Making the transition from canicross to bikejor

Many people who come into the dog sports begin with canicross because it is the easiest way to exercise your dog and also the simplest way to train your dog to pull in a harness. However, if you’ve ever attended a race which has the bikejor classes too, then you’ll have seen how much fun the competitors have at the faster speeds you can achieve with the wheels. It doesn’t appeal to everyone but once you’ve trained your dog to pull you, it can be very tempting to have a go at either bikejor or dog scootering to get that extra speed for a more exciting run.

Bikejoring is great fun and you can really get up your speed on a bike to go at your dogs’ pace – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

If you are thinking of giving bikejor a go then there are a few things you should know which will help you get the best from your experience.

The first thing you need to make sure of is that you have trained strong voice commands. When canicrossing it is easy to correct your dogs’ direction and quickly grab your bungee line to prevent any mishaps. However when you are on a bike there is no option to do this, so your dog must respond to your voice signals for directions and control otherwise you could end up causing an accident if your dog isn’t listening to you.

It doesn’t always go right at the best of times, so make sure you’ve trained your voice commands as best you can! – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

You also need to make sure the equipment you are using is suitable, don’t be tempted to ‘botch’ it with home made bikejor arms and lines. There are plenty of clubs now who may have equipment they can loan you to have a go with your dog and there are a small number of businesses offering training for the dog sports now. If you choose to borrow club equipment remember they are not liable for anything you do and might not be able to offer the ‘training’ you require but using the correct equipment will at least give you an idea if you’d like to do more bikejoring, so you can get your own kit to use later on.

Getting the right equipment for bikejoring will give your dog the best starting experience

We would suggest that it is quite important that you train solo on the bike first before attaching your dog. You might already be a skilled mountain biker and in this case you will be giving your dog the best chance of doing well at bikejoring by being in control of the bike and yourself first. However if you’re getting on a bike for the first time in a number of years (which was the situation we were in) then it is worth hitting the trails without your dog to gain some bike skills that you can utilise when you do attach your dog. Without having a basic skill level on a mountain bike you could be putting yourself and your dog at risk of harm, so just get used to being on a bike again and then you can help your dog get the best possible start to bikejoring.

Bike training without your dog can only be on benefit to you and your dog when you do try bikejoring, so try this first if you haven’t been on a bike for a while

It can be very helpful to find someone knowledgable to help you get started, we mentioned above there are a few businesses offering training now and some clubs also offer training weekends and camps which can be a great way to introduce your dog to something new. We recommend that you never try bikejoring first on your own, always take someone along with you who knows you and your dog just in case something unforeseen happens. Bikejoring can be great fun but always make sure someone knows where you are as accidents can happen in the most unexpected circumstances!

Make sure you are not on your own when you first start bikejoring or that someone at least knows where you are – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

It is also worth educating yourself on the rules regarding insurance and rights of way when bikejoring. Many Forestry Commission sites require permits to be obtained for anything where a dog is attached to a ‘wheeled vehicle’ and the public liability insurance required to obtain a permit is £5 million. This might seem excessive but in a blame culture it is worth checking what you are covered for with your dog, as hitting into a person or another dog with your bike could be costly. Riding on roads is not permitted at all with a dog attached and it’s not good for a dogs’ joints anyway to be moving at speed on hard surfaces. With canicross a few road sections won’t do any harm but long stretches on tarmac at the higher speeds you can achieve on a bike can damage your dogs’ pads and joints.

Your dog might have been canicrossing for years and covered many miles with you on foot but always start bikejoring with short sections, to allow your dog to get used to the increase in speed. Too many people seem to think that because they can run 10 miles canicrossing they can go straight out and ride 5 miles with their dog on the bike. Being able to run at full pelt attached to a bike is a very different experience for your dog, so make sure you are not challenging your dog to begin with and keep it fun for them, leaving them wanting to do more.

Bikejoring should always be fun for you and your dog, so keep it short and simple to begin with – Photo courtesy of Matt Eames

If you want to know more about making the transition from canicross to bikejor we have a few recommendations for businesses, clubs and individuals who could potentially help so get in touch if you’d like to know more but we hope you’ve found this blog helpful as a guide on how to make the experience the best it can be for both you and your dog. Happy trails!

 

 

 

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Canicross kit by colour?

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.

Some harnesses come in a wide variety of colours

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.

The Dragrattan X-Back comes in one colour webbing only but it is fantastic harness on some working dogs – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

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.

The belts which come in a range of colours are great belts but might not be the ones 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.

We like to try and colour co-ordinate (or not as the case may be!) – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

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: info@k9trailtime.com for your free consultation with regards to any of the dog sports equipment we stock.

 

Bikejor for beginners – A reading list

The coming of the new year has seen many more people looking to take up the sports of running and biking and more importantly for us here at K9 Trail Time, people wanting to run and bike with their dog. Last year I wrote a blog containing the main blogs I have written to help you get started in canicross, so I thought it was about time I did the same for bikejoring.

Bikejoring is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK - Photo courtesy of Mel Parry

Bikejoring is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK – Photo courtesy of Mel Parry

I wrote a bit about getting started in bikejor here:
Getting along to an event is a great way to learn about the equipment and training - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Getting started with the help of friends is a great idea – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

The next two links are an introduction to the equipment and how to train
getting-it-wrong-on-the-bike

Training is important to avoid accident! Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

The following blog focuses on which bikejor attachment might be the one for you
Rower-land Bike Attachment

Getting the right equipment is important

The below blog contains a few tips for those beginning with their dog in bikejor
With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country - Photo courtesy of Chillpics

With the proper equipment and training you can enter bikejor races all over the country – Photo courtesy of Chillpics

And lastly if you want to bikejor race with your dog, the racing blog I wrote might be of interest.
We have now competed in two European Championships in both Canicross and Bikejor

We have written about how to get started racing

There is some duplication in these blogs but they give you the very basics you need to know about equipment and training and briefly explain the sport of bikejoring for the beginner. If you have any specific queries then please do contact me emilyt@k9trailtime.com and I’d be happy to help you get started with your dog in one of the sports we love.

K9 Trail Time – Top Selling Harnesses

The dog harnesses we sell at K9 Trail Time have been personally tested and chosen for stock based on their durability, design and quality, we have selected them from the best dog sport brands available. Our suppliers all compete in the sports themselves which shows in the harnesses they produce for sale.

Choosing the best selling harnesses of the year was a much more difficult task than the lines and belts because every dog is individual and the reason we stock so many different types of harness is to cater for this uniqueness. As a result we sell such a wide range that picking 3 was impossible, so we’ve gone for the top 5 in this category.

1 – Non-stop Freemotion – this harness is excellent for strong pulling dogs and has been designed to keep the dogs’ spine free to flex, plus the adjustable length straps and side straps mean it fits a wide range of breeds of dog and so suits a greater number of dogs.

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

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

2 – Howling Dog Alaska Second / Tough Skin Harness – this harness is perfect for dogs new into the sport because it is soft and forgiving on the neck and can encourage a dog to pull into it. It is also very suitable for established pulling dogs too and has a low price point for a harness which is unique in design.

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

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!

3 – Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness – the newest design of harness we stock, the Multi Sport by Dragrattan, is great for every sport from Canicross to Dog Sledding and because the main part of the harness finishes half way down the dog, it fits a huge range of dogs. It also doesn’t slip with a dog who pulls sideways, so has been very popular with dogs who drop back sometimes when running.

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

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

4 – Zero DC Short Harness – this is one of the original harnesses we have sold since day one and it’s design hasn’t changed, other than an expansion in colours and sizes available. The Zero DC Short is great for all sports and even dog walking, with many dog owners choosing this as just a comfortable and tough dog harness for every day use.

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

The neck must allow your dog full range of movement through the shoulders

The Zero DC Short Harness has been popular for all the years we’ve been open

5 – Neewa Running Harness – another great value short harness which has provided a great option for some of the most difficult to fit dogs this year because of it’s adjustable neck. No other harness we sell has the ability to change to the neck size and so it is suitable for a walking harness for growing puppies and also as a canicross harness for dogs who still have some ‘bulking’ out to do.

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

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness is unusually high but this doesn't cause any issues

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness is unusually high but this doesn’t cause any issues

Of course because we stock around 30 different styles of harness there are some notable omissions in this list, the Zero DC Long Harness which is another great one for strong pullers, leaving the dogs’ back free to arch. The Non-stop Half Harness which is the short harness provided by Non-stop and is only second to the Zero DC Short because it only comes in black! The Dragrattan X-Back Harness is a traditional design which is one of my personal favourites but is often over-looked for the more ‘current’ harness designs and the Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness is another highly adjustable long harness with a very attractive price tag.

As you can see it has been extremely hard for us to list even the top 5 best selling harnesses and because this is our passion we don’t stock anything we don’t recommend. When you buy a harness from K9 Trail Time, you can be assured you’re buying something fit for purpose which has been trialled for quality long before it ever reaches our website.

Harnesses come in so many shapes and styles now, it's worth getting help to choose the right one for your dog

Harnesses come in so many shapes and styles now, it’s worth getting help to choose the right one for your dog

If you have any questions with regard to harnesses then please do get in touch with us info@k9trailtime.com

We look forward to seeing you and your active dogs out and about in 2017!

 

 

 

K9 Trail Time – Top Selling Bungee Lines

In 2016 we saw so many new people taking up the dog sports that we are confident when we say they are a lot more happy, active dogs out there! To help people who come to us for advice we always make recommendations based on their own personal circumstances and we like to provide a choice of dog harness, human waist belt and line if we can.

After another great year and just about to go into our 6th year of trading, we thought we would write a few short blogs on our best-sellers for you, to help you decide if they might also be suitable for you. We’re starting with lines as your bungee line is a vital piece of equipment, often over-looked when it comes to choosing kit but it’s important to get a good quality one for the safety of you and your dog.

So our top 3 selling brands of bungee line are:

1 – Arctic Wolf (3 different lengths and both one or two dog, canicross & bikejor)

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/arctic-wolf-line.html

The Arctic Wolf line comes in 3 different lengths in single and now 2 different lengths in a double version

The Arctic Wolf line comes in 3 different lengths in single and now 2 different lengths in a double version

2 – Bono (2 different lengths and both one or two dog, link is for standard one dog, canicross only)

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bono-standard-canicross-line.html

Bono's Line or the 'Parkrun' Line

Bono’s Line comes in 2 lengths, pictures is the Parkrun length

3 – Non-stop (2 different lengths, canicross & bikejor)

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-running-line.html

The newest line from Non-stop is elasticated the entire length in all versions

The newest line from Non-stop is elasticated the entire length in all versions

We hope you have a great year and enjoy many more with your happy, active dogs!

Product Feature – The Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness

The rising popularity of the Dragrattan Multi-Sport harness, brand new to the market in 2016, has led us to do this short product feature to help you decide if this harness might be suitable for your dog.

The first thing I would say about the Dragrattan Multi-Sport is that it looks complicated, I know a few people I have spoken with about the innovative design, have said it looks difficult to work out how to put on the dog. In reality the harness works in a very simple way and it’s only the detachable belly band which makes it look more complex to fit than it is.

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport looks complicated but is actually really simple in it's design

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport looks complicated but is actually really simple in it’s design

The Multi-Sport has the traditional diamond shaped neck opening and well padded chest strap of all the Dragrattan harnesses and then the design goes minimalist on the back of the dog so you are left with just a simple cord from the end of the side pieces for attaching your bungee line too. It is here the belly band can be found too and this is excellent for dogs who can back out of traditional x-back harnesses.

There are a couple of things we love about this harness and the first is that it leaves the dogs’ back free to arch when running. A few of the other longer style harness we stock also have this as a feature but in addition to this, the harness also stays very straight on the dog at the front when pulled at an angle, meaning the likelihood of any rubbing under armpits for dogs who ‘crab’ to one side is greatly reduced.

Photo courtesy of Sport Pictures Cymru

The Multi-Sport doesn’t tend to twist at the front if your dog is pulling to one side (both dogs in the picture are in them) Photo courtesy of Sport Pictures Cymru

We have been using these harnesses all year and they were our harness of choice for our long distance challenge we completed in May because they are so versatile and your dog can even be let off safely with only the back cord hanging free when the harness is not pulled into.

The only fault I can find with the Dragrattan Multi-Sport is the same as with every standard size harness you can buy, they will not fit or suit every dog and although the design accommodates a much broader range of dog breed and shape than most longer style harnesses, if the body of the harness is too long on the dog, then it will not work comfortably.

In conclusion we think this harness is one of the best you can buy for participating in a number of different dog sports and although looks a little tricky to begin with, once you have mastered where the straps go, your dog will find this a very comfortable harness for all dog sports.

For more information or to buy this harness please follow the link below:

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

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

Why We Love X-Back Harnesses

As the title of this blog suggests, here at K9 Trail Time we love the X-Back style of dog sports harness. Right from day one I have used an X-Back on one or other of my dogs, and of course we have switched around brands and styles of harness over the years, to test out new ones and see what works best, but I keep coming back to the X-Back style.

We have been using X-Backs for a number of years now for all the dog pulling sports - Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

We have been using X-Backs for a number of years now for all the dog pulling sports – Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

What is an X-Back harness? – X-Backs are a particular style of dog sport harness which are thought to have originated in North America well over 100 years ago. The harness itself gets it’s name from the sections of webbing which cross over the back in a ‘x’ shape. The harnesses are designed to reach to the base of the dogs’ tail and have traditionally been used for teams of huskies pulling sleds on snow.

The X-Back harness, is a traditional style harness with webbing crossing over the back

The X-Back harness, is a traditional style harness with webbing crossing over the back

Why would you use an X-Back harness? – I recommend these harnesses for dogs who are confident pullers and who have a fairly ‘steady’ gait when running. By this I mean the dog runs evenly and is consistent when pulling in a harness, this could be either at a ‘trot’ or a faster ‘bounding’ action.

X-Backs are great for strong pullers

X-Backs are great for strong pullers

Why would you not use an X-Back harness? – If your dog doesn’t pull out front or tends to ‘zig zag’ when running, then I would say this probably isn’t the harness for your dog. Sometimes if your dog arches its back a lot too, then it might be that a harness with no straps crossing over the back might work better. It has also been noted that if the angle of your line comes too steeply from the point of attachment at the back of the harness, then the X-Back cannot work as it was designed to and this is why the X-Backs are not made for much smaller dogs.

Make sure your harness is not being pulled up by too steep a line angle

Make sure your harness is not being pulled up by too steep a line angle

Why we love X-Backs – The X-Back harness has been around for so long and has worked so well that it has become the iconic symbol of sled dog sports (canicross, bikejor and dog scootering have all developed from sledding). It’s simple design means it is lightweight, has no points of weakness (buckles or clips), isn’t complicated to put on and is generally one of the hardest wearing harnesses you can buy.

We love X-Backs (even if Donnie's face doesn't say so in this picture!)

We love X-Backs (even if Donnie’s face doesn’t say so in this picture!)

A few of the X-Backs we stock:

The Dragrattan X-Back:

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

The Dragrattan Collared X-back (for dogs with a more narrow neck and shoulders):

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/dragrattan-collared-neck-x-back-harness.html

The Non-stop Nansen Nome:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/non-stop-nansen-nome-harness.html

If you need any help with sizing or fitting an X-back harness do drop an e-mail to info@k9trailtime.com and we’ll be happy to help.

Happy Trails!