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 – Basic ‘Couch to 5km’ Plan for Canicross

There are many ideas and thoughts about getting your dog ready to run your first 5k with you. Not only do you need to build up your ability and strength, but so does your furry friend. Once you have built up the basic fitness with your pooch, the opportunities are endless for you both. Whether you want to be participating in your local parkrun, trekking across forest trails or you fancy joining a club and racing, the first rule to go by is that you should both make sure you are healthy and able to participate in this sort of activity. Your dog should be fully developed before starting canicross and it is always worth getting your dog checked over by the vet to make sure that all general health is good before you head off out on the trails.

Jayne before taking up canicross, walking with her huskies

Jayne after taking up canicross which she followed a Couch to 5km plan for

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, you will probably want to invest in a harness for your dog, a belt for yourself and a bungee line to connect you. Most new canicross runners will find that running with their dog in a harness and wearing a waist belt makes the whole experience more relaxing for both participants. If you are local to a canicross club, it is worth popping along to try some kit, or you can contact us at K9 Trail Time for more advice.

Having suitable kit from the start will allow you to enjoy your experience

We have a VBook here which can help determine what harness might be best for your dog: https://bit.ly/howtochooseaharnessvbook

We also have a belt blog here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/its-all-about-canicross-belts-how-to-choose-and-wear-them/

And a bit on lines here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/line-length-the-long-and-short-of-it/

There are many different programmes you can search for online and it is important to make sure that you are following one which is suitable for you and your dog. The following programmes have been created using information specifically for dogs who are building up to 5k with their humans.

The first plan is designed for those who have not done much exercise, or for a younger novice dog who you want to build up to running. If your dog is under one year of age please see our puppy training blog for more information on how to start a young dog running.

To go from a non-runner to a canicross runner should be a slow and steady process

The second plan is designed for those whose dogs (and humans) are already out and about walking at least three times a week for around 30-40 minutes at a time.

The programmes are designed for a 12 week commitment, with the flexibility of repeating steps if you need to.

PLAN 1 – THE COMPLETE BEGINNER

Each activity should be completed three times a week (preferably with a rest day in between so you can monitor for injury and allow suitable recovery)

Week Warm Up Steady Jog Walk Repeat Cool Down
1 – 3 times a week do the following (For all weeks do the below) 

 

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

90 seconds 3 minute 8 times Light stretching and rehydration.

Remember that this should be done gradually. Stretching should not cause discomfort for either party.

 

2 1 minute 2 minutes 9 times
3 2 minutes 2 minutes 9 times
4 3 minutes 2 minutes 6 times
5 4 minutes 2 minutes 6 times
6 5 minutes 1 minute 6 times
7 6 minutes 1 minute 5 times
8 7 minutes 1 minute 4 times
9 8 minutes 1 minute 4 times
10 9 minutes 1 minutes 3 times
11 9 minutes 30 seconds 3 times
12 Steady jog for 30 minutes, either 15 minutes with a 45 second break x2 or straight through if you are both comfortable.

 

PLAN 2 – FOR THOSE WHO ARE MORE ACTIVE AND WALK FOR AROUND 30-40 MINUTES THREE TIMES A WEEK.

This plan is based on distance, it requires a little more communication with your dog and can be measured using a GPS watch, or familiar landmarks. As with the previous plan, this would be more suited to trails and you should avoid running your dog on tarmac and concrete.

Week Warm Up Run / Jog Walk Repeat Cool Down
1 – 3 times a week do the following (For all weeks do the below)  

 

 

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

½ kilometre 3 minute 4 times  Light stretching and rehydration.

Remember that this should be done gradually. Stretching should not cause discomfort for either party.

2 ½ kilometre 2 minutes 6 times
3 ¾ kilometre 2 minutes 4 times
4 ¾ kilometre 2 minutes 6 times
5 1 kilometre 2 minutes 3 times
6 1 kilometre 1 minute 30 seconds 3 times
7 1 kilometre 2 minute 4 times
8 1 kilometre 1 minute 30 seconds 4 times
9 1 kilometre 2 minute 5 times
10 1 kilometre 1 minutes 30 seconds 5 times
11 1 kilometre 1 minute 5 times
12 Run 5 k – this can be broken into 2 sections with a short walk or slower jog.

 

Remember that these programmes are a way of building up your ability and stamina as a team. In every cool down it is important to keep moving and allow your body (and that of your dog) to cool down slowly. In this period you should stretch and monitor for any signs of discomfort. For your four legged friend you may need to help them to stretch a little too, ask your vet or physio the best way to do this if you are unsure, as they can show you simple ways to do this. It is also recommended that you check between your dog’s pads and if they have long hair, check for tangles, brambles and twigs. This cool down period is also a great way to monitor your dog for injury and cuts as well as any unwanted visitors from your trail run. It helps to build a stronger bond with your dog and make the whole process rewarding.

Once you become a canicrosser, you’ll wonder why it took you so long!

Once you have cooled down, the final stages include; a kit check to make sure there is no damage and everything is clean and dry. This is then followed by your photos and updates so you can share your successes with your friends!

We wish you the best of luck getting started and if you need any help do contact us at info@k9trailtime.com

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

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – T is for Time

Continuing with our K9 Trail Time A-Z of canicross the ‘T’ for us is ‘time’. Many people feel they don’t have time for a new sport or think they might have to spend hours running with their dog every day to really feel the benefit but this isn’t the case. One of the reasons we got into the sport was because of the time it saved us in getting all of the team out, exercised and set up for the day when compared with how long it took if the dogs were just walked normally. We found that just 20 – 30 mins of canicrossing was more beneficial and tiring than up to an hour of regular walking and therefore we actually saved time every day, whilst keeping everyones’ mental and physical needs met. Although it can be fun to build up to longer runs and spending more time outside, on a day to day basis this relatively small amount of time sacrificed was enough to leave us all feeling happy. Time is also important in how you decide to spend it with your dogs, we feel there’s nothing better than enjoying nature being out running the trails with your best friends and for these reasons we have chosen time as our ‘T’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross.

Time spent outdoors with your dog canicrossing is never time wasted as far as we’re concerned – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

Tegan’s story – saying goodbye

Whilst not directly related to the dog sports world, saying goodbye to your beloved companion is something we will all have to face at one time or another and I personally wanted to write this blog as a tribute to my princess who I lost last month and who was the reason I started K9 Trail Time.

Tegan was my first dog who I was solely responsible for, I got her after I had finally moved out of home and I will never forget the first time I saw her face. Tegan came from a local rescue kennels and when I saw her she was trying to scale an 8 foot stable wall in her excitement to get out, I should have known then that getting her would change my life.

Tegan the very first time I saw her in kennels

The early days were really hard and I struggled with her separation anxiety, which at times was soul destroying and I felt I was letting her down at every stage. I made so many mistakes and I distinctly remember trying to bike with her on a lead held in my hand which inevitably ended in disaster when she saw a cat and tried to run under my bike! We muddled on and she began to settle with me, taking part in long walks with my horse and managing her anxiety through exercise and training.

Tegan the first night I had her

After nearly a year I had the confidence to introduce another dog to the house and it was then that I realised as much as I exercised them, there was something missing in our lives and I needed to find something for us to do together. We tried both flyball and agility but Tegan was reactive towards other dogs in that situation, so group sessions were not for us and we needed to find something else to focus both Tegan and Judo’s minds on.

Tegan and Judo in the early days

We first discovered canicross through a friend who suggested to us that it was a great way for the dogs to exercise safely and in an environment where people understood and respected some dogs’ need for space. When Judo was old enough we started to train, running locally at first and then taking part in our first race in 2009. From that point on we were hooked! We were lucky to have some very experienced canicrossers who ran a local group and we began to join them on a weekly basis.

Our very first race with CaniX at Stanton Country Park, Swindon on Sun 18th Oct 09.

For the first time Tegan began to really settle in the house and after more than 2 years the destruction resulting from the separation anxiety began to diminish. That’s not to say she stopped this behaviour and right up until the weeks before I had to let her go, she was still ripping up beds and trying to escape out of cages if she felt that she should be with me rather than confined somewhere not taking part!

Tegan even ripped off and got out of a boarded up cat flap twice!

For nearly 10 years we had so many adventures with our canicross friends, we attempted the West Highland Way in Scotland, managing 60 miles in 3 days but having to pull out due to my injury after the 3rd day. It was during the training for this I came up with the basic plan for K9 Trail Time. We did successfully complete the Cotswold Way in 2016 with the 3 dogs I had at that point, each taking legs of the route so they were fresh each day for the next stage. Tegan was aged 9 and so I was especially proud of her completing the distances of up to 15 miles she managed.

One of our biggest achievements was completing the Cotswold Way, Tegan did the last stage with me

Tegan was diagnosed at around 4 years old with arthritis in her fore limb carpal joints, most likely a result of genetics rather than anything else but we managed this for the whole of her life with exercise, the occasional dose of medication and by carefully monitoring her for signs of stiffness or pain which she virtually never displayed. We strongly support Canine Arthritis Management for giving great advice and help for people whose dogs have been diagnosed with arthritis, as it certainly doesn’t mean the end of an active life as Tegan proved.

Tegan had an extremely active life, she took part in canicross, bikejor, scootering and even had a go on a rig

In 2017 during a routine health check the vet mentioned a heart murmur and said not to worry about it, many dogs have a heart murmur and live their whole lives happily with no ill effects. However in 2018 I started to suspect the murmur was having an effect and there were subtle signs of her beginning to slow down. We booked a specialist appointment with a cardiologist and had it confirmed with an echocardiogram that she was indeed suffering with Mitral Valve Disease which is degenerative but can be delayed with medication.

Tegan began to slow down a little in the last couple of years but she was always the first one up for an adventure

From that point on I knew we were on borrowed time, studies indicate that given the correct medication dogs with MMVD can live for years but I had already seen changes in her that made me think we might not get many years. The advice I was given and what I stuck to, was to keep her going and not limit her exercise, if she wanted to run then she should run! Tegan would often need us to wait for her but we always did and she continued to run with us right up until the weekend before she left us. Tegan even raced a short course with CaniX for a night run in January 2019 at 12 years old, she loved every minute and more importantly she was still being allowed to take part, she hated being left out of anything.

Tegan after her night race with me in January, she was always so happy to be out with me

I’m not going to forget that last week we had with her, it was busy as usual and we had an event down in Devon we attended. Tegan had been picky over her food but that wasn’t unusual for a dog who was nicknamed ‘princess’ for a reason. However she did seem more tired than normal and so she had a rest day after we got back. Those last two days were heartbreaking as she went downhill so quickly, she went to the vet as soon as I felt she wasn’t happy and she deteriorated there to the point where I knew she was beginning to suffer.

I knew my time with Tegan was limited but she was such a character right until the end

Tegan had developed an arterial fibrillation, which is a complication with the heart condition and her kidneys were failing but also during investigations the vets found a mass in her intestines and it was then I knew I was going to have to let her go. The decision itself when I looked at her wasn’t difficult as such, because I knew it was the kindest thing for her, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do after sharing nearly 12 years of my life with her.

Saying goodbye to Tegan is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do

Tegan was such a huge character and was always telling me what she thought, she woke me up every morning at home, she told me off if I hadn’t fed her by a certain time and nearly every group photo I asked her to pose for, she had to tell me to hurry up and let me know she was bored. Tegan was my inspiration for K9 Trail Time, to create a business providing kit and information for active dog owners so that they could enjoy the kind of life we had, to improve the kind of behaviours Tegan had displayed when she was bored and frustrated and giving dogs a channel for this.

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

Tegan’s legacy will live on in our hearts, in our home but also in K9 Trail Time, she is the main dog in the logo, the photo taken from one of our early years racing at an event in Scotland just before we attempted the West Highland Way. All we can do for our dogs is give them the best possible life with the time we have and know when to let them go when that time has come. It’s the worst pain ever but knowing you’ve had the best life you can together is some comfort.

Tegan will live on through K9 Trail Time, the company set up was inspired by her

‘Princess’ Tegan you were the dog that changed my life, until I find you again.

Run free princess

 

K9 Trail Time interview with an expert – Lisa Baker, Galen Myotherapist

As part of our ‘Interview with an expert’ series we spoke to a number of different therapists who have treated our dogs and the dogs of our friends. Lisa is not based in our area but we know Lisa through the canicross races we attend and many of our friends take their dogs to see Lisa for treatment of soft tissue injuries and maintenance of health in their sport dogs. We hope you enjoy finding out more about Galen Therapy from our interview.

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

I am a qualified and registered Galen Myotherapist, we specialise in targeted soft tissue manipulation, releasing compensatory chronic muscular issues built up from adaptive change due to muscular, orthopaedic or neurological conditions. We use a variety of soft tissue techniques as well as posture and exercise management. A Galen Myotherapist is one of very few canine massage therapists who gain an accredited qualification (Level 3 Diploma) we are required to complete a specific amount of CPD hours per year and belong to governing bodies for therapists including CAAM (Canine Association of Accredited Myotherapists) and IAAT (International Association of Animal Therapists) We work only by Veterinary Referral.

I became a Galen Therapist as I had experienced a worrying episode of my dog suffering with extreme muscle cramps after working him in the shooting field one day, I had no idea how to help him so I attended the Galen Therapy Centre workshop to learn techniques to help my own dog and found out about the Galen Anatomy and Physiology course which I did for two years before qualifying to join the Galen Diploma, I qualified after 3 years and was invited to join the Galen Therapy team. I have been qualified and practising for the last two and a half years and I love every second of it!

Galen Therapist Lisa had vast experience with dogs in general before completing her training

I have an extensive back ground in dogs in general, including being on the Weimaraner Breed Judging List at Open Show level, having passed numerous Kennel Club show judge assessments and exams. I also judge at Gundog Working Tests for HPRs (Hunt, Point, Retrievers) and have passed the Kennel Club Field Trial Judges Assessment and Exam. I have a keen interest in the biomechanics of dogs and know how important good conformation and muscle balance is for the dog to fulfil their job. I have recently taken up Canicross with my own dogs and know how important maintaining their form to be as injury free as possible is. I am keen to help others with the maintenance of their own sporting dogs and have built up a large client base of a variety of Gundogs, Agility and Canicross dogs. I also treat many older dogs suffering from different degenerative diseases including Osteo Arthritis, developing a treatment programme to work along side other modalities keeps the elderly dog maintained and as pain free as possible allowing them to lead a good quality of life.

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

I run my own business (Hampshire Canine Therapy) from home where I have a treatment room and work there from day to day, sometimes I do home visits but once a week I run a clinic in South East London at The Animal Therapy Room with 2 other Galen Myotherapists, where we treat a variety of clients including elderly animals, those who’ve suffered trauma and have become paralysed and those recovering from surgical procedures such as cruciate repair, hip replacements etc. It’s a long, full day in London but all very rewarding!

Lisa sees lot of clients at her clinic in Hampshire

Share with us your proudest moment so far

I don’t have one particular proud moment as I feel proud every time I receive a message from a client telling me how well their dog is doing since I saw them even if it’s when the dog was able to poo in one place! Every small change counts!! but my most proud moments are when I have prepared a dog for competition or a show and hear they have been placed and how well they have performed at that time. It makes all my hard work worth it!

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

1. Always ensure you warm your dog up and cool them down before and after walks, races or competitions. Cold muscles, tendon and ligaments injure much easier than warm ones! Gentle trotting on lead before allowing them off lead will help or you can attend a Galen Therapy Centre Workshop to learn specific techniques http://www.caninetherapy.co.uk

2. Learn to know the movement of your dog. It’s amazing how many owners don’t notice when their dog is looking uncomfortable and needs some help. If you get to know your dog’s movement, oddities can be picked up and dealt with quickly rather it becoming a chronic problem and taking longer to treat. Don’t wait for your dog to be broken! Find where your nearest Galen Myotherapist is and take your dog for an assessment, they can advise you on any muscular issues your dog may have and along with veterinary consent can treat your dog accordingly. Find your nearest therapist here http://www.caninetherapy.co.uk/contact-us/find-a-practitioner/

3. Ensure you have the correct harness for your dog, whether it be for running or general walking, the dog must have their shoulder completely free of obstruction to enable full length of stride. Wearing an incorrect fitting harness can cause muscular issues and lack of performance. K9 Trail Time can advise on harness fitting and what would suit your dog as all dogs are different and have different needs.

Lisa recommends you warm up your dog before any strenuous physical activity

What are your plans for the future?

As I have loved working with a variety of animals over the last two and a half years and seen many suffering with different conditions, I am now training as an Animal Physiotherapist and along with my Galen Diploma I will be able to offer the best possible care for rehabilitating animals back to health.

I will also be running a variety of muscle conditioning classes for groups of dogs including performance, arthritic and puppies.

How can our followers get in touch with you?

I can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @hampshirecanine or through my website http://www.hampshirecaninetherapy.co.uk

I am based in Portsmouth, Hampshire but serve neighbouring areas of West Sussex, Surrey and Dorset or if you live in the area of South East London / Kent I’m at The Animal Therapy Room (on Facebook) or email info@animaltherpayroom.co.uk

K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation

At K9 Trail Time we are always looking for ways to improve our dogs’ health and fitness and for many years now we have used hydrotherapy as a form of rehabilitation and exercise for the team. So who better to talk to than a small team of hydrotherapists working for the health and well being of dogs in their area about how hydrotherapy can benefit our canine companions.

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation is run by two couples who are passionate about dogs and have a range of qualifications and experience; each bringing their own skills to form a strong team of therapists offering hydrotherapy and related services.

Harriet: I have been a qualified hydrotherapist for 5 years, having completed my ABC Level 3 Certificate in Small Animal Hydrotherapy in 2013. My partner Richard and I were inspired to train in this area as we attended regular hydrotherapy with our Chocolate Labrador, Milo. I started my career by volunteering at a local centre and after a few months took the leap to full time hydrotherapist, also assisting the students on their level 3 certificate. We have 2 very active Labradors who use both the pool and water treadmill for fitness, so I am passionate about hydrotherapy not only for rehabilitation but as part of a healthy lifestyle for all dogs. Richard and I spent time working alongside each other and it was always a dream of ours to be able to open our own centre – which came true in November 2017.

Harriet with a client dog in the pool

Garth: My wife Joanna and I became interested in hydrotherapy when our adopted elderly Staffy, Eddie, needed treatment for elbow dysplasia. The amazing physical improvements that were achieved while we were taking him for hydrotherapy encouraged us both to pursue careers in small animal rehabilitation. I completed my ABC Level 3 Certificate in Small Animal Hydrotherapy during 2015 and since then I have also completed a Level 4 qualification in Canine Merishia Massage and Level 5 Diploma in Hydrotherapy for Small Animals. I am currently also completing the Canine Conditioning Academy Instructor Course which specialises in conditioning programmes to help build a dog’s total fitness. Both Jo and I have previously worked for a few other hydrotherapy centres; then in 2017 we had the opportunity to open our own and are now lucky to be able to work together in our dream job.

Garth with his own dog, Enzo

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes during an average day in a hydrotherapy centre, and a lot of time and thought is put into providing the best treatment possible for each dog that comes into our clinic.

Maintenance of the pool and water treadmill is imperative, and each day starts and finishes with testing the water to ensure it is properly sanitised. This is also monitored throughout the day, as having a safe environment is vital for the welfare of our clients. Each morning we also clean the pool and surrounding area ready for treatments, read through patient notes and discuss our cases for the coming day. We see a wide range of conditions in both the pool and treadmill, and every day is different. We treat post operative dogs, those with degenerative orthopaedic conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, dogs with neurological conditions, elderly dogs and pups, dogs who simply swim for general fitness, and athletic dogs coming to us for conditioning and to enhance their overall fitness for competition work. We are constantly assessing each dog from the moment they walk through our doors to the moment they leave. Talking to the owners is also a very important part of our role and we always strive to ensure that they are as happy as the dogs. We also keep detailed notes of each of our patients’ sessions so that we can monitor their progress, and re-evaluate treatment plans for all dogs regularly to ensure that they are receiving the most suitable treatment and getting the most out of their time with us. This means our evenings are often spent writing up notes and producing progress reports for clients’ vets. We all find that we never really ‘switch off’ from the job and are always thinking of ways we can improve things for a particular patient or what we can offer to our clients overall. Despite our busy schedule we always make sure we find time to take our own dogs for some fun and fitness time at the pool!

Garth and Jo with a client dog in the Hydrotherapy Treadmill

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Working in canine hydrotherapy is incredibly rewarding and we are proud of the things our patients achieve every day, however big or small – making it very difficult to single out one proudest moment as there are so many to choose from! One of our proudest moments would definitely be finally opening the doors of our business after many long days and months of work building our purpose built therapy centre from the ground up. Welcoming our first client was the most amazing feeling and the start of something very special. I think what makes us proudest, however, are the physical and mental improvements that we see in our patients. Some of our patients come to us with severe physical impairments and seeing a patient that initially can barely use one or more of their limbs begin to walk entirely on their own is amazing. They may also have been very depressed due to their condition and given up on life – hydrotherapy can give them back that spark they had lost and it is fantastic to see. Being able to share in the ups and downs and sheer pride of owners as they tell us about their dog’s rehab progress or hard earned competition success is very moving.

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

  1. When selecting a hydrotherapy centre to attend, ensure they are either NARCH or CHA registered; this means they should abide by certain minimum standards in the care and treatment of your dog. A good hydrotherapist should actively support and encourage your dog to get the best from them throughout the session, not just stand at one end of the pool throwing a toy for them to retrieve. Once you have located a good hydrotherapy centre, test their knowledge of the sports your dog competes in. Whilst it isn’t imperative that the therapist actively competes in the sports themselves (though this can definitely be an advantage), it is vital that they have a good understanding of the physical and mental requirements of each sport to enable them to formulate an effective conditioning programme.
  2. Don’t worry if your dog seems unsure about hydrotherapy initially. It can take several sessions for your dog to become entirely comfortable in a hydrotherapy clinic, and the hydrotherapist should introduce your dog to the pool at their own pace. Even ‘water babies’ who enjoy a swim in their local lake can find a therapy centre setting strange, especially a water treadmill!
  3. Ensure your dog gets a day off! Hydrotherapy conditioning works well alongside any other fitness training that you may be carrying out with your dogs; but dogs, just like humans, can suffer from burnout due to over exercising. It is therefore important that your dogs get regular opportunities to rest and recuperate, especially following a particularly hard hydrotherapy or training session, or after a day of competition. Enjoy some down time together.

The Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation centre hopes to go from strength to strength

What are your plans for the future?

We hope to continue growing Millhaven and to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of many more dogs from all walks of life, whilst also educating more people on the benefits of safe, controlled hydrotherapy. As a team we are constantly striving to increase our knowledge by completing further qualifications in the field of canine therapy to enable us to expand our services, and Richard is hoping to embark on the Level 5 Diploma in Canine Hydrotherapy next year. We are planning to provide group conditioning workshops at some local venues, and also hope to work with other therapists to offer a range of workshops for dog owners in complementary areas such as TTouch and therapeutic massage.

How can our followers get in touch with you?

We have a few ways for people to get in touch with us. Our email is info@millhavencaninerehab.com and our phone numbers are 01427 667755 / 07486 460550. We also welcome messages on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/millhavencaninerehab. People can also find out more about us at www.millhavencaninerehab.com.

K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Dr Jacqueline Boyd BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, PGCHE, CHES, FHEA, MRSB

At K9 Trail Time we use a holistic approach for the health of our active dogs and so we think EVERYTHING should be taken into consideration when you want to keep your dog in tip top condition. A big part of this is feeding and nutrition, so who better to have on our expert panel than a bona fide canine nutritional expert! We hope you find our interview with Dr Jacqueline Boyd interesting and it gives you ‘food’ for thought!

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

I’m currently (as of June this year!) the Nutritional Consultant for Skinner’s Pet Foods, although was a university lecturer in animal and equine science at Nottingham Trent University for the last 11 years. I graduated with my BSc (Hons) Zoology (Parasitology) in 1998 and moved into an MSc in Animal Nutrition, followed by a PhD in Genetics, specifically looking at aspects of development in hosts and parasites and how insulin signalling genes regulated this. Throughout my studies, I was deeply interested in how to manage animal health, welfare and performance and obviously nutrition is a key part of this. I’ve worked with pigs, dairy cattle, sheep, beef cattle in a practical and advisory nutrition role, as well as with laboratory animals in diet trials. My real interest is however in companion species, especially dogs and I have extensive practical experience in a range of canine disciplines, as well as my scientific background. I have cocker spaniels who keep me firmly grounded in reality and the practical applications of animal and nutrition science!

Jacqueline Boyd has years of nutrition experience with sporting dogs of all varieties

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

My job role is an exciting and varied one, albeit a new one! I undertake nutritional consults and provide advice and support to owners and customers – this is always fascinating and really interesting. Research, development, product review and keeping abreast of scientific developments is important too and I work with the marketing and customer support teams to disseminate knowledge and share information. This also involves attendance at key events we sponsor and have trade stands at. I’m also responsible for developing training material for our staff to ensure best and most current practice. So far, my job is varied, flexible and gives me an opportunity to use both my practical and theoretical knowledge to make the world a little better for dogs and their people

Share with us your proudest moment so far

From a career point of view, when I see the application of any information I have delivered/disseminated/taught or researched, that makes me proud but also massively humble! It’s great to hear positive reports from people based on advice given and also seeing students I have worked with move on to bigger things (many are now also working in nutrition!)

From a canine point of view, I’ve been lucky to have amazing dogs, but two key successes are – my first cocker spaniel, Megan got me to Crufts in 2007 as part of the Irish International Agility Pentathlon Team and one of my current spaniels, Molly won The Field magazine’s “Naughtiest Gundog” award last year!!

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

  1. You ALWAYS take home the best dog – never forget that your dog is your buddy as well as your competitive partner 😊
  2. Feed according to fact, not fad! – Canine nutrition is a hot topic but just because something works for one person/dog, does not mean that it will work for you. Science is continually helping us make better dietary choices and developments that impact on health and welfare and being aware of this is key. Lots of factors impact on dietary choices for our dogs!
  3. You cannot manage what you do not monitor – whether this is weight, body condition score, exercise tolerance, food intake etc. As a scientist, monitoring biological characteristics is key to managing them, especially for our canine athletes.

What are your plans for the future?

I feel hugely privileged to be able to share and indulge my knowledge and passions in my job. My overall aim is to continue to try and make the world a better place for dogs and their owners by improving health, welfare and the human-dog bond. I also want to continue working my cocker spaniels in agility and in the field as gundogs and work towards my personal ambition of a homebred, dual Field Trial and Agility champion! I might never make it, but I intend to have a lot of fun trying!

Jacqueline has had great success competing with her own dogs

How can our followers get in touch with you?

I can be contacted at Skinner’s on jackieboyd@skinners.co.uk or in person at many agility events and or Game fairs where Skinner’s has a stand.

K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert (or two) Dr Anne Carter & Emily Hall MRCVS Experts on Heatstroke in Dogs

There is so much information out there about how we should or shouldn’t look after our dogs in the hotter weather. Is it safe to run our dogs? Should we run our dogs? How should we exercise them? There are so many different questions and if you ask on any canicross page you will get a range of answers. As we at K9 Trail Time are trying to get the best information out there we went straight to Dr Anne Carter and Emily Hall MRCVS from Nottingham Trent University who have, over the past few years been looking at how dogs respond to heat, especially when running in harness. There is very little published research about dogs exercising in hotter or more humid conditions and so the work that Anne and Emily have been doing is invaluable to our dogs.

Dr Anne Carter herself knows about the risks associated with dogs in the heat as she regularly competes in canicross races with her own dogs

The first question everyone wants to know is how do we know if it is too hot? Does the temperature x humidity = 1000 actually mean anything?

As part of our research we calculated the “temperature x humidity” for 210 dogs at 10 canicross races, to see if the “do not run your dog if temperature (oC) x humidity (%) is greater than 1000” guideline was an accurate predictor of “safe” dog temperature. We found no correlation between the temperature x humidity value and dog temperature, or the number of dogs developing hyperthermia, or the number of dogs developing a temperature at risk of heatstroke, so would not recommend using this as a hard and fast rule.

If there is no set way to determine if it is too hot, how do we plan training our dogs over the summer so that they are fit enough for the racing season in September?

Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Black and male dogs are at higher risk, as well as those that are overweight, unfit, dehydrated or have a breathing disorder (including brachycephalic dogs). The important thing is to know your dog, some dogs cope better with the heat than others. Heatstroke is still possible in winter. Dogs can acclimatize but this can take around 6 weeks, something the British weather doesn’t often lend itself to. So if the temperature suddenly increases, the risk may be higher than after a steady increase. Try to exercise in the cooler parts of the day and use alternative keep fit options like swimming. Above all, get to know your dog! Crucially, does your dog stop or slow down when they get too hot (if so you’re lucky), or, will they run until they collapse. If your dog is the latter, you need to be extra careful.

Research has shown that black dogs suffer more in the heat that other coloured coated dogs

What is humidity and why does everyone make a big deal about it? How does it affect the dogs?

As with people, high humidity can make a temperature feel a lot warmer and a run feel a lot harder. It is used to calculate the ‘feels like’ temperature. In high humidity, it is harder for dogs to dissipate heat, making them more at risk of heatstroke. Both humans and dogs rely on some heat being lost through evaporation, in humans we have sweat to evaporate, dogs use panting. At any temperature, a high humidity will limit evaporation, limiting heat loss.

When running our dogs in harness over the warmer months are there things we can look out for to make sure that our dogs aren’t over heating?

Early signs your dog is getting hot include increased salivating, excessive panting that doesn’t stop after rest, and a large and darker tongue. This can progress on to staggering and loss of balance, eventually causing collapse. One early sign could be that your dog stops pulling, or starts to stumble and trip more frequently. Reducing speed can help and letting them take a dip to cool down throughout the run.

Allowing your dog plenty of breaks to cool off if running in higher temperatures or if you suspect they may be getting warm

 

What if my dog doesn’t really pull in harness, they just trot, and does that make a difference?

The less effort the dog puts in to a run, the lower the temperature of the dog-on average. There is still a risk of heatstroke, particularly in very hot weather, but we did find slower speeds didn’t increase body temperature as much as fast speeds.

 

Can I run my dog in their cooling coat? It helps them keep cool at home…

The problem with cooling coats is they can affect the dog’s natural cooling mechanism. The only study to look at cooling coats put them on greyhounds after a sprint race. Those in cooling coats had a higher body temperature than those without. There is no current evidence investigating the use of cooling coats during exercise, so we can’t comment on this, but if it’s hot enough that you think you might need a cooling coat, then perhaps a walk in the shade or a dip in the river might be a better option.

If that isn’t a good idea then how do I cool my dog down after a run? What if my dog doesn’t like getting in water?

After a run, active cooling is a good idea. Standing in or lying down in water, splashing luke warm water under their belly. Avoid using cold or iced water or submerging them in it as this can restrict blood vessels in the body and increase the risk of shock. If they don’t like water, they can be walked round or rested in the shade to cool them off, air movement is also very effective so pick a windy spot, or use the car air conditioning or a fan if you’re worried.

Sometimes our dogs put on weight over the summer as they do less, does this affect how they cope in warmer temperatures?

Increased weight can increase a dog’s ability to cope with the heat. It your dog is a little less svelte than usual, you will need to be more cautious when exercising in warmer weather. Reducing food intake relative to exercise can help keep the pounds off through the summer

Many factors affect a dogs’ ability to cool itself but keeping them fit and a healthy weight will help

Our dogs do agility and other sports over the summer and always seem fine; should we be watching for anything whilst competing in other sports or is it just harness sports?

Heatstroke is a risk for all dogs at any time but particularly when exercising in warm weather. Although sports such as agility are for much shorter periods of time, ambient temperatures are often higher so the risk of heatstroke is just as real.

If you are worried that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, active cooling is key. The car air con can be very useful, but the best chance of survival is to get them to the vets as quickly as possible.

 

So it sounds like there are still quite a few unanswered questions regarding heatstroke in exercising dogs, do you have any plans for more research?

We have just finished surveying owners of sports dogs about methods of cooling used, so expect to hear the results of that study in the hopefully not too distant future! We are also currently researching cooling after canicross races, measuring the dog’s temperature for up to 20 minutes after a race to see what impacts how quickly they cool, this study is still on going so you’ll have to wait a little longer for the results of that one.

Emily Hall MRCVS who has devoted a huge amount of time to this research to help dog owners recognise the signs of heatstroke and prevent unnecessary cases of it

Our next big research project is looking at activity levels in all types of dogs, any age, any breed and any health status, looking at how much exercise dogs are getting in general, but also how extreme weather impacts their ability to exercise.

The results of all our studies can be found on our blog: https://hotdogscanineheatstroke.wordpress.com/