The Puppy Diary – Training for the future (9 – 12 months)

So we’ve now reached the stage where our first race is not too far away, we’ve thought about a ‘proper’ harness and also been doing a little bit more in terms of actual canicross training for Yogi, the K9 Trail Time pup. It is still important to remember that dogs will continue growing right up to and even beyond 12 months old and essentially even at a year old, they are still youngsters who need to be trained gently, with consideration for their joints and their impressionable minds.

At 9 months old, it’s still important to keep things low key in training as your dog will still be growing and learning about life

Yogi was comfortable with his shorter harness from a very young age but looking at his movement and his shape, it was fairly obvious that he would be better suited to running in a longer style. Yogi is a natural puller and also when free running really ‘bounds’, he has a very long stride length and so whilst a short harness doesn’t restrict his running in any way, a longer harness will be better for him long term to capture the ‘pull’ of his movement. With this in mind at around 10 months we started to try on the longer harnesses to try and gauge what might suit him best, he was an unwilling model and didn’t seem to like the longer harnesses over his back, so we persevered and just had a few fitting sessions for him to get used to the longer style, just whilst sitting around.

Yogi tried on longer harnesses at around 10 months but we didn’t settle on one until just after he was 11 months old.

We are lucky in that we have the harnesses to try but if you can borrow some kit for your dog and just get them used to having different styles and lengths on your dog, this is a great way to see what looks good and get them walking around in a proper running harness. Many dogs won’t need a longer harness but because Yogi is hound shaped and an athletic build, there was never any doubt in my mind he would be in a longer harness eventually. We didn’t actually start running him in one until he was about 11 months old.

Yogi out on a training run in his longer harness, the Non-stop Freemotion.

So with the harness selection covered we were also doing lots of other little bits of training to get Yogi used to life running in harness. We have not covered any great distances in this time and it is important to build up any distance slowly to encourage your dog to want to do more. If you exhaust your pup by taking them straight out to do 3 miles in harness, you might find they make a negative association with the process. It is far better to stick to short runs and leave them wanting to do more so they are excited when the harness comes out. You also need to ensure they do not overwork, like humans, dogs will feel aches and tiredness in muscles and joints, so be very mindful of this when training.

The other thing we have done to make training fun is to vary what we do every day. Yogi has done runs in woods, through fields, through water, up hills, through ankle deep mud and it’s all good experience for him to learn nothing is scary and that we might encounter any type of surface during a run or race too.

 

Yogi has been training through,  mud, water, snow, fields, woodland and on as many different surfaces as we can find, grass, track and even very short sections on tarmac to ensure he will not be phased by anything we might come across

 

So with all this in place Yogi shouldn’t be intimidated by anything he might find on the course at a race but what about other dogs? We’ve done a lot of socialisation with Yogi to make sure he’s friendly and interacts well with other dogs but we’ve also had times where he’s had to ignore other dogs and focus on the job in hand. Being honest he’s very interested in saying ‘hello’ to other dogs when he’s been out but I’ve actively discouraged this while he’s working in harness because this isn’t acceptable behaviour during a race and it’s not something I want to be dealing with when I eventually put him on the bike! We’ve met up and run with friends a few times who have dogs that Yogi only sees from time to time and he has been encouraged to ignore them whilst running but he’s been allowed to play with them when he’s not in a ‘working’ situation and this seems to be working well.

Yogi has been learning that he has a ‘job’ to do in harness and to focus on running, not other dogs when we’re out training

When training a young dog it is always helpful to have other experienced dogs around from them to learn from and this is what we have found works best. That’s not so helpful if this is your only dog but with so many canicross groups around now to meet up with, it shouldn’t be a problem to find friends with dogs who are very focused that you can meet up with to join for a social run. I have found that Yogi is now confident running on his own while my other dogs are off lead and I also recently took him on a night run with some other dogs he didn’t know and he behaved very well, passing without trying to interfere with another dog and taking the lead when he needed to, so he has learnt to run out front and not to chase.

Yogi did very well on a recent night run but the focus required also tired him out!

When training a dog at this age it’s also important to consider that this type of focus will be tiring and whenever I’ve asked Yogi to really think about what he’s doing, he has been tired afterwards, so do give your young dog plenty of rest time too. You’ve hopefully got a long and happy running career with your pup so there’s no need to rush things or cram loads of training in right now, they can carry on learning ‘on the job’ as long as the basics are in place and you have a happy and confident dog who enjoys their running.

To summarise we recommend:

Take training very steady and wait until your dog is both physically and mentally developed before you ask them to run in harness with you.

Make sure you have done the basics, socialisation and voice commands are two key things that are crucial to have your pup happy and focused.

Don’t ever push your dog beyond their capability or get cross with them if they’re not doing something you want, go back to basics and start again if you find you have issues.

Meet up with others and let your dog learn from experienced canicrossers and their dogs, sharing knowledge, experience and tips can make a big difference to how you get started.

We hope that this (very brief) guide has been of interest and we look forward to seeing how Yogi (and all the other pups we know who are coming into the dog sports) get on in the coming year as they become old enough and experienced enough to take part in races.

Happy trails everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The importance of getting a properly fitted harness for your dog

With the dog sports of canicross (running with your dog) and bikejor (biking with your dog) becoming so popular it is inevitable that new people will come into the sport and want information on how to get the best experience for them and their dog. From our point of view the most important piece of kit you need for both canicross and bikejor is the harness for your dog. If you are going to expect your dog to pull any weight when running, then it is your responsibility to make sure that your dog is in the most suitable harness which allows your dog the best range of movement to suit their shape and running style.

Your dog should be comfortable and have free range of movement while running and pulling – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

 

We’ve recently seen a number of people out running with their dogs on a collar and lead, which for us is just not an acceptable way to exercise your dog, unless it is running to heel and not pulling at all. The pressure put on the neck (a very sensitive area) with your dog pulling is something that should always be avoided and we even walk with a harness for the same reason. If you are going to run with your dog, it is highly likely your dog will be faster than you and therefore pulling at some point even if off to the side, so ensuring their comfort and safety should be a top priority.

The next problem we’ve seen more regularly is well-meaning people who have been badly advised or have been mis-sold a harness and although the dog is wearing a harness, it is just not suitable for the purpose of running. For example there are no-pull harnesses which have been used because they have a fleece lining on the webbing and so it is assumed to be comfortable but anything which tightens when pulled into will not be comfortable for a dog and will not encourage freedom of movement. The other common unsuitable type of harness is one which has a strap across the front of the shoulders, these are often sold as ‘sport’ harnesses by the manufacturers so people are being misled into thinking these are suitable for the pulling sports – they are not. The reason being that this front strap restricts shoulder movement and will prevent a full, free range of motion when the dog is running.

Harnesses such as this with one strap across the front of the shoulders are just not suitable for running dogs in, although may be sold as such

Sometimes even when the correct style of harness has been chosen unfortunately the sizing is wrong and most commonly, too big. As a general rule a dog sport harness should fit snugly, many people feel that the neck is too tight, when in actual fact the neck of the harness should make it snug to put on and pull off over the head of the dog. You only need to be able to fit a few fingers in the neck of a proper fitting harness and there should be no gaping along the body when the harness is pulled into. If the harness is just sitting on the dog with no tension through it then it may bunch up or slide about, this is normal, these harnesses are designed for dogs to pull into. If you have a dog who doesn’t pull, there are harnesses which don’t do this and we can point you in the right direction for these particular harness styles.

The Non-stop Line Harness, one of the selection we have which suits pullers and non-pullers

It is actually quite rare for a harness to be too small, it isn’t easy to get a dog into a harness which is too small and unless your dog is young and has been growing, or put on a bit of weight, then it’s usually very easy to tell if the harness is too small straight away. If you think your harness is putting pressure on your dog’s neck (you might hear a coughing noise) this is not necessarily down to it being too small, in most cases the style of harness doesn’t suit your dog and in some cases the harness might actually be too big but is pulling back because of this and causing an issue.

Most owners will recognise a properly fitting harness as soon as they see it on their dog but without having anything to compare it to or someone to confirm the harness fits, it can be difficult to know for sure. We get asked all the time to check harness fit and we’re honest, if you don’t need a new or different harness we won’t try and persuade you to buy one and if your dog is running happily in a harness then 9 times out of 10, it is suitable. But if your dog isn’t in the correct style and size of harness to suit them then it’s a bit like wearing ill fitting shoes, they will pinch, restrict, rub or even stop your dog wanting to run. If you own more than one dog you might even find that each dog you own is suited to a different style of harness.

Choosing the right harness for your dogs might mean each dog is in a different style of harness, not every dog suits every harness, they are individuals – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

There’s loads of information on our blog about choosing a harness and we’re always happy to help anyone who wants to find the perfect harness for their dog, just drop us an e-mail to info@k9trailtime.com and we’d love to help. It really is the most important part of your dog sport kit, so it’s worth spending the time to get it right! Happy trails ūüôā

 

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.

 

Dog Sport Harnesses – For dogs who sometimes pull

As I said in my last harness blog, I am always being asked about harnesses and what is the best harness for someone’s dog, the answer is never easy but one of the first things I always ask is ‘does your dog always pull out front?’. If the answer is no¬†then I will generally recommend a shorter harness, because these harnesses tend to suit dogs who are learning to pull, don’t always like to pull or are just a bit more laid back in their approach to the dog sports!¬†In some cases a mid length harness will also be suitable, for example a couple of the better designed mid length harnesses will allow a dog to pull when they choose but do not interfere or hang loose if they are not pulling out front.

SHORT HARNESSES (Also suitable for walking your dog in and if you like to let your dog off lead)

Non-stop Line Harness

The Non-stop Line Harness

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-line-harness-2019.html

Recommended for:¬†Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle.¬†This harness is adjustable around the chest¬†has lots of neck and chest padding for dogs who need support when running. Once it is adjusted this harness doesn’t move at all over the dogs’ back which is great if you let your dog free run and it has a second ring hidden in an elasticated pocket underneath the belly which can be used for training.

Neewa Adjustable Running Harness

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness

The Neewa Running Harness

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

Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. This harness is the only one we sell which is adjustable around the neck and the chest, which means it can be suitable for different shaped dogs or even a growing dog as a starter harness.

Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

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

Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. There is both a ring to attach your line to and a cord, so you can choose which suits your dog best. This harness is adjustable around the chest has lots of neck and chest padding for dogs who need support when running.

MID LENGTH HARNESSES (Can be used for dog walking if any loose ties are secured or removed)

Zero DC Short Harness

The Zero DC Short harness

The Zero DC Short harness

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

Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The ring to attach your line to has light padding underneath to prevent the clip of your line dropping in your dogs’ back if they slow down or drop back. This harness is adjustable around the chest and can fit a wide range of breeds, as sizing range starts very small and goes very large.

Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport simple in it's design

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport

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

Recommended for: Out front pullers and also dogs who like to drop back sometimes, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The back is left open for the dog to arch through and because the point to fix your line to is the cord at the back, rather than a cord at the base of the tail, this harness can suit a wide range of shapes and sizes of dog. It also has a belly strap which can prevent an escape artist from wriggling backwards out of the harness, unlike many of the other longer harnesses. The front part of the harness also stays securely in place if your dog switches from side to side on the trail.

Howling Dog Alaska Second or Tough Skin Harness:

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness,

The Howling Dog Alaska Second Skin harness

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

Recommended for: Out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. It can be adjusted around the middle and the fact it is only mid length means it can suit dogs who are short or long in the body. This harness is super lightweight and is excellent for encouraging young or novice dogs to pull into a harness because it is so soft and flexible on the dog.

Every dog we fit at K9 Trail Time is an individual, much in the same way a person is, so we base our recommendations on the information you provide about your dog and never just on sales margins or the most fashionable brand at the time. We have also tried and tested every single type of harness we sell so you can be sure we are offering you advice based on experience.

If you would like to contact us about a harness for your dog please e-mail: emilyt@k9trailtime.com

Dog Sport Harnesses – For dogs who really pull

I am always being asked about harnesses and what is the best harness for someones’ dog, the answer is never easy but one of the first things I always ask is ‘does your dog always pull out front?’. If the answer is yes then I will generally recommend a longer harness, because these are harnesses designed to capture the pull of a dog and support a dog in any sport where they are required to pull weight in some form or another (person, bike, scooter, rig or sled). In some cases a mid length harness will also be suitable, for example a couple of the better designed mid length harnesses direct the pull along the harness from underneath and therefore act in the same way as the longer harnesses, without having the full length to them.

Our recommendations for dogs who pull are below:

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

Non-stop Freemotion Harness:

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

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

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

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

Zero DC Long Harness:

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

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

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

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

Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness:

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

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

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

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

Dragrattan X-Back Harness:

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

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

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

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

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

Howling Dog Alaska Second or Tough Skin Harness:

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

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. It can be adjusted around the middle and the fact it is only mid length means it can suit dogs who are short or long in the body. This harness is super lightweight and is excellent for encouraging young or novice dogs to pull into a harness because it is so soft and flexible on the dog.

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

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

Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness:

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

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The back is left open for the dog to arch through and because the point to fix your line to is the cord at the back, rather than a cord at the base of the tail, this harness can suit a wide range of shapes and sizes of dog. It also has a belly strap which can prevent an escape artist from wriggling backwards out of the harness, unlike many of the other longer harnesses.

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

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

Every dog we fit at K9 Trail Time is an individual, much in the same way a person is, so we base our recommendations on the information you provide about your dog and never just on sales margins or the most fashionable brand at the time. We have also tried and tested every single type of harness we sell so you can be sure we are offering you advice based on experience.

If you would like to contact us about a harness for your dog please e-mail: emilyt@k9trailtime.com

Product Feature – The Neewa Running Harness

The Neewa Running Harness is one of our more recent additions to the range of shorter harnesses at K9 Trail Time and I have to admit when I got in some samples, I wasn’t sure about the high padded neck at the front of the harness. The neck sits much higher up than any of the other sport harnesses we sell and I always advise people to avoid anything that sits too near the throat.

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

However, when I actually used this harness on my dogs, I realised that the neck is very cleverly designed to fold slightly when the harness is on the dog and being pulled into. As a result the neck bends away from the throat and causes no issues whatsoever.

The Neewa Running Harness is also fully adjustable on the neck as well as¬†the chest¬†and the only harness I will sell that is adjustable in this way. I have always felt adjustment in the neck has a potential for weakness in the harness, but I feel the strength of this harness is in no way compromised by the adjustment and having it means it is the perfect harness for a growing dog to get used to having a harness on. It’s also very useful if you have more than one dog the harness needs to fit, I have used a size Medium on my 20kg collie but also on my mum’s very differently shaped 12 kg cross breed.

The range of dogs the Neewa Running Harness can fit in each size is quite broad due to the adjustable neck & chest

The range of dogs the Neewa Running Harness can fit in each size is quite broad due to the adjustable neck & chest

The harness is padded in all the areas it needs to be and my only constructive comment would be that if there were a bit of padding under the d-ring to attach your bungee to, then this harness would be the perfect shoulder harness. I would recommend this harness for anyone whose dog is perhaps unsure about pulling into a harness yet, as it can be secured so it doesn’t move about on the dog’s back if your dog isn’t pulling out in front. I would also suggest this harness for dogs who are growing and this will be their first running harness. I don’t suggest you start running puppies in them but you can start training your voice commands and get them used to the feel of pulling into a harness on walks.

The Neewa Running Harness is a very practical shoulder harness for most activities

The Neewa Running Harness is a very practical shoulder harness for most activities

The Neewa Running Harness is also useful for people who let their dogs off lead on runs and can even double up as a car harness (although it has not been crash tested). It can be used for all the dog sports and even just as a walking harness, so it is truly multi-purpose too. It comes in a range of sizes and¬†colours which means there is something for everyone’s taste and colour scheme and a size to suit most dog breeds.

The Neewa Running Harness comes in 5 colour options

The Neewa Running Harness comes in 5 colour options

For more information on sizing or to buy please visit our website here:

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

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross ‚Äď H is for Harness

Your dogs’ harness is probably the most important bit of kit you can buy for canicross and is also probably the bit of kit you will have multiples of too! Getting the right harness for your dog can be very¬†tricky as your dog will potentially change shape the more you train and become a more confident runner, which can mean the best type of harness for your dog will change. I spend hours of my time with people in person, on the phone and via e-mail or messages, helping them¬†to get the best harness for their dog because I think it’s really important in this sport that your dog is comfortable. For canicross your dogs’ harness must be snug on the neck so it doesn’t slip around and potentially cause rubbing, it must allow freedom of movement through the front legs and not cause any restriction or pressure points along the body. The purpose of the harness is to capture your dogs’ energy and send it through the bungee lead and the waist belt to propel you forward. Your dog is meant to be pulling so the harness you choose must be suitable¬†for this. There are so many different shapes and styles to choose from now that making a decision can be confusing, but K9 Trail Time is dedicated to helping you get the right harness for your dog, so I have written many, many blogs about choosing a harness and am always happy to help. The harness for canicross should be your¬†number one item on your canicross shopping list and for that reason, I have chosen harness as my word for ‘H’ in this A-Z of Canicross.

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

 

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!

 

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!

 

 

 

How to choose a harness for your dog

Harness Selection – Every dog is unique!

If you are new to dog sports you’d be forgiven for being a little confused about what type of harness you should be using for your dog! This question is not easy to answer and is based on a number of variables.

The first thing to consider is what type of sports you will be doing with your dog?

If you are competing in agility or flyball classes then a good fitting shoulder or walking harness should be perfect for your dog, as you are not asking your dog to pull any weight into the harness, it is there for ease of use for yourself and to prevent your dog from potential neck injury if your dog pulls strongly when walking.

We stock the Non-stop Line Harness, the Zero DC Euro Short, the Neewa Running Harness, and the Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness which all serve this purpose very well.

The Non-stop Line Harness is pictured below and is the perfect multi sport harness, for walking, canicross and even bikejoring.

The Non-stop Line Harness

If you are going to be running with your dog (canicross) then the harness needs to be designed to allow your dog to pull you along with no restriction on breathing or natural movement, the aim of the harness is to capture the dogs’ running power and allow the dog to pull you along through a bungee line (the line must always have this element of bungee to prevent jarring injuries).

The same is true of biking with your dog (bikejor), scootering (your dog pulls your scooter and you help by ‘scooting’) and dry land mushing (pulling a three wheeled rig which you stand on). The harnesses used for these activities need to be fit for purpose and so it is not worthwhile settling for a walking harness for these purposes. Every harness we stock is designed to be multi-functional and in most cases can be used for walking in addition to the dog sports.

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness is a another of the fantastic multi-purpose harnesses we sell.

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness is another of the fantastic multi-purpose harnesses we sell.

 

So if you have decided what sports you are taking part in and have decided if you need a pulling harness or not (I have made some suggestions for walking harnesses and multi-use harnesses above) the next thing to look at is how hard your dog is going to pulling you as we always recommend a longer style harness for dogs who are always out front pulling hard.

The x-back harnesses we stock are a fantastic longer harness with years and years of success for sled dogs all over the world. The x-back is designed to spread the strain of pulling from the dogs’ shoulders, away from the throat with a ‘V’ shaped neck and along the body to the point of the line attachment by the base of the dogs’ tail. The x-back does have some limitations in use as they do not suit very small dogs when used with a short ‘parkrun’ length line. This is because they were originally designed to have a horizontal line pull angle but in most cases the x-back works very well for strong pulling dogs for both canicross and bikejor in addition to scootering, sledding and dry land mushing.

Pictured below is the Dragrattan x-back harness, a traditional design of harness, used for a variety of dog sports

Donnie in Dragrattan x back

I use either a Dragrattan or Non-stop Nansen Nome x-back harness on a couple of my dogs for canicross, bikejor & scootering because they pull very strongly and these harnesses work well for dogs who are always out in front.

So what other harnesses can you use?

Arguably the best multi-sport option available for strong pullers is the Non-stop Freemotion Harness, which has an attachment point at the base of the dogs’ tail and is designed to direct the pull away from the throat and allow freedom of movement. The neck of the harness has a deep ‘V’ keeping the harness for riding up into the throat of the dog. The two straps either side of the dogs’ spine also allow the spine to flex freely when the dog is bounding in a run and so suits any dogs who really bend and arch through the back when running.

The Freemotion can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, skijoring (skiing with your dog), sledding, dry land mushing, even hiking and is more adjustable than the other longer harnesses which allows it to work correctly for a larger number of breeds who might be broader / slimmer in shape or longer / shorter in the body than the sled dog breeds, who the original pulling harnesses were designed for. I have used the Freemotion on all of my dogs because it is so versatile in its uses and can be adjusted in length to accommodate their individuality.

The Non-stop Freemotion Harness below is one of the best multi-sport harnesses available

Tegan Non-stop 6

Similar in design but with a higher neck piece which may not suit all dogs, is the Neewa Racing harness, again this harness is great for strong pullers, adjustable in length and leaves the back free to arch, however the sizing is more limited in these harnesses and therefore doesn’t suit such a wide range of breeds.

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

The Howling Dog Alaska Second Skin or Tough Skin Harness is another option you may want to consider for pulling activities, as it has a simple design, is adjustable around the ribs and by attaching your line at the end of the cord, gives you a happy mix between the long and short harnesses. It falls into the category of a longer style harness because the pull is directed along the body and away from the throat in the same way as the other longer harnesses, however these harnesses are great if your dog doesn’t like things too close to their tail or has had any issues with things in the hip area. The Second Skins also work exceptionally well for stockier, shorter bodied breeds of dogs such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier because they fit shorter on the body.

One thing to note about this harness however, is that it must be used for dogs that pull into the harness, if the Second Skin is not pulled into, it can tend to slip on the dogs’ back and for that reason I do not recommend it for activity where you may want to let your dog off lead in the harness.

donnie second skin

Relatively new to the dog sport harness market is the Dragrattan Multi Sport Harness which is based on an x-back style harness on the neck, with all pull being directed along your dog’s body and underneath, but with the back being left open to allow your dog to move more freely. Because your line is attached to the cord at the back of the Dragrattan Multi Sport, it doesn’t interfere with the front of the harness if your dog moves to one side or another on the trail, so if your dog gets distracted when running, then this might be the perfect harness for you.

The harness is also suitable for dogs who might be a less traditional sled dog or hound shape and has a belly strap for those who might be liable to wriggle out of longer harnesses. I used these harnesses on all my dogs for a long distance canicross challenge we completed in 2016 and they performed perfectly over 100 plus miles, so I can highly recommend them.

Judo with Tegan Multi sport Dragrattan

The Dragrattan Multi Sport harness is brand new for 2016 and a great option for all dog sports

Another of the European harness designs is that of the Euro Harness by Zero DC which comes in both a long and short option. The Zero DC Long or ‘Faster’ Harness is designed to be a multi-sport harness suitable for canicross, bikejor, scootering, mushing and skijor. With the long version pull is directed from the dogs’ shoulders away from the neck and to an attachment point at the base of the tail. The neck of the harness is round in shape which tends to suit the hound shaped dogs better than other breeds of dog and differs from the x-back and Freemotion harnesses which have the ‘V’. There is also no material over the dogs’ back with this harness, the harness material comes from the front underneath and along the rib cage up to the base of the tail, therefore avoiding any potential restriction of the back if your dog really arches through it’s back when it runs.

Pictured below is the Zero DC Euro Long Harness, a great multi-purpose harness for dogs who pull strongly

Judo Euro Long

I have used the Zero DC Euro Long Harness on my Sprollie because when he runs he ‘bounds’ along and his back when running is much more mobile than my other dogs’ backs when they run. Anything which directed his pulling power along the top of his back, such as a shorter style harness, could potentially hinder his natural movement.

The Zero DC Euro Short Harness is designed much more like a shoulder harness with a shorter attachment point mid way down the dogs’ back and seems to suit both small and large breeds alike because of the adjustability of the girth on this shorter harness and it’s suitability for most sports. I have used the short version on my husky cross because the pulling power is lost through the long version when she ‘trots’. These harnesses work well for dogs who don’t always pull strongly because they do not have the longer length of material or webbing which can become redundant if your dog is not pulling out in front. The neck of the Zero DC Short is also rounded in shape.

Pictured below is the Zero DC Euro Short Harness, great for both pulling and non-pulling dogs

Tegan in Euro Short Yellow

I mentioned at the start of this blog the Non-stop Line Harness and although we suggest these for walking and other activities, if you have a dog who only lightly pulls or tends to drop back with you, you let off lead for most or part of your runs, or even if you’re unsure what your dog will do to begin with, you can’t go far wrong with one of these.

They are lightweight, robust and with a selection of sizing from 1 to 9, fit most breeds of dog who want to take part in any pulling sports. We really rate these harnesses for all activities and wanted to mention them again because they can be over looked as a running harness but in our experience are very much up to the job.

The Non-stop Line Harness, one of the selection we have which suits pullers and non-pullers

Similar to the Non-stop Line harness is the Neewa Running harness, the main difference being the style of neck again, the Neewa harnesses have a higher padded section on the neck than the Non-stop and do not cover such a wide range of sizes, therefore might not suit such a wide range of breeds.

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness is higher set and more padded than the Non-stop Line

To conclude this article on harnesses I need to say this is my personal experience of the harnesses I have mentioned when being used on my own dogs. Each of my dogs has a different running style (trot, bound and all out pull from the shoulders) each of my dogs is a slightly different breed which means they are a slightly different shape and so it would seem obvious to me that each dog might suit a different style of harness.

When selecting a harness for your dog, you need to consider the purpose for which you need the harness, how strongly your dog is going to be pulling you and lastly but most important, the individuality of your dog. I have chosen to stock a variety of harnesses for this reason as I don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach and if you can it’s always better to trial a harness to see how it works with your dog and set up before you commit to one. Otherwise you’ll end up like me with half a dozen harnesses for each dog!

If you need any further help I have provided a ‘Harness Consultation’ sheet here:¬†http://www.k9trailtime.com/index.php/information/harness-consultation-questions¬†which will help us to advise you and I would suggest considering the questions to provide us with a bit more information so we can get the perfect harness for your dog.

We also have a video on choosing the right harness for your dog here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8yZ7EFslqE