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 ūüėČ)

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

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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 РPhoto 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!

 

Triathlon for dogs comes to the UK

Triathlon for dogs isn’t something that had been done before Tri Dog set up in the UK in 2016, probably because we have a climate which makes it very difficult to get the timing right for all three disciplines to be participated in at the same event. Traditionally the running and cycling elements of a triathlon are winter sports when dogs are involved, so that the dogs are running in cooler temperatures and are not likely to overheat. Of course this doesn’t relate so well to the open water swimming element and it is something we have considered at great length and have chosen our dates according to balancing these¬†factors.

Choosing the right time of year for the Tri Dog events has been very important

The group of people behind Tri Dog events in the UK have all had a wealth of competitive experience with running and cycling dogs but the swimming is something we have only been doing to maintain fitness in the summer. We have taken inspiration from a competition which has been running in Europe for 8 consecutive years now called ‘Iron Dog’ and using their model we have begun to offer a programme of training and events to develop triathlon for dogs in the UK, mainly based around the Midlands area.

The main elements of a Tri Dog event are:

Canicross:

Running with dogs is now more commonly known as canicross and is defined as cross country running with your dog attached to you. To take part in canicross races, your dog must have a correctly fitting harness and be attached via a bungee lead to a waistbelt worn by the person. Canicross is a fast growing sport in the UK and there have been specific races for people to take part in with their dogs for over 10 years now.

Canicross – running with your dog

Bikejor:

Biking with dogs is known as bikejoring and although originates from the sled dog sports where people used bikes to keep their dogs fit in the spring and autumn when there was no snow for sledding, is now a sport in it’s own right. Riders usually have a mountain bike with an attachment which helps to keep the bungee line from falling in the wheel if the dog stops suddenly and the dog is in harness, attached to the bike via a bungee lead around the headstock of the bike. Bikejor is much faster than canicross and the top dog and rider combinations are reaching speeds of in excess of 30 mph on some of the trails.

Bikejor – biking with your dog

Swimming:

Swimming with dogs hasn’t got a specific name and isn’t yet a recognised sport. For the Tri Dog events being brought to the UK we are requesting that your dog is attached to you via a lead of some description for safety. The idea is to try and get your dog to either swim alongside you in the open water or if you’ve got a really strong swimmer, they can even pull you if they are wearing a comfortable harness.

Swimming with your dog

The Tri Dog series of training and events got underway in October 2016 with the first training weekend which sold out before the event. We welcomed a group of owners and their dogs along to Croft Farm, near Tewkesbury to come and participate in all three disciplines and also practice some vital race skills.

The bikejor group concentrated on bike skills for the people and then once some basic skills were established and practiced, the dogs were brought into the training sessions. Depending on previous experience, some people were tackling a specially designed skills trail and some were getting confidence with their dog being attached to the bike and running out in front.

The canicross group focused on the skills necessary for racing in a triathlon, this is very important when it comes to racing with dogs as you are responsible for your dogs’ behaviour as well as your own! Canicrossers were passing each other side by side and then progressing to head on passes encouraging the dogs to ignore each other and stay calm. Race starts were also practiced and the transitions were explained and then completed by all those taking part. We are using stake out lines to attach the dogs to whilst the owner changes the equipment for each phase, this enables the dog to see the owner at all times but not interfere with any other dog or person, keeping everyone involved separate and safe.

The swimming group worked on getting the dogs confidently into the water and for some this was the first time they had experienced open water swimming with their dogs, so making the process as calm and enjoyable as possible was vital to ensure the dogs (and their owners) would be happy to do this again. For the swimming element of the triathlon, the welfare of the dogs is paramount and we do not encourage owners to force their dogs to swim, with this in mind there is a wade option for those whose dogs are struggling with the swim.

The swim is the part most people worry about

The training weekend was a resounding success and we have already had calls for more training sessions which we are hoping to provide in 2019. We have our next Triathlon event in less than two week now with the biggest entry we’ve seen since we began the events, so it looks like it will be a good one!

If you would like to know more about Tri Dog and for the event and training information please visit the Facebook page Tri Dog and our website http://www.tri-dog.com, we’d love to get more people participating and enjoying this very new combination of dog sports with their beloved pets.

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!

 

 

 

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 РPhoto 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 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!

Racing Etiquette – Canicross, Bikejor and Dog Scooter Racing

The races for canicross, bikejor and dog scootering are getting so popular now and we are attending so many races on a monthly basis, that I gave up writing race reports a long time ago! From Cornwall to Scotland and everything in between, there are so many club and individual races you can attend with your dog, that the choice is increasing year on year for participants to take part.

Not only have you got dog sport specific races but we are also being welcomed and supported in many trail races designed for off road runners. Clearly this is limited to canicross but it has opened up a number of seriously good trail races to the dog sport world and we are making up a large part of the entry in some events.

Many trail races are now allowing canicross entries which is great news for all dog runners!

Many trail races are now allowing canicross entries which is great news for all dog runners!

What I wanted to write about in this blog is how I think we can improve how these races flow by following some simple rules and racing etiquette to make sure everyone gets the best from their race. The tips below are things I have picked up from a number of years of racing experience and knowing what I have to watch for in my dogs and be vigilant of in others.

So to enjoy my racing I try to follow these simple rules:

1 – If you are overtaking always let the person in front know you are coming – By calling ahead in plenty of time to let the person know you are approaching them, you are giving that person time to move out of your way, which¬†is in your interests and theirs. One of the accepted terms to call is ‘trail right’ or ‘trail left’ depending on which side you intend to overtake on but the most¬†important thing is to give as much warning and be as clear as you can so the person in front can react.

You might catch up with people in races and as you do make sure you call out to let other competitors know you are approaching

You might catch up with people in races and as you do, make sure you call out to let other competitors know you are approaching

2 – Do not sit on the heels of the team in front – This is something that can be very frustrating for both teams, as it can distract the team in front and the way to win races isn’t by allowing your dog to take a ‘tow’ off someone in front all the time. You may also upset non-dog runners in canicross friendly races if you allow your dog to be ‘breathing down the neck’ of the runner in front, so just make sure you leave an acceptable gap until or unless, you are ready to overtake.

Leaving space between competitors is especially important on bikes or scooters - Photo courtesy of Sharon Reid

Leaving space between competitors is especially important on bikes or scooters – Photo courtesy of Sharon Reid

3 – If you are being overtaken, move over – Once the person behind you has caught you, move aside on the trail and allow them to overtake cleanly. Ideally you will have taught your dog an ‘over’ command so that your dog will move on the side of the trail you have directed. Even if you are on a bike or scooter, you should attempt to move your dog over. I have seen many people simply move themselves or their bike or scooter over and the dog is still across the trail; this leaves¬†the line blocking the path of the person behind, preventing them from getting past, which is frustrating for everyone and risks your dog getting in a tangle with theirs.

Moving over on the trail will allow people to overtake you without tangles - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Moving over on the trail will allow people to overtake you without tangles – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

4 – Do not allow your dog to lunge at other dogs (or people) during the race – Even if your dog is only being friendly, you are in a race situation and other competitors will not want your dog interfering with theirs (or them) even if it not being aggressive. The best thing to do if you know your dog is prone to this, is move right out of the way if possible. If it not possible then you must pull your dog in and even pull over to prevent this. If you are being overtaken then it will benefit you to allow the person a clear passage past you and then you can follow on. If you are overtaking and know your dog is prone to lunging you should be working hard during¬†training on a strong ‘on by’, ‘leave’, or ‘straight on’ command, whichever is the most effective for your dog. In this particular situation it is often better to try and get past as quickly as possible and provided the person you’re overtaking is co-operative, it will be better not to slow down and allow your dog time to consider lunging as an option.

Training your dog to be able to pass without problems is a huge part of dog sport racing

Training your dog to be able to pass without problems is a huge part of dog sport racing – Photo courtesy of Tracy Evans

5 – Be mindful of how your voice commands might affect other dogs (or people) on the course – Just be aware as you are coming up behind or being overtaken by another team that suddenly shouting at your dog might spook other dogs (or people) around you. It can be quite intimidating for a nervous dog to be overtaken by someone loudly encouraging their own dog and for this reason it is worth trying to keep commands to a minimum on the course (keeping in mind that it is better to have your dog under your control than not) but again training is the key to this.

In situations where you are surrounded by other competitors, be aware that your voice commands might have an impact on others - Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

In situations where you are surrounded by other competitors, be aware that your voice commands might have an impact on others – Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

If you can master all of the above then you should have a safe and pleasant racing experience. It is always worth doing as much training with other people before and in between races to ensure you and your dog are as relaxed as possible when racing, as adrenalin can run high in both of you. At the end of the day these dog sports events are put on for us to have fun with our dogs and so the main thing is to enjoy your run, whilst being courteous to those around you. Happy Trails!