Voice Commands – Who, What, Why, When & How?

Voice commands are a big part of training in the dog sports and it’s important you get them right for you to get the best from your dog, so we thought we would do a quick blog on the Who, What, Why, When & How of voice commands in canicross, bikejor and dog scootering.

Who? – This one is fairly obvious, you are giving the command to your dog and your dog is the one listening and hopefully understanding and responding accordingly. It is worth mentioning that because these commands are for you and your ‘team’, you can use whatever specific words you want, which leads us on to…

What? – The words you choose for your commands can be anything you like, as long as you’ve trained it and your dog understands, no-one else has to. Many people simply use right, left, go on and other short words, some use noises and more obscure terms to indicate directions to their dogs but pick what you can be consistent with and stick to it.

Good voice commands are essential, particularly when you are on a bike or scooter – Photo courtesy of Take 2 Event Photos

Why? – Again relatively obvious but you might be surprised at how many people feel they don’t really need strong voice commands trained, especially when canicrossing, as you can generally reach out and pull your dog away from any situation. However it’s really important that your dog is listening to you and not just hauling you along enjoying doing their own thing with you as a passenger. It helps tire a dog out faster if they are concentrating on what directions you are giving them and it also builds a much stronger bond of trust if you can call to your dog and they want to do what you’re asking of them. As soon as you involve wheels into the equation, with a bike, scooter or rig, then this becomes crucial and we would never recommend trying any of the wheeled dog sports without having a good degree of control over your dogs’ actions through your voice commands first.

When? – Perhaps the most important of the questions on this list. Our answer to this would be to give voice commands ONLY when you need to. All too often you see people repeating over and over again a verbal direction to their dog, the most frequent of these being ‘go, go, go’ or similar. Your dog will switch off if you are continually issuing the same command, your voice will become like ‘white noise’ in the background of what you are doing and you may lose your dogs’ concentration on you as a result. It is much better to keep quiet while your dog is moving forward and save yourself for when you need to turn or stop or do something other than just run forward in a straight line.

You don’t need to be shouting voice commands at your dog during the whole run, if they’re moving forward in the direction you want then you just need to smile and enjoy! – Photo courtesy of Basil Thornton Photography

How? – Again a really important one because the tone and volume you use for your dog can have a huge affect on how motivated your dog is to work for you. If you are shouting at your dog and not using encouragement, then it follows that your dog may not feel so happy about following your directions. If you watch some of the best dog sports people with their dogs, they are generally always minimalist with voice commands, they never raise their voices unless there is danger (dogs have much better hearing than we do!) and they use a tone of voice which is calm, controlled and encouraging for the dogs.

 

Dog sports are always team work, so make sure you’re not too hard on your ‘team’, using encouragement rather than criticism is always more motivational! – Photo courtesy of Houdscape

Always make your training fun for your dog and remember voice commands can be taught from a very young age out on walks, so take the time to get your dog really responsive to your voice and we’re sure you’ll see the benefits when you’re out and about with them. Happy trails!

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – R is for Rest

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.

Resting is often as important as running for your dog

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – Q is for Quick (you don’t have to be)

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.

I think we enjoy our canicross racing more because we’re not quick, it’s gives us time to enjoy the scenery! – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – P is for Pulling

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.

 

Pulling into the harness is the dogs' job in canicross

Pulling into the harness is the dogs’ job in canicross – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

Dog Sport Harnesses – For dogs who sometimes pull

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

The Non-stop Half Harness

The Non-stop Half Harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-half-harness.html

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

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness

The Neewa Running Harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/neewa-running-harness.html

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

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/howling-dog-distance-harness.html

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

The Zero DC Short harness

The Zero DC Short harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/euro-short-zero-dc-sports-harness.html

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

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport simple in it's design

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/dragrattan-multi-sport-harness.html

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:

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness,

The Howling Dog Alaska Second Skin harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/h-d-second-skin-harness.html

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: emilyt@k9trailtime.com

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – O is for Obesity

We all know that there are two main ways to stay fit and healthy, firstly by eating the right diet and secondly by getting out and exercising. In the UK alone it is predicted that by 2020 as many as one third of the adult population will be classified as obese. The same can be said about the UK’s dog population. Recent studies estimate that up to one third of dogs nationwide are already overweight and this figure is set to rise to over half of all dogs by 2022. Obesity is linked with diabetes, orthopaedic disease, heart disease, respiratory distress, high blood pressure, skin diseases & cancer in both dogs and people, so this alone is a very good reason to be getting out and about canicrossing with your dog. A recent PDSA report estimates that across the country, six million dogs go for a daily walk shorter than an hour long, and a quarter of a million dogs don’t get walked at all. With these statistics it’s easy to see why we need to find a way to encourage people to exercise themselves and their dogs, and who can think of a better personal trainer than their dog?! At K9 Trail Time we are trying to make it as easy as possible for you to get into canicross too, by providing you with loads of information, including links to local clubs and national events we know about, as well as offering advice and help to anyone who asks for it. So if you are thinking you would like to find a fun way to combat obesity for both yourself and your dog, look no further, canicross is the perfect way to keep trim, whilst having fun and doing something you’ll both benefit from mentally and physically. For that reason we have chosen obesity, or rather, a way to combat it, as our ‘O’ in the A-Z of canicross.

Canicross with your best friend is a fantastic way for both of you to stay fit

Canicross with your best friend is a fantastic way for both of you to stay fit

Dog Sport Harnesses – For dogs who really pull

I am always being asked about harnesses and what is the best harness for someones’ 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 yes then I will generally recommend a longer harness, because these are harnesses designed to capture the pull of a dog and support a dog in any sport where they are required to pull weight in some form or another (person, bike, scooter, rig or sled). In some cases a mid length harness will also be suitable, for example a couple of the better designed mid length harnesses direct the pull along the harness from underneath and therefore act in the same way as the longer harnesses, without having the full length to them.

Our recommendations for dogs who pull are below:

LONG HARNESSES (Not suitable for allowing dogs to free run where loose straps may get caught)

Non-stop Freemotion Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-freemotion-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this is a highly adjustable harness, so if your dog is long or short it can be adjusted to suit, it can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The spine of the dog is left free to arch and the elastic side straps allow for freedom of movement in every respect.

The spine of the dog is left free by the top straps and the harness can 'breathe' with the dog

The spine of the dog is left free by the top straps and the harness can ‘breathe’ with the dog

Zero DC Long Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/euro-long-zero-dc-faster-sports-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle but cannot be adjusted in any way, so does not suit dogs who are particularly long or short in the body. There is no material over the dogs’ back, so the dog has total freedom of movement through the back.

The Zero DC Long Harness has no material over the back to restrict movement

The Zero DC Long Harness has no material over the back to restrict movement

Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/neewa-adjustable-racing-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this is another adjustable harness so if your dog is long or short it can be adjusted to suit the length of your dog. It can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. It has a high neck which offers great padding through the chest and does not interfere with the dogs’ airways but might not be suitable for dogs who pull down through the neck when they pull. There is no material over the dogs’ back so the spine is left free to arch when moving.

The Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness has a padded neck and chest piece for your dogs comfort

The Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness has a padded neck and chest piece for your dogs comfort

Dragrattan X-Back Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-x-back-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, it can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport where the line length is long enough to allow for a near horizontal angle. The x-backs are not suitable for use where the attachment point is higher than the back of the dog and the line angle to the harness means the harness lifts at the back. This doesn’t rule out the x-back for canicross but does mean you shouldn’t use a short line with this harness, on a small dog, with a tall person!

The Dragrattan X-Back is great for strong pullers in situations where the line angle is horizontal - Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

The Dragrattan X-Back is great for strong pullers in situations where the line angle is horizontal – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

MID LENGTH HARNESSES (Suitable for dogs who prefer not to have a harness near their tail or may have had issues with hips or rear legs)

Howling Dog Alaska Second or Tough Skin Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/h-d-second-skin-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong 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.

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness, he has been my chief tester because he is such a strong puller!

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness, he has been my chief tester because he is such a strong puller!

Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-multi-sport-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, 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 Dragrattan Multi-Sport is proving to be a very popular choice of harness for dog sports this year - Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport is proving to be a very popular choice of harness for dog sports this year – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

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: emilyt@k9trailtime.com