We’re still working our way through the A-Z of Canicross and so now we’re at ‘S’ we can’t ignore the fact that canicross is a recognised sport, with it’s own races and even different championship series taking place all over the UK, Europe and the world. Canicross was also recently added to the Kennel Club listed activities, although we would suggest going to one of the more experienced clubs and organisations who have actually been involved in the sport for over 10 years if you’re looking for up to date information and advice. One such organisation is CaniX http://www.canix.co.uk who set up the first race series specifically for canicross in the UK and are still holding events all over the country today. Another of the largest clubs who organise races and who offer training, advice, and kit to try, is the Canicross Midlands group http://www.canicrossmidlands.co.uk/. Although canicross is now known as a sport, CaniX and Canicross Midlands have always encouraged people to run with their own pets and to just enjoy the bond you can create with your dog through running together. As the sport has developed many people are beginning to take the racing side of canicross more seriously and have invested in purpose bred dogs (mainly originating in Europe) to compete in higher level races such as those organised by the BSSF (British Sleddog Sport Federation) and the IFSS (International Federation for Sleddog Sports). However, whilst these dogs are beautiful athletes, there is no need for you to change from your pet dog to enjoy canicrossing with your four legged friend and we would suggest that the most fun you can have is in seeing your dog simply enjoying activity with you, keeping you both fit and healthy. Our slogan is after all, active dogs are happy dogs, and so for ‘S’ in our A-Z of Canicross we have chosen to highlight the fact that canicross is a sport that anyone with a dog can enjoy!
Here at K9 Trail Time we stock such a wide variety of canicross equipment now, that there is often a choice of colour in the harness you can choose for your dog and sometimes even in the type of belt for yourself. Whilst choice is a great thing, sometimes having such a wide range can make choosing the right equipment more difficult.
For example the Zero DC harnesses come in 132 different size and colour combinations as standard and you can custom order any combination of colours and sizes at an additional cost. This is great if one of the Zero DC harnesses is the best fit, shape and style for your dog, however that might not be the case. We’ve found that many dogs suit a different style of harness based on their individual body shape, style of running and what combination of activities the harness will be used for.
The Dragrattan harnesses only come in one colour of webbing which is red with a silver / grey or yellow stripe through it and though this doesn’t appeal to everyone, we have found these harnesses to be outstanding on some dogs, allowing them freedom of movement, good padding through the chest and a great fit on the neck.
Another harness which only comes in black and the colour of the top strap indicates sizing only, is the Non-stop Freemotion. The Freemotion is undoubtedly one of the best dog sports harnesses you can buy, but people seem to be put off sometimes by the fact it is black and apparently this is ‘boring’. Now we can understand why people would want to choose bright colours and have ‘team’ colours for clubs and individuals, however when it comes to choosing the correct harness for your dog, you have to be guided by what works best for your dog.
Similar colour choice is available for belts, as some of the waistbelts for people have coloured patches on them but others are just in plain black. The belts which come in different colours might not be the ones which suits your body shape and requirements best, you ideally need to try each one on to see how it works and where the pull comes from to make a judgement on if it will be the most comfortable for you.
We have found that by talking to people about what their requirements are and finding out what is most important to them, we can help them decide for themselves which belt will be the best option and therefore save a lot of wasted time and money trying out many options before finding the right one.
The purpose of this blog is not to put anyone off buying any of the colourful harnesses or belts but just to encourage you to look beyond the colours when making your choices. We personally love to colour co-ordinate and ideally we like everything in red and black (with a hint of white!). However we also recognise that the best fit for dogs and people might be the plain old ‘boring’ black option or the out of colour scheme webbing and what’s important to us is that you get the best and most comfortable kit for you and your dog.
If you need any help choosing your equipment, we’ve used everything in the range we stock extensively and so can advise you exactly how it works and should fit, so we can give you our honest opinion based on experience. Feel free to e-mail: email@example.com for your free consultation with regards to any of the dog sports equipment we stock.
Here at K9 Trail Time we believe that responsible dog owners will seek to give their animals the best possible care to keep them fit, healthy and happy. This includes daily and varied exercise, training, a good diet and an adequate level of veterinary care.
Over the last few years though, as dog sport has become more competitive, leading canine athletes have been receiving enhanced treatment to keep them performing at their very best. Our friend Jenny Lee of Joggy Doggy Limited decided to investigate how an enhanced care regime of five simple steps might secure you a competitive advantage come racing season and here is what she discovered:
- Hydrotherapy – this low impact, non-weight bearing therapy is an excellent and safe way for performance dogs to improve muscle strength and stamina. As Jak Dyson of Snowy’s Canine Therapy Centre, Smarden explains:
‘A 5 minute swim is equivalent to a 5 mile run for a dog with water based exercising using 30% more oxygen than land based exercising. The pressure on the dog’s chest under the water means that every breath requires more effort especially when inhaling which strengthen the whole respiratory system. The resistance of the limbs as they move through the water also builds muscle and increases range of movement. In addition the heart gets to work hard keeping all the muscles supplied with nutrients that they need’.
There are further advantages to hydrotherapy as the warm water used can increase circulation, decrease stress, increase metabolic function and enhance blood flow. Ellie Camacho used a hydrotherapy pool and a water treadmill to help rehabilitate her rescue dog Gruff and build muscle and fitness for scootering. Here he is in action at Splash Paws Hydrotherapy:
- Physical therapy – this could be in the form of the more traditional Canine Massage, Canine Physiotherapy and Canine Chiropractic Therapy or the newer therapies of Canine Myotherapy and Canine Bowen Therapy
Maddy Bowen from The School of Canine Bowen Therapy has this to say about Bowen Therapy:
‘The potential of Canine Bowen therapy is seemingly endless but then we are looking at the dog in an holistic way. That simply means we treat the whole dog, not just the area presenting with an issue, but we also look at other factors that could be playing a part in a dog’s health – this could include diet, exercise, training, where the dog sleeps, does it get enough sleep etc…. As we work on the soft tissue, muscle, tendon, ligament and most importantly fascia, we can affect many systems in the body – circulatory, lymphatic, neurological, endocrine, limbic, this helps to explain how far reaching Bowen can be!’
If you want to know more about Canine Bowen Therapy then please visit Maddy’s website: http://www.madaboutbowen.com
Cath Nicoll from Dogs Body Canine Massage has many sporting dogs on her books and has seen her clients’ dogs benefit from Canine Massage therapy. Cath also sponsors athlete Ben Robinsons’ dog with regular massages, she says this about her work:
‘For muscle and joint problems, this strong manipulative type of massage brings great results and relief while helping to resolve many sub-clinical, everyday mobility issues you may see with your dog. This unique type of massage for dogs relies on extensive knowledge of canine anatomy & physiology, the movement of tissue over tissue, connective tissue release and the remobilisation of muscle to help break down scar tissue and promote better range of motion in the dogs joints. If your dog is injured, you can expect to see an improvement within 1-3 sessions.
Maintenance massages are recommended for any dog to spot any issues before they become a problem. A young, fit, active dog can benefit from massage 2-3 times a year.’
For more information on Canine Massage and to find your local therapist visit: www.k9-massage.co.uk
- Core Stability Training – good canine core stability is important in sport performance dogs as it can help posture, balance and shape whilst also supporting the back. It is important though to check that the dog is injury free with good posture and correct loading as wobble boards and other core strength equipment could overload already weakened muscles if there is an underlying problem. Elaine Sherwin is a top level canicross athlete and uses core stability exercises combined with checks from a chiropractor to ensure correct alignment. Here is Elaine’s dog Uma demonstrating her wobble board skills:
- Free Running Training – dogs naturally love to run and running free and unrestricted gives them the chance to really stretch out and gallop. Once they exceed a certain level of exertion they produce endorphins, in higher quantities than humans, rendering them relaxed and happy. The level of stimulation achieved rewards the dog for their effort and encourages them to love their speed work. Vickie Pullin of Arctic Quest trains her sled dogs using a Quad Bike either in front or behind, encouraging them to do short burst of speed intervals to really optimise their fitness levels.
Vickie helps to train people with their own dogs as part of her job and one to one sessions can be booked with her through the contact form on her website: http://www.arcticquest.co.uk/contact.html
- Specialised Diets for Sport Performance Dogs – what to feed your dog has been a contentious subject in recent years. It is encouraging though that increasingly owners are realising that the ingredient list printed on the packet is more important than the branding and images. It is quite sobering still to read the list of ingredients for some of the most expensive and well regarded brands! While dogs have different dietary requirements to their human partners their need for a high quality food is the same. We would not expect top level human athletes to consume a diet of low quality processed food and still have the endurance, stamina and energy to compete under duress in top level competition so don’t expect that of your racing dog!
For many the chosen diet for their sports dogs is a raw food diet, high in protein and dietary fat but with less emphasis on grains and other carbohydrates. In addition to the core diet many top level competitors also feed their dogs joint supplements to support the skeletal system and connective tissue from the additional load placed upon them from regular racing. This is increasingly important in older dogs who are likely to suffer more ‘wear and tear’.
New to the market in the UK are the FASTDOG performance dog products which are designed specifically to support the canine athlete recover from exertion and we are seeing many dogs benefit from the increased interest and knowledge surrounding supplementation of the sport dogs’ diet. For more information on the FASTDOG products see the below link:
While there is no ‘magic formula’ to success in dog sport most would agree that for our dogs that give 100%, they deserve the best level of care that we can give within our own time and financial constraints. It might be worth trying out a few of the steps above just to see what happens!
Thanks to Jenny for looking at how all the above can keep your sport dog in tip top condition.
Jenny Lee is lead coach at Joggy Doggy Limited (www.joggydoggy.co.uk), a canine exercise and personal training business with branches across the UK. For more information on care of your sports performance dog please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
K9 Trail Time is also involved in setting up a centre for information, advice, training, therapy and equipment for sports dogs. One thing not covered in the 5 points above is how important getting the right equipment for yourself and your dog can be for your performance. If you’re not comfortable in your kit, then how can you perform to the best of your ability?
We will be holding various dog sport and therapy workshops, open evenings for kit consultations and canine first responder courses at this special venue beginning this month, so please do check out The Mutt Hut Central on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mutthutcentral/ or visit our website for details: http://www.mutthutcentral.co.uk/
Now you could be forgiven for thinking that the ‘R’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross would be for ‘run’ and although running is an important part of canicross, for this blog I wanted to focus on ‘rest’. Resting both yourself and your dog regularly is vital to allow your muscles to recover from activity and although you might have a dog with seemingly boundless energy, constantly running your dog in harness will cause fatigue in the same way daily exercise has a tiring effect on your own body. Without rest both of you are more prone to injury and illness and also your canicross runs could become monotonous for your dog, unless you are constantly changing the routes you take. Your dog might always be keen to go out with you, but you need to be the one to enforce a ‘down day’ from time to time and enjoy some other less physical activity to keep him or her occupied. The other thing to be gained from regular rest days is that your dog will learn to be calm without being run every day and that can be invaluable if for any reason you have to have a short break from training. So although canicross is all about running with your four legged friend, we think it’s well worth factoring in a few rest days in your programme and for that reason we have chosen rest as our ‘R’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross.
One of the most common things that people say to me about why they haven’t gone to a canicross race is that they don’t feel they are quick enough to enter, so I wanted to make the ‘Q’ in our A-Z of Canicross represent the word quick and explain why you don’t have to be! Canicross is growing so quickly in the UK because it provides an outlet for many dogs and their owners to engage in an outdoor activity which is good for both. Canicross racing for most people is just a way to challenge themselves to get better and give themselves a goal to aim for. I have been competing now for eight years and have never been quick but I have enjoyed running at many different venues and met so many like minded people by attending the events. If you are very competitive and want to improve, racing is a great way to improve your times but being a fast runner is not a pre-requisite for entering and I would always encourage anyone to have a go regardless of your speed. Of course you don’t have to race at all, there are now so many fantastic canicross groups who arrange regular fun runs that you can enjoy the social aspect of canicross with your dog without ever making it to a race. The canicross groups will always cater for every level too and even the slowest of runners will not get left behind. It is for that reason I’ve chosen the word ‘quick’ for my Q in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross, as in, you don’t have be quick to enjoy this fantastic sport with your dog.
Canicross is essentially a sport where your dog is meant to pull you whilst you run behind attached via a waistbelt, bungee line and harness, so how could we do an A-Z of Canicross without mentioning pulling?! The amount of pull you will get from your dog depends on the size, strength but most importantly, the inclination of your dog to actually pull into a harness and take some of your weight whilst you run together. Never underestimate how hard a small dog can pull if they are determined and likewise, you could have the largest, strongest dog breed available but if your dog is not focused on pulling as a job, then it is unlikely you will benefit from that size and strength. I get asked all the time if you can teach a dog to pull and the answer is yes but there is a condition to that, because although you can encourage and train your dog to pull, they have to enjoy it and want to, otherwise they will just keep you company rather than help you out canicrossing. So because pulling is such a large part of canicross it is our ‘P’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross.
As I said in my last harness blog, I am always being asked about harnesses and what is the best harness for someone’s dog, the answer is never easy but one of the first things I always ask is ‘does your dog always pull out front?’. If the answer is no then I will generally recommend a shorter harness, because these harnesses tend to suit dogs who are learning to pull, don’t always like to pull or are just a bit more laid back in their approach to the dog sports! In some cases a mid length harness will also be suitable, for example a couple of the better designed mid length harnesses will allow a dog to pull when they choose but do not interfere or hang loose if they are not pulling out front.
SHORT HARNESSES (Also suitable for walking your dog in and if you like to let your dog off lead)
Non-stop Half Harness
Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. This harness is adjustable around the chest has lots of neck and chest padding for dogs who need support when running. Once it is adjusted this harness doesn’t move at all over the dogs’ back which is great if you let your dog free run and it has a second ring hidden in an elasticated pocket underneath the belly which can be used for training.
Neewa Adjustable Running Harness
Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. This harness is the only one we sell which is adjustable around the neck and the chest, which means it can be suitable for different shaped dogs or even a growing dog as a starter harness.
Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness
Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. There is both a ring to attach your line to and a cord, so you can choose which suits your dog best. This harness is adjustable around the chest has lots of neck and chest padding for dogs who need support when running.
MID LENGTH HARNESSES (Can be used for dog walking if any loose ties are secured or removed)
Zero DC Short Harness
Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The ring to attach your line to has light padding underneath to prevent the clip of your line dropping in your dogs’ back if they slow down or drop back. This harness is adjustable around the chest and can fit a wide range of breeds, as sizing range starts very small and goes very large.
Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness
Recommended for: Out front pullers and also dogs who like to drop back sometimes, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The back is left open for the dog to arch through and because the point to fix your line to is the cord at the back, rather than a cord at the base of the tail, this harness can suit a wide range of shapes and sizes of dog. It also has a belly strap which can prevent an escape artist from wriggling backwards out of the harness, unlike many of the other longer harnesses. The front part of the harness also stays securely in place if your dog switches from side to side on the trail.
Howling Dog Alaska Second or Tough Skin Harness:
Recommended for: Out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. It can be adjusted around the middle and the fact it is only mid length means it can suit dogs who are short or long in the body. This harness is super lightweight and is excellent for encouraging young or novice dogs to pull into a harness because it is so soft and flexible on the dog.
Every dog we fit at K9 Trail Time is an individual, much in the same way a person is, so we base our recommendations on the information you provide about your dog and never just on sales margins or the most fashionable brand at the time. We have also tried and tested every single type of harness we sell so you can be sure we are offering you advice based on experience.
If you would like to contact us about a harness for your dog please e-mail: email@example.com