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

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 – 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 – O is for Obesity

We all know that there are two main ways to stay fit and healthy, firstly by eating the right diet and secondly by getting out and exercising. In the UK alone it is predicted that by 2020 as many as one third of the adult population will be classified as obese. The same can be said about the UK’s dog population. Recent studies estimate that up to one third of dogs nationwide are already overweight and this figure is set to rise to over half of all dogs by 2022. Obesity is linked with diabetes, orthopaedic disease, heart disease, respiratory distress, high blood pressure, skin diseases & cancer in both dogs and people, so this alone is a very good reason to be getting out and about canicrossing with your dog. A recent PDSA report estimates that across the country, six million dogs go for a daily walk shorter than an hour long, and a quarter of a million dogs don’t get walked at all. With these statistics it’s easy to see why we need to find a way to encourage people to exercise themselves and their dogs, and who can think of a better personal trainer than their dog?! At K9 Trail Time we are trying to make it as easy as possible for you to get into canicross too, by providing you with loads of information, including links to local clubs and national events we know about, as well as offering advice and help to anyone who asks for it. So if you are thinking you would like to find a fun way to combat obesity for both yourself and your dog, look no further, canicross is the perfect way to keep trim, whilst having fun and doing something you’ll both benefit from mentally and physically. For that reason we have chosen obesity, or rather, a way to combat it, as our ‘O’ in the A-Z of canicross.

Canicross with your best friend is a fantastic way for both of you to stay fit

Canicross with your best friend is a fantastic way for both of you to stay fit

K9 Trail Time – Top Selling Bungee Lines

In 2016 we saw so many new people taking up the dog sports that we are confident when we say they are a lot more happy, active dogs out there! To help people who come to us for advice we always make recommendations based on their own personal circumstances and we like to provide a choice of dog harness, human waist belt and line if we can.

After another great year and just about to go into our 6th year of trading, we thought we would write a few short blogs on our best-sellers for you, to help you decide if they might also be suitable for you. We’re starting with lines as your bungee line is a vital piece of equipment, often over-looked when it comes to choosing kit but it’s important to get a good quality one for the safety of you and your dog.

So our top 3 selling brands of bungee line are:

1 – Arctic Wolf (3 different lengths and both one or two dog, canicross & bikejor)

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/arctic-wolf-line.html

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

2 – Bono (2 different lengths and both one or two dog, link is for standard one dog, canicross only)

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bono-standard-canicross-line.html

Bono's Line or the 'Parkrun' Line

Bono’s Line comes in 2 lengths, pictures is the Parkrun length

3 – Non-stop (2 different lengths, canicross & bikejor)

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-running-line.html

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

We hope you have a great year and enjoy many more with your happy, active dogs!

Canicross Challenge – Building up the distance

Here at K9 Trail time we are soon to take part in the second long distance canicross challenge we have participated in. So this is a quick blog on building up your canicross distances, as the realisation of our challenge for May has finally hit home and I am beginning to think about how to increase our distances safely.

The main thing I always have to do is put the dogs’ safety first, their comfort and health is the number one priority in any training we do. There are several things I do differently to ordinary training runs when increasing mileage and I will briefly outline them below. The list is not exhaustive but gives you an idea of what to be looking for when you’re upping the miles and activity with your dog.

1 – Always carry more water than I think I will need – this is something I do religiously. I will very often come home with all the water I left with because I tend to plan routes with natural water points for the dogs. However I would never forgive myself if I didn’t have enough, so I carry more than enough water for the number of dogs I’m running.

I am frequently seen with a back pack filled with water for the dogs!

I am frequently seen with a back pack filled with water for the dogs!

2 – Take a basic first aid kit with me in a back pack – again this is a must for me for any canicross runs over 10km. I don’t carry a huge range of things but a few Pawz boots (http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pawz-dog-boots.html) in case of paw damage, a roll or two of bandage, a sterile dressing, some sterile solution and some basic medication I know I can use on my dogs as a painkiller and an anti inflammatory prescribed by my vet, plus an antihistamine for bites or stings which has also been cleared for use with my vet.

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

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

3 – Feed for the increase in mileage – now this is not to say I feed my dogs a load more food because I know we are doing more work, in fact most of the time they do not need anything extra in their diet. I am very careful about how I feed the dogs leaving plenty of time (2-3 hours) before and after runs for their digestion to work without being under stress. I will however, sometimes feed extra protein to give the dogs the energy they require and in some cases will take FASTDOG Bon Bons (designed to provide the dogs almost instant energy in a way that can be safely digested) with me on the run https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/other-activities/fastdog-products/fastdog-power-bon-bons.html.

Think carefully about your dogs nutrition if you are increasing milage, much in the way you would consider your own

Think carefully about your dogs nutrition if you are increasing milage, much in the way you would consider your own

4 – Check paws more often for signs of wear or damage – this is really important if you’re increasing your miles. Your dogs’ paws may be tough over your regular distances but if you’re increasing this, you need to be making sure your dogs’ pads can cope.

Make sure you are especially vigilant of checking your dogs' paws when covering longer distances

Make sure you are especially vigilant with your dogs’ paws when covering longer distances

5 – Set aside designated rest days – I am quite strict about this and even though the dogs might not always think they need ‘down time’, I know from my own experience of training and recovery that they do. It is very important they have a chance to recover between big runs, so their muscles do not pick up repetitive strains leading to injury. It is also worth getting them regularly checked out by a qualified canine massage therapist, a list of UK registered practitioners can be found here: http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk/therapist-register/

Rest days are very important for all the team!

Rest days are very important for all the team!

6 – Cross train with a variety of activities and vary the terrain we are running on – in the summer months I will use wild swimming as a form of cross training for the dogs and ideally through the winter they will go to hydrotherapy once a month as it is such a great form of no-impact exercise for them. Aside from this, we have walking, house games and various other low impact activities that help keep the dogs fit and focused without continually running in harness. I will also make sure we incorporate roads, tracks, fields and thick mud into our runs to ensure that we are all ready for any terrain we might encounter on longer runs. I also even try and get a few runs in on sand even though we’re not close to the coast.

We love wild swimming in the summer months

We love wild swimming in the summer months

7 – Increase the distance slowly – you wouldn’t expect your body to feel good if you just doubled your miles overnight and the same applies to your dog. Build in a mile or so extra at a time and if you have any doubts about your dogs’ capacity for longer distance running, make sure you consult your vet before you do anything above the average milage you’ve been doing.

8 – Finally, I make sure I’m in tip top condition. It’s no good expecting my dogs to pull me over an increase in miles if I’m not fit for it and in the best shape I can be in. I am using a range of products now to help with my weight management, support my immune system, recovery and also endurance. Nothing beats having a healthy and balanced diet but I have always struggled to be as dedicated to my own health as that of my dogs. However, I’ve found that by making sure I am being the best runner I can be (I still love cake and wine by the way!) I am helping my dogs by being less of a burden to them and ensure we are working as a team.

My fitness and training routine is supported by a great nutritional supplement programme

My fitness and training routine is supported by a great nutritional supplement programme

I hope that gives you an insight into how we prepare for longer canicross runs and we’re keeping our fingers and paws crossed for some cool spring days to complete our challenge in May. Happy trails!

 

 

Harnesses basics: Long or Short?

At K9 Trail Time we believe that every dog is an individual and that each dog will need a harness based on your specific requirements, which is one of the reasons we stock so many! We also encourage our customers to become their own expert to have the confidence to select a harness to suit their own dog.

BSA Petra & I Canicross & Bikejore Fay

You need to consider a few things when deciding which type of harness to purchase and these are outlined below:

What activities will your dog be doing in the harness? As a rule of thumb we say:

Walking only / Agility / Flyball: Short type or shoulder harness (long harnesses are designed to be pulled into at all times and don’t tend to be suitable for free running dogs)

Walking & Canicross (or another dog sport): Short type or shoulder harness in most cases, unless your dog will be pulling consistently into a harness even when walking

Canicross / Bikejor / Dog Scootering: Either short or long type depending on how your dog runs (covered below)

So, now you’ve got an idea what might suit, the next question is:

How does my dog run naturally when free running? The idea behind looking at this is so your harness allows your dog to run with unrestricted movement.

If your dog ‘trots’: A short type or shoulder harness may well be suitable, also x-backs and traditional style harnesses with material over the dogs back too

If your dog ‘bounds’: Short types may suit but you should look at the longer harnesses which offer freedom of movement over the spine (Non-stop Freemotion and Zero DC Long are a couple of examples, the Howling Dog Alaska Second & Tough Skin harnesses also offer a great in between lengths option)

The harness you choose should provide total freedom of movement - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

The harness you choose should provide total freedom of movement – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

 

Next we look at:

Will my dog pull consistently out in front?

This is more straightforward, if the answer is yes, we would always advise to go for a longer style harness as this will better suit ‘pullers’

If the answer is no, then we recommend choosing a shorter style harness because the long style harnesses have been designed to work when being pulled into

Shorter harness will suit dogs that might pull but might also drop back sometimes - Photo courtesy of Houndscape

Shorter harness will suit dogs that might pull but might also drop back sometimes – Photo courtesy of Houndscape

Other things to consider:

Does my dog have a previous injury which may influence where the harness sits on the dog? Either short or long style may be better depending on the location of the injury

Does my dog have any issues with anything near its tail? Choose a shorter harness so you don’t upset your dog with having an attachment point near the tail

These are not hard and fast rules because, as mentioned before, every dog is unique, however we find that by using the above as a guide, people can choose a harness which their dog can run in comfortably.

If you have any questions with regard to a harness for your dog please do contact us info@k9trailtime.com and we will be happy to help you choose the perfect harness for your pooch!