Why we race (when we know we’re not going to win)

When we first got into canicross we’d never done any dog sports competitively (unless you count a failed attempt at a flyball show!) so it was quite daunting going along to a ‘race’ particularly as I’d not taken part in a running race since I was at school. But it was explained to me that I didn’t need to be fast to enter and it was all about having fun with your dogs. That first race with CaniX got me hooked and from that point on, I knew this was something I wanted to do regularly. However I never have been and never will be, a fast runner, so why did I want to keep entering races I knew I wasn’t going to win?

Our very first CaniX race at Stanton Country Park – Photo courtesy of Chillpics

The answer lies in the whole experience of racing, not just the races themselves. To take part in a race there is an element of training, you need to have spent time before the race, building up your distances, making sure your dogs are happy to run alongside other dogs, other people and also working out what equipment will suit you best. This training also builds a strong bond with you and your dogs, you have good days and bad days, all of this can only be achieved through teamwork and working with your dogs to make improvements.

I joined plenty of social canicross runs, driving over an hour each way in some cases to go and run with people I’d never met before. I was welcomed with open arms (and cake in most cases) and began to develop friendships on the back of my training for the races. I could never have imagined myself regularly entering races previously but there was something special about the events that made me want to do more. I just enjoyed taking my dogs to new places and meeting new people who didn’t see my dogs’ slightly unruly behaviour as a problem, they accepted it and helped me channel that behaviour into something positive.

Social canicross runs are a great way to train your dog to get used to being alongside others and part of building up your dogs’ confidence to race

The more races I went to, the more people I met who had similar interests to me and I quickly made some really good friends who I still see regularly nearly 10 years later. Now I still use races as a way of meeting people but also to get my dogs to new parts of the country I haven’t seen before and to socialise them in a way that doesn’t stress them out, with people who understand what it’s like to own dogs who might not be perfectly behaved.

I also started to get a feel for who in my category was a similar standard to me and that gave us something to train for. If I was only 20 seconds behind someone in one race I would try and improve my times at home so I could beat that person by 20 seconds the next time we raced. I also learnt a lot from other people at races and still do, everyone has a slightly different approach to racing and training and so by talking to people about their dogs and their routines, I have picked up great information to use to make changes to my own habits.

Spending time with other people who are doing the sport allows you to pick up training tips, learn from them and vice versa

Of course we have had some successes too, when you work hard and give yourself goals then anything is possible and together with my dogs we have been placed in many National races and Championships in the 10 years we’ve been racing but the majority of the time we don’t race to win and more often than not we are not being placed these days. Someone said to me last year that the dogs believe they have won every single race if you tell them they have and it really struck a chord with me. So now I tell my dogs every time we cross a finish ‘well done, you’ve won’ and it sounds daft but they don’t know or don’t care if we’ve won but my excitement and praise lets them know they’ve done well and that’s what counts.

So it is everything about racing that we love, not just the race itself. The time you spend, training you do and bonding with your dog all creates an experience which I personally wouldn’t want to live without now. We’ve done local races, national races and European level races and can honestly say all of them have given us so much enjoyment no matter where we have placed. If you’re thinking about racing but don’t feel confident, my advice would be just to give it a go because so much of the fun is in the preparation and social side of it, whether or not you actually do well in the race is down to your perspective on it. My dogs ‘win’ every time and the happy look on their faces is all that matters to us. Happy trails!

Whether or not we win, we enjoy the whole experience of racing and the dogs ‘win’ every time!


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

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

The Road to Stonehenge – The CaniX Half Marathon Race Report

The Neolithic Half Marathon, organised by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in conjunction with CaniX (for the canicross entries in the race) was held over the bank holiday weekend on the 5th May at the site of Stonehenge. We’d entered the short race before, which is the 4 miles distance, but the half marathon had not been something I had wanted to do. The reason I decided to enter the longer distance this year was to raise money for the Animal Health Trust in memory of my friends’ dog Ronnie who died from canine epilepsy earlier in the spring.

We arrived early to register, collect our time chipped numbers and to catch the coach up to Charlton Clumps, where the 13 mile linear route starts. The dogs are surprisingly good on the coaches that take competitors to their start points and very rarely cause any problems. This bus journey was a bit longer than the ones we had previously taken but the dogs behaved just as well.

On arriving at Charlton Clumps there was a tent to leave any bags to be labelled and taken back to the start and a couple of portaloos, as we had about an hour to wait before our start time in an open field. There were 4 of us who were ‘Running for Ronnie’ and we all had different targets for the run. Mine was to finish in under 2 and a half hours for my first half marathon and I had a feeling we were going to have to take it steady as the temperature was creeping up steadily.

The fabulous four of us who raised over £1000 for charity 'Running for Ronnie'

The fabulous four of us who raised over £1000 for charity ‘Running for Ronnie’

Just as we were about to start, the cloud cover disappeared and the sun came beaming through, just what I didn’t want for the dogs! The route for the half marathon is a hard packed trail with lots of loose stones, particularly on the first half. The track also undulates with some fairly steep uphill and downhill sections for the first half, after which it levels out and becomes less stony. I had been pre-warned about the stones and so I had Judo in a full set of Pawz boots and Donnie with just front feet protected (Tegan doesn’t need boots for regular running).

We set off at a steady pace but with the heat of the sun and with the ‘race’ situation, it became clear quite quickly that Judo was beginning to get too hot. We slowed down and at every water stop covered him and the other dogs lightly in water to help with the cooling process. Dogs tend to lose heat through panting and to a lesser extent their paws, so it was important to keep checking the boots weren’t going to cause any overheating. After about 3 miles we made the decision just to walk until Judo realised we weren’t racing and calmed down.

I’ve experienced Judo verging on getting too hot a few times, always in situations where he sets off with a big group of dogs and is very excited. Through this I have learned how to manage it so he never gets uncomfortable and thankfully it wasn’t long before he was calm and cool again and we could pick up the pace. We had probably walked about a mile and a half at this point but we made up some time and it wasn’t long until we reached the half way point.

Coming up to the half way point of the 13 miles and we were going strong - Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright of Chillpics

Coming up to the half way point of the 13 miles and we were going strong – Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright of Chillpics

From this point on the run seemed to go really quickly and in spite of it being warm, the dogs dutifully pulled all the way. It did help that the ground had evened out both in terms of stones and hills so it became easier for us all. With 4 miles to go, I recognised where the shorter race is started from and realised it wasn’t far to go. We were running along at an average of about 9 and a half minutes per mile so I was hopeful of completing within my time frame in spite of the walking we had done.

With about 2 miles to the finish I started to feel strange and realised I had goose bumps which was not normal considering the heat and that fact I was running! I asked one of my running companions why that might be and he asked if I had been drinking. I had been so busy making sure the dogs were kept cool and hydrated that I had forgotten to drink myself! I had to slow to a walk again and take some water and electrolytes to make sure I replaced all the water and salt I would have sweated out.

After a short break from running I was able to pick up the pace again for the last mile and we had a strong finish completing the half marathon in 2 hours, 19 minutes and 3 seconds. I was thrilled we had managed to complete within my goal and that was even with a couple of miles of walking and many, many water stops.

Crossing the finish with smiles on our faces!

Crossing the finish with smiles on our faces!

I would highly recommend this half marathon to anyone thinking of training up to this mileage or anyone who is already running this type of distance with their dog. The support along the way was incredible, from other runners and bikers (this a big event not just for canicrossers) and from CaniX who were at regular points along the course with water and a hose for the dogs (and people). At any point it would have been simple to withdraw your dog and the dogs’ welfare was paramount at all times. I think this event is unique because of the support CaniX provides and so I am grateful to them for putting this event in the race calender for us to challenge ourselves.

I would like to thank all those who has already sponsored us and if you would like to sponsor us for completing this challenge the link to my justgiving page is here: http://www.justgiving.com/Emily-Thomas-Animal-Health-Trust

Towing the Line

There are now so many lines for running with your dog available, it’s hard to know which one to go for, so I thought I’d write a little bit about the types and my own experiences of which works best for me in which situation.


One of the toughest webbing lines I use for training is the Howling Dog Alaska Line: http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/howling-dog-line.html

Howling Dog Alaska Line

Howling Dog Alaska Line

However, the Howling Dog Alaska Line is quite long and some people find it too long if their dog is new to the pulling sports and doesn’t always pull out in front.

If you’re looking for a slightly shorter line I particularly like the Non-Stop Canicross/Skijor/Bikejor line because it comes in a variety of lengths and has the bungee integrated with no knots in the line, which means it is shorter initially but stretches to the same length as the longer lines. For more information or to see purchase options go to:


The newest line from Non-stop is elasticated the entire length in all versions

The newest line from Non-stop is elasticated the entire length in all versions

Our best selling lines also made of webbing, which is softer on the hands, are the Arctic Wolf lines, also available in a variety of lengths to suit your needs and with an integrated grab handle near the clip which attaches to your dog.


The Arctic Wolf line comes in 3 different lengths in single and now 2 different lengths in a double version

The Arctic Wolf line comes in 3 different lengths in single and now 2 different lengths in a double version

One of my favourite lines in my collection of lines and one of the most useful is the Bono’s Canicross/Walking Line (http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bono-canicross-walking-line.html) I introduced this line to the K9 Trail Time range as a result of some complaints at Parkruns that other runners were finding the canicrossers lines a trip hazard. The line is much shorter than a normal canicross line and keeps your dog really close to you, it also has a handy grab handle on the outside of the line near to where it attaches to your dog for greater control when needed, for example by roads. It is also suitable for normal dog walking but not long enough for bikejor or scootering.

Bono's Line or the 'Parkrun' Line

Bono’s Line or the ‘Parkrun’ Line

The Bono Lines are also now available in a standard length:


And a two dog option:


As you can see there is quite a choice available to you and if you would like any more advice or information on any of the Lines I use and sell at K9 Trail Time, please do not hesitate to contact me (emilyt@k9trailtime.com) and I would happy to help.