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

Five Top Tips for Trophee des Montagnes: Heather Jenner

K9 Trail Time Team member Heather Jenner has recently come back from the Trophee des Montagnes race series in France and she has written a set of top tips for those thinking of making the trip for next year.

We thought we’d share her top tips as they are useful when considering any challenging race or race series and here in the UK we have our very own new set of canicross specific races that will challenge even the seasoned canicrosser in the Red Kite Event series.

More information can be found about them here: https://www.redkitetrailevents.co.uk/

 

My Five Top Tips for Trophee des Montagnes:

Top tip no 1. ~ Perfect your commands
Most Canicross events in the U.K don’t require a ‘behind’ or ‘with me’ command. This command will save your nerves when the trails get particularly steep. The race organisers allow runners a ‘free dog section’ on some of the stages, here you can unclip and keep your dog at a heel or close by for when you hurtle your way down the more tricky technical sections. If this isn’t an option then a ‘behind’ or ‘with me’ command is required to keep you and your dog safe but still continuing your race pace without mishap. Like all new commands I start training at a walk on the flat, then progress walking down hill, then a jog and so on. Trails which are narrow with high hedgerow either side are best so your dog can’t push past.
Photo – Banjo & I from 2018 descending Etape 4 Allemont
The other command I add into our training is the ‘march’, think of this as an ultra runners hike, where the ascents are extreme and you still need to be moving forward. You want your dog to be driving forward in a purposeful walk/trot which will help your momentum when all you want to do is stop.
Photo – Banjo & I marching up Etape 5 Villard Reculas
Top tip no 2. ~ Acclimatise to warm weather running ☀️
Around Easter when British Summer Time starts warming our days and most U.K. canicrossers hang up their harnesses until September our summer training started. With short speed sessions; 1km reps close to water sources, hill march training on longer hikes and evening woodland free running we were able to prepare ourselves for the warmer temps we’d face in the French Alps. Checking the humidity forecast ruled our training sessions, a few weeks before we travelled it was really hot. I kept the dogs activities to swimming only and went out solo on consecutive days, plus adding in some undulating trail races to test my own fitness & evening canicross events (humidity permitting) which always helps with motivation.
Photo – Milly & I at Gibbet Hill 10km
Top tip no. 3 ~ Budget & planning 📆
As soon as you get your entry confirmed (usually the middle of February) start planning your journey, accommodation preferences, vet visits for vaccines, passports, plus other general admin needed for entry such as racing insurance and medical forms, the Trophee Des Montagnes Live Facebook page & website has all the necessary information.
Getting made redundant in my job played havoc on my finances I gave up numerous races I’d usually schedule into my training. I needed to reduce costs as much as possible to justify getting myself & my dogs to France, I decided to live basic and stay in my van in the runners camps which came with the entry. Using the dog shower camping higher than Snowdon was rather liberating and the views from my van were simply stunning, roughing it wasn’t that bad after all.
Photo – View from my camp spot at Auris
plus I relished the opportunity to make friends with the international community, this was all part of the adventure of the TDM.
 🇬🇧🇫🇷🇧🇪🇸🇪🇩🇪🇮🇹🇺🇸🇨🇭🇭🇺
Top tip no. 4 ~ Mix up your Terrain 👣
Research what the trails will be like on race day and mimic them in your trail schedule, I use this preparation with any major event.

This is also very important for your trainer choice and keeping up with your dogs paw care. I train mainly on the South Downs where we are spoilt with sheep grazed wide grassy tracks. Unable to finance any Wales trips this year, I headed into our neighbouring counties and asked canicrossers to lead me around some new routes which included hard stoney terrain.

Photo – Training with Canicross Sussex near Cissbury Ring
Top tip no. 5 ~ Enjoy it 😊
Enjoy your running, your training, your time away. Enjoy being part of an international Canicross event. Enjoy the escape, the adventure and most importantly the bond you’ll develop with your dogs throughout and the feeling of achievement when you’ve completed one of the worlds most famous Canicross events; The Trophee Des Montagnes. Most importantly don’t forget your flag 😉 Photo – Milly & I finishing Etape 10 2019

K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Vickie Pullin, National Champion

We have been covering lots of professions surrounding the dogs sports in our interviews but what about someone who has actually made a profession out of the dog sports themselves? We spoke to Vickie Pullin who runs a business taking people out with her sled dogs to show them how to run dogs safely and teaches people with their own dogs how to get the best out of them.

Vickie spends a lot of time with her dogs in her job, as well as training them for races

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 run husky tours for the public from my base in Gloucestershire and race my own sprint sled dogs nationally and internationally, with the aim of improving my times and positions in the IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports) World rankings year on year.
I have been running my business, Arctic Quest, for 9 years now and racing seriously with my dogs for 5 years.

Recent results

Winter 2018/19 Results:

British champion in both

  1. Bikejor Women’s Elite Class Open &
  2. 4 Dog Open Class

Runner up in the Open 2 Dog Scooter Class

Gold and Bronze medals in the ICF World Champs plus 4th in the Open Scooter Class

Gold and 2 x Bronze medal in IFSS Euro champs plus 4th in the Open Bikejor Class

WSA World Champs: 4th

IFSS World Champs snow: 12th and 12th Mass start

WSA World Champs snow: 21st (and a comment from the vet: my dogs look in great condition – better than any medal 😉)

In the 2017 / 2018 I was British champion in 3 classes and had 5 top 10 results in the IFSS World Championships, picking up a silver in WSA World championships

https://youtu.be/FFk2PyN1goI

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

5am starts – letting the house dogs out and turning on the coffee machine and lap top… work with breakfast then dogs out and cleaning kennels.
Dog all then loaded up for work in the van and trailer … and down the road we head.
The mornings are spent doing Husky Rides at Croft Farm, we have a blast running dogs, educating people about sprint racing and sharing my life with the public. we meet some amazing people and enjoy food and drink around the campfire.
After the public leave, I train the race dogs, sometimes muscle, interval, speed, or overtaking and this can include coaching with other athletes

Vickie coaches others to race with their dogs in the mono sports of bikejoring and scootering

Back home to let the dogs out have a play and then chill in the kennels – now time to train me… so 1-2 hours either gym, running, biking etc
Then back to play and feed dogs and kennels
Evening is spent either having dogs out in the field, extra training for me, hydro treadmill for the race team or swimming for me and dogs
So normal day consists of DOGS!!!!!
Occasionally there will be a meeting here and there with important people like sponsors, partners, book keeper! We also go into schools, and do some filming and TV work with team so no day is ever the same… then in the winter around a normal day, we have the races…. then it all changes!
We travel around the world racing sprint sled dogs and its the best thing ever!!!!!

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Proudest moment for me is actually owning 29 fit healthy dogs – I try and take a moment everyday to appreciate that.
Everyday is a proud moment!

Vickie has raced both huskies and hounds in Europe on snow

 

We have had some big races and great wins on the last couple of years and thats the icing on the cake to an already amazing team if dogs!

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

  1. Love your dogs
  2. Have fun always
  3. Enjoy the moment

What are your plans for the future?

Love dogs, race dogs, work with dogs, – repeat! (the same as now!)

Vickie believes the key to success is a great relationship with her dogs

How can our followers get in touch with you?

Facebook: Vickie Pullin (feel free to add and follow us)

Websites:
www.arcticquest.co.uk

When I get on a bike and attach my dog…

Since I’ve been biking with my youngest dog, Yogi, I’ve often thought about the differences between him and my other dogs when we’ve biked. Bikejoring is the sport of attaching your dog, in harness, to your bike via a bungee line and with an attachment to help keep your line away from the wheel if it drops suddenly. Many people seem to see it as hook your dog up and away you go! Although it’s really not that simple and that’s what I have been pondering when I do anything with Yogi on the bike.

Yogi is a very different dog to train than my other 3 were – Photo courtesy of Chris Hannan

As with my other dogs, we have always done a lot of canicrossing before even thinking about attaching them to a bike, their voice commands have been solid and I have been sure they will run (for the most part without distraction) in front of the bike and follow their trained commands. Yogi however is slightly different in that he is still easily distracted and I’ve not done a huge amount with him on the bike because of this.

Now you could argue that I should do more and train harder to try and get him focused on the job in hand. In some ways I would agree that might help get his ‘head in the game’ and teach him more about the job of running in front of the bike. However he is still young and I didn’t bike him until he was past the 18 month age restriction for competition, so I still think he has a lot of learning to do and haven’t ever pushed him in any training or racing we have done so far.

Yogi’s first ever bike race experience was a short section as part of the Tri Dog event – Photos courtesy of Take 2 Event Photos

My objective when I do anything with my dogs is not to get the most I can out of them, to see them working hard for me and push themselves to go faster and further but to allow them to have the most fun when they are out with me. For my other dogs (well the boys at least) the most fun IS running as fast as they can and working as hard as they can for me, but this isn’t the case with Yogi. Yogi likes to explore and he likes to chase and he likes to bob along and do his own thing too, which can be a little bit daunting when you attach him to a bike and go at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour!

So when I do get on a bike and attach my long legged, huskalukihound (my own name for his very special mix of rescue Husky, Greyhound, Saluki!) who I know full well runs fast but can get distracted in a millisecond by something as innocuous as a leaf, I have to have my wits about me at all times and hope that he will not do anything too random that might have awful consequences. This is where all the foundation work we have done comes into it’s own and it’s also when the trust between us gets tested.

With a young or inexperienced dog it can be hard to totally trust they will not do anything silly when faced with something new – Photo courtesy of Digital Events Photography

Bikejoring with your dog, in fact any wheeled sport with your dog or team of dogs where you rely on your training and trust, can be really rewarding because of the bond you have to build before you can relax and enjoy the experience. Once you have cracked this, it all becomes so much more fun and racing truly is just another opportunity to learn and strengthen this connection you have with your dog.

I personally think that’s why the wheeled sports are becoming more and more popular with people who get a taste for the fun you can have biking or scootering with your dog and end up like I have, regularly racing and training. The additional excitement and speed the wheels provide, mean you simply cannot just get on your bike and attach your dog and expect to have the requisite control and trust to enjoy it without fear or risk an accident. Therefore you learn to build that bond with your dog, the best partnerships being the ones where dog and ‘driver’ work together, overcoming obstacles, enjoying the sports with confidence in each other.

Working together as a team is the best part of bikejoring – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

If you’re thinking of taking up bikejoring with your dog and don’t know where to start, do get in touch as we have lots of information to help you gets started, from the equipment you will need, training tips, right through to your first race, just e-mail us at info@k9trailtime.com

Happy Trails!

 

Hitting the trails – Hiking with your dog (Belts)

We haven’t been doing much canicrossing recently due to the warmer weather, so we’ve been doing a lot more early morning walking instead. Most of the K9 Trail Time team can be let off lead but there are times when they all have to be under control, for example if there are fields with livestock or if we come across a road. It’s at these times when we use slightly different equipment to the canicross kit we usually use, as it’s good to have another style of belt and harness if you want your dog to recognise when you will be walking and when you are canicrossing.

Our walking belts can also be used as canicross belts but for canicross we prefer something with less padding and for walking we prefer the more padded styles, so for regular walking we like the Zero DC canicross belt found here:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/zero-dc-canicross-waist-belt.html

It has a big pocket and the cord on the front means we can easily have 4 separate lines attached, plus the extra padding is useful if they do all decide to pull and leg straps prevent it riding up the body. It comes in a range of colours too.

The Zero DC canicross belt with it’s big pocket, leg straps and cord at the front to attach dogs to, is perfect for walking too

We also like the Dragrattan Simple Canicross Belt which also has a cord at the front, leg straps to keep it in place but no pocket. It’s thick padded waist band should be worn low on the hips and offers great comfort when walking strong dogs:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-canicross-belt.html

The Non-stop Trekking Belt is also a very padded, comfortable belt with leg straps but with a fixed point at the front in case you prefer a little bit of extra control when walking, perhaps not so suitable for multiple dogs but perfect for one or two dogs. It comes in a range of colours.

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-trekking-waist-belt.html

The Trekking Belt now comes in Navy Blue and Purple as well as plain Black

If leg straps are not your thing then the Neewa Trekking Belt is a great value walking option and has a central webbing strap to keep it in place on your hips plus two straps which meet in the middle to attach your dog/s to. It has slight stretch through these straps as they have an elasticated section and has a decent sized pocket attached to it:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/neewa-trekking-waist-belt.html

We also have the Howling Dog Alaska Trekking Belt which is great if you prefer a very supportive option for a walking belt. The belt has a good sized pocket and a thick webbing strap which adjusts, sliding through the middle and you attach your dog/s to a solid ring stitched into the webbing, which provides a very secure option for attaching dogs to a fixed point in front of you:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/howling-dog-trekking-waist-belt.html

All of the belts we stock provide you with a much better experience for walking dogs than simply holding a lead, as you will have your hands free and will be far more comfortable, especially if your dog pulls. Hands free hiking with your dog is a great way to exercise together without the worry of your dog being loose if there are roads or livestock nearby and you can use it as an opportunity to train your voice commands at a slower speed. Hiking with your dog is also perfect for younger or older dogs who might not be fit for canicross and can give you a similar experience to canicross at a much more sedate pace. You might also enjoy hiking with your dog if you are injured yourself and need to build up strength slowly.

Managing multiple dogs can be tricky without a belt, especially if they pull – Photo courtesy of Simon Warwick

If you have any questions about hiking with your dog please do contact us by e-mailing info@k9trailtime.com – Happy Trails!

K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Laura Hope, Agility Team GB Member

With the European Open Agility Championships being held next weekend (27th – 29th July 2018) we thought we would interview one of Team GB who also happens to be the K9 Trail Time agility trainer too!

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?

My name is Laura Hope and I am a qualified paediatric nurse which I’ve practiced for about 13 years. I had my daughter in 2015 and last year decided to take a break from the shift work to be with my daughter. I have been doing Competitive Agility for around 10 years and started my own training business – Clever Little Dog Agility Training up on Cleeve hill in Cheltenham last August. I started Agility with my American Bulldog who qualified us two years in a row to compete at Discover Dogs. I now have x3 beautiful collies. Jade Grade 7 and on Team GB, Rambo Grade 5 and Bonders who is learning the game 🙂. I love the game, it’s so much fun learning and developing with my dogs. Always things to learn and every dog teaches you something new. Great fun.

Laura and her dog, Regalaway Serendipity (Jade)

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

A day in the life of me consists of being woken up by my daughter any time from 0530 🙈🙈. Feed the dogs breakfast around 0630 and get ready for the day. Take grace to nursery and go up to Cleeve. Where I work / spend time with my dogs before I pick grace up at 1300. I do a 4 mile round trip run over Cleeve with the dogs most days – exhausting 😂 and then either do a bit of training or just chill out with them. It’s lovely just spending time with them in the countryside. I train my clients and then go and get my daughter. The afternoon consists of childish things 😂🙈 and then we walk the dogs in the evening. Often I then return to the field to teach some more and then I return home around 2100, to repeat it all again the next day. When I write it down I’m able to reflect on how lucky I am.

Laura not only competes herself but now trains others to compete in agility too

Share with us your proudest moment so far

My proudest moment so far, apart from raising my beautiful daughter has to be making Team GB with Jade and being picked for the Team to go to Vienna. Still can’t quite believe it.

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

1) have fun with your dogs

2) be consistent and

3) have some more fun

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are to just continue, keep trying to build my business, keep having fun with my dogs and keep striving to be better for my dogs.

Laura is a force free, positive trainer who strives to be the best for her dogs

How can our followers get in touch with you?

You can get in touch with me via phone – 07961 796905

Or contact me via FB – Clever Little Dog Agility Training

We’d like to wish Laura the best of luck with all her competing and go Team GB!

The full team competing next weekend can be found here:

https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/activities/agility/international-agility-teams/european-open-agility-championships/