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!

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.

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!

K9 Trail Time Myth Buster Number 2 – You can’t canicross a dog in a short harness

You can’t canicross your dog in a short harness – Ever heard this one? I’ve seen this comment on a number of groups recently and the irony of this is that 11 years ago when I started canicrossing, everyone was told they could ONLY canicross in a short harness!

At that point there weren’t so many options for a longer style harness and X-Backs were the main design for a long pulling harness, so the theory was at that time, that you shouldn’t canicross in an X-Back because the harness was designed for a low pull point (this much is true) and that when used for canicrossing, the X-Back would lift off the dogs back and cause issues for the dog (never seen this happen). This prompted us to write a blog about why we love the X-Back harness because certain companies and individuals were trying to profit from this false information and we wanted to explain why the X-Back was still a fantastic harness for running dogs in, no matter what the sport…

We love X-Backs (even if Donnie’s face doesn’t say so in this picture!)

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/why-we-love-x-back-harnesses/

So instead of an X-Back, people were suggesting that a ‘H- Back’ Harness (essentially a short harness) was the only option for canicrossers to use safely. We actually started out with shorter style harnesses for this reason and quickly realised that there were pros and cons for both styles of dog sport harnesses and that different dogs suited different things.

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness an example of a ‘H Back’ style

Another typical ‘H Back’ style harness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At K9 Trail Time we prefer to use common sense and a knowledge of a dogs anatomy to determine whether a particular style of harness will cause a dog any restrictions to movement, rather than hearsay and the marketing of companies who have a vested interest in persuading you one way or the other about a suitable running harness they manufacture.

There are certainly some short harnesses we would not recommend for canicross and there are many ‘walking’ harnesses which claim to be suitable for canicross but are not in our opinion. Remember what you are looking for in a harness is for it to be non-restrictive and allow your dog to move as freely as possible, so a harness which comes across or covers the shoulders in any significant way, will not be suitable.

Harnesses which restrict shoulder movement are not suitable for canicross

However, we have used a number of different, highly suitable, short harnesses and recommend only harness which we have personally used for the dog sports. It is also worth mentioning at this point that we took all our harnesses to a group of qualified and experienced Canine Massage Guild members and in terms of potential for muscular problems from a badly fitting harness, they preferred the shorter styles of harness on the whole.

The Non-stop Line Harness, one of the selection we have which have been throughly tried and tested by our team!

We do always recommend the shorter harnesses for dogs who are more leisurely pullers and dogs who drop back because sometimes dogs who pull very hard out in front all the time can make a rasping noise in a short harness. This is due to the fact that the pull on a short harness is directed along the top of the harness, which pulls the harness back, sometimes up and if the harness isn’t sitting low enough on the dog, this can mean into the throat. All this depends on your dog and the way the harness fits and I can run 3 of my 4 dogs in a short harness with no problems, however the 4th dog will always make this rasping noise, even when walking!

Even my biggest, most athletic dog can run well in his short harness

So we hope that blog has helped dispel another myth we have seen floating around in groups and reassure those of you who do run your dogs in short harnesses, that you’re not going to do them any harm running them in a shorter style harness.

Happy trails!

K9 Trail Time Myth Buster Number 1 – You have to be super fit to canicross

At K9 Trail Time we often hear the words ‘I’m not fit enough to run with my dog’ and we’d like to dispel that myth and turn it into ‘you will get fit ‘if’ you run with your dog’!

We all have to start somewhere and although you might see plenty of athletic looking people taking part in the sport of canicross, particularly racing, please don’t think that everyone starts off like this. Often it takes a lot of patience, willpower and determination to get fit running with your dog but once you get involved you realise how good it can be for both of you.

In fact many people start off exercising with their dog and go on to enjoy other sports as a result!

A few case studies:

Duncan Wells as he started canicross in the UK

Duncan Wells canicrossing in the French Alps – much fitter after a few years of running with his dogs!

Natti Shaw as she just started canicross, Natti now takes part in OCR races and many other fitness activities but she started with canicross

 

Sarah was also inspired to get fit with her dogs and now runs couch to 5km canicross club runs with her local canicross group

So where do I start?

Couch to 5km

A really good place to start is a simple Couch to 5km programme and we have posted a blog with a couple of options for this here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/k9-trail-time-basic-couch-to-5km-plan-for-canicross/

There are also apps which can get you motivated such as the NHS one here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/

You can also download podcasts to listen to but we personally prefer to canicross without ear phones in as you can hear what’s going on around you.

Canicrossing can be enjoyed just you and your dog, not necessarily with groups or music to spur you on, your dog will do that!

Canicross Groups

You can start a Couch to 5km programme on your own, or get a group of you together to start this, by organising a group you’re more likely to succeed as you hold each other accountable for your progress. Groups can encourage and inspire and we highly recommend trying to find people in your local area to meet up with to get started. You might find that you already have a local group with experienced canicrossers  who can also join in to help with advice on running with your dog and getting the right equipment so you are both comfortable. Often there will be someone who will lead these runs for beginners and this is the perfect place to start.

Having a group to run with can be extremely motivating for both you and your dog

Canicross classes

There are a number of individual trainers, clubs or organisations offering canicross classes now and most of these will focus on getting you started safely with your dog. Our advice with these classes is to investigate your instructor to find out how much canicross experience they have themselves. Some classes are run by personal trainers and some are run by dog trainers, some are run by people who have been canicrossing for years with their own dogs and this is most valuable. In our opinion you need to have some experience of both running AND dogs to be able to teach canicross, as it is a lot more than just going for a run with your dog and your trainer should be able to train both you and your dog in your classes.

Make sure your canicross instructor has had years of training for the specific sport, not just running or dog training

Whatever way you get into it, running with your dog can be a great experience and most people certainly start off in the sport of canicross without having had a running background. If you are one of these people, do not be put off!!! Join the thousands of other people who have begun their canicross journey being unfit and unsure but develop with their dog to increase the fitness and health of both of you, who knows where your journey together might take you!

We hope that has helped dispel the myth that you have to be super fit to run with your dog, you can start anywhere but if you stick with it you will both definitely benefit – Happy trails!

 

K9 Trail Time – A little bit of our history

We were going to get involved with #MarchMeetTheMaker but we’ve missed the boat on that one seeing as it’s now nearly the middle of the month! 😆 So we thought we’d just do a bit of our history for those who don’t know our background.
K9 Trail Time was started in 2012 a few years after I (Emily) started canicross racing with my two dogs Tegan and Judo, who also feature in the logo. The picture for the logo was actually taken at a Scottish race, the weekend before we attempted our first long distance canicross challenge in 2011, the West Highland Way. At the time I didn’t know that I was going to set up K9 Trail Time and I certainly had no idea it would end up being my full time job.

The K9 Trail Time logo photo, featuring Tegan and Judo, the ‘original’ two

The business was set up initially as a hobby, because I couldn’t find all the lovely dog sports equipment I could see was available to purchase from any retailer in the UK and it made sense once I was attending more races to have a bit of kit to take with me to sell to my friends too. I quickly realised there were plenty of people like me who wanted to try different styles of harness on their dogs and also wanted a good selection of colours of kit, so they could match harnesses, lines and belts!

The aim of K9 Trail Time was to bring the best brands together in one place

I spoke with many of the existing working dog equipment retailers who were all very supportive of my idea and to this day I still have many friends who also run small businesses catering for the dog sports enthusiasts and I like to think we all bring something different to our businesses.
Our slogan from day one has always been ‘active dogs are happy dogs’ and that’s because the reason we got into canicross and subsequently dog scootering and bikejor, is the fact all our dogs have always been rescues and have generally been high energy, working breeds, needing a safe outlet for this and a ‘job’ to do.
I’ve mentioned in a few previous blogs about Tegan being the catalyst for us getting into dog sports because she suffered separation anxiety and the only thing that seemed to helped her chill out for the day, was to have been for a run and then she could settle and seemed less stressed. Unfortunately we lost Tegan in 2019 but her role in K9 Trail Time will never be forgotten.

Tegan was the main reason dog sports came into our lives

We have always tried to encourage people to get active with their dogs and one of the main aims of K9 Trail Time has been to provide information for interested people so that they can get involved in something which is a safe outlet for dogs to release any excess energy. Over the last 8 years we have worked with many different charities including Battersea Dogs Home, Dogs Trust, Many Tears and 8 Below Husky Rescue to help them and their staff, educate potential adopters about ways in which they can fulfil a high energy dogs’ needs, particularly if they can’t be let off the lead.
We attended Crufts a couple of years in a row in the early days, mainly to promote the benefits of the sports, as Crufts is an extremely busy event and getting the word out there about canicross is easier with such a large audience.
Before K9 Trail Time was set up, we had taken part in a race around Crufts which CaniX UK used to organise, the event was always a favourite to watch and generated a lot of interest in what we do, so we knew it was a good way to spread the word.

The Crufts race was exciting and inspiring

Now we are working on having representatives in different areas who are experienced in the sports but who have also completed training on harness fitting, as this is one of the key things we have been focusing on, getting the right equipment for you and your dog to enjoy the sports in the most comfortable way possible. To this end I (Emily) have been studying canine physiology and anatomy and have also expanded my knowledge into hydrotherapy, so that I have a better understanding of how dogs move and the impact of the harness sports on the dogs’ body.

Canine hydrotherapy has just added to our passion for all things ‘active dog’

K9 Trail Time now provides harness fitting workshops and talks at various different events and we have a base near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire where we hope to provide even more information and advice for people, not just on the equipment side of the dog sports but also training, nutrition, recovery and general health and well being for any active dog. We are working towards being able to help advance research in the area of canine performance too, so watch this space!

Keeping your dog ‘safe’

We’ve recently taken on another rescue team member and it’s not been long but Delta (the new pup) is already proving to be a bit of a different challenge from the other dogs I’ve had. Delta is one of a litter of nine puppies brought over from an Irish rescue and is one of the lucky ones. I was told that often these unwanted farm litters just get drowned at birth because the farmers don’t want / can’t be bothered to neuter their dogs and so when the inevitable happens they just dispose of the consequences.

Delta, the new pup is a different type of challenge for us

I think being one of nine, surrounded by her litter mates and then being brought over to the UK on a ferry on a trip that was over 24 hours, being split from her family and then joining our household with 3 established dogs already in place, was such a huge shock to her system she struggled a little bit to find her feet. Everything to her is scary until she is shown otherwise and other people, dogs, places could all be a potential threat to her, so she was understandably a bit overwhelmed.

Everything has been a little overwhelming for a nervous pup to begin with

How does this relate to our normal theme of ‘active dogs are happy dogs’ and our beloved dog sports I hear you ask…? Well my point in blogging about this is that my job, my aim and my sole focus for her right now is to make her feel safe. Unless she feels safe, she will be worried and may react accordingly when faced with new situations. Most dogs will either follow a fight or flight response to anything threatening, fight being anything from a growl, bark, to a full on attack and flight being a subtle movement away, putting distance between the dog and the perceived threat or a panicked exit which can result in a dog getting lost. None of these things are ideal and a dog in fight or flight mode is difficult to communicate with in terms of training.

Here is where I get to the point of my writing, if your dog can’t be easily communicated with, then you are going to experience problems if you are taking part in an activity where communication is essential (all activities you might want to take part in ‘with’ your dog). For example I want to walk Delta with other dogs but right now she can be so scared of the situation that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with her, so I decided on one of our first group walks I would carry her in a pack. This is not even remotely conventional and nothing I thought I would ever do but the result was that she was happy, she felt safe and it was a positive experience for her = my job done.

Carrying Delta in a bag is unconventional but allowed her to feel safe on a group walk at first

So relating this more specifically to dog sports, my older collie Judo was my ‘stooge’ dog for years, he loved running so much that I could loan him out to others to run with and he would enjoy the run with whoever looked after him on the trails. Unfortunately when bikejoring him one season there was a dog who seemed drawn to him and used to practice inappropriate trail behaviour whenever we met in a race situation. Three times this dog ended up with Judo’s head in his mouth, he never did any physical harm but the mental harm done was lasting.

Following the third episode, any time we biked, Judo would drop to the floor in front of the bike if he heard anyone behind him and displayed all the behaviours of a dog who just wanted to flee the situation, he no longer felt safe and I could no longer reassure him that he would be ok. I was pretty devastated about this and sought out ways to help ease his fears, training with dogs he knew and trying to build up confidence again but when we raced he obviously just didn’t want to be put in the situation. The result of this was ultimately that I gave up competitive bikejoring with him, I could no longer keep him ‘safe’ and so I didn’t want to put him through it. We could still canicross because I had much more control over the situation and could take him off the trail if someone came up behind us, he relaxed again and enjoyed his running once more, again = my job done.

Judo used to love biking but in the end we had to stick to canicross to make sure he was happy – Photo from 2016 courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

Another example of this happened with my dog Yogi, who is one of the most confident dogs I know. However about 6 months into his canicross career he was accidentally ‘kicked’ out of the way by more competitive runners nudging past us during a race. This didn’t just happen once, it happened a few times and he began to drop back and even behind me if he heard someone coming up to overtake. I was so frustrated as again he just didn’t feel safe any more, I hadn’t been able to protect him before, so he didn’t trust that it wouldn’t happen again. Fortunately the work I’ve put in since has proved to him he can trust me and I often pull him right out of people’s way now so there is no chance of him being nudged again. Yogi is a pretty robust dog in terms of his confidence and now feels secure listening to me when I ask him to move over on the trail but it took a few months of training to get this back.

Thankfully Yogi has been confident enough to get over his earlier experiences of racing and being knocked out of the way

A dog who doesn’t feel safe will find it hard to respond to instruction, take direction and ultimately will not enjoy the activity you are participating in. Although I am not a qualified behaviourist, I have studied canine behaviour and in terms of a dogs needs being met, the ‘feeling safe’ aspect must be met before the need for physical activity for the dog to benefit from this. Very often we can help a dog to feel secure in situations and more relaxed through release of energy during activity but we must be mindful that we are not creating more stress and more anxiety in our dogs by asking them to participate in things which overload them and repeatedly create a fight or flight response.

In conclusion, whenever you are taking part in any activity with your dog, you need to make sure your dog is first and foremost comfortable with the situation and then you know you can communicate effectively and train your dog within that situation. We are firm believers at K9 Trail Time in positive reinforcement and have seen the effect that a negative experience can have on a dog in our sports. So remembering to keep your dog ‘safe’ in their interpretation of the environment they are in is an extremely important part of training and one which cannot be ignored to make your experiences fun at all times. After all that is what our time with our dogs is all about – having fun!

Always ensure your dog has fun, first and foremost in any activity your are participating in – Photo courtesy of Horses of Courses Photography