the training and assessment and of their OCN Accredited Canine Hoopers UK Instructor Training scheme.

Instructors

All Accredited Canine Hoopers UK Instructors have been thoroughly assessed and only awarded accreditation when they prove their understanding, knowledge and teaching aptitude, meaning you are secure in the knowledge that your learning journey will be both fun, and safe, and that the instruction you receive will be to the highest standard. We are committed to making sure that all Canine Hoopers UK Accredited Trainers are consistently teaching to a high standard, they use only modern force free training techniques and are promoting everything this wonderful sport has to offer.

For those wishing to showcase their abilities, there are Canine Hoopers UK shows held all year round throughout the UK. Focusing on the partnership between dog and handler, CHUK competition courses will be smooth and flowing and can include optional handling challenges too for extra points! Unlike many other dog sports, progression is based on consistency rather than individual class wins.

Whether you want to compete or not, in training classes you can work through your Good Hoopers Awards. These awards are suitable for everyone and are great fun as well as providing a record of achievement of your hoopers skills!

Carol Bentley an advanced accredited instructor from the Dorset area quotes “The results of this modern training method speak for themselves! I’ve seen the difference Hoopers has made; ‘velcro dogs’ gain confidence and become unstuck, dogs lacking focus gain drive and dogs that couldn’t, or didn’t, previously partake in any other activity suddenly have a whole new passion and lease of life! You can see how much the dogs – and their owners – enjoy the sport. “

Faye Nemeth is an advanced accredited instructor near Carlisle Cumbria; “Phase Purple regularly hold shows involving canine hoopers and the numbers are increasing at each show. ‘hoopers is not just about running through hoops and sending around a barrel, if trained correctly it’s a whole different skill set to teach your dog. Some dogs that have had a go have been a little confused when they first had a go due to the fact that they had not trained the hoop as a different piece of equipment but when the foundations have been correctly trained the dogs definitely know the difference between doing a hoopers course and doing agility. My grade 7 dog, Jess, will regularly compete in agility and hoopers at the same show and she knows the difference between going over jumps and through hoops, there was one show where we did our agility class and ran straight over to do our hoopers class and Jess managed to win both of classes.”

Award scheme

Throughout Lockdown, Canine Hoopers UK have been running an online awards scheme. Specifically created and written to both provide instructors with some income during a difficult time, and to provide owners and dogs with a focus. Originally designed with 4 different levels (foundation, bronze, silver and gold), later a fifth Platinum level was released. Each level has daily training videos to watch to teach your dog new skills. At the end of each course, your skills are combined for the assessment. The Online GHA’s are designed to be done in gardens and even using make shift equipment from around your home (see the full list of suggestions on the website), my favourite suggestion being; a pair of wellies and a bit of hose pipe!

Hoopers really is accessible for all, it’s a non-expensive, fun and enjoyable hobby for dogs and handlers of all ages. Want to get stuck in and have a go?

To find out more information on hoopers, or to your nearest trainer or club go to https://www.caninehoopersuk.co.uk

How to get started training

Let’s get stuck in shall we and teach our dogs what a hoop is! I would advise using your dogs meals whilst training to prevent weight gain!

  1. Firstly, set up your hoop (or hoop shaped equipment) on a non-slip surface or in your garden on grass. Avoid concrete and patios as this won’t be good for your dogs pads once they gain speed.
  2. Stand with your back to the hoop, be so close to the hoop that your heels are touching the end of the hoop, have 5 pieces of food in each hand.
  3. Have your dog in front of you and just get their attention and let them know you have their food and that you are about to have some fun – note you don’t want to overly excite your dogs here.
  4. Once your dog wants what you have got in your hands, rotate 180 degrees so that you are now facing the hoop. Your dog should come a step or two around your body to see where your hands (and therefore the food) went!
  5. As soon as your dog takes a step or two around your body, give a marker word word (this could be YES or GOOD etc). Immediately bowl a piece of food out on the opposite side of the hoop to your dog. Your dog should see the food and travel through the hoop to go and eat it.
    NOTE – aim to bowl the piece of food at least 4 times the length of your dog away from the hoop. (no less than 2 metres from the hoop regardless of dog size.
  6. Once your dog has eaten the treat, they should turn around to see if you have got any more food. Because of how far away from you your dog is, your dog should naturally take a step or two back in your direction to get closer to the food again. MARK the first step forwards (YES or GOOD etc) and now deliver the next piece of food on the far side of the hoop, again aiming for no less than 2metres but ideally 4 dogs lengths from the hoop again. Your dog should pass through the hoop to get to the food.
  7. Repeat this action of marking your dog for taking a step forwards and delivering the food to the far side of the hoop until all ten pieces of food are gone.
    Give your dog a break, a cuddle/sniff time etc.
  8. With short breaks between the sets of 10 treats, you can do a couple of sets a minute or two apart. Be sensible with this and adapt it to your own dogs fitness level.
  9. Want to progress? If you think your dog now understands what you are asking, take 1 step back from the end of the hoop. Continue to mark your dog for travelling towards the hoop and deliver the reward on the far side ahead of your dog.
    If your dog has built value in the hoop, there will be no limit to the amount of steps back from the side of the hoop that you can take.

Important things to remember:

  • Make sure not to wave the treat around to lure the dog to come towards the hoop – simply capture your dogs actions of moving forwards and they will quickly learn what to do without needing to rely on handlers arms actions.
  • Keep your marker word short, ideally 1 syllable. Every time you give your marker word, you are signalling two things to your dog. The first being that you are indicating what the dog has done is correct. The second tells your dog that the reward is now going to be delivered. This means that your dog will learn to only go looking for the treats when they hear their magic marker word.
  • Stand still – this can be especially hard for humans, especially sporty ones!’

Final note from K9 Trail Time

We think this is a great introduction to Canine Hoopers and we’d like to thank Hayley and her team for sending over details of what the sport is and how to get started for our followers – if you’re thinking of something new this year, do get in touch with Hayley for more information.

Training provided by Hayley Laches of Taming Canines. Hayley is an advanced accredited instructor who offers both in-person training and online training through Dog Sports Direct to your home.

For more information please visit:
www.tamingcanines.co.uk

Scentwork – A different way to ‘work’ your dog

We’ve been investigating lots of different dog activities during the last year of lockdowns and limited travelling, for things to do with our dogs a bit closer to home. We recently spoke to Sara Seymour of Compass Canine and asked her about her experiences with scentwork and why she finds it so beneficial for her happy, active dog, Ripley.

Sara is the owner of Compass Canine, based in Totnes, South Devon with her primary business being hydrotherapy and canine fitness.  She also offers scentwork training, as well as running scentwork events.  Sara’s dog training background was mainly in agility, but these days her training with Ripley, other than scentwork, focuses on Rally obedience.  This is mostly online, due to the limited number of ‘real life’ competitions currently available. They also enjoy training tricks and a variety of concepts such as mimicry.  Sara is training to become a Certified Professional Canine Fitness Trainer (CPCFT) and her training philosophy is best described as ‘Do No Harm’, focusing on positive reinforcement-based training that is adapted to each learner.  She aims to apply this to both people and dogs.

Here’s what Sara had to say…

“My current running buddy is Ripley, a six-year-old working cocker spaniel.  We started C25K together back in October 2019, and have run two or three times a week ever since.  I have to be honest, since the first lockdown started in March 2020 he free runs more often than not.  This suits us better, as I don’t run fast enough for him!  He still runs in harness on some routes.  Well, trots – quite famously he never broke out of a trot through the whole C25K program!  Anyway, the main point is that he is a very fit, high energy dog.

So it often comes as a surprise to people that I don’t walk him every day.  Even on the days we do walk, it can just be a quick 20-30 minute bimble.  Most people would then expect that he is running circuits around the house, or destroying anything that he can get his mouth on.  But that’s not the case.  I run my own hydrotherapy centre, and he spends most of his days in the office with me popping my head in between appointments.  Many clients have spotted him through the window, sound asleep with his legs in the air.  Want to know the secret?  Then read on…

Ripley relaxing!

Walking, or running, with your dogs for ever increasing distances is one way to try and tire them out.  However, the chances are you will end up with a very fit adrenaline junkie.  The more you do, the worse it’s going to get.  And let’s not even get started on standing and chucking a ball for them repeatedly.  Seriously, just don’t start it.  The way to tire your dog out, so that they can settle themselves during down time, is by training them.  I may not walk him every day, but we do train every day, even if it’s just for five or ten minutes.  Getting to the specifics, the very best way to tire your dog out is by getting them to use their nose. 

A large part of a dog’s brain is dedicated to processing the information that they take in through their nose.  Much more than in the human brain; our main senses being sight and sound.  Dogs navigate the world with their noses, which is why they often cope surprisingly well when they lose their sight or go deaf (and we often don’t realise for a while).  Given that they are using so much of their brain for sniffing, it’s an activity that will tire them more effectively.  Letting Ripley spend his 30-minute walk sniffing every blade of grass will satiate him far more than the dog that chases a ball for 30 minutes – they’re barely using their brain at all.

There are many ways to get your dog using their nose more, from scattering some of their meal around the garden to training for competitive scentwork.  I use everything in this spectrum.  I got involved in scentwork in 2017, as my springer Vinnie had been retired from agility relatively young and still needed a job.  I trained as a trainer for Scentwork UK, and started teaching classes.  I’ve since trained as a Trial Manager and Judge, and also run Nosework Games events.  I’m a lifelong learner, so there has been plenty of further education in there as well. 

With Scentwork UK, the initial scent that we teach our dogs is cloves.  They are trained to search for this scent in a number of different set ups, and once they find the scent they have to perform a behaviour that tells the handler that they’ve found it – this is known as an indication.  Scentwork classes are available all over the country, as well as online.  I have also recently written and published a book, Scentwork: Step by Step, which is aimed at complete beginners.

Ripley enjoying a scentwork session

However, the most simple way that you can get your dog sniffing is by getting them to search out their meals (admittedly much easier if you feed kibble rather than raw).  Either place a few bits of food in various places around a room or sprinkle some kibble in the grass.  Try to avoid pointing out every bit, stand back and let them get on with it.  You can even do this out on walks to encourage them to get their nose down.  Probably an important point to note here is that I put a lot of these behaviours on cue – quite rightly we don’t want our dogs with their nose down all the time whilst we’re running, but by actually allowing them time to do this elsewhere you may find that they have less need to do so at other times.

Scentwork can be as simple as getting your dog to sniff out their food in your back garden

Find out more

You can find out more about Scentwork UK or Nosework Games on their websites or Facebook pages.  I have a page dedicated to scentwork, Compass Canine Scentwork, as well as some information on my website www.compasscanine.co.uk/scentwork The book is available through Amazon, wherever you are in the world, either on Kindle or in paperback – mybook.to/ScentworkStepbyStep  If you have any questions, then please do get in touch.”

We think scentwork is going to be great fun for the K9 Trail Time team to try and we’re currently working through Sara’s book and looking forward to getting started ourselves. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into scentwork and it gives you some ideas for keeping your dogs happy on rest days.

Happy Trails!

Running with a reactive dog

March is Pet Anxiety Month so it felt like a good time to write this blog on running with a reactive dog. Many of the people who get into the dog sports of canicross, bikejor and dog scootering, do so because they have a high energy dog, possibly bred to do a job which isn’t accessible to them in their current home. Some of these dogs are rescues and some have just developed anxiety leading to the dog being reactive in certain situations. I know plenty of people who have a found a safe haven in canicross because it allows you to exercise your dog, whilst keeping them close to you and under control to prevent incidents with other dog walkers.

Canicross can be a great way to exercise your reactive dog, allowing them to socialise safely with other dogs

People who have never owned a reactive dog will probably not understand the daily struggles of planning a stress free route for your dog or the impact that their ‘friendly’ off lead dog interfering can have on your dog and your day. So whilst it is extremely annoying, we do all have to consider that not everyone will understand your dogs’ reaction and often their first response is to accuse you of having an aggressive dog – not fun or fair on anyone!

I want to point out that I’m not a qualified behaviourist, I talk about this from my own experiences having owned three reactive dogs now, all of whom were reactive in slightly different ways and for different reasons and all of whom I have canicrossed with and canicross raced with.

In my experience dogs become reactive for a reason and whatever that reason is, it is usually based on a fear of something. If you can find out what ‘triggers’ their reactivity (so basically work out what is frightening them) then you are halfway there to helping ease, or resolve, the problem.

My own dogs

The first example I have is with my first canicross dog Tegan, Tegan was a husky collie cross, loads of energy and a mix of two renowned working breeds, both endurance breeds with a really strong work ethic. This is important because Tegan NEVER gave up on something if it upset her, if she had a ‘run in’ with another dog, she would remember that and it was very difficult to persuade her not to react in any future meetings with that dog, I think her persistence in this was part of her genetic make up, not just as a result of an individual disagreement.

Tegan was always shouting at me or someone else to let her opinions be known!

Tegan would react badly to most dogs she saw whilst on the lead and holding her in situations where we met other dogs ‘head on’ was always difficult. Canicrossing however, was a different story and I couldn’t understand at first why she was fine running shoulder to shoulder with a strange dog, yet would create merry hell in the car park after a run if the dog came any where near her. I began to learn about what situations ‘triggered’ her reactivity and so I would avoid them if at all possible.

Avoidance of the trigger has now become my key tool in dealing with reactivity and you might be thinking ‘well that’s not really an answer that solves the problem’ but for me and my dogs, it is. Tegan would react because she felt threatened in a situation, not because she was a nasty, aggressive dog but because she genuinely felt that for whatever reason, she was unsafe in meeting some other dogs in head on situations and so she would react first.

My springer collie cross Donnie is similar, he will happily canicross alongside a dog he has never met before but if you ask him to ‘meet’ a dog in a walking or running situation, he turns into a spitting, snarling and quite frankly scary looking dog. I often find myself apologising for him if we meet someone out on walks or runs and generally leave the encounter embarrassed, which is why more often than not, I just try to avoid meeting people altogether.

Donnie will happily run alongside dogs he doesn’t live with but won’t tolerate them approaching him

Where it’s not possible to avoid coming face to face with other dogs, I have to do my best to ensure every situation is managed and doesn’t lead to something which could reinforce the behaviour, so staying calm, moving him as far out of the way as possible and reassuring him, are generally the methods I employ for helping to keep him below his ‘threshold’ for reacting.

Canicross has been a lifeline for us in that I know I have him under control when he is attached to me, I can pull him in closer to me quickly and he is generally a much happier dog than if he were constantly in a situation where he was reacting to everything. The other thing about Donnie is that he has Addisons Disease which is influenced by stress and so keeping him as stress free as possible is quite literally keeping him healthier!

My final example dog is Delta who is much quieter and more subtle with her reactivity but she is still nervous and whereas Tegan and Donnie’s reactions were your typical ‘fight’ response to a potential threat, Delta’s is flight, so she runs! This is where canicross comes into the picture again for being a great way for her to see the countryside with me but without her being in a situation where she feels the need to flee. Delta knows she can just drop by my side and I can keep other dogs / people away and so her confidence has grown since we have been canicross training, as she learns that nothing bad happens when she’s with me and I wrote another blog on this here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2020/01/27/keeping-your-dog-safe/ about making sure she felt safe.

Delta is happy to run with me and I feel she is safer attached to me, so there is no ‘flight’ risk if we meet other dogs – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

So what happens when you go to a canicross race?

Canicross racing is something I have written a fair bit about but not necessarily in the context of the reactive dog. I often see people ask if they can take their reactive dog to a canicross race and the short is answer is ‘yes’. The longer answer however is, ‘yes, but think very carefully about whether you should’.

I am always actively encouraging people to get to canicross races, the organisers are people generally experienced with dogs and will be friendly and understanding towards you, even if you dog is reactive. Most true dog people understand that not all dogs will behave in the same way and will help you feel welcome and try and accommodate any worries you might have about taking part in a canicross race.

However, and this is quite a big however, if you feel your dog won’t cope very well with the situation being surrounded by other high energy and excited dogs, or having to pass other dogs and this might cause your dog more stress than enjoyment, or worse put your dog in a situation where you feel they have the potential to harm another dog, you or even themselves, then perhaps a race situation isn’t for you.

I have to hold my dogs by their harnesses on the start line to make sure they do not cross the path of other runners and their dogs

You do need to be able to control your dog in a race situation so that you are not responsible for causing anxiety in someone else’s dog. I’ve been on the receiving end of this and have had my dogs lunged at and ultimately put off racing by other competitors’ lack of care when handling their dog in a race. I personally wouldn’t want my dog to be the cause of this for someone else and so I would always recommend building your reactive dog up slowly to racing. If you positively train them around other dogs, taking time to reinforce the fun elements of running with other dogs and work hard to do all you can to make the experience exciting rather than anxiety inducing, then you can enjoy racing with your reactive dog too.

Canicross is much more fun if you know everyone has control over their dog – Photo Courtesy of CBR Photography

My final thoughts

So to conclude, running with your reactive dog can be a really good way to get your dog used to being around other dogs without putting them under too much pressure to interact, or allow them to reinforce any negative behaviours around other dogs and people. Whether your dog is confrontational when anxious or looks to escape the situation, you have much more control if your dog is attached to you and can give you the peace of mind you need to be able to enjoy going out with your dog, without the fear of a negative situation with other trail users.

Happy trails!

Top Tips for taking action photos of your dog – By Rae Prince

We asked dog photographer Rae Prince for her top tips when taking photos of your active dogs and here’s what she had to say:

Capturing an action shot is great fun but can be tricky to nail as your dog zoomies around the field at a million miles an hour. Inevitably most people are left with a blurred image of paws and legs going every which way. However, there are a few little tips you can utilise and you don’t even need a fancy camera!

Most of today’s mobile phones have excellent cameras and some neat little actions to help you capture it all. So, here are a few little tips and tricks which will hopefully help you with your action shots. In the first instance, if you can rope in someone to act as dog wrangler this will help enormously. They can be tasked with throwing balls, releasing the dog and generally helping to get them in the right spot at the right time.

Now, my NUMBER ONE TIP for any dog photography is to get down low…….and I mean right down and dirty! You need to have your camera at your dog’s eye level or even lower for the best angle.

• Try and face your dog into the light but beware of harsh shadows. If you can, shoot early morning or an hour or two before sunset when the sun is lower and the light is softer. Your camera/phone works much better with good contrast when taking action shots.

• Use a path or an opening to help position your dog so that you can then be ready to take the shot. Have a helper hold your dog and then call them to you.

• Make sure you are steady. Either hold your breath or exhale slowly as you take the shot. If you are standing, keep your elbows tucked in. Prop your elbows on something if you are sitting or lying down.

• If you are using your camera phone, don’t zoom in. Better to take the image and then crop afterwards. Ideally, zoom with your feet in the first instance.

• Use burst mode. Hold down the home key on your phone.

For those of you using an actual camera there are a few key settings you’ll need to dial in, although obviously these aren’t hard and fast rules:

• Increase your shutter speed. For an action shot with a dog you need at least 1/1000 of a second.

• Check your aperture – a wide aperture (eg f2.8) will only give you a depth of field of a few inches meaning that only a small part of your image may be in focus and the rest will be blurred. Have a play with narrower apertures depending on how in focus (or not) you want your background to be.

• If you don’t want to go fully manual, use the Sports Mode setting on your camera. There’s a lot of technology in a digital camera so you may as well make use of it!

Two final little tips:

Try and capture the dog on the up stride i.e. you want their head to be higher than their bum and secondly, think about the space around your dog in the image.

Always try and give them ‘somewhere to run’ in the final image i.e some space to the left or right of them depending on which way they’re going.

About Rae:

Originally from a little island in North Wales called Anglesey, I’m now based in Worcestershire where I live with my husband and our two rescue dogs called Betty and Hector. I’ve had a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember and it’s probably something I picked up from my Dad as he was a keen photographer documenting his travels abroad with the RAF in the 60s and 70s way before digital was a thing! I love photographing all animals as I love the thrill of capturing a special moment in time, especially dogs as they are never with us for long enough. However, there’s not enough money or cake in the world to get me photograph a wedding……oh no!

To get in touch with Rae please visit her website; raeprincephotography.co.uk

How to stay injury free whilst canicrossing – by Louise Humphrey

Are you a runner who got a dog or a dog owner who started Canicross?

Whichever you are, Canicross is a very different sport and however you have come into the sport, you need to not only think about your dogs’ fitness but yours too.

Runners who become dog owners – Top Tips

1. You need to slowly introduce your dog to Canicross, as you would if you were just starting out yourself

2. Be aware of your dogs needs when running, like water, terrain

3. Canicross is a different running technique from solo running

4. Canicross can increase your risk of injury, cross- training is VERY important

Dog owners who start Canicross – Top Tips

1. Start slow and build up for both of you, this way will help reduce your risk of injury

2. Make sure YOU have the right kit, most important being trail shoes

3. As a runner you need to ensure you cross train to reduce your risk of getting injuries

4. Start off with the C25K course

Whatever your reason for taking up Canicross, it’s really important that you look after yourself as well as you dog. If Canicross is the main way you exercise your dog, then the last thing you need is to get injured and not being able to get out and go for a run. Believe me I have been there with injuries and I should know better the importance of cross training.

Canicross running

Canicross running is a little different from regular running

As a Canicrosser your running technique is different from running solo. Due to the nature of Canicross and the fact that as well as you pushing yourself forward with your own running technique, your dog will also be pulling you. This means you are more than likely to overstride. Overstriding is when your foot lands in front of your hip (a normal runner’s foot tends to land underneath your hip), the foot is in contact with the ground longer, the muscles are having to work harder and this is when the injuries are likely to occur.

So, it is really important that we keep ourselves injury free to keep running with our dogs.

Crossing training is SO important and ensuring it is functional training as well, so it mimics what we do when we run but focuses on our strength, flexibility and balance.

Don’t be put off if you weren’t a runner beforehand. Hopefully you are starting to realise how addictive and great Canicross is.

Pilates for Runners

Pilates for Runners is a great way to focus on your balance, strength and flexibility and learning about your technique more will help you reduce your risks of injury when Canicrossing.

If you have done Pilates before, you know that it focuses on your core strength and this is a great start for runners as this will help you improve your balance. Pilates for runners will also help to increase the strength in your legs and your flexibility, ensuring that you run with the best possible technique you can when canicrossing.

Throughout the course we do both standing and mat Pilates practice. The standing practice focuses on dynamic running movements whilst also focusing on strengthening and improving balance.

Mat Pilates practice goes back to basics to ensure the core is strong but also working on the areas we use in running – glutes, hamstrings and core muscles, making sure we are engaging and using these muscles.

Pilates done regularly will change your running and with some great mantras to keep you going when you are out canicrossing, you know you are doing the best to keep yourself injury free.

All the exercises we do on the course can be used before or after runs to get you warmed up and cooled down, then longer sessions can be used on rest days. It doesn’t need to take up hours, just small sessions on a regular bases will build your strength & flexibility.

So, if Canicrossing is the way you let your dog unleash its energy in a safe way, then working on your cross training will help you get out there more often and enjoy the trials around you. If you want to find out more about Pilates for Runners Course then you can here.

About Louise

Louise Humphrey is the founder of Paws4running and Studio 44 Pilates. She started Paws4running after her Black Labrador Pickle failed Gundog school with a high prey drive. Wanting to make sure Pickle could unleash her energy they started to Canicross together, leading her to qualify as a Canicross instructor.

Louise is a certified DogFit Canicross instructor offering Canicross taster sessions, C25K and social runs in her local area of Market Harborough, Leicestershire https://www.instagram.com/paws_4running/

Canicross has been proven to help, reactive, rescue and anxious dogs’ bond with their owners and running in groups helps them socialise too.

Louise has been teaching Pilates for over 20 years and has an online 10-minute Pilates membership to help you bring Pilates into your life daily www.studio44pilates.com

With Louise’s Pilates experience she is able to also combine Pilates for Runners together with the Canicross ensuring that her human clients are as fit and healthy as their dogs and stay as injury free as possible.

Snack time for your dog – HundEnergy. Bars

We discovered the HundEnergy. Bars last year when we were kindly donated some for all our Tri Dog competitors and the K9 Trail Time team got to sample them. We spoke to Sarah at HundEnergy. and asked her to share a bit about the Bars so our active dog owners can see for themselves why they might want these handy little snack bars for their dogs.

HundEnergy. is a brand for active dogs and their owners and our flagship product is the HundEnergy. Bar. This nutritional snack uses only ingredients that are beneficial to a dog after an extended period of exercise and is completely plant-based.

What’s inside HundEnergy. Bars?

At first you may think having a snack that’s plant-based goes against the more traditional food you currently feed your dog, however a dog thrives of a high protein diet made up of both meat and plant based matter.

When to use?

Humans need additional nutrients during or after exercising to replenish those that are lost, and to also aid with recovery. The same rule can be applied to your dog. Each dog has its specific daily exercise requirements depending on age and breed, however we can assume all dogs require extra nutrients after a long period of exercise. That is where the HundEnergy. Bar steps in.

HundEnergy. Bars contain natural ingredients that either aid in recovery and build, such as raw peanuts or give quick release energy such as gluten free oats.

This makes them the ideal snack for your dog when taking part in activities such as Canicross or any other type of Canisport.

Each Bar is individually wrapped meaning they can be kept in a handy place such as a kit bag, or backpack ready to give to your dog when they need it the most. As the ingredients are all completely natural, one bar for one serving will be suitable for any type of dog, they can even serve as a nutritious snack in-between meals.

If you’d like to find out more information or to buy HundEnergy. Bars you can find them here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/other-activities/walking/hundenergy-bar.html

Sled Dog Sports? But I don’t own a ‘Sled Dog’!

I thought I’d write this article because I’ve heard so many people say ‘I don’t own a ‘sled dog” when they first take up one of the dog powered sports with their pet dog. What many don’t realise however is that the dog powered sports, which include sledding but also encompass dry land mushing, skijor, bikejor, dog scootering and even canicross, all originated from dog sledding. People first harnessed up dogs to utilise their strength and athleticism to help them move loads across some fairly inhospitable, frozen areas of the countries based in the Northern hemisphere.

Traditionally people see sled dog sports as being sports for sleds and dogs! However this has developed now into dry land dog sports

My personal background is in canicross, so if you’d said to me when I first started running with my dog that I was participating in a sled dog sport, I would have laughed at you, in spite of the fact my first canicross dog was part husky. I just didn’t see how running with my one dog (who shared my bed at night) could be comparable to running teams of dogs attached to sleds. I have since progressed from canicross to bikejoring, dog scootering and have even run my ‘team’ (three collie crosses) on a rig (three wheeled dog-propelled cart type thing, for those who are unfamiliar with the term).

My team of collie crosses on the rig

Now I’ve been in the sports for a number of years, this question of how the sports are classified comes up quite frequently but I’ve learned that the majority of people taking part in ‘sled dog’ events are unaware they are actually competing with their own ‘sled dog’ if you use the term as defined by the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (the current main international governing body for the sports established in 1985).

According to the IFSS definition below, any dog can be classified as a ‘Sled Dog’ for the purposes of competitions run under their regulations.

The International Federation for Sleddog Sports, coveres any breed of dog suitable for running in harness

‘SLED DOG: A sled dog is a dog, irrespective of the breed or type, capable of being harnessed and of competing in one of the classes listed in the IFSS Regulations without a potential, beforehand, to be calculated risk, of harming the dog’s well-being’  – Taken from the IFSS Race Rules

I still think that in the UK the wording of events and organisations using ‘sled dog’ in the title will conjure up images of huskies and not the broad spectrum of breeds who currently attend the growing numbers of races. I would actually even argue that it puts some people off joining a club or attending an event, purely on the basis that they feel it might not be for them and their Jack Russell / Labrador / Border Collie.

Sled dogs do come in all shapes & sizes!

The reality is that you will find many different breeds and shapes & sizes of dogs at every open event and you will fit right in with whatever dog you have, as long as it has the enthusiasm to run in harness. There are of course still breed specific clubs running rallies and races but they are easily recognisable by the use of the breed in the club title, for example SHCGB (the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain). 

Huskies are definitely the more recognised ‘sled dog’ breed

The dog powered sports have grown so much in the time I have been involved in them and I think in the future there will be further classification of events and potentially the dogs too. One term that has already emerged is ‘mono sports’ and this refers to the dog powered sports which can be run with one dog, so specifically canicross, bikejor and dog scootering. The European Canicross Federation which is the main European organisation for these sports, is focused solely on the ‘mono sports’, although the  ECF Championship held in Scotland in October 2015 was the first ever to host a scooter class. Prior to this it had only included canicross and bikejor.

The European Championships, last help in the UK in Scotland in 2015

I think as the demand for events grow and the word spreads that the ‘sled dog’ sports can be for everyone, the dog powered sports will gain more publicity and acceptance, which can only be good for the sports as a whole.

Why rainbows?

We’ve recently launched the K9 Trail Time Rainbow shirts and vests and now this week the Rainbow Range of Canicross and Walking Lines. Our followers might be wondering ‘why all the rainbows’? so I thought I’d explain…

It all started with my beloved horse Merlin who meant the world to me, I’ve always liked the idea of ‘Rainbow Bridge’ where all your animals wait for you to join them when they’ve passed on. I’m not a particularly religious person and so to have the comfort of thinking they are waiting for you, might not be for everyone but certainly helped me with my grief when I lost Merlin in 2014.

Merlin in his field with a rainbow in the background.

I think the whole idea of Rainbow Bridge has just stuck with me ever since and when I lost Tegan my older husky cross in 2019, the idea of it again just provided me with comfort when I was heartbroken over her loss.

I also LOVE the bright colours in a rainbow and people who know me will know I have always run in the brightest, most colourful leggings I could find, so when I started to think about designing products for K9 Trail Time it made sense to me to keep the rainbow theme in my mind.

The rainbow colours that can be found in the sky are so beautiful and I’ve always loved bright colour in my life!

I felt I needed to design something for our customers which represented the spirit of the K9 Trail Time brand but at the same time, wasn’t just our brand colours, as the red, black and white doesn’t hold the same meaning to people as the colours of the rainbow might, in the same way they have for me.

So the first thing that was launched this year was the K9 Trail Time Rainbow shirts and vests!

The K9 Trail Time Rainbow Shirt
The K9 Trail Time Rainbow Vest

It also happens that 2020 has turned into a year of rainbows, with rainbows being drawn in windows and on posters supporting the NHS, which is a fantastic reflection of how much rainbows have meant to us as a nation through a difficult time but not actually the reason I had decided to use rainbows in the designs.

The new Rainbow Range bungee lines we’ve just launched are also going to come in the wide variety of colours found in the rainbow, we’ve started with red and blue but the rest will follow as and when we can get the webbing produced.

The Rainbow Range of lines will be updated with more colours

I’ve found that more you look for rainbows, the more you notice them and this year in particular I’ve spotted some pretty spectacular rainbows on our travels.

Rainbow over us in February 2020 on the beach in Scotland

I really hope that helps to explain in a little more detail about the design choices you’ve been seeing from K9 Trail Time and I also wanted to share with our followers the reasons behind choosing the rainbow. It’s been a personal experience to set these products up and to me, they represent the influence of all the animals who have been in our lives and are sadly no longer with us, as a celebration of the colour and joy they brought.

The rainbows in our designs represent the colour that animals bring to our lives

Product Feature – The Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness

We have recently launched the brand new Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness, which we have been involved with from the start of the design process last year. Arctic Wolf came to us for inspiration, ideas, information and we fed back all the comments and experiences from ourselves and our customers to create the Adventure Harness, new for 2020.

Yogi proudly modelling the Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness, he helped to design and test!

The Adventure Harness is intended to be useful for all active dogs taking part in a variety of activities, from walking / hiking, agility and flyball to canicross and bikejoring with your dog. The harness is made from lightweight, strong but quick drying materials, sourced to ensure that if your dog is getting wet and muddy in it, the harness won’t hold water or cause rubbing associated with heavy, wet, thick material.

The Adventure Harness is perfect for a wide variety of activities with your dog

The design of the harness is simple, so it will suit dogs who perhaps don’t like the feel of a more structured or longer style harness on their body, however it does sit longer on the body than your standard walking / hiking harness and is well clear of the front legs to allow a full range of movement.

To put the harness on all you need to do is pop the harness over the head of your dog and clip up the strong, lightweight plastic clips either side of the dogs’ body. This is an advantage for any dogs who don’t like lifting their feet into harnesses and with a generous space for the head to go through, it is also not as snug as some of the other sports harnesses to fit over the ears, which many dogs don’t like.

The neck of the harness whilst being designed to be a snug fit on the neck has a reinforced ‘V’ in the front of the neck piece which has two functions. It’s first function is to offer that little bit of extra space when being fitted over your dogs’ head, the other is to ensure the harness ‘V’ sits low on the neck and doesn’t rise up into the throat of the dog, which can happen with some of the rounder style necks on some harnesses. This means that even if your dog is a strong puller, the ‘V’ ensures the neck of the harness doesn’t put pressure on your dogs’ throat.

At the front of the harness there is a reinforced piece of webbing where you can clip a lead to, this is perfect for people who use a two clip system to walk or train their dog, as this encourages a natural and balanced stance in the dog and gives you more control if you need it, without twisting your dogs’ neck or head around.

The Adventure Harness also features an internal handle on the top of the harness, so when your dog is pulling out in front of you, the handle isn’t noticeable and lies flat into the harness. If and when you need it however, the handle can be used to hold your dog if you have to bring them close to you and also if you need to help them scramble over obstacles, like a style or even for older dogs who need a hand climbing into vehicles etc.

The secret poo bag pocket down either side of the harness means there’s no excuses for not carrying poo bags with you on your walks / runs either! The pocket is a really discrete extra layer of the harness material which allows a few poo bags to be stuffed in, accessed when you need them.

So as you can probably tell we are pretty proud of being involved in the design of this harness and have responded to your feedback over the years to produce something with Arctic Wolf which will hopefully provide a solution for many dog owners. The Adventure Harness is a really functional active dog harness which is suitable for use in a variety of situations. We’re also proud of the fact that this harness is designed and produced in the UK, so the quality is extremely high, with a low carbon footprint.

We recommend this harness for any active dogs who need a lightweight, top quality, multi functional, dog harness which doesn’t restrict movement in any way. With all the extra features this harness has, we know this is going to be really popular for walking / hiking, canicross, agility, flyball, general dog training and even faster sports such as bikejoring and dog scootering.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us info@k9trailtime.com and the harness can be found on our website here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/arctic-wolf-adventure-harness.html

Looking for a Line?

We’ve been asked a lot recently about lines for canicross, mainly because there’s now so many options available. We thought we’d try and simplify it a little in this new blog.

Line length – this is usually a stretched length which means unstretched they are approx 30 cms shorter with a webbing line.

Most standard canicross lines are 2 metres when stretched, so if you see Standard, CC or Canicross in the description they will be 2 metres stretched, although (confusingly) depending on the product sometimes they are the short version if there’s nothing shorter!

The Non-stop 2 metre line is for canicross

An example of a standard line would be the Arctic Wolf Canicross Bungee: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/aw-cc-line.html

Short lines are known as Parkrun lines (because they came into existence to meet the Parkrun requirement of a short line) and are are generally 1.2 metres stretched, so if you see Short (except in the case of some as mentioned above) Parkrun or PR in the description, then they will be 1.2 metres stretched.

A short ‘parkrun’ length line

An example of a parkrun line would be the Bono Parkrun Line: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bono-parkrun-canicross-walking-line.html

We also have our own range of lines here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines.html/trail-bungee-line-rainbow-range.html all of which have a handle and now come with a Mid length option too which stretches to a length of 1.6 metres for those who find the Standard length too long and Short length too short.

Longer lines such as Bikejor lines will be anything from 2.5 – 2.8 metres stretched and will be described as Long, Bikejor, Scooter or something to that effect. These can still be used for canicross but many find them too long for regular use and would be too long for racing.

An example of a bikejor length line: https://www.k9trailtime.com/bikejor-scootering/lines/aw-lite-bj-line.html

Line Clips – this is what attaches to your dogs harness

Most line clips will be brass trigger clips and this is the standard clip, easy to hook on and take off any ring or cord on your dogs harness. These are the most suitable clips for every day and regular use.

An Arctic Wolf Line with a trigger clip

An example of a line with a standard clip would be the Bono Standard Canicross Line: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bono-standard-canicross-line.html

Some lines however have a twist lock carabiner, this means there is a gate which opens and a screw lock which will automatically (not if it’s got mud and dirt in the mechanism) close and twist around when attached so your dog cannot pull the clip open by catching it on something. You might want to use these if your dog has the potential to escape or you want a bit more security, they are lightweight and no heavier than a normal clip.

The twist lock carabiner on a Non-stop Line

An example of a twist lock carabiner can be found on the Arctic Wolf Adventure Lines: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/aw-ad-line.html

Handles – some lines have handles on them to grab if you need to

The lines with handles will either have an ‘external’ grab handle which is an additional webbing loop sewn on to the line or an ‘internal’ handle which forms part of the line and you slide your hand in to grab.

External handles are extra loops of webbing

An external grab handle can be found on the Bono Parkrun Line near the clip: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bono-parkrun-canicross-walking-line.html

Handles can be situated around the half way point on the line or further down near the clip to attach to your dog.

Our own range of lines here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines.html/trail-bungee-line-rainbow-range.html all have a handle for this extra control.

To attach to you – how the lines attach to your belt

Most of the lines we sell will have a handle at the end to attach to your belt and you can either loop the line through on itself or use a carabiner to attach the line to use if you need quick release. Some belts also have carabiners or a set up at the front of the belt so you can attach you line and have quick release.

Bungee section vs Fully elasticated

The majority of bungee lines have a section of bungee which is tied in with the webbing, please don’t undo these knots as the bungee will not function properly, the knots are there for a reason.

The Non-stop Line however is fully elasticated which means it is slightly shorter than the other webbing lines when not being pulled but will stretch further when pulled because the whole line is elasticated. The benefit of this is that you get more ‘spring’ in the line, the disadvantage is that you have less control as it’s harder to pull your dog back towards you with a line that’s fully elasticated!

The Non-stop Line is fully elasticated and comes with a twist lock carabiner: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/non-stop-bungee-line.html

We also have a line which we call ‘Fully Loaded’ because it has a section of bungee which extends through the entire line and gives you that extra spring too https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines.html/fully-loaded-canicross-bungee-line-rainbow-range.html

Two Dog Lines – The next complication!

If you want to run with two dogs, the lines tend to be longer in length to give each dog more space, so be aware these will feel quite long if you are used to having your dog close to you.

The shortest two dog line we sell is the Bono one: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bonos-two-dog-canicross-walking-line.html this has an external grab handle in the middle.

The Bono two dog lines have an external grab handle

The Arctic Wolf two dog lines either have a long split with two sections of bungee, one on each line (this is called the 2 dog CC) or they have a shorter split with one bungee section (this is called the 2 Dog Lite S)

Arctic Wolf also do a longer two dog line for bike and scooter and the Neewa Two Dog Line is more suitable for wheels than canicross due to it’s length: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/neewa-bungee-line.html as is the Non-stop Two Dog Line.

Neckline – The final choice

If you are running two dogs together you may want to use a neck line, this is a small section of webbing, around 6 inches in length with 2 clips to attach to your dogs collars. The neckline will keep your dogs together and guide them to run side by side.

Necklines can be beneficial for evenly matched dogs running together

If your dogs are evenly matched this can be beneficial in keeping them together and focused but if they are every different in size and/or motivation then a neck line has the potential to pull the smaller / slower dog along at the speed of the bigger / faster dog and this would not be something we’d recommend.

An example of a neck line is the Neewa line here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/bikejor-scootering/lines/neewa-neckline.html

We hope that has helped determine what line you might need or prefer but if you have any other questions please do not hesitate to email us to answer your query: info@k9trailtime.com

Happy Trails!