It’s all about canicross belts (how to choose and wear them)

With so many more new people coming into the dog sport of canicross and not having seen the range of canicross belts in person, it can be very difficult to know what to buy for yourself. We’ve personally tried and tested every single belt sold on the K9 Trail Time website so you can always ask us if you have any specific questions, however in this blog we hope to give you the information you need to make a sensible choice from our selection.

Having the right canicross belt can make your runs much more comfortable for you and your dog

The first thing to say is that belts for canicross have always been called waistbelts but the reality is that they should all be worn sitting on the hips, not high around the waist and even if you have one of the wider padded belts, we always recommend to pull them down onto your hips. This is to prevent the force of your dog pulling being anywhere near your lower back. I have heard people try and differentiate between the styles by referring to some of the belts as ‘hip belts’ but I think this just confuses things because they should all be worn on the hips. The belts should probably just be called ‘belts’ to avoid any confusion!

The next thing to say is that a canicross belt is as individual for a person as a harness is for a dog, so don’t expect to buy the belt your friend has and for you to love it as they do. It might be they are a different shape to you, or their dog pulls differently to yours, or you just want different things from a belt. So try to avoid just buying what everyone else has and make the decision based on what your requirements are, that said, the popular belts are popular for a reason.

To help choose, identify what is most important to you in a belt, do you need pockets? I would say you can carry things like water, your phone, poo bags and keys in a separate way and not to rely on having a big pocket on your belt, as the type of belt that suits you best might not have pockets.

The Zero DC belts, which come in a range of colours, also have large pockets

Many people are now going for the lightweight belts such as the Non-stop Running Belt, the Neewa Canicross Belt and the Zero DC Speedy Belts. This type of belt directs the pull low down and across the backside so you feel like you are being ‘lifted’ forward if you have a strong pulling dog, rather than being pulled from slightly higher up. These belts all have a small pocket and leg straps you have to use for the belt to work correctly, so leg straps is another option you will have to consider.

It’s a myth that leg straps will chafe. I can count on one hand the number of people who have said their leg straps rub and it’s usually down to not having the belt fitted correctly. The belts have been designed by people who have been doing the sports for years and understand the needs of the belt, so have positioned the leg straps so they work to keep the belt in place without chafing.

The Non-Stop Running Belt is very lightweight and designed to pull from low down with integrated leg straps to keep it in place – Photo courtesy of Houndscape

The other main style of belt is the more traditional belt which has a padded middle section, perhaps with leg straps but some without. The Zero DC Canicross Belt, the Non-stop Trekking Belt, the Neewa Trekking Belt and Howling Dog Alaska Canicross Belt are examples of these. The Zero DC and Non-stop have removable leg straps, the Neewa has no leg straps and the Howling Dog Alaska has integral leg straps. Of these belts the Zero DC and Neewa have pockets, the other two do not. These are the type of belt I see most often being worn incorrectly, with the band high up on the waist and in the small of the back. I would always have it sitting on the top of the hips to protect the back, even if you’re just using the belt for walking.

The Howling Dog Alaska Canicross Belt is made in a more traditional style but should still be worn low down on the hips

There are a couple of other belts which sort of sit in the middle of the styles, the Non-stop Comfort Belt and the Dragrattan Ergo belt. Both have integral leg straps and spread the pull over the entire area of the material of the belt, the Non-stop Comfort is mesh material with a pocket and the Dragrattan Ergo is more padded but with no pocket. Both are good for strong pullers but have different attachment points at the front, which brings me to another difference in the belts which might influence your decision.

The Dragrattan Ergo Belt sits low down but is padded and has a sliding trigger clip for your your line

The Non-stop Trekking, Non-stop Comfort, Howling Dog Alaska and Neewa Trekking Belts all have a fixed point of attachment at the front, either a ring or in the case of the Non-stop, a clever hook and ring system (which allows quick release). The Zero DC belts have a rope to attach your line to, either by pulling it through on itself using the handle of the line or by using a carabiner in addition. The Non-stop Running Belt and the Neewa Canicross Belt have rings to attach your line to which slide over material at the front and you attach your line in the same way (thread through handle or use a carabiner in addition) and the Dragrattan Ergo belt has a trigger clip that slides on the rope, which negates the need for a carabiner.

Why would you prefer either a sliding attachment point or a fixed attachment point? The fixed attachment point gives you more control as your dog can’t move quite a far side to side on the belt, the sliding attachment point means if your dog is strong and pulls around a corner, you have a more gentle experience than if your line is fixed in the middle of the belt. It might not make any difference to you at all but these are things which I have found influence the decision people make when choosing a belt for themselves and from my own observations of how the belts work.

The Neewa Canicross Belt which is lightweight, has a pocket for storage and a sliding ring to attach your line to

Most of the belts available are ‘one size fits all’ however if you’re concerned that the belt may not adjust big or small enough for you then please do drop me an e-mail to check. Some of the belts do come in different sizes although this usually just means the material section is slightly bigger and the straps are more or less the same length regardless of size. We also have a couple of childrens’ belts in stock to cater for the very young or very small child, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for then again just ask and there’s bound to be an option that will work for your needs.

We have some exceptionally small handmade belts in stock at K9 Trail Time for children

If all this is still not helping you make a decision, drop me a line at emilyt@k9trailtime.com and I can help you with any specific questions but do have an idea of what your needs are, as I can’t make the decision for you, or even narrow down the options unless you have thought about what you might prefer first.

A well fitted canicross belt can make the experience so much more comfortable for you, so make sure you do get some good advice that is personal to you before making a purchase and ideally if you can get to a club who have a kit bag for you to try the belts out first, then that will ensure you are happy with your purchase.

Happy trails!

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.

 

Product Feature – The Neewa Canicross Belt

The Neewa Canicross Belt is the newest addition to our ever-expanding range of waist belts for canicrossers. The belts are known as waist belts but now I would say the term ‘hip belt’ is probably more accurate and I would always advise anyone using a belt for running with your dog, to adjust it low down the body on the hips. The Neewa Canicross Belt’s lightweight design lends itself to this position because the mesh of the belt supports the runners bottom and the top of the belt clips around the hips rather than the waist.

The Neewa Canicross Belt is the newest of our 'hip belts'

The Neewa Canicross Belt is the newest of our ‘hip belts’

The belt has integrated leg straps which (together with the strap that clips around the hips) keeps the belt in place when running and prevents unwanted movement. The Neewa Canicross Belt has a small pocket in the mesh at the back of the belt, large enough for keys and a few poo bags but nothing more. The belt also feature a metal ring which slides along the webbing strap in front of the runners hips to attach your dog’s line to. You can either just loop the webbing handle of a line through on itself, through this ring, or use an additional carabiner to attach the line.

The Neewa Canicross Belt being tested earlier this year

The Neewa Canicross Belt being tested earlier this year

The main advantages of this belt are that it is lightweight, adjustable to fit most sizes and has the sliding ring on the front to attach your dog to, which I am a big fan of. The Neewa Canicross belt is also very good value for money and that makes it a great starter belt, as well as one for the more experienced canicrosser. The only disadvantage I can see with the belt is that it’s style might not suit everyone, it does sit low down on the body with minimal material and this might not appeal to every canicrosser. On the whole though, this belt comes highly recommended by us for every day use and for racing with one or more dogs, it has been tested with three enthusiastic collie crosses and passed with flying colours!

For more information or to buy this belt please follow this link:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/neewa-canicross-waist-belt.html

 

The new Neewa Canicross Belt is an excellent all round belt at a great price

The new Neewa Canicross Belt is an excellent all round canicross belt at a great price

How to look after your dog sport kit

I’ve seen a fair few posts in recent weeks asking about how to clean canicross, bikejor and dog scootering kit. With the never-ending rain and subsequent mud this winter, it makes sense to share a few tips about how to look after your gear.

Firstly, the thing you should clean most frequently is your dogs’ harness. If you don’t clean your dogs’ harness, you risk the mud on the harness potentially rubbing your dog when you next put it on your dog to run. Any mud that has dried on is usually on the under side of the harness between your dogs front legs where the skin is most sensitive anyway, so you need to be mindful of this and ensure your harness has the majority of the mud washed off.

Your dog and harness can get very muddy, always rinse the harness off after a run to prevent any dried on mud rubbing your dog on your next run - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Your dog and harness can get very muddy, always rinse the harness off after a run to prevent any dried on mud rubbing your dog on your next run – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

The dog sports harnesses are all designed to be durable and are made of materials that withstand muddy, wet and icy conditions, however if you allow your harness to remain continually wet, then no matter how tough the harness, it will eventually shows signs of degradation. Some of the harnesses also have clips or buckles on them which also need to be dried off and not left damp for long periods of time.

We recommend you try to get the majority of the mud off your dogs’ harness after every run, this is not to say it should go in the washing machine after every run, as continued use of detergent will also eventually have a wearing effect on your harness. Simply hosing or washing down the harness is sufficient for every day use but if you do want to put your harness in the machine once a week, we suggest putting the harness in a pillow case or other soft wash bag to protect both the harness and your machine. Always use a cool wash and minimal amounts of detergent, don’t use fabric softener and NEVER tumble dry your harness! All of the items of kit have stray ends and bits that can catch in the drum, so the material casing really is a must if you don’t want your machine to get damaged.

Keeping your harness as clean and as dry as possible will help to prolong it's life

Keeping your harness as clean and as dry as possible will help to prolong it’s life

Once your harness is clean (or at least mud-free) then you need to hang it somewhere so it can dry. Directly on a radiator isn’t recommended, but if you have somewhere warm near a heat source, even some warm water pipes, then drying your harness out after a wet, muddy run is a great way to keep it in tip top condition.

You might also want to wash your running belt in the same way from time to time as they can get sweaty and muddy too. Stick to the rules about keeping your belt in a protective material case, on a cool wash, with minimal detergent, without fabric softener and NEVER tumble dry.

Belts can get muddy too, especially if you have a tendency to fall over!

Belts can get muddy too, especially if you have a tendency to fall over! – Photo courtesy of Mark Brindley

For lines, the same rules apply and if you have clips that you can remove, we’d remove those before putting them in the washing machine, as it’s just an extra precaution to protect it from having metal being thrown around inside. One word of warning though, don’t undo any knots in bungee lines. Bungee lines have a bungee either sewn or knotted in and if you undo the knots in a knotted bungee line, you will find your bungee section has gone!

Just a quick note about bikes, scooters. I am one of the worst people for not washing off my equipment but I appreciate that to maintain a bike or dog scooter (which are expensive items) you really need to be cleaning all the moving parts after every run, clearing all debris off and ensuring you lubricate chains. I’ve had some fairly hefty servicing bills as a result of not doing this properly, so I’ve learnt my lesson now!

The attachments you fix on bike also need to be removed every now and again to make sure you’ve not got mud caught between them and the frame which can scratch and cause damage.

You can get even muddier when bikejoring or scootering so make sure you keep the moving parts clean or expect hefty service bills!

You can get even muddier when bikejoring or scootering so make sure you keep the moving parts clean or expect hefty service bills! – Photo courtesy of Maggie Bird

A few last little pointers to help you keep your kit in great condition:

Don’t leave your dog in it’s harness for long periods of time to avoid it being chewed or getting caught on things

Check any straps, buckles, clips and cords on your kit regularly for wear and tear, it’s much better to discover something early on and make a minor repair than have it fail on you when on a run

Remember that extreme temperatures can weaken any material, so be careful with kit in ice and snow (particularly with plastic clips that could become brittle and snap) and also don’t leave kit in hot places where materials could melt

We always try to help people get the best from their canicross, bikejor and dog scootering equipment, so I hope this blog has been useful to you and if you would like to know more about the range we sell please visit our website:

http://www.k9trailtime.com

Happy trails!

 

 

 

Canicross – An Introduction

The sport of canicross is rapidly growing in the UK as more people discover it and the benefits it can bring for both human and canine alike.

Canicross in it’s simplest form is running cross country (on trails and paths, rather than roads) with your dog and many people have been doing this with their dogs without even realising there is a name for it, or that it is a sport which has it’s own competitions.

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Why canicross? I’ve divided this into the 3 sections I feel are most important

Behaviour – Many rescued and high energy dogs have benefitted from participating in outdoor pursuits with their owners such as running (canicross) biking (bikejor) and scootering in addition to the more established outdoor dog activities. The effect of activity is to allow your dog an outlet for energy which might otherwise be used for destructive and unwanted behaviours around the home & garden. Canicross is a great way to exercise a dog who can’t otherwise be let off lead due to (among other things) a high hunting instinct, which is why you will see many different breeds participating from terriers to malamutes.

Health – Recent studies estimate that as many as one third of dogs nationwide are 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 (much the same as in people) so you might even be prolonging your own life as well as your dogs’ with consistent exercise!

Fun – Taking part in dog sports usually means you and your dog get to socialise with likeminded people but even if it’s just you and your dog, you will be strengthening your bond with your dog which is very rewarding and great fun too.

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

What do I need to canicross? The basic kit for canicrossing properly is a comfortable, well fitting harness for your dog, a bungee line to absorb the shock from any pull for both you and your dog and a waist belt so you are hands free when running. These 3 main elements form the basis for a pleasant experience when running with your dog. Without the harness you risk pulling on your dog’s neck, without the bungee you can find yourself jerked after something interesting on your route and without the waist belt your may find your neck, shoulders and back ache from holding a lead.

What harness? There is now a huge variety of choice for all sizes and shapes of dogs, with new products being brought out regularly. Which harness is best suited for your dog depends on a number of factors but at K9 Trail Time we offer a free consultation to help get you started in the right direction, or to help you choose I have written another article here: http://www.k9trailtime.com/information/team-thomas-harnesses

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

What line? As long as there is bungee for shock absorption then most lines will be fine. Some are made from webbing and some from stronger polypro braid but which you choose is personal preference. The standard canicross lines are approximately 2 metres when stretched but many people run with shorter or longer lines based on their own requirements. Some races have rules on line length, so do ask if you’re thinking of competing in canicross competitions and we can inform you of the rules.

Zero DC Lines

Zero DC Lines

What waistbelt? The style of waist belt which you choose is down to what you would like from it and what you find most comfortable. I’ve written about choosing a belt here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/belt-braces-how-to-choose-a-canicross-belt/ but the basic things you need to ask yourself are: Do I want something padded or lightweight? Do I want leg straps? Do I want pockets? Once you know the answer to these then it makes choosing a belt much easier. The purpose of the belt is for your comfort and to ensure canicrossing with your dog does not damage your back, shoulders, neck or arms.

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

How do I get started? The best way to get started is to find a group of people locally who are already canicrossing, as there are many social groups now encouraging new people to join them. A group will most likely have spare kit they could loan you to kit to try out and will be able to offer advice about training your dog with voice commands for directions etc.

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started - Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started – Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Lastly, but most importantly, your dog needs to be fit and fully developed before you begin canicrossing. Most races will not allow a dog under 1 year old to compete and it is recommended you start your dog off very gently at around the year old stage and not before. You also have to ensure you will be putting your dog’s health first and to avoid any problems, stick to running in cool temperatures (never in the heat of the day in summer) and carrying water with you in case your dog needs it.

If you would like any more information on canicross or the equipment you need to begin please do contact me at K9 Trail Time and I will be happy to help you. There is also a lot of information on my website http://www.k9trailtime.com and on my wordpress blog:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com

 

K9 Trail Time 10 Commandments of Canicross

1 – Always put your dog first – This could mean dropping from a race because it’s too warm, carrying water and a first aid kit on longer runs or even just giving your dog a rest day if you’ve been doing a lot recently. The main thing to remember is your dogs’ welfare comes first above everything!

2 – Get a properly fitting harness – If you are expecting your dog to run with you on a regular basis then you must invest in a decent dog running harness. There are many different styles and brands now, not all of which will be suitable for your dog. Do some research and make sure you get one that fits correctly for your dogs’ shape and running style. It is very important your dog feels comfortable and the harness does not restrict movement. More information on choosing a harness can be found here: http://www.k9trailtime.com/information/team-thomas-harnesses

A good fitting harness is a must for canicross!

A good fitting harness is a must for canicross!

3 – Get yourself a waist belt – To prevent back strains, it is always advisable to get a proper waist belt and choose one which suits your needs. There are again many different styles but it is personal preference with a belt, as to what you feel will work best. For more information on choosing a belt see this article:  https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/belt-braces-how-to-choose-a-canicross-belt/

4 – Connect yourself with a bungee line – A line with bungee in it will help to absorb the shock of your dog tugging to chase any wildlife you may come across. There are different lengths available to suit different situations and environments but for some more guidance see this past blog: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/line-length-the-long-and-short-of-it/

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

5 – Keep training positive – Whether you are new to the sport or have been canicrossing for years, ensure your training always leaves your dog wanting more. If you are going out and doing too much at a time or on surfaces or in areas unsuitable for your dog, you will quickly find your dog isn’t so keen to keep in front and it is important your dog always enjoys the experience of canicrossing.

6 – Feed well before and after runs – As a rule of thumb I always feed 2-3 hours before a run and leave at least an hour after a run before I feed the dogs again. The reason for this is to avoid the life-threatening condition of bloat. Studies have suggested that exercise too close to meal times can be contributing factor, so it is always better to be on the safe side and plan meal around your runs. A tasty snack however is allowed!

7 – Make sure there is fresh water available – It could be that you carry this yourself or ensure that your run route has plenty of natural water stops. However you choose to provide it, you must be sure it will be available. I tend to carry about 250ml of water per dog per 5 mile run when it’s cool and more if it’s warmer but observe how much your dog needs and tailor this for yourself.

Allowing your dog access to water is a must for canicross runs

Allowing your dog access to water is a must for canicross runs

8 – Keep a first aid kit handy – You can carry the basics in a pocket, for example a bandage and some sterile wash pods or wipes. The injury your dog is most likely to pick up is a scratch or cut to the pads, so it is always useful to carry a couple of dog boots just in case. K9 Trail Time stocks PAWZ boots which are a lightweight and extremely tough option for covering a cut pad. For more information please see the website: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pawz-dog-boots.html

Pawz dog boots are a useful addition to a first aid kit

Pawz dog boots are a useful addition to a first aid kit

9 – Check the weather – It’s not canicross if it’s not muddy and raining but sometimes the weather can change quite dramatically in the UK in a short space of time and can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly in the summer months. You also need to be aware of the humidity level as this is just as dangerous for dogs as high temperatures and has a direct effect on your dogs’ ability to cool itself down. Using an app on your phone is the simplest way to keep a track of what the weather is doing and can also help you avoid the worst of the British showers if you want to, but personally I love running in the rain!

10 – Have fun! – The second most important thing on this list as far as I’m concerned, after putting your dog first. Whatever you are doing and wherever you canicross, on your own, in a social group run or racing, it should be fun for both you and your dog and should continue to be fun. The whole idea of canicross is to get out with your dog to do something enjoyable for you both, which is also beneficial to your health. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. Happy Trails!

Having fun with your dog is the objective of canicross!

Having fun with your dog is the objective of canicross!

Product Feature – Canadog Deluxe Belt

The Canadog Deluxe walking/canicrossing belt was the first belt I got for canicrossing and I still use it many years on, both for walking and to loan to people who come canicrossing with me. I thought I would write a bit about it following on from the blog on how to choose your belt.

The Canadog belt currently comes in a choice of three colours (red, blue and black) which appealed to me, along with the built in pocket large enough for a phone and keys, plus the water bottle holder at the back and a ring either side to clip a treat or poo bag to. It is also very adjustable so can fit a wide range of people and suits all sorts of shapes and sizes.

The Canadog Deluxe belt with it's pocket, water bottle and thick padding

The Canadog Deluxe belt with it’s pocket, water bottle and thick padding

The belt is wide, fully padded and fleece lined for the runner or walkers’ comfort, as the pull from the dog is absorbed through the belt without putting any pressure on the runners back. The bungee line (sold separately) is attached via the two d-rings at the front of the belt and you will either need a caribiner or a line with a clip at each end to provide an element of quick release, otherwise you can usually just loop the end of the line through the d-rings.

As I explained in my previous article, I think the Canadog belt will suit a wide range of people but can rise up the waist if you wear it lower down (as I do), have a much smaller waist than hips and your dog pulls very hard. I think this is its’ only disadvantage for use when canicrossing.

If you’re looking for a top quality belt for both walking and canicrossing, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Canadog belt, as it’s designed to be both practical and comfortable. For more information or to purchase see http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canadog-belt.html

The Canadog belt in action with two dogs attached - Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright Chillpics

The Canadog belt in action with two dogs attached – Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright Chillpics