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 piraton are the very basics of what I carry. Now you might think I’m being paranoid but the piraton I carry in case we should ever have a dog bitten by an adder. It’s rare in the UK but not unheard of and because I know piraton is safe for dogs, if any of mine were to display any signs of bites I would use the piraton as a precautionary measure. It would also work if your dog (or you) were stung by a bee or wasp and had a reaction.

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. I am very careful about how I feed the dogs leaving plenty of time before and after big runs for their digestion to work without being under stress. I will however, feed extra protein to give the dogs the energy they require and in some cases will take a brand of ‘fat’ bar (designed to provide the dogs almost instant energy in a way that can be safely digested) with me on the run.

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!

Canicross – An Introduction

The sport of canicross is rapidly growing in the UK as more people discover it and the benefits it can bring for both human and canine alike.

Canicross in it’s simplest form is running cross country (on trails and paths, rather than roads) with your dog and many people have been doing this with their dogs without even realising there is a name for it, or that it is a sport which has it’s own competitions.

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Canicross is a growing sport with lots of people now realising the benefits

Why canicross? I’ve divided this into the 3 sections I feel are most important

Behaviour – Many rescued and high energy dogs have benefitted from participating in outdoor pursuits with their owners such as running (canicross) biking (bikejor) and scootering in addition to the more established outdoor dog activities. The effect of activity is to allow your dog an outlet for energy which might otherwise be used for destructive and unwanted behaviours around the home & garden. Canicross is a great way to exercise a dog who can’t otherwise be let off lead due to (among other things) a high hunting instinct, which is why you will see many different breeds participating from terriers to malamutes.

Health – Recent studies estimate that as many as one third of dogs nationwide are 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 (much the same as in people) so you might even be prolonging your own life as well as your dogs’ with consistent exercise!

Fun – Taking part in dog sports usually means you and your dog get to socialise with likeminded people but even if it’s just you and your dog, you will be strengthening your bond with your dog which is very rewarding and great fun too.

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

The social side of canicross is reason alone for many people to try the sport

What do I need to canicross? The basic kit for canicrossing properly is a comfortable, well fitting harness for your dog, a bungee line to absorb the shock from any pull for both you and your dog and a waist belt so you are hands free when running. These 3 main elements form the basis for a pleasant experience when running with your dog. Without the harness you risk pulling on your dog’s neck, without the bungee you can find yourself jerked after something interesting on your route and without the waist belt your may find your neck, shoulders and back ache from holding a lead.

What harness? There is now a huge variety of choice for all sizes and shapes of dogs, with new products being brought out regularly. Which harness is best suited for your dog depends on a number of factors but at K9 Trail Time we offer a free consultation to help get you started in the right direction, or to help you choose I have written another article here: http://www.k9trailtime.com/information/team-thomas-harnesses

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

A good fitting harness should be top of the list for canicross equipment

What line? As long as there is bungee for shock absorption then most lines will be fine. Some are made from webbing and some from stronger polypro braid but which you choose is personal preference. The standard canicross lines are approximately 2 metres when stretched but many people run with shorter or longer lines based on their own requirements. Some races have rules on line length, so do ask if you’re thinking of competing in canicross competitions and we can inform you of the rules.

Zero DC Lines

Zero DC Lines

What waistbelt? The style of waist belt which you choose is down to what you would like from it and what you find most comfortable. I’ve written about choosing a belt here: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/belt-braces-how-to-choose-a-canicross-belt/ but the basic things you need to ask yourself are: Do I want something padded or lightweight? Do I want leg straps? Do I want pockets? Once you know the answer to these then it makes choosing a belt much easier. The purpose of the belt is for your comfort and to ensure canicrossing with your dog does not damage your back, shoulders, neck or arms.

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

A good canicross belt and bungee will make your experience much more comfortable

How do I get started? The best way to get started is to find a group of people locally who are already canicrossing, as there are many social groups now encouraging new people to join them. A group will most likely have spare kit they could loan you to kit to try out and will be able to offer advice about training your dog with voice commands for directions etc.

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started - Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Finding a local group to join is probably the best way to get started – Photo courtesy of Karen Burd

Lastly, but most importantly, your dog needs to be fit and fully developed before you begin canicrossing. Most races will not allow a dog under 1 year old to compete and it is recommended you start your dog off very gently at around the year old stage and not before. You also have to ensure you will be putting your dog’s health first and to avoid any problems, stick to running in cool temperatures (never in the heat of the day in summer) and carrying water with you in case your dog needs it.

If you would like any more information on canicross or the equipment you need to begin please do contact me at K9 Trail Time and I will be happy to help you. There is also a lot of information on my website http://www.k9trailtime.com and on my wordpress blog:

https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com

 

K9 Trail Time Top Ten Winter Dog Running Tips

Since the clocks went back and the nights are drawing in, we have been waiting for the cooler temperatures to come so we can start using all our cold weather running kit. Finally this week we have seen the beginning of winter, which got me thinking again about what differences there are in our kit and routines throughout the colder months. This is a list (not exhaustive) of 10 things we do/use to make running just as much fun at this time of year.

1. Warm up – It is even more important when the temperatures are low outside to make sure you and your dog warm up before a run. Even a brisk walk up and down for 5 minutes before a run can be enough to get the muscles moving and therefore help prevent injury.

Having a walk before a run can help keep your dogs muscles warm - Photo courtesy of Simon Warwick

Having a walk before a run can help keep your dogs muscles warm – Photo courtesy of Simon Warwick

2. Invest in a good head torch for yourself and Puplight for your dog – Light up the trails! There is nothing more off putting when you’re running than to not be able to see where you are going and unless you are lucky enough to always be able to run in daylight hours, then you will be training in the dark. We don’t sell the human head torches but we do sell the amazing Puplights which will help you see your dog off lead up to half a mile away and will also light up the path for you when canicrossing or bikejoring. For more information see our website:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/puplight.html

3. Get some trail trainers with good grip – There will be no shortage of mud over the next few months and so if you haven’t already, get yourself a decent pair of trainers with soles designed for deep mud, you won’t regret it.

A decent pair of grippy trainers is money well spent

A decent pair of grippy trainers is money well spent

4. Use reflective harness /  lines – Many of the harnesses we sell have reflective piping or stitching to make your dog more visible in low light conditions. We particularly recommend using these if you are going to be doing any running near roads or on paths which are frequented by other dog walkers, to ensure your dog is safe and seen.

5. Fluorescent clothing – In much the same way as using a reflective harness for your dog to be seen, we change our running kit to include brighter jackets, gloves and even reflective bands, so that when out and about, you are as visible to others as you can be.

6. Paw protection – We’re not quite there yet but when the weather is icy or snowy, there is often salt put down on roads or paths to provide grip and this can be really dangerous for dogs if they get home and lick it off. You can wash their paws when you get in from a run or pop some boots on to provide extra protection if you are concerned. The PAWZ boots we sell are perfect for this:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pawz-dog-boots.html

We also recommend keeping a close eye on your dogs pads as the seasons change to look for any signs of damage.

PAWZ boots are very useful for paw protection in winter - Photo courtesy of Paulina Soltysiak

PAWZ boots are very useful for paw protection in winter – Photo courtesy of Paulina Soltysiak

7. Layer up – Although the temperatures have dropped, you can still get quite warm when you get moving and so it is worth dressing for your run in layers you can peel off if you do get too hot in what you’re wearing. There’s nothing worse than having misjudged the amount of clothing you need and either sweltering or freezing on your run.

8. Jackets or fleeces for the dogs – I have been criticised for ‘dressing up’ my dogs as I have chosen to get my pack matching fleece pyjamas, which make them stand out at events but there is a serious reason for my choice in dogwear and that is to help prevent injuries in the dogs. The use of a coat or fleece before and after runs helps to keep the dogs muscles warm. As I would normally have a jacket on before and after a run, I also make sure my dogs have a way to dry off and keep warm after running. If you don’t feel you need this for your dog, you can always just towel dry them to make sure they are not just left damp when it is cold.

Dog fleeces might look like a gimmick but they serve the useful purpose of keeping the dogs muscles warm when it's cold outside

Dog fleeces might look like a gimmick but they serve the useful purpose of keeping the dogs muscles warm when it’s cold outside

9. Change of clothing – If you’re not running from home and have a car journey to take before you can get back somewhere warm, then it is useful to have a change of clothing available to help prevent you having an uncomfortable journey. Even if it is just a fresh pair of socks and trainers, that can make a world of difference if you’ve got wet and muddy feet.

10. Take some fuel – Not literally fuel for your vehicle but fuel for your body. It has been proved that the body burns more calories when it’s cold and that applies to your dog too, so what a perfect excuse to take a flask of something hot and some cake along for after! Your dog will also appreciate some small treats post-run and we stock the Puredog Dried Sprats which are perfect for this!

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/pure-dog-whole-sprats.html

Winter - another excuse for treats!

Winter – another excuse for treats!

Whatever activity you’re taking part in this winter, remember to always put your dog first and make sure you both have as much fun as you do in the warmer months – Happy Trails!