K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – S is for Sport

We’re still working our way through the A-Z of Canicross and so now we’re at ‘S’ we can’t ignore the fact that canicross is a recognised sport, with it’s own races and even different championship series taking place all over the UK, Europe and the world. Canicross was also recently added to the Kennel Club listed activities, although we would suggest going to one of the more experienced clubs and organisations who have actually been involved in the sport for over 10 years if you’re looking for up to date information and advice. One such organisation is CaniX http://www.canix.co.uk who set up the first race series specifically for canicross in the UK and are still holding events all over the country today. Another of the largest clubs who organise races and who offer training, advice, and kit to try, is the Canicross Midlands group http://www.canicrossmidlands.co.uk/. Although canicross is now known as a sport, CaniX and Canicross Midlands have always encouraged people to run with their own pets and to just enjoy the bond you can create with your dog through running together. As the sport has developed many people are beginning to take the racing side of canicross more seriously and have invested in purpose bred dogs (mainly originating in Europe) to compete in higher level races such as those organised by the BSSF (British Sleddog Sport Federation) and the IFSS (International Federation for Sleddog Sports). However, whilst these dogs are beautiful athletes, there is no need for you to change from your pet dog to enjoy canicrossing with your four legged friend and we would suggest that the most fun you can have is in seeing your dog simply enjoying activity with you, keeping you both fit and healthy. Our slogan is after all, active dogs are happy dogs, and so for ‘S’ in our A-Z of Canicross we have chosen to highlight the fact that canicross is a sport that anyone with a dog can enjoy!

Although canicross is a sport with it’s own races, it is also something that can be enjoyed by anyone with their pet dog – Photo courtesy of Dylan Trollope

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.

 

Voice Commands – Who, What, Why, When & How?

Voice commands are a big part of training in the dog sports and it’s important you get them right for you to get the best from your dog, so we thought we would do a quick blog on the Who, What, Why, When & How of voice commands in canicross, bikejor and dog scootering.

Who? – This one is fairly obvious, you are giving the command to your dog and your dog is the one listening and hopefully understanding and responding accordingly. It is worth mentioning that because these commands are for you and your ‘team’, you can use whatever specific words you want, which leads us on to…

What? – The words you choose for your commands can be anything you like, as long as you’ve trained it and your dog understands, no-one else has to. Many people simply use right, left, go on and other short words, some use noises and more obscure terms to indicate directions to their dogs but pick what you can be consistent with and stick to it.

Good voice commands are essential, particularly when you are on a bike or scooter – Photo courtesy of Take 2 Event Photos

Why? – Again relatively obvious but you might be surprised at how many people feel they don’t really need strong voice commands trained, especially when canicrossing, as you can generally reach out and pull your dog away from any situation. However it’s really important that your dog is listening to you and not just hauling you along enjoying doing their own thing with you as a passenger. It helps tire a dog out faster if they are concentrating on what directions you are giving them and it also builds a much stronger bond of trust if you can call to your dog and they want to do what you’re asking of them. As soon as you involve wheels into the equation, with a bike, scooter or rig, then this becomes crucial and we would never recommend trying any of the wheeled dog sports without having a good degree of control over your dogs’ actions through your voice commands first.

When? – Perhaps the most important of the questions on this list. Our answer to this would be to give voice commands ONLY when you need to. All too often you see people repeating over and over again a verbal direction to their dog, the most frequent of these being ‘go, go, go’ or similar. Your dog will switch off if you are continually issuing the same command, your voice will become like ‘white noise’ in the background of what you are doing and you may lose your dogs’ concentration on you as a result. It is much better to keep quiet while your dog is moving forward and save yourself for when you need to turn or stop or do something other than just run forward in a straight line.

You don’t need to be shouting voice commands at your dog during the whole run, if they’re moving forward in the direction you want then you just need to smile and enjoy! – Photo courtesy of Basil Thornton Photography

How? – Again a really important one because the tone and volume you use for your dog can have a huge affect on how motivated your dog is to work for you. If you are shouting at your dog and not using encouragement, then it follows that your dog may not feel so happy about following your directions. If you watch some of the best dog sports people with their dogs, they are generally always minimalist with voice commands, they never raise their voices unless there is danger (dogs have much better hearing than we do!) and they use a tone of voice which is calm, controlled and encouraging for the dogs.

 

Dog sports are always team work, so make sure you’re not too hard on your ‘team’, using encouragement rather than criticism is always more motivational! – Photo courtesy of Houdscape

Always make your training fun for your dog and remember voice commands can be taught from a very young age out on walks, so take the time to get your dog really responsive to your voice and we’re sure you’ll see the benefits when you’re out and about with them. Happy trails!

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – R is for Rest

Now you could be forgiven for thinking that the ‘R’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross would be for ‘run’ and although running is an important part of canicross, for this blog I wanted to focus on ‘rest’. Resting both yourself and your dog regularly is vital to allow your muscles to recover from activity and although you might have a dog with seemingly boundless energy, constantly running your dog in harness will cause fatigue in the same way daily exercise has a tiring effect on your own body. Without rest both of you are more prone to injury and illness and also your canicross runs could become monotonous for your dog, unless you are constantly changing the routes you take. Your dog might always be keen to go out with you, but you need to be the one to enforce a ‘down day’ from time to time and enjoy some other less physical activity to keep him or her occupied. The other thing to be gained from regular rest days is that your dog will learn to be calm without being run every day and that can be invaluable if for any reason you have to have a short break from training. So although canicross is all about running with your four legged friend, we think it’s well worth factoring in a few rest days in your programme and for that reason we have chosen rest as our ‘R’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross.

Resting is often as important as running for your dog

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – Q is for Quick (you don’t have to be)

One of the most common things that people say to me about why they haven’t gone to a canicross race is that they don’t feel they are quick enough to enter, so I wanted to make the ‘Q’ in our A-Z of Canicross represent the word quick and explain why you don’t have to be! Canicross is growing so quickly in the UK because it provides an outlet for many dogs and their owners to engage in an outdoor activity which is good for both. Canicross racing for most people is just a way to challenge themselves to get better and give themselves a goal to aim for. I have been competing now for eight years and have never been quick but I have enjoyed running at many different venues and met so many like minded people by attending the events. If you are very competitive and want to improve, racing is a great way to improve your times but being a fast runner is not a pre-requisite for entering and I would always encourage anyone to have a go regardless of your speed. Of course you don’t have to race at all, there are now so many fantastic canicross groups who arrange regular fun runs that you can enjoy the social aspect of canicross with your dog without ever making it to a race. The canicross groups will always cater for every level too and even the slowest of runners will not get left behind.  It is for that reason I’ve chosen the word ‘quick’ for my Q in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross, as in, you don’t have be quick to enjoy this fantastic sport with your dog.

I think we enjoy our canicross racing more because we’re not quick, it’s gives us time to enjoy the scenery! – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross – P is for Pulling

Canicross is essentially a sport where your dog is meant to pull you whilst you run behind attached via a waistbelt, bungee line and harness, so how could we do an A-Z of Canicross without mentioning pulling?! The amount of pull you will get from your dog depends on the size, strength but most importantly, the inclination of your dog to actually pull into a harness and take some of your weight whilst you run together. Never underestimate how hard a small dog can pull if they are determined and likewise, you could have the largest, strongest dog breed available but if your dog is not focused on pulling as a job, then it is unlikely you will benefit from that size and strength. I get asked all the time if you can teach a dog to pull and the answer is yes but there is a condition to that, because although you can encourage and train your dog to pull, they have to enjoy it and want to, otherwise they will just keep you company rather than help you out canicrossing. So because pulling is such a large part of canicross it is our ‘P’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross.

 

Pulling into the harness is the dogs' job in canicross

Pulling into the harness is the dogs’ job in canicross – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

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 Half Harness

The Non-stop Half Harness

The Non-stop Half Harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-half-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 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