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.

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 – 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!

Product Feature – The Ruffwear Front Range Harness

For this product feature we asked one of our K9 Trail Time Members to test and review the Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness for us, as it’s a tough job doing all the testing ourselves! Here’s what Jayne Caudy had to say about the latest edition to our active dog harness range…

‘Merlin has been road testing the Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness. Merlin had tried many harnesses, but due to his disability and his posture, we have struggled to find a suitable harness for Merlin and one he feels comfortable in. Well the search is over! This is the harness for Merlin and also is an amazing versatile harness for walking and exploring the outdoors.

Merlin tested the Ruffwear Front Range Harness in Orange Poppy size L/XL

 

The harness is fully adjustable to get the perfect fit to ensure it stays securely in place and is a comfy fit while exploring and sniffing around the forest. Securing the fit from each angle, reduces risk of the harness slipping off over the head or backing out. Usually while walking, Merlin’s harness moves and slips out of place. Have yet to experience this with the Ruffwear Harness. Padding on the chest and back piece give the harness a comfy fit for the dog.

Merlin in the woods in his new Ruffwear Front Range Harness

The harness is quick and easy to put on when going out the door on an adventure. Merlin can be tricky when fitting a harness, however, this one goes over the head and two clips to secure around the chest. Even quick to fit on my wiggly young husky when she’s super keen to go out.
A feature of the harness is a place to secure an ID tag. Perfect for the dog who likes to go over lead or encase they go AWOL while on a walk.
Reflective edging for those night time walks. Sleek and stylish design which looks good. There a few choice of colours to choose from. Merlin is modelling orange as it’s his favourite colour.
Overall we give this harness 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Super pleased with it and Merlin seems happy and gives him confidence to explore. I plan to purchase another harness for youngest husky for our walks.’
So as you can see Jayne found the harness perfect for her sled dog to go for walks, offering adjustability, control and comfort. We have also been testing out the harness, same colour but smaller size for Yogi and have been impressed too

Yogi has also been getting on well with his Front Range Harness in Orange

If you’d like to know more about this harness or to purchase, please visit our website using the link below:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/ruffwear-frontrange-harness.html

 

Dog walking essentials, how to have the best walks with your dogs

With four dogs here at K9 Trail Time we have plenty of experience of dog walking, as well as the canicross and bikejoring we train for. Over the years we have put together a kit list of our dog walking essentials along with our top tips for enjoying your walks.

Firstly we would always recommend using a harness if your dog is going to be on a lead at any point during your walk. This is not just because it gives you more control over your dog but also because any strain on your dogs’ sensitive neck area can cause muscular issues in the dog without you even realising and in extreme cases has been linked to eye problems in dogs where pressure has been exerted on the neck over prolonged periods of time. We have a huge range of harnesses in our Dog Walking section here:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/other-activities/walking.html?p=1

 

A good fitting walking harness is a must for easy dog walking

Keeping your dog on a lead is sometimes a necessity, around roads, livestock and other dogs who might be nervous are just some of the examples when you will want your dog under more control and a harness is a great way to do this without causing your dog any harm, whilst still allowing them a bit of freedom to get their head down and sniff to their hearts’ content too.

Walking with a harness allows you to retain control over your dog whilst also allowing them freedom to sniff and explore their environment.

The next thing we would suggest is a walking belt for you. Belts are designed to give you your hands free when walking and this comes in handy not only with multiple dogs but even for one dog if you have to stop and pick up dog poop or need to answer a phone call. We have a large range of belts on our website too and many of them have pockets and / or loops to hang useful items from such as poo bags or a water bowl for your dog. If you need any help choosing a belt or a harness then we are always happy to help find something that fits your requirements.

A good walking belt can make life so much easier when on a dog walk, particularly with multiple dogs

The addition of a bungee lead on its’ own can make a huge difference to your dog walks, having a bit of ‘bounce’ in the line means there is less strain on you and your dog if they suddenly pull after something and reduces your chances of injury. We love the Howling Dog Alaska Line for strong pulling dogs:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/other-activities/walking/howling-dog-line.html

and the new Non-stop Touring Lines are also fantastic for dog walking:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-touring-lead.html

Adding a bungee line to your dog walking set up can make a huge difference

Bungee lines do mean your dog can get a bit further away from you than with a regular lead, so do be mindful of that when approaching things which you may not want your dog to reach.

We also like to take a handful of treats out with us on every dog walk, we may not necessarily use any of them but the dogs know I have them and so if I need to recall them from something exciting, they are more willing to come back if they know I have something decent to offer them in return! Many dog treats are full of ingredients that act in the same way as sugar and additives do on kids, so we are very careful about what we use and only have high quality meat treats in our cupboards. We have just started to stock a range we have been using for a while, so if you’re looking for good quality dog treats we offer a selection here:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/jrpp-training-treats.html

Good quality training treats are a must for dog walking!

Taking some treats on a dog walk is also a great way to interact positively with your dog, reinforcing your recall and encouraging calm behaviour. It can be very easy to get lost in your own thoughts when out with your dog but dog walking should be fun and rewarding for you both, so practice basic training on walks and use the time to build on that bond you have rather than seeing it as a chore.

Dog walking should be fun and rewarding for all concerned!

Dog walking is a big part of our weekly routine in addition to any dog sport training we do because walking allows your dog to use its’ nose which is highly sensitive and a huge part of the way your dog interprets the world around it. So we make sure the team get a chance to use their noses every day to explore new places. With dog walking being such a big part of our lives, we use the tools listed above to make our walks the best they can be and we hope by sharing these we can help make your dog walks great for you and your dog too.

Happy Trails!

 

Harness fit in a bit more depth

Here at K9 Trail Time we are constantly researching and learning more about dog anatomy and physiology to help us understand the impact working a dog in harness will have on the natural movement of the dog. Part of this study has involved reading the latest research into dog movement undertaken by Dr Martin Fischer in the Jena study and his most recent work which has yet to be published. The findings have been summarised nicely here:

https://www.dogsymposium.nl/professor-dr-martin-fischer/

You might be thinking ‘what has this got to do with me and my dog?’ but we believe that to understand the dogs’ natural motion helps us to understand why a harness may or may not work for your dog based on it’s skeletal structure and how it was designed to move.

The first thing to say is that dogs are designed to move most efficiently in a ‘trotting’ gait and so if your dog is a trotter when they are pulling, they are using their energy efficiently and moving minimally. If your dog is ‘bounding’ when pulling in harness, either in a canter or a gallop (more likely at higher speeds when attached to a bike or scooter but if you run fast enough then canicross too) then your dog is exerting more effort than the efficient trot pace and it is even more important you have the correct fitting harness to ensure they have the freedom of movement necessary so as not to restrict them in any way.

The single biggest problem we see is harnesses which are too big on the dog and so are inadvertently restricting shoulder movement because the neck of the harness is encroaching on the shoulder when the dog moves. It is so important the neck on your sport harness is nice and snug to avoid this restriction but also to avoid your harness slipping up into the armpit of your dog when they might pull to one side and this again then restricts shoulder movement.

Below are 4 pictures of one of the K9 Trail Time dogs, Yogi, in 4 different sizes of the Non-stop Freemotion harness and in all honestly to the untrained eye it might be hard to tell which fits and which doesn’t. From top to bottom Yogi is wearing the size 4 Yellow flash (too small) size 5 Red flash (perfect fit) size 6 Blue flash (too big) and size 7 White flash (far too big).

Now looking at these picture you might think the size 6 is the one which fits Yogi best and we’d agree that based purely on the photos, it does perhaps look like it is sitting in the best place but if you look closely the top of the shoulder is slightly restricted and when slotting your hand in the neck (you can’t tell that from the photo) there is a huge amount of room for the harness to slide around on his neck. The size 4 is obviously too small being too close behind his front legs and the angle is wrong on his ribs. The size 7 is obviously too big, coming too far back on his body and when he pulls into it, the straps on his ribs will come behind the last ribs and pull up into his soft stomach region – not good!

At this point it is also worth saying you cannot always tell correct harness fit from a photo. Yogi is an easier candidate to judge from a photo because he lacks thick fur but even then you can only tell the neck on the size 6 Freemotion was too loose by feeling the gap when it is pulled tight. We see a lot of people asking for advice on social media and lots of people who comment haven’t got the first idea what they are even looking for, let alone have the experience to make a critical evaluation of harness fit based on a couple of photos!

Our advice would be if you’re unsure about your dogs’ harness fit get along to see someone who is experienced with correct harness fit in person and let them have a feel of the harness on your dog and observe how they move in it, this is by far the best way to get proper advice on harness fit. By asking people on social media you risk getting bad advice and ending up with something which could potentially cause your dog damage in the long term.

Another thing to look out for is that your harness is not too long. This doesn’t happen so often with the shorter harnesses although you do have to ensure the harness is not coming back behind the last ribs and pulling up into the stomach area. Again I have used pictures of Yogi below to demonstrate this (because he lacks the thick fur of my others!).

In the first photo the Zero DC Short is too big and is sitting right on the end of his rib cage. When Yogi pulls forward properly in this harness it will come further back still from where it is sitting in the photo and pull up behind his ribs into his stomach. In the second photo the Zero DC Short is much more snugly fitting on his neck and sits better against his ribs, you can still see he has room behind his front legs for movement but because of his (relatively) deep chest compared to his length the harness is sitting further forward on him than it would ideally.

The below photo of Judo shows the Zero DC Short harness as an ideal fit on him and as you can see it sits much further back from the front legs than on Yogi, this is because Judo hasn’t got the deep chest that Yogi has but this harness is still fitting him correctly and not restricting his shoulder by being too big or by coming too far along the ribs and likely to pull into the stomach.

It is most important with the longer harnesses that they are not too long as this can really have an impact on the way your dog moves. With a harness such as an X-Back or even the Zero DC Long you need to be very careful that when the harness is pulled into that it doesn’t extend back beyond the base of the tail. This may mean that when the harness is not being pulled into it looks as if it may be too short. I think this is demonstrated perfectly in the photo below.

Donnie is wearing the Zero DC Cross harness and it’s the correct size for him, however when it’s not being pulled it seems to sit quite far up his back. You can’t really see (the problem with a hairy dog) but it’s sitting perfectly on his neck and has enough clearance behind his front legs so that it will not be restricting front shoulder movement in any way.

You can see from the photo of the harness being pulled that it’s now sitting further back on his body and along the ribs in the correct way. The black webbing straps (not the cord) come to the base of his tail when the harness is pulled and will come back even a fraction more if he were to pull strongly into it, so it is in the correct place for a well fitted x-back harness.

Below is a photo of Donnie in an x-back harness which he used to wear (when he was heavier) and you can see what a harness looks like if it is too long. The length of the side straps mean it’s coming right back onto his hips when it is pulled and this will be even worse when he pulls forward into the harness. The neck on this harness is actually still ok and not causing any restriction to his shoulder but that extra length means the harness will be putting pressure on his hips if he bounds forwards and really pulls into this harness which is not great for his natural movement and could cause him to get sore spots in this area with repeated use.

So hopefully this blog and these photos give you a bit more of an insight into how your dogs’ harness should fit on your dog. We offer a free harness consultation service for our customers and you can either come and see us in person at one of our trade stands or pop up shops listed here:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/K9TrailTime/events

or we do offer an online service for those who can’t make an event. If you are interested then e-mail us at info@k9trailtime.com after answering the questions here:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/information/harness-consultation-questions

If you can get to an event then that is always the best way to get a harness fitted for your dog, however we have successfully fitted thousands of happy, active, dogs with harnesses based on information taken online. So why not get in touch and see what might work best for your dog for the sport you take part in.

Happy trails!

Hitting the trails – Hiking with your dog (Harnesses)

During the summer months when it’s warmer we tend to do more walking with the dogs and take the opportunity to enjoy a slower pace when we are out and about. We still always use a harness on the dogs, even for our walks, because of the pressure on the neck that using a collar and lead exerts if your dog pulls at all. We also use a hands free system with a walking belt and bungee lead, even if some of the dogs are off lead most of the time, they have a line attached to a belt just in case they need to be under control if we come across livestock or need to cross a road.

We always use harnesses for dog walking but these are different to the ones we use for canicrossing

All of the harnesses we use for walking are also suitable for canicross but because they are shorter in style, allow you the flexibility to let your dog off lead safely in them, as there is less to get caught in undergrowth.

Our favourite hiking harness is the Non-stop Line Harness because it’s padded throughout with strong buckles and webbing straps either side which offer plenty of adjustment to ensure a snug fit on your dogs’ body. The Non-stop Harness was originally designed for tracking and features a concealed webbing loop on the underside of the harness too. A snug fit on body and neck means the harness doesn’t move on your dogs’ back if they are off to one side or the other sniffing. This also makes it a good canicross harness for dogs who drop back and drop to the side but it’s perfect for our strong pullers when walking:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/non-stop-line-harness-2019.html

 

The Non-stop Line Harness is one of our favourites for walking / hiking

We also love the Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness because it too offers a great option for both canicross and walking. It has one strong plastic clip and adjustable webbing on the chest and is padded through the neck and chest section to offer comfort for your dog. The Distance harness offers two points for you to attach a line to, the ring on the back of the harness and a cord from the ring which sits further down the dogs’ back, this gives you the choice of how much freedom you give your dog on the walk. The ring offers closer control, the cord more freedom:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/howling-dog-distance-harness.html

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness has two points of line attachment

Another great multi purpose harness is the Neewa Adjustable Running Harness because it is padded through the neck and chest and as well as being adjustable on the chest, it is the only harness we stock which is also adjustable on the neck. The Neewa Running Harness is again great for walking your dog in because of the adjustment, ensuring a snug fit and that the harness doesn’t move around over your dogs’ back if you’re just wandering along and stopping for little breaks:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/neewa-running-harness.html

The Neewa Running harness being adjustable on the neck and chest was the perfect harness to get Yogi used to walking in one.

The Zero DC Short harness is another one than can be used for walking and of all the harnesses we sell is the most popular for canicross, dog walking and a range of other activities such as swimming and agility. The Zero DC Short, in spite of it’s name, sits the longest down the back of the harnesses we’ve suggested for walking. This means it does move a little more over the dogs’ back but this doesn’t cause any issues. We use these harnesses a lot for swimming as they are so lightweight and dry quickly:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/euro-short-zero-dc-sports-harness.html

The Zero DC Short harness

All of the harnesses we use for walking / hiking are lightweight, dry quickly if they get wet and can be used for canicross as well as off lead work such as agility and flyball.

So if you’re thinking of doing more walking with your dog, your dog pulls and / or you would like to be hands free for a more comfortable experience, you can look into getting your dog a hiking harness and belt set up with us to enjoy hitting the trails with your four legged friend.

Make your walks more enjoyable by getting yourself a proper walking / hiking set up

For a personalised harness consultation please e-mail info@k9trailtime.com

Happy Trails!

The Puppy Diary – Training for the future (9 – 12 months)

So we’ve now reached the stage where our first race is not too far away, we’ve thought about a ‘proper’ harness and also been doing a little bit more in terms of actual canicross training for Yogi, the K9 Trail Time pup. It is still important to remember that dogs will continue growing right up to and even beyond 12 months old and essentially even at a year old, they are still youngsters who need to be trained gently, with consideration for their joints and their impressionable minds.

At 9 months old, it’s still important to keep things low key in training as your dog will still be growing and learning about life

Yogi was comfortable with his shorter harness from a very young age but looking at his movement and his shape, it was fairly obvious that he would be better suited to running in a longer style. Yogi is a natural puller and also when free running really ‘bounds’, he has a very long stride length and so whilst a short harness doesn’t restrict his running in any way, a longer harness will be better for him long term to capture the ‘pull’ of his movement. With this in mind at around 10 months we started to try on the longer harnesses to try and gauge what might suit him best, he was an unwilling model and didn’t seem to like the longer harnesses over his back, so we persevered and just had a few fitting sessions for him to get used to the longer style, just whilst sitting around.

Yogi tried on longer harnesses at around 10 months but we didn’t settle on one until just after he was 11 months old.

We are lucky in that we have the harnesses to try but if you can borrow some kit for your dog and just get them used to having different styles and lengths on your dog, this is a great way to see what looks good and get them walking around in a proper running harness. Many dogs won’t need a longer harness but because Yogi is hound shaped and an athletic build, there was never any doubt in my mind he would be in a longer harness eventually. We didn’t actually start running him in one until he was about 11 months old.

Yogi out on a training run in his longer harness, the Non-stop Freemotion.

So with the harness selection covered we were also doing lots of other little bits of training to get Yogi used to life running in harness. We have not covered any great distances in this time and it is important to build up any distance slowly to encourage your dog to want to do more. If you exhaust your pup by taking them straight out to do 3 miles in harness, you might find they make a negative association with the process. It is far better to stick to short runs and leave them wanting to do more so they are excited when the harness comes out. You also need to ensure they do not overwork, like humans, dogs will feel aches and tiredness in muscles and joints, so be very mindful of this when training.

The other thing we have done to make training fun is to vary what we do every day. Yogi has done runs in woods, through fields, through water, up hills, through ankle deep mud and it’s all good experience for him to learn nothing is scary and that we might encounter any type of surface during a run or race too.

 

Yogi has been training through,  mud, water, snow, fields, woodland and on as many different surfaces as we can find, grass, track and even very short sections on tarmac to ensure he will not be phased by anything we might come across

 

So with all this in place Yogi shouldn’t be intimidated by anything he might find on the course at a race but what about other dogs? We’ve done a lot of socialisation with Yogi to make sure he’s friendly and interacts well with other dogs but we’ve also had times where he’s had to ignore other dogs and focus on the job in hand. Being honest he’s very interested in saying ‘hello’ to other dogs when he’s been out but I’ve actively discouraged this while he’s working in harness because this isn’t acceptable behaviour during a race and it’s not something I want to be dealing with when I eventually put him on the bike! We’ve met up and run with friends a few times who have dogs that Yogi only sees from time to time and he has been encouraged to ignore them whilst running but he’s been allowed to play with them when he’s not in a ‘working’ situation and this seems to be working well.

Yogi has been learning that he has a ‘job’ to do in harness and to focus on running, not other dogs when we’re out training

When training a young dog it is always helpful to have other experienced dogs around from them to learn from and this is what we have found works best. That’s not so helpful if this is your only dog but with so many canicross groups around now to meet up with, it shouldn’t be a problem to find friends with dogs who are very focused that you can meet up with to join for a social run. I have found that Yogi is now confident running on his own while my other dogs are off lead and I also recently took him on a night run with some other dogs he didn’t know and he behaved very well, passing without trying to interfere with another dog and taking the lead when he needed to, so he has learnt to run out front and not to chase.

Yogi did very well on a recent night run but the focus required also tired him out!

When training a dog at this age it’s also important to consider that this type of focus will be tiring and whenever I’ve asked Yogi to really think about what he’s doing, he has been tired afterwards, so do give your young dog plenty of rest time too. You’ve hopefully got a long and happy running career with your pup so there’s no need to rush things or cram loads of training in right now, they can carry on learning ‘on the job’ as long as the basics are in place and you have a happy and confident dog who enjoys their running.

To summarise we recommend:

Take training very steady and wait until your dog is both physically and mentally developed before you ask them to run in harness with you.

Make sure you have done the basics, socialisation and voice commands are two key things that are crucial to have your pup happy and focused.

Don’t ever push your dog beyond their capability or get cross with them if they’re not doing something you want, go back to basics and start again if you find you have issues.

Meet up with others and let your dog learn from experienced canicrossers and their dogs, sharing knowledge, experience and tips can make a big difference to how you get started.

We hope that this (very brief) guide has been of interest and we look forward to seeing how Yogi (and all the other pups we know who are coming into the dog sports) get on in the coming year as they become old enough and experienced enough to take part in races.

Happy trails everyone!