Product Feature – The Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness

We have recently launched the brand new Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness, which we have been involved with from the start of the design process last year. Arctic Wolf came to us for inspiration, ideas, information and we fed back all the comments and experiences from ourselves and our customers to create the Adventure Harness, new for 2020.

Yogi proudly modelling the Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness, he helped to design and test!

The Adventure Harness is intended to be useful for all active dogs taking part in a variety of activities, from walking / hiking, agility and flyball to canicross and bikejoring with your dog. The harness is made from lightweight, strong but quick drying materials, sourced to ensure that if your dog is getting wet and muddy in it, the harness won’t hold water or cause rubbing associated with heavy, wet, thick material.

The Adventure Harness is perfect for a wide variety of activities with your dog

The design of the harness is simple, so it will suit dogs who perhaps don’t like the feel of a more structured or longer style harness on their body, however it does sit longer on the body than your standard walking / hiking harness and is well clear of the front legs to allow a full range of movement.

To put the harness on all you need to do is pop the harness over the head of your dog and clip up the strong, lightweight plastic clips either side of the dogs’ body. This is an advantage for any dogs who don’t like lifting their feet into harnesses and with a generous space for the head to go through, it is also not as snug as some of the other sports harnesses to fit over the ears, which many dogs don’t like.

The neck of the harness whilst being designed to be a snug fit on the neck has a reinforced ‘V’ in the front of the neck piece which has two functions. It’s first function is to offer that little bit of extra space when being fitted over your dogs’ head, the other is to ensure the harness ‘V’ sits low on the neck and doesn’t rise up into the throat of the dog, which can happen with some of the rounder style necks on some harnesses. This means that even if your dog is a strong puller, the ‘V’ ensures the neck of the harness doesn’t put pressure on your dogs’ throat.

At the front of the harness there is a reinforced piece of webbing where you can clip a lead to, this is perfect for people who use a two clip system to walk or train their dog, as this encourages a natural and balanced stance in the dog and gives you more control if you need it, without twisting your dogs’ neck or head around.

The Adventure Harness also features an internal handle on the top of the harness, so when your dog is pulling out in front of you, the handle isn’t noticeable and lies flat into the harness. If and when you need it however, the handle can be used to hold your dog if you have to bring them close to you and also if you need to help them scramble over obstacles, like a style or even for older dogs who need a hand climbing into vehicles etc.

The secret poo bag pocket down either side of the harness means there’s no excuses for not carrying poo bags with you on your walks / runs either! The pocket is a really discrete extra layer of the harness material which allows a few poo bags to be stuffed in, accessed when you need them.

So as you can probably tell we are pretty proud of being involved in the design of this harness and have responded to your feedback over the years to produce something with Arctic Wolf which will hopefully provide a solution for many dog owners. The Adventure Harness is a really functional active dog harness which is suitable for use in a variety of situations. We’re also proud of the fact that this harness is designed and produced in the UK, so the quality is extremely high, with a low carbon footprint.

We recommend this harness for any active dogs who need a lightweight, top quality, multi functional, dog harness which doesn’t restrict movement in any way. With all the extra features this harness has, we know this is going to be really popular for walking / hiking, canicross, agility, flyball, general dog training and even faster sports such as bikejoring and dog scootering.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us info@k9trailtime.com and the harness can be found on our website here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/arctic-wolf-adventure-harness.html

Looking for a Line?

We’ve been asked a lot recently about lines for canicross, mainly because there’s now so many options available. We thought we’d try and simplify it a little in this new blog.

Line length – this is usually a stretched length which means unstretched they are approx 30 cms shorter with a webbing line.

Most standard canicross lines are 2 metres when stretched, so if you see Standard, CC or Canicross in the description they will be 2 metres stretched, although (confusingly) depending on the product sometimes they are the short version if there’s nothing shorter!

The Non-stop 2 metre line is for canicross

An example of a standard line would be the Arctic Wolf Canicross Bungee: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/aw-cc-line.html

Short lines are known as Parkrun lines (because they came into existence to meet the Parkrun requirement of a short line) and are are generally 1.2 metres stretched, so if you see Short (except in the case of some as mentioned above) Parkrun or PR in the description, then they will be 1.2 metres stretched.

A short ‘parkrun’ length line

An example of a parkrun line would be the Bono Parkrun Line: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bono-parkrun-canicross-walking-line.html

Longer lines such as Bikejor lines will be anything from 2.5 – 2.8 metres stretched and will be described as Long, Bikejor, Scooter or something to that effect. These can still be used for canicross but many find them too long for regular use and would be too long for racing.

An example of a bikejor length line: https://www.k9trailtime.com/bikejor-scootering/lines/aw-lite-bj-line.html

Line Clips – this is what attaches to your dogs harness

Most line clips will be brass trigger clips and this is the standard clip, easy to hook on and take off any ring or cord on your dogs harness. These are the most suitable clips for every day and regular use.

An Arctic Wolf Line with a trigger clip

An example of a line with a standard clip would be the Bono Standard Canicross Line: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bono-standard-canicross-line.html

Some lines however have a twist lock carabiner, this means there is a gate which opens and a screw lock which will automatically (not if it’s got mud and dirt in the mechanism) close and twist around when attached so your dog cannot pull the clip open by catching it on something. You might want to use these if your dog has the potential to escape or you want a bit more security, they are lightweight and no heavier than a normal clip.

The twist lock carabiner on a Non-stop Line

An example of a twist lock carabiner can be found on the Arctic Wolf Adventure Lines: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/aw-ad-line.html

Handles – some lines have handles on them to grab if you need to

The lines with handles will either have an ‘external’ grab handle which is an additional webbing loop sewn on to the line or an ‘internal’ handle which forms part of the line and you slide your hand in to grab.

External handles are extra loops of webbing

An external grab handle can be found on the Bono Parkrun Line near the clip: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bono-parkrun-canicross-walking-line.html

Handles can be situated around the half way point on the line or further down near the clip to attach to your dog.

To attach to you – how the lines attach to your belt

Most of the lines we sell will have a handle at the end to attach to your belt and you can either loop the line through on itself or use a carabiner to attach the line to use if you need quick release. Some belts also have carabiners or a set up at the front of the belt so you can attach you line and have quick release.

Bungee section vs Fully elasticated

The majority of bungee lines have a section of bungee which is tied in with the webbing, please don’t undo these knots as the bungee will not function properly, the knots are there for a reason.

The Non-stop Line however is fully elasticated which means it is slightly shorter than the other webbing lines when not being pulled but will stretch further when pulled because the whole line is elasticated. The benefit of this is that you get more ‘spring’ in the line, the disadvantage is that you have less control as it’s harder to pull your dog back towards you with a line that’s fully elasticated!

The Non-stop Line is fully elasticated and comes with a twist lock carabiner: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/non-stop-bungee-line.html

Two Dog Lines – The next complication!

If you want to run with two dogs, the lines tend to be longer in length to give each dog more space, so be aware these will feel quite long if you are used to having your dog close to you.

The shortest two dog line we sell is the Bono one: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/bonos-two-dog-canicross-walking-line.html this has an external grab handle in the middle.

The Bono two dog lines have an external grab handle

The Arctic Wolf two dog lines either have a long split with two sections of bungee, one on each line (this is called the 2 dog CC) or they have a shorter split with one bungee section (this is called the 2 Dog Lite S)

Arctic Wolf also do a longer two dog line for bike and scooter and the Neewa Two Dog Line is more suitable for wheels than canicross due to it’s length: https://www.k9trailtime.com/canicross/canicross-lines/neewa-bungee-line.html as is the Non-stop Two Dog Line.

Neckline – The final choice

If you are running two dogs together you may want to use a neck line, this is a small section of webbing, around 6 inches in length with 2 clips to attach to your dogs collars. The neckline will keep your dogs together and guide them to run side by side.

Necklines can be beneficial for evenly matched dogs running together

If your dogs are evenly matched this can be beneficial in keeping them together and focused but if they are every different in size and/or motivation then a neck line has the potential to pull the smaller / slower dog along at the speed of the bigger / faster dog and this would not be something we’d recommend.

An example of a neck line is the Neewa line here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/bikejor-scootering/lines/neewa-neckline.html

We hope that has helped determine what line you might need or prefer but if you have any other questions please do not hesitate to email us to answer your query: info@k9trailtime.com

Happy Trails!

K9 Trail Time Myth Buster Number 2 – You can’t canicross a dog in a short harness

You can’t canicross your dog in a short harness – Ever heard this one? I’ve seen this comment on a number of groups recently and the irony of this is that 11 years ago when I started canicrossing, everyone was told they could ONLY canicross in a short harness!

At that point there weren’t so many options for a longer style harness and X-Backs were the main design for a long pulling harness, so the theory was at that time, that you shouldn’t canicross in an X-Back because the harness was designed for a low pull point (this much is true) and that when used for canicrossing, the X-Back would lift off the dogs back and cause issues for the dog (never seen this happen). This prompted us to write a blog about why we love the X-Back harness because certain companies and individuals were trying to profit from this false information and we wanted to explain why the X-Back was still a fantastic harness for running dogs in, no matter what the sport…

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

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/why-we-love-x-back-harnesses/

So instead of an X-Back, people were suggesting that a ‘H- Back’ Harness (essentially a short harness) was the only option for canicrossers to use safely. We actually started out with shorter style harnesses for this reason and quickly realised that there were pros and cons for both styles of dog sport harnesses and that different dogs suited different things.

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness an example of a ‘H Back’ style

Another typical ‘H Back’ style harness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At K9 Trail Time we prefer to use common sense and a knowledge of a dogs anatomy to determine whether a particular style of harness will cause a dog any restrictions to movement, rather than hearsay and the marketing of companies who have a vested interest in persuading you one way or the other about a suitable running harness they manufacture.

There are certainly some short harnesses we would not recommend for canicross and there are many ‘walking’ harnesses which claim to be suitable for canicross but are not in our opinion. Remember what you are looking for in a harness is for it to be non-restrictive and allow your dog to move as freely as possible, so a harness which comes across or covers the shoulders in any significant way, will not be suitable.

Harnesses which restrict shoulder movement are not suitable for canicross

However, we have used a number of different, highly suitable, short harnesses and recommend only harness which we have personally used for the dog sports. It is also worth mentioning at this point that we took all our harnesses to a group of qualified and experienced Canine Massage Guild members and in terms of potential for muscular problems from a badly fitting harness, they preferred the shorter styles of harness on the whole.

The Non-stop Line Harness, one of the selection we have which have been throughly tried and tested by our team!

We do always recommend the shorter harnesses for dogs who are more leisurely pullers and dogs who drop back because sometimes dogs who pull very hard out in front all the time can make a rasping noise in a short harness. This is due to the fact that the pull on a short harness is directed along the top of the harness, which pulls the harness back, sometimes up and if the harness isn’t sitting low enough on the dog, this can mean into the throat. All this depends on your dog and the way the harness fits and I can run 3 of my 4 dogs in a short harness with no problems, however the 4th dog will always make this rasping noise, even when walking!

Even my biggest, most athletic dog can run well in his short harness

So we hope that blog has helped dispel another myth we have seen floating around in groups and reassure those of you who do run your dogs in short harnesses, that you’re not going to do them any harm running them in a shorter style harness.

Happy trails!

K9 Trail Time Myth Buster Number 1 – You have to be super fit to canicross

At K9 Trail Time we often hear the words ‘I’m not fit enough to run with my dog’ and we’d like to dispel that myth and turn it into ‘you will get fit ‘if’ you run with your dog’!

We all have to start somewhere and although you might see plenty of athletic looking people taking part in the sport of canicross, particularly racing, please don’t think that everyone starts off like this. Often it takes a lot of patience, willpower and determination to get fit running with your dog but once you get involved you realise how good it can be for both of you.

In fact many people start off exercising with their dog and go on to enjoy other sports as a result!

A few case studies:

Duncan Wells as he started canicross in the UK

Duncan Wells canicrossing in the French Alps – much fitter after a few years of running with his dogs!

Natti Shaw as she just started canicross, Natti now takes part in OCR races and many other fitness activities but she started with canicross

 

Sarah was also inspired to get fit with her dogs and now runs couch to 5km canicross club runs with her local canicross group

So where do I start?

Couch to 5km

A really good place to start is a simple Couch to 5km programme and we have posted a blog with a couple of options for this here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/k9-trail-time-basic-couch-to-5km-plan-for-canicross/

There are also apps which can get you motivated such as the NHS one here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/

You can also download podcasts to listen to but we personally prefer to canicross without ear phones in as you can hear what’s going on around you.

Canicrossing can be enjoyed just you and your dog, not necessarily with groups or music to spur you on, your dog will do that!

Canicross Groups

You can start a Couch to 5km programme on your own, or get a group of you together to start this, by organising a group you’re more likely to succeed as you hold each other accountable for your progress. Groups can encourage and inspire and we highly recommend trying to find people in your local area to meet up with to get started. You might find that you already have a local group with experienced canicrossers  who can also join in to help with advice on running with your dog and getting the right equipment so you are both comfortable. Often there will be someone who will lead these runs for beginners and this is the perfect place to start.

Having a group to run with can be extremely motivating for both you and your dog

Canicross classes

There are a number of individual trainers, clubs or organisations offering canicross classes now and most of these will focus on getting you started safely with your dog. Our advice with these classes is to investigate your instructor to find out how much canicross experience they have themselves. Some classes are run by personal trainers and some are run by dog trainers, some are run by people who have been canicrossing for years with their own dogs and this is most valuable. In our opinion you need to have some experience of both running AND dogs to be able to teach canicross, as it is a lot more than just going for a run with your dog and your trainer should be able to train both you and your dog in your classes.

Make sure your canicross instructor has had years of training for the specific sport, not just running or dog training

Whatever way you get into it, running with your dog can be a great experience and most people certainly start off in the sport of canicross without having had a running background. If you are one of these people, do not be put off!!! Join the thousands of other people who have begun their canicross journey being unfit and unsure but develop with their dog to increase the fitness and health of both of you, who knows where your journey together might take you!

We hope that has helped dispel the myth that you have to be super fit to run with your dog, you can start anywhere but if you stick with it you will both definitely benefit – Happy trails!

 

K9 Trail Time – Basic ‘Couch to 5km’ Plan for Canicross

There are many ideas and thoughts about getting your dog ready to run your first 5k with you. Not only do you need to build up your ability and strength, but so does your furry friend. Once you have built up the basic fitness with your pooch, the opportunities are endless for you both. Whether you want to be participating in your local parkrun, trekking across forest trails or you fancy joining a club and racing, the first rule to go by is that you should both make sure you are healthy and able to participate in this sort of activity. Your dog should be fully developed before starting canicross and it is always worth getting your dog checked over by the vet to make sure that all general health is good before you head off out on the trails.

Jayne before taking up canicross, walking with her huskies

Jayne after taking up canicross which she followed a Couch to 5km plan for

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, you will probably want to invest in a harness for your dog, a belt for yourself and a bungee line to connect you. Most new canicross runners will find that running with their dog in a harness and wearing a waist belt makes the whole experience more relaxing for both participants. If you are local to a canicross club, it is worth popping along to try some kit, or you can contact us at K9 Trail Time for more advice.

Having suitable kit from the start will allow you to enjoy your experience

We have a VBook here which can help determine what harness might be best for your dog: https://bit.ly/howtochooseaharnessvbook

We also have a belt blog here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/its-all-about-canicross-belts-how-to-choose-and-wear-them/

And a bit on lines here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/line-length-the-long-and-short-of-it/

There are many different programmes you can search for online and it is important to make sure that you are following one which is suitable for you and your dog. The following programmes have been created using information specifically for dogs who are building up to 5k with their humans.

The first plan is designed for those who have not done much exercise, or for a younger novice dog who you want to build up to running. If your dog is under one year of age please see our puppy training blog for more information on how to start a young dog running.

To go from a non-runner to a canicross runner should be a slow and steady process

The second plan is designed for those whose dogs (and humans) are already out and about walking at least three times a week for around 30-40 minutes at a time.

The programmes are designed for a 12 week commitment, with the flexibility of repeating steps if you need to.

PLAN 1 – THE COMPLETE BEGINNER

Each activity should be completed three times a week (preferably with a rest day in between so you can monitor for injury and allow suitable recovery)

Week Warm Up Steady Jog Walk Repeat Cool Down
1 – 3 times a week do the following (For all weeks do the below) 

 

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

90 seconds 3 minute 8 times Light stretching and rehydration.

Remember that this should be done gradually. Stretching should not cause discomfort for either party.

 

2 1 minute 2 minutes 9 times
3 2 minutes 2 minutes 9 times
4 3 minutes 2 minutes 6 times
5 4 minutes 2 minutes 6 times
6 5 minutes 1 minute 6 times
7 6 minutes 1 minute 5 times
8 7 minutes 1 minute 4 times
9 8 minutes 1 minute 4 times
10 9 minutes 1 minutes 3 times
11 9 minutes 30 seconds 3 times
12 Steady jog for 30 minutes, either 15 minutes with a 45 second break x2 or straight through if you are both comfortable.

 

PLAN 2 – FOR THOSE WHO ARE MORE ACTIVE AND WALK FOR AROUND 30-40 MINUTES THREE TIMES A WEEK.

This plan is based on distance, it requires a little more communication with your dog and can be measured using a GPS watch, or familiar landmarks. As with the previous plan, this would be more suited to trails and you should avoid running your dog on tarmac and concrete.

Week Warm Up Run / Jog Walk Repeat Cool Down
1 – 3 times a week do the following (For all weeks do the below)  

 

 

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

Jog 1 minute

Brisk walk 1 minute

½ kilometre 3 minute 4 times  Light stretching and rehydration.

Remember that this should be done gradually. Stretching should not cause discomfort for either party.

2 ½ kilometre 2 minutes 6 times
3 ¾ kilometre 2 minutes 4 times
4 ¾ kilometre 2 minutes 6 times
5 1 kilometre 2 minutes 3 times
6 1 kilometre 1 minute 30 seconds 3 times
7 1 kilometre 2 minute 4 times
8 1 kilometre 1 minute 30 seconds 4 times
9 1 kilometre 2 minute 5 times
10 1 kilometre 1 minutes 30 seconds 5 times
11 1 kilometre 1 minute 5 times
12 Run 5 k – this can be broken into 2 sections with a short walk or slower jog.

 

Remember that these programmes are a way of building up your ability and stamina as a team. In every cool down it is important to keep moving and allow your body (and that of your dog) to cool down slowly. In this period you should stretch and monitor for any signs of discomfort. For your four legged friend you may need to help them to stretch a little too, ask your vet or physio the best way to do this if you are unsure, as they can show you simple ways to do this. It is also recommended that you check between your dog’s pads and if they have long hair, check for tangles, brambles and twigs. This cool down period is also a great way to monitor your dog for injury and cuts as well as any unwanted visitors from your trail run. It helps to build a stronger bond with your dog and make the whole process rewarding.

Once you become a canicrosser, you’ll wonder why it took you so long!

Once you have cooled down, the final stages include; a kit check to make sure there is no damage and everything is clean and dry. This is then followed by your photos and updates so you can share your successes with your friends!

We wish you the best of luck getting started and if you need any help do contact us at info@k9trailtime.com

K9 Trail Time – A little bit of our history

We were going to get involved with #MarchMeetTheMaker but we’ve missed the boat on that one seeing as it’s now nearly the middle of the month! 😆 So we thought we’d just do a bit of our history for those who don’t know our background.
K9 Trail Time was started in 2012 a few years after I (Emily) started canicross racing with my two dogs Tegan and Judo, who also feature in the logo. The picture for the logo was actually taken at a Scottish race, the weekend before we attempted our first long distance canicross challenge in 2011, the West Highland Way. At the time I didn’t know that I was going to set up K9 Trail Time and I certainly had no idea it would end up being my full time job.

The K9 Trail Time logo photo, featuring Tegan and Judo, the ‘original’ two

The business was set up initially as a hobby, because I couldn’t find all the lovely dog sports equipment I could see was available to purchase from any retailer in the UK and it made sense once I was attending more races to have a bit of kit to take with me to sell to my friends too. I quickly realised there were plenty of people like me who wanted to try different styles of harness on their dogs and also wanted a good selection of colours of kit, so they could match harnesses, lines and belts!

The aim of K9 Trail Time was to bring the best brands together in one place

I spoke with many of the existing working dog equipment retailers who were all very supportive of my idea and to this day I still have many friends who also run small businesses catering for the dog sports enthusiasts and I like to think we all bring something different to our businesses.
Our slogan from day one has always been ‘active dogs are happy dogs’ and that’s because the reason we got into canicross and subsequently dog scootering and bikejor, is the fact all our dogs have always been rescues and have generally been high energy, working breeds, needing a safe outlet for this and a ‘job’ to do.
I’ve mentioned in a few previous blogs about Tegan being the catalyst for us getting into dog sports because she suffered separation anxiety and the only thing that seemed to helped her chill out for the day, was to have been for a run and then she could settle and seemed less stressed. Unfortunately we lost Tegan in 2019 but her role in K9 Trail Time will never be forgotten.

Tegan was the main reason dog sports came into our lives

We have always tried to encourage people to get active with their dogs and one of the main aims of K9 Trail Time has been to provide information for interested people so that they can get involved in something which is a safe outlet for dogs to release any excess energy. Over the last 8 years we have worked with many different charities including Battersea Dogs Home, Dogs Trust, Many Tears and 8 Below Husky Rescue to help them and their staff, educate potential adopters about ways in which they can fulfil a high energy dogs’ needs, particularly if they can’t be let off the lead.
We attended Crufts a couple of years in a row in the early days, mainly to promote the benefits of the sports, as Crufts is an extremely busy event and getting the word out there about canicross is easier with such a large audience.
Before K9 Trail Time was set up, we had taken part in a race around Crufts which CaniX UK used to organise, the event was always a favourite to watch and generated a lot of interest in what we do, so we knew it was a good way to spread the word.

The Crufts race was exciting and inspiring

Now we are working on having representatives in different areas who are experienced in the sports but who have also completed training on harness fitting, as this is one of the key things we have been focusing on, getting the right equipment for you and your dog to enjoy the sports in the most comfortable way possible. To this end I (Emily) have been studying canine physiology and anatomy and have also expanded my knowledge into hydrotherapy, so that I have a better understanding of how dogs move and the impact of the harness sports on the dogs’ body.

Canine hydrotherapy has just added to our passion for all things ‘active dog’

K9 Trail Time now provides harness fitting workshops and talks at various different events and we have a base near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire where we hope to provide even more information and advice for people, not just on the equipment side of the dog sports but also training, nutrition, recovery and general health and well being for any active dog. We are working towards being able to help advance research in the area of canine performance too, so watch this space!

Keeping your dog ‘safe’

We’ve recently taken on another rescue team member and it’s not been long but Delta (the new pup) is already proving to be a bit of a different challenge from the other dogs I’ve had. Delta is one of a litter of nine puppies brought over from an Irish rescue and is one of the lucky ones. I was told that often these unwanted farm litters just get drowned at birth because the farmers don’t want / can’t be bothered to neuter their dogs and so when the inevitable happens they just dispose of the consequences.

Delta, the new pup is a different type of challenge for us

I think being one of nine, surrounded by her litter mates and then being brought over to the UK on a ferry on a trip that was over 24 hours, being split from her family and then joining our household with 3 established dogs already in place, was such a huge shock to her system she struggled a little bit to find her feet. Everything to her is scary until she is shown otherwise and other people, dogs, places could all be a potential threat to her, so she was understandably a bit overwhelmed.

Everything has been a little overwhelming for a nervous pup to begin with

How does this relate to our normal theme of ‘active dogs are happy dogs’ and our beloved dog sports I hear you ask…? Well my point in blogging about this is that my job, my aim and my sole focus for her right now is to make her feel safe. Unless she feels safe, she will be worried and may react accordingly when faced with new situations. Most dogs will either follow a fight or flight response to anything threatening, fight being anything from a growl, bark, to a full on attack and flight being a subtle movement away, putting distance between the dog and the perceived threat or a panicked exit which can result in a dog getting lost. None of these things are ideal and a dog in fight or flight mode is difficult to communicate with in terms of training.

Here is where I get to the point of my writing, if your dog can’t be easily communicated with, then you are going to experience problems if you are taking part in an activity where communication is essential (all activities you might want to take part in ‘with’ your dog). For example I want to walk Delta with other dogs but right now she can be so scared of the situation that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with her, so I decided on one of our first group walks I would carry her in a pack. This is not even remotely conventional and nothing I thought I would ever do but the result was that she was happy, she felt safe and it was a positive experience for her = my job done.

Carrying Delta in a bag is unconventional but allowed her to feel safe on a group walk at first

So relating this more specifically to dog sports, my older collie Judo was my ‘stooge’ dog for years, he loved running so much that I could loan him out to others to run with and he would enjoy the run with whoever looked after him on the trails. Unfortunately when bikejoring him one season there was a dog who seemed drawn to him and used to practice inappropriate trail behaviour whenever we met in a race situation. Three times this dog ended up with Judo’s head in his mouth, he never did any physical harm but the mental harm done was lasting.

Following the third episode, any time we biked, Judo would drop to the floor in front of the bike if he heard anyone behind him and displayed all the behaviours of a dog who just wanted to flee the situation, he no longer felt safe and I could no longer reassure him that he would be ok. I was pretty devastated about this and sought out ways to help ease his fears, training with dogs he knew and trying to build up confidence again but when we raced he obviously just didn’t want to be put in the situation. The result of this was ultimately that I gave up competitive bikejoring with him, I could no longer keep him ‘safe’ and so I didn’t want to put him through it. We could still canicross because I had much more control over the situation and could take him off the trail if someone came up behind us, he relaxed again and enjoyed his running once more, again = my job done.

Judo used to love biking but in the end we had to stick to canicross to make sure he was happy – Photo from 2016 courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

Another example of this happened with my dog Yogi, who is one of the most confident dogs I know. However about 6 months into his canicross career he was accidentally ‘kicked’ out of the way by more competitive runners nudging past us during a race. This didn’t just happen once, it happened a few times and he began to drop back and even behind me if he heard someone coming up to overtake. I was so frustrated as again he just didn’t feel safe any more, I hadn’t been able to protect him before, so he didn’t trust that it wouldn’t happen again. Fortunately the work I’ve put in since has proved to him he can trust me and I often pull him right out of people’s way now so there is no chance of him being nudged again. Yogi is a pretty robust dog in terms of his confidence and now feels secure listening to me when I ask him to move over on the trail but it took a few months of training to get this back.

Thankfully Yogi has been confident enough to get over his earlier experiences of racing and being knocked out of the way

A dog who doesn’t feel safe will find it hard to respond to instruction, take direction and ultimately will not enjoy the activity you are participating in. Although I am not a qualified behaviourist, I have studied canine behaviour and in terms of a dogs needs being met, the ‘feeling safe’ aspect must be met before the need for physical activity for the dog to benefit from this. Very often we can help a dog to feel secure in situations and more relaxed through release of energy during activity but we must be mindful that we are not creating more stress and more anxiety in our dogs by asking them to participate in things which overload them and repeatedly create a fight or flight response.

In conclusion, whenever you are taking part in any activity with your dog, you need to make sure your dog is first and foremost comfortable with the situation and then you know you can communicate effectively and train your dog within that situation. We are firm believers at K9 Trail Time in positive reinforcement and have seen the effect that a negative experience can have on a dog in our sports. So remembering to keep your dog ‘safe’ in their interpretation of the environment they are in is an extremely important part of training and one which cannot be ignored to make your experiences fun at all times. After all that is what our time with our dogs is all about – having fun!

Always ensure your dog has fun, first and foremost in any activity your are participating in – Photo courtesy of Horses of Courses Photography

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – T is for Time

Continuing with our K9 Trail Time A-Z of canicross the ‘T’ for us is ‘time’. Many people feel they don’t have time for a new sport or think they might have to spend hours running with their dog every day to really feel the benefit but this isn’t the case. One of the reasons we got into the sport was because of the time it saved us in getting all of the team out, exercised and set up for the day when compared with how long it took if the dogs were just walked normally. We found that just 20 – 30 mins of canicrossing was more beneficial and tiring than up to an hour of regular walking and therefore we actually saved time every day, whilst keeping everyones’ mental and physical needs met. Although it can be fun to build up to longer runs and spending more time outside, on a day to day basis this relatively small amount of time sacrificed was enough to leave us all feeling happy. Time is also important in how you decide to spend it with your dogs, we feel there’s nothing better than enjoying nature being out running the trails with your best friends and for these reasons we have chosen time as our ‘T’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross.

Time spent outdoors with your dog canicrossing is never time wasted as far as we’re concerned – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

Five Top Tips for Trophee des Montagnes: Heather Jenner

K9 Trail Time Team member Heather Jenner has recently come back from the Trophee des Montagnes race series in France and she has written a set of top tips for those thinking of making the trip for next year.

We thought we’d share her top tips as they are useful when considering any challenging race or race series and here in the UK we have our very own new set of canicross specific races that will challenge even the seasoned canicrosser in the Red Kite Event series.

More information can be found about them here: https://www.redkitetrailevents.co.uk/

 

My Five Top Tips for Trophee des Montagnes:

Top tip no 1. ~ Perfect your commands
Most Canicross events in the U.K don’t require a ‘behind’ or ‘with me’ command. This command will save your nerves when the trails get particularly steep. The race organisers allow runners a ‘free dog section’ on some of the stages, here you can unclip and keep your dog at a heel or close by for when you hurtle your way down the more tricky technical sections. If this isn’t an option then a ‘behind’ or ‘with me’ command is required to keep you and your dog safe but still continuing your race pace without mishap. Like all new commands I start training at a walk on the flat, then progress walking down hill, then a jog and so on. Trails which are narrow with high hedgerow either side are best so your dog can’t push past.
Photo – Banjo & I from 2018 descending Etape 4 Allemont
The other command I add into our training is the ‘march’, think of this as an ultra runners hike, where the ascents are extreme and you still need to be moving forward. You want your dog to be driving forward in a purposeful walk/trot which will help your momentum when all you want to do is stop.
Photo – Banjo & I marching up Etape 5 Villard Reculas
Top tip no 2. ~ Acclimatise to warm weather running ☀️
Around Easter when British Summer Time starts warming our days and most U.K. canicrossers hang up their harnesses until September our summer training started. With short speed sessions; 1km reps close to water sources, hill march training on longer hikes and evening woodland free running we were able to prepare ourselves for the warmer temps we’d face in the French Alps. Checking the humidity forecast ruled our training sessions, a few weeks before we travelled it was really hot. I kept the dogs activities to swimming only and went out solo on consecutive days, plus adding in some undulating trail races to test my own fitness & evening canicross events (humidity permitting) which always helps with motivation.
Photo – Milly & I at Gibbet Hill 10km
Top tip no. 3 ~ Budget & planning 📆
As soon as you get your entry confirmed (usually the middle of February) start planning your journey, accommodation preferences, vet visits for vaccines, passports, plus other general admin needed for entry such as racing insurance and medical forms, the Trophee Des Montagnes Live Facebook page & website has all the necessary information.
Getting made redundant in my job played havoc on my finances I gave up numerous races I’d usually schedule into my training. I needed to reduce costs as much as possible to justify getting myself & my dogs to France, I decided to live basic and stay in my van in the runners camps which came with the entry. Using the dog shower camping higher than Snowdon was rather liberating and the views from my van were simply stunning, roughing it wasn’t that bad after all.
Photo – View from my camp spot at Auris
plus I relished the opportunity to make friends with the international community, this was all part of the adventure of the TDM.
 🇬🇧🇫🇷🇧🇪🇸🇪🇩🇪🇮🇹🇺🇸🇨🇭🇭🇺
Top tip no. 4 ~ Mix up your Terrain 👣
Research what the trails will be like on race day and mimic them in your trail schedule, I use this preparation with any major event.

This is also very important for your trainer choice and keeping up with your dogs paw care. I train mainly on the South Downs where we are spoilt with sheep grazed wide grassy tracks. Unable to finance any Wales trips this year, I headed into our neighbouring counties and asked canicrossers to lead me around some new routes which included hard stoney terrain.

Photo – Training with Canicross Sussex near Cissbury Ring
Top tip no. 5 ~ Enjoy it 😊
Enjoy your running, your training, your time away. Enjoy being part of an international Canicross event. Enjoy the escape, the adventure and most importantly the bond you’ll develop with your dogs throughout and the feeling of achievement when you’ve completed one of the worlds most famous Canicross events; The Trophee Des Montagnes. Most importantly don’t forget your flag 😉 Photo – Milly & I finishing Etape 10 2019

Harness fit in a bit more depth

Here at K9 Trail Time we are constantly researching and learning more about dog anatomy and physiology to help us understand the impact working a dog in harness will have on the natural movement of the dog. Part of this study has involved reading the latest research into dog movement undertaken by Dr Martin Fischer in the Jena study and his most recent work which has yet to be published. The findings have been summarised nicely here:

https://www.dogsymposium.nl/professor-dr-martin-fischer/

You might be thinking ‘what has this got to do with me and my dog?’ but we believe that to understand the dogs’ natural motion helps us to understand why a harness may or may not work for your dog based on it’s skeletal structure and how it was designed to move.

The first thing to say is that dogs are designed to move most efficiently in a ‘trotting’ gait and so if your dog is a trotter when they are pulling, they are using their energy efficiently and moving minimally. If your dog is ‘bounding’ when pulling in harness, either in a canter or a gallop (more likely at higher speeds when attached to a bike or scooter but if you run fast enough then canicross too) then your dog is exerting more effort than the efficient trot pace and it is even more important you have the correct fitting harness to ensure they have the freedom of movement necessary so as not to restrict them in any way.

The single biggest problem we see is harnesses which are too big on the dog and so are inadvertently restricting shoulder movement because the neck of the harness is encroaching on the shoulder when the dog moves. It is so important the neck on your sport harness is nice and snug to avoid this restriction but also to avoid your harness slipping up into the armpit of your dog when they might pull to one side and this again then restricts shoulder movement.

Below are 4 pictures of one of the K9 Trail Time dogs, Yogi, in 4 different sizes of the Non-stop Freemotion harness and in all honestly to the untrained eye it might be hard to tell which fits and which doesn’t. From top to bottom Yogi is wearing the size 4 Yellow flash (too small) size 5 Red flash (perfect fit) size 6 Blue flash (too big) and size 7 White flash (far too big).

Now looking at these picture you might think the size 6 is the one which fits Yogi best and we’d agree that based purely on the photos, it does perhaps look like it is sitting in the best place but if you look closely the top of the shoulder is slightly restricted and when slotting your hand in the neck (you can’t tell that from the photo) there is a huge amount of room for the harness to slide around on his neck. The size 4 is obviously too small being too close behind his front legs and the angle is wrong on his ribs. The size 7 is obviously too big, coming too far back on his body and when he pulls into it, the straps on his ribs will come behind the last ribs and pull up into his soft stomach region – not good!

At this point it is also worth saying you cannot always tell correct harness fit from a photo. Yogi is an easier candidate to judge from a photo because he lacks thick fur but even then you can only tell the neck on the size 6 Freemotion was too loose by feeling the gap when it is pulled tight. We see a lot of people asking for advice on social media and lots of people who comment haven’t got the first idea what they are even looking for, let alone have the experience to make a critical evaluation of harness fit based on a couple of photos!

Our advice would be if you’re unsure about your dogs’ harness fit get along to see someone who is experienced with correct harness fit in person and let them have a feel of the harness on your dog and observe how they move in it, this is by far the best way to get proper advice on harness fit. By asking people on social media you risk getting bad advice and ending up with something which could potentially cause your dog damage in the long term.

Another thing to look out for is that your harness is not too long. This doesn’t happen so often with the shorter harnesses although you do have to ensure the harness is not coming back behind the last ribs and pulling up into the stomach area. Again I have used pictures of Yogi below to demonstrate this (because he lacks the thick fur of my others!).

In the first photo the Zero DC Short is too big and is sitting right on the end of his rib cage. When Yogi pulls forward properly in this harness it will come further back still from where it is sitting in the photo and pull up behind his ribs into his stomach. In the second photo the Zero DC Short is much more snugly fitting on his neck and sits better against his ribs, you can still see he has room behind his front legs for movement but because of his (relatively) deep chest compared to his length the harness is sitting further forward on him than it would ideally.

The below photo of Judo shows the Zero DC Short harness as an ideal fit on him and as you can see it sits much further back from the front legs than on Yogi, this is because Judo hasn’t got the deep chest that Yogi has but this harness is still fitting him correctly and not restricting his shoulder by being too big or by coming too far along the ribs and likely to pull into the stomach.

It is most important with the longer harnesses that they are not too long as this can really have an impact on the way your dog moves. With a harness such as an X-Back or even the Zero DC Long you need to be very careful that when the harness is pulled into that it doesn’t extend back beyond the base of the tail. This may mean that when the harness is not being pulled into it looks as if it may be too short. I think this is demonstrated perfectly in the photo below.

Donnie is wearing the Zero DC Cross harness and it’s the correct size for him, however when it’s not being pulled it seems to sit quite far up his back. You can’t really see (the problem with a hairy dog) but it’s sitting perfectly on his neck and has enough clearance behind his front legs so that it will not be restricting front shoulder movement in any way.

You can see from the photo of the harness being pulled that it’s now sitting further back on his body and along the ribs in the correct way. The black webbing straps (not the cord) come to the base of his tail when the harness is pulled and will come back even a fraction more if he were to pull strongly into it, so it is in the correct place for a well fitted x-back harness.

Below is a photo of Donnie in an x-back harness which he used to wear (when he was heavier) and you can see what a harness looks like if it is too long. The length of the side straps mean it’s coming right back onto his hips when it is pulled and this will be even worse when he pulls forward into the harness. The neck on this harness is actually still ok and not causing any restriction to his shoulder but that extra length means the harness will be putting pressure on his hips if he bounds forwards and really pulls into this harness which is not great for his natural movement and could cause him to get sore spots in this area with repeated use.

So hopefully this blog and these photos give you a bit more of an insight into how your dogs’ harness should fit on your dog. We offer a free harness consultation service for our customers and you can either come and see us in person at one of our trade stands or pop up shops listed here:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/K9TrailTime/events

or we do offer an online service for those who can’t make an event. If you are interested then e-mail us at info@k9trailtime.com after answering the questions here:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/information/harness-consultation-questions

If you can get to an event then that is always the best way to get a harness fitted for your dog, however we have successfully fitted thousands of happy, active, dogs with harnesses based on information taken online. So why not get in touch and see what might work best for your dog for the sport you take part in.

Happy trails!