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

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!

 

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!

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 – Catherine Nicoll, Clinical Canine Massage Therapist

Our next professional to feature in the ‘Interview with an expert series’ is Catherine Nicoll, a Clinical Canine Massage Therapist, who we have been going to see to keep the dogs in tip top condition since she set up in 2012.

Canine massage has been something the K9 Trail Time dogs have had incorporated into our training programme for 6 years now

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

I am a Clinical Canine Massage Therapist so I specialise in treating soft tissue, muscular issues such as lameness/limping and dogs with Orthopaedic conditions like hip dysplasia and Arthritis. I also treat dogs post operation like Cruciate Ligament or Luxating Patella. I do 4 disciplines of massage to include Swedish, Sports Massage which is used for injury identification, isolating muscles by working from origin to insertion and I focus on trigger point release and scar tissue remodelling. I also do deep tissue massage which mobilises the deeper muscles, spreading fibres to make the muscles more supple and flexible. Finally, I do Myofascial Release. Muscles need to be able to slide and glide and myofascial release releases muscles from each other and from the periosteum of the bone. I treat elderly dogs who are slowing down and getting stiff as well as sporting dogs who have either injured themselves with sprains or strains or for maintenance to keep their muscles in good working order. I completed the Diploma in Canine Massage Therapy in January 2012 and set up my business, Dogs Body Canine Massage Therapy, immediately after.

Catherine treats many dogs besides sports dogs, as all dogs can benefit from massage

The reason I got into massage is that I am a qualified human sports massage therapist and, having regular massage myself, knew how beneficial it was. My dog, Paddy, kept going lame when he was 15 months old and after x-rays and further investigation I was told by the vet that they couldn’t find any issues and so I would need to just keep him on lead walks. I looked into having him massaged and when I took him to Natalie Lenton from The Canine Massage Therapy Centre, she found the problem with his lameness immediately. He had a strain (tear to his muscle) in his superficial pectoral muscle which was making him lame. I was so impressed and relieved to know what the problem was that I decided to sign up for the course. The course took me 18 months to complete and I left my job of 20 years working in a bank to set up my own business.

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

My day varies. I am lucky that my Clinic is at my home so in between treatments I can be with my own dogs. I have treated up to 8 dogs in one day but ideally prefer to treat 4-5 dogs a day. As well as doing Clinical Canine Massage Therapy, I am also a Tutor on The Clinical Canine Massage Practitioner Programme run by The Canine Massage Therapy Centre and so my days are sometimes taken up with tutor work in preparation for the students. Being self-employed means that I can choose to take an impromptu day off when I like which I love! I also run 1-day workshops for members of the public to enable them to learn some Swedish massage techniques to do on their own dog at home. (Details on my website).

Dogs tend to relax into the massage and benefits begin to be seen after a session or two

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Every day that I am helping dogs makes me proud. I guess if I had to choose one, however, it would be changing one elderly dog’s life completely. His owner was thinking about having him put to sleep as he could hardly walk and was miserable but decided to try massage as a last resort. After 2 sessions he was happier, more mobile and enjoying his walks. He went on to live for another 3 years.

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

  1. If you have laminated/wood flooring put non-slip runners down! Dogs are digit grade animals which means they walk on their toes. They cannot grip hard floors and so end up slipping around which puts a lot of strain on their muscles and inevitably end up getting injured.
  2. Get your dog check out by a Canine Massage Guild member. We are trained to identify muscular issues so by bringing them for a massage 2-3 times a year it enables us Therapists to spot any issues before they become a problem. We work “best practice” and so, if your dog is injured you should see an improvement in 1-3 sessions. In the unlikely event that you don’t, we would cease further treatment and refer your dog back to the vet for further investigation.
  3. Dogs get injured the same as humans do, think about what you are doing with your dog. Don’t keep using ball launchers to exercise your dog. Warm them up on lead for 10 minutes before letting them off to run. Feed them a good diet and don’t let them get fat! Give them a day off from exercise. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical. Don’t feel guilty if you are unable to take your dog for a walk one day, it’s not going to do them any harm and the rest will give their body time to recover.

Catherine will be continuing to help owners and their dogs but also by training other therapists, bring the benefit of massage to many more dog owners

What are your plans for the future?

I am passionate about what I do and so I just want to keep on helping dogs with mobility issues and make a difference to their lives. I will keep on learning more about canine anatomy and physiology as I find it fascinating. I want to continue to educate dog owners on the benefits of Clinical Canine Massage Therapy as there are still people out there who have never heard of it, although that has improved in the years since I trained!

 

How can our followers get in touch with you?

You can visit my website www.dogsbodycaninemassage.co.uk you can email me at mail@dogsbodycaninemassage.co.uk or ring me on 07967 099603. I am based in Hartpury, Gloucestershire. I have a Facebook page too so please go in and “like” my page – https://www.facebook.com/DogsBodyCMT/  

If I am not local to you, then visit The Canine Massage Guild website and find your local therapist there. http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk

The Road to Recovery…

I wanted to write a short blog on injuries and recovery, not that I am an expert in any way, shape, or form but both myself and my dogs have suffered various injuries over the years, as you would expect having been competing for 5 seasons now. This is from a very personal and non-medical perspective and is really just my thoughts on how I have managed the problems I have encountered.

Firstly, the main thing to do is accept you may have to rest, either yourself or your dog, as with any injury one of the first things to do is to rest the problem. Now I am not as good at doing this, as I am enforcing it for my dogs but I have had a few periods of complete rest during the last 5 years.

Rest is a very important part of recovery

Rest is a very important part of recovery

Secondly, get a professional opinion. There is no point guessing what your injury is, or the best way to treat it. If you have a reliable professional you can trust, take yourself to them and listen to their advice. I regularly take my dogs to see a canine massage therapist for a general muscular check up. I am lucky in that I have a great professional network around me for my dogs, so they have never had prolonged periods of rest. I only wish the same could be said for myself!

Professional help with any injury should be sought

Professional help with any injury should be sought

Keep active. If you have to stop canicrossing or bikejoring then don’t forego all activity as a result. Find other things to keep you moving. A perfect example of this is swimming. I personally hate swimming, unless it is in a warm country with a cold drink waiting for me when I get out. I did resort to membership of my local sports centre when I tore the ligaments in my ankles however, and as much as I moaned about the experience, at least I felt like I was doing something to actively recover. More recently, one of my dogs had a cruciate strain and a course of hydrotherapy safely build up his strength, so that when he could begin canicrossing again, he was still fit and strong.

Hydrotherapy and swimming can help to keep active whilst resting an injury

Hydrotherapy and swimming can help to keep active whilst resting an injury

Keep healthy. Having to rest or change your routine is no excuse to start eating rubbish food or ignore your normal diet. Although it may be a comfort to you to indulge in extra treats while you feel sorry for yourself, you will regret it when the time comes to start training again. I have even reduced the amount of food both myself and my dogs are consuming in an effort not to put strain on our bodies (and possibly the injury). It is not easy and I’m not saying that I’ve never let myself put on a few extra pounds when I’ve been injured, just that you need to be mindful of making recovery as easy for yourself as possible. You might also want to consider supplements in your own or your dogs’ diet to help support an active lifestyle, as there are a number of great products on the market now.

Keep positive. I have had periods where I felt like thing weren’t getting any better but in actual fact they were. There is a lot to be said for the power of positive thought and I firmly believe that those who deal with injury in a positive way, recover quicker. My eldest dog was diagnosed with arthritis when she was just 5 years old but we’re nearly 3 years on now and after some initial treatment, we bought her a magnotherapy collar and under the advice of the vet, continued her programme of canicross. Today she is fitter than she has ever been and although I realise there will come a time when she will want to slow down, she is enjoying life far more being included in all our activity then she would if I had just retired her.

Keep positive and you'll be back out there before you know it!

Keep positive and you’ll be back out there before you know it!

To conclude, whatever injury you or your dog have suffered, there are usually options available to you to allow you to continue activity of some description, until you have fully recovered and can get back to your usual routine. It is important to take advice, keep positive and healthy and hopefully you will soon be healed enough to get out enjoying yourself again.