Sled Dog Sports? But I don’t own a ‘Sled Dog’!

I thought I’d write this article because I’ve heard so many people say ‘I don’t own a ‘sled dog” when they first take up one of the dog powered sports with their pet dog. What many don’t realise however is that the dog powered sports, which include sledding but also encompass dry land mushing, skijor, bikejor, dog scootering and even canicross, all originated from dog sledding. People first harnessed up dogs to utilise their strength and athleticism to help them move loads across some fairly inhospitable, frozen areas of the countries based in the Northern hemisphere.

Traditionally people see sled dog sports as being sports for sleds and dogs! However this has developed now into dry land dog sports

My personal background is in canicross, so if you’d said to me when I first started running with my dog that I was participating in a sled dog sport, I would have laughed at you, in spite of the fact my first canicross dog was part husky. I just didn’t see how running with my one dog (who shared my bed at night) could be comparable to running teams of dogs attached to sleds. I have since progressed from canicross to bikejoring, dog scootering and have even run my ‘team’ (three collie crosses) on a rig (three wheeled dog-propelled cart type thing, for those who are unfamiliar with the term).

My team of collie crosses on the rig

Now I’ve been in the sports for a number of years, this question of how the sports are classified comes up quite frequently but I’ve learned that the majority of people taking part in ‘sled dog’ events are unaware they are actually competing with their own ‘sled dog’ if you use the term as defined by the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (the current main international governing body for the sports established in 1985).

According to the IFSS definition below, any dog can be classified as a ‘Sled Dog’ for the purposes of competitions run under their regulations.

The International Federation for Sleddog Sports, coveres any breed of dog suitable for running in harness

‘SLED DOG: A sled dog is a dog, irrespective of the breed or type, capable of being harnessed and of competing in one of the classes listed in the IFSS Regulations without a potential, beforehand, to be calculated risk, of harming the dog’s well-being’  – Taken from the IFSS Race Rules

I still think that in the UK the wording of events and organisations using ‘sled dog’ in the title will conjure up images of huskies and not the broad spectrum of breeds who currently attend the growing numbers of races. I would actually even argue that it puts some people off joining a club or attending an event, purely on the basis that they feel it might not be for them and their Jack Russell / Labrador / Border Collie.

Sled dogs do come in all shapes & sizes!

The reality is that you will find many different breeds and shapes & sizes of dogs at every open event and you will fit right in with whatever dog you have, as long as it has the enthusiasm to run in harness. There are of course still breed specific clubs running rallies and races but they are easily recognisable by the use of the breed in the club title, for example SHCGB (the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain). 

Huskies are definitely the more recognised ‘sled dog’ breed

The dog powered sports have grown so much in the time I have been involved in them and I think in the future there will be further classification of events and potentially the dogs too. One term that has already emerged is ‘mono sports’ and this refers to the dog powered sports which can be run with one dog, so specifically canicross, bikejor and dog scootering. The European Canicross Federation which is the main European organisation for these sports, is focused solely on the ‘mono sports’, although the  ECF Championship held in Scotland in October 2015 was the first ever to host a scooter class. Prior to this it had only included canicross and bikejor.

The European Championships, last help in the UK in Scotland in 2015

I think as the demand for events grow and the word spreads that the ‘sled dog’ sports can be for everyone, the dog powered sports will gain more publicity and acceptance, which can only be good for the sports as a whole.

K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Vickie Pullin, National Champion

We have been covering lots of professions surrounding the dogs sports in our interviews but what about someone who has actually made a profession out of the dog sports themselves? We spoke to Vickie Pullin who runs a business taking people out with her sled dogs to show them how to run dogs safely and teaches people with their own dogs how to get the best out of them.

Vickie spends a lot of time with her dogs in her job, as well as training them for races

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

I run husky tours for the public from my base in Gloucestershire and race my own sprint sled dogs nationally and internationally, with the aim of improving my times and positions in the IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports) World rankings year on year.
I have been running my business, Arctic Quest, for 9 years now and racing seriously with my dogs for 5 years.

Recent results

Winter 2018/19 Results:

British champion in both

  1. Bikejor Women’s Elite Class Open &
  2. 4 Dog Open Class

Runner up in the Open 2 Dog Scooter Class

Gold and Bronze medals in the ICF World Champs plus 4th in the Open Scooter Class

Gold and 2 x Bronze medal in IFSS Euro champs plus 4th in the Open Bikejor Class

WSA World Champs: 4th

IFSS World Champs snow: 12th and 12th Mass start

WSA World Champs snow: 21st (and a comment from the vet: my dogs look in great condition – better than any medal 😉)

In the 2017 / 2018 I was British champion in 3 classes and had 5 top 10 results in the IFSS World Championships, picking up a silver in WSA World championships

https://youtu.be/FFk2PyN1goI

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

5am starts – letting the house dogs out and turning on the coffee machine and lap top… work with breakfast then dogs out and cleaning kennels.
Dog all then loaded up for work in the van and trailer … and down the road we head.
The mornings are spent doing Husky Rides at Croft Farm, we have a blast running dogs, educating people about sprint racing and sharing my life with the public. we meet some amazing people and enjoy food and drink around the campfire.
After the public leave, I train the race dogs, sometimes muscle, interval, speed, or overtaking and this can include coaching with other athletes

Vickie coaches others to race with their dogs in the mono sports of bikejoring and scootering

Back home to let the dogs out have a play and then chill in the kennels – now time to train me… so 1-2 hours either gym, running, biking etc
Then back to play and feed dogs and kennels
Evening is spent either having dogs out in the field, extra training for me, hydro treadmill for the race team or swimming for me and dogs
So normal day consists of DOGS!!!!!
Occasionally there will be a meeting here and there with important people like sponsors, partners, book keeper! We also go into schools, and do some filming and TV work with team so no day is ever the same… then in the winter around a normal day, we have the races…. then it all changes!
We travel around the world racing sprint sled dogs and its the best thing ever!!!!!

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Proudest moment for me is actually owning 29 fit healthy dogs – I try and take a moment everyday to appreciate that.
Everyday is a proud moment!

Vickie has raced both huskies and hounds in Europe on snow

 

We have had some big races and great wins on the last couple of years and thats the icing on the cake to an already amazing team if dogs!

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

  1. Love your dogs
  2. Have fun always
  3. Enjoy the moment

What are your plans for the future?

Love dogs, race dogs, work with dogs, – repeat! (the same as now!)

Vickie believes the key to success is a great relationship with her dogs

How can our followers get in touch with you?

Facebook: Vickie Pullin (feel free to add and follow us)

Websites:
www.arcticquest.co.uk

Product Feature – The Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness

The rising popularity of the Dragrattan Multi-Sport harness, brand new to the market in 2016, has led us to do this short product feature to help you decide if this harness might be suitable for your dog.

The first thing I would say about the Dragrattan Multi-Sport is that it looks complicated, I know a few people I have spoken with about the innovative design, have said it looks difficult to work out how to put on the dog. In reality the harness works in a very simple way and it’s only the detachable belly band which makes it look more complex to fit than it is.

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport looks complicated but is actually really simple in it's design

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport looks complicated but is actually really simple in it’s design

The Multi-Sport has the traditional diamond shaped neck opening and well padded chest strap of all the Dragrattan harnesses and then the design goes minimalist on the back of the dog so you are left with just a simple cord from the end of the side pieces for attaching your bungee line too. It is here the belly band can be found too and this is excellent for dogs who can back out of traditional x-back harnesses.

There are a couple of things we love about this harness and the first is that it leaves the dogs’ back free to arch when running. A few of the other longer style harness we stock also have this as a feature but in addition to this, the harness also stays very straight on the dog at the front when pulled at an angle, meaning the likelihood of any rubbing under armpits for dogs who ‘crab’ to one side is greatly reduced.

Photo courtesy of Sport Pictures Cymru

The Multi-Sport doesn’t tend to twist at the front if your dog is pulling to one side (both dogs in the picture are in them) Photo courtesy of Sport Pictures Cymru

We have been using these harnesses all year and they were our harness of choice for our long distance challenge we completed in May because they are so versatile and your dog can even be let off safely with only the back cord hanging free when the harness is not pulled into.

The only fault I can find with the Dragrattan Multi-Sport is the same as with every standard size harness you can buy, they will not fit or suit every dog and although the design accommodates a much broader range of dog breed and shape than most longer style harnesses, if the body of the harness is too long on the dog, then it will not work comfortably.

In conclusion we think this harness is one of the best you can buy for participating in a number of different dog sports and although looks a little tricky to begin with, once you have mastered where the straps go, your dog will find this a very comfortable harness for all dog sports.

For more information or to buy this harness please follow the link below:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-multi-sport-harness.html

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport is proving to be a very popular choice of harness for dog sports this year - Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport is proving to be a very popular choice of harness for dog sports this year – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

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

At K9 Trail Time we are dedicated to helping get you and your dog canicrossing, bikejoring or dog scootering in the safest and easiest way possible. Our background in the dog sport retail industry comes from years of practising and enjoying canicross, bikejor and scootering ourselves, not just training but racing too and we’ve also enjoyed a bit of dryland mushing at times. K9 Trail Time was started after I couldn’t find anywhere online that stocked all the equipment I wanted to use for my own dogs and although there were other retailers out there, no-one had the full range I wanted to see. So I decided to set up for myself nearly 5 years ago now and the range we stock is probably the biggest you will find of any dog sport equipment retailer. I test EVERY item we sell personally, so I can help to explain how everything works and to be able to tell our customers what might suit them and their dogs most. I wanted to be able to offer everyone coming into the sport the best possible options, tailored for them and their dogs, and to do this I needed to stock all the top brands and have used them. Over the years I have added brands and they have added more products to cater for every type of dog imaginable to be able to participate comfortably and also to cater for the different circumstances you might be running in. For example the Parkrun length lines were added after manufacturers realised the popularity of running with your dog in the weekly Parkrun events. Check out the website, which is always being updated with new products for you and your active dog, at http://www.k9trailtime.com. I know it’s unashamed advertising but I just couldn’t do an A-Z of canicross without including K9 Trail Time somewhere, so for that reason, we are the ‘K’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of canicross!

K9 Trail Time, the business behind the blog

K9 Trail Time, the business behind the blog

Why We Love X-Back Harnesses

As the title of this blog suggests, here at K9 Trail Time we love the X-Back style of dog sports harness. Right from day one I have used an X-Back on one or other of my dogs, and of course we have switched around brands and styles of harness over the years, to test out new ones and see what works best, but I keep coming back to the X-Back style.

We have been using X-Backs for a number of years now for all the dog pulling sports - Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

We have been using X-Backs for a number of years now for all the dog pulling sports – Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

What is an X-Back harness? – X-Backs are a particular style of dog sport harness which are thought to have originated in North America well over 100 years ago. The harness itself gets it’s name from the sections of webbing which cross over the back in a ‘x’ shape. The harnesses are designed to reach to the base of the dogs’ tail and have traditionally been used for teams of huskies pulling sleds on snow.

The X-Back harness, is a traditional style harness with webbing crossing over the back

The X-Back harness, is a traditional style harness with webbing crossing over the back

Why would you use an X-Back harness? – I recommend these harnesses for dogs who are confident pullers and who have a fairly ‘steady’ gait when running. By this I mean the dog runs evenly and is consistent when pulling in a harness, this could be either at a ‘trot’ or a faster ‘bounding’ action.

X-Backs are great for strong pullers

X-Backs are great for strong pullers

Why would you not use an X-Back harness? – If your dog doesn’t pull out front or tends to ‘zig zag’ when running, then I would say this probably isn’t the harness for your dog. Sometimes if your dog arches its back a lot too, then it might be that a harness with no straps crossing over the back might work better. It has also been noted that if the angle of your line comes too steeply from the point of attachment at the back of the harness, then the X-Back cannot work as it was designed to and this is why the X-Backs are not made for much smaller dogs.

Make sure your harness is not being pulled up by too steep a line angle

Make sure your harness is not being pulled up by too steep a line angle

Why we love X-Backs – The X-Back harness has been around for so long and has worked so well that it has become the iconic symbol of sled dog sports (canicross, bikejor and dog scootering have all developed from sledding). It’s simple design means it is lightweight, has no points of weakness (buckles or clips), isn’t complicated to put on and is generally one of the hardest wearing harnesses you can buy.

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

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

A few of the X-Backs we stock:

The Dragrattan X-Back:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/dragrattan-x-back-harness.html

The Dragrattan Collared X-back (for dogs with a more narrow neck and shoulders):

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/dragrattan-collared-x-back-harness.html

The Non-stop Nansen Nome:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/non-stop-nansen-nome-harness.html

If you need any help with sizing or fitting an X-back harness do drop an e-mail to info@k9trailtime.com and we’ll be happy to help.

Happy Trails!

 

Racing Etiquette – Canicross, Bikejor and Dog Scooter Racing

The races for canicross, bikejor and dog scootering are getting so popular now and we are attending so many races on a monthly basis, that I gave up writing race reports a long time ago! From Cornwall to Scotland and everything in between, there are so many club and individual races you can attend with your dog, that the choice is increasing year on year for participants to take part.

Not only have you got dog sport specific races but we are also being welcomed and supported in many trail races designed for off road runners. Clearly this is limited to canicross but it has opened up a number of seriously good trail races to the dog sport world and we are making up a large part of the entry in some events.

Many trail races are now allowing canicross entries which is great news for all dog runners!

Many trail races are now allowing canicross entries which is great news for all dog runners!

What I wanted to write about in this blog is how I think we can improve how these races flow by following some simple rules and racing etiquette to make sure everyone gets the best from their race. The tips below are things I have picked up from a number of years of racing experience and knowing what I have to watch for in my dogs and be vigilant of in others.

So to enjoy my racing I try to follow these simple rules:

1 – If you are overtaking always let the person in front know you are coming – By calling ahead in plenty of time to let the person know you are approaching them, you are giving that person time to move out of your way, which is in your interests and theirs. One of the accepted terms to call is ‘trail right’ or ‘trail left’ depending on which side you intend to overtake on but the most important thing is to give as much warning and be as clear as you can so the person in front can react.

You might catch up with people in races and as you do make sure you call out to let other competitors know you are approaching

You might catch up with people in races and as you do, make sure you call out to let other competitors know you are approaching

2 – Do not sit on the heels of the team in front – This is something that can be very frustrating for both teams, as it can distract the team in front and the way to win races isn’t by allowing your dog to take a ‘tow’ off someone in front all the time. You may also upset non-dog runners in canicross friendly races if you allow your dog to be ‘breathing down the neck’ of the runner in front, so just make sure you leave an acceptable gap until or unless, you are ready to overtake.

Leaving space between competitors is especially important on bikes or scooters - Photo courtesy of Sharon Reid

Leaving space between competitors is especially important on bikes or scooters – Photo courtesy of Sharon Reid

3 – If you are being overtaken, move over – Once the person behind you has caught you, move aside on the trail and allow them to overtake cleanly. Ideally you will have taught your dog an ‘over’ command so that your dog will move on the side of the trail you have directed. Even if you are on a bike or scooter, you should attempt to move your dog over. I have seen many people simply move themselves or their bike or scooter over and the dog is still across the trail; this leaves the line blocking the path of the person behind, preventing them from getting past, which is frustrating for everyone and risks your dog getting in a tangle with theirs.

Moving over on the trail will allow people to overtake you without tangles - Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

Moving over on the trail will allow people to overtake you without tangles – Photo courtesy of Fay Frost Photography

4 – Do not allow your dog to lunge at other dogs (or people) during the race – Even if your dog is only being friendly, you are in a race situation and other competitors will not want your dog interfering with theirs (or them) even if it not being aggressive. The best thing to do if you know your dog is prone to this, is move right out of the way if possible. If it not possible then you must pull your dog in and even pull over to prevent this. If you are being overtaken then it will benefit you to allow the person a clear passage past you and then you can follow on. If you are overtaking and know your dog is prone to lunging you should be working hard during training on a strong ‘on by’, ‘leave’, or ‘straight on’ command, whichever is the most effective for your dog. In this particular situation it is often better to try and get past as quickly as possible and provided the person you’re overtaking is co-operative, it will be better not to slow down and allow your dog time to consider lunging as an option.

Training your dog to be able to pass without problems is a huge part of dog sport racing

Training your dog to be able to pass without problems is a huge part of dog sport racing – Photo courtesy of Tracy Evans

5 – Be mindful of how your voice commands might affect other dogs (or people) on the course – Just be aware as you are coming up behind or being overtaken by another team that suddenly shouting at your dog might spook other dogs (or people) around you. It can be quite intimidating for a nervous dog to be overtaken by someone loudly encouraging their own dog and for this reason it is worth trying to keep commands to a minimum on the course (keeping in mind that it is better to have your dog under your control than not) but again training is the key to this.

In situations where you are surrounded by other competitors, be aware that your voice commands might have an impact on others - Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

In situations where you are surrounded by other competitors, be aware that your voice commands might have an impact on others – Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

If you can master all of the above then you should have a safe and pleasant racing experience. It is always worth doing as much training with other people before and in between races to ensure you and your dog are as relaxed as possible when racing, as adrenalin can run high in both of you. At the end of the day these dog sports events are put on for us to have fun with our dogs and so the main thing is to enjoy your run, whilst being courteous to those around you. Happy Trails!

How to choose a harness for your dog

Harness Selection – Every dog is unique!

If you are new to dog sports you’d be forgiven for being a little confused about what type of harness you should be using for your dog! This question is not easy to answer and is based on a number of variables.

The first thing to consider is what type of sports you will be doing with your dog?

If you are competing in agility or flyball classes then a good fitting shoulder or walking harness should be perfect for your dog, as you are not asking your dog to pull any weight into the harness, it is there for ease of use for yourself and to prevent your dog from potential neck injury if your dog pulls strongly when walking.

We stock the Non-stop Line Harness, the Zero DC Euro Short, the Neewa Running Harness, the Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness and now the Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness, which all serve this purpose very well.

The Non-stop Line Harness is pictured below and is the perfect multi sport harness, for walking, canicross and even bikejoring.

The Non-stop Line Harness

If you are going to be running with your dog (canicross) then the harness needs to be designed to allow your dog to pull you along with no restriction on breathing or natural movement, the aim of the harness is to capture the dogs’ running power and allow the dog to pull you along through a bungee line (the line must always have this element of bungee to prevent jarring injuries).

The same is true of biking with your dog (bikejor), scootering (your dog pulls your scooter and you help by ‘scooting’) and dry land mushing (pulling a three wheeled rig which you stand on). The harnesses used for these activities need to be fit for purpose and so it is not worthwhile settling for a walking harness for these purposes. Every harness we stock is designed to be multi-functional and in most cases can be used for walking in addition to the dog sports.

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness is a another of the fantastic multi-purpose harnesses we sell.

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness is another of the fantastic multi-purpose harnesses we sell.

So if you have decided what sports you are taking part in and have decided if you need a pulling harness or not (I have made some suggestions for walking harnesses and multi-use harnesses above) the next thing to look at is how hard your dog is going to pulling you as we always recommend a longer style harness for dogs who are always out front pulling hard.

The x-back harnesses we stock are a fantastic longer harness with years and years of success for sled dogs all over the world. The x-back is designed to spread the strain of pulling from the dogs’ shoulders, away from the throat with a ‘V’ shaped neck and along the body to the point of the line attachment by the base of the dogs’ tail. The x-back does have some limitations in use as they do not suit very small dogs when used with a short ‘parkrun’ length line. This is because they were originally designed to have a horizontal line pull angle but in most cases the x-back works very well for strong pulling dogs for both canicross and bikejor in addition to scootering, sledding and dry land mushing.

Pictured below is the Dragrattan x-back harness, a traditional design of harness, used for a variety of dog sports

Donnie in Dragrattan x back

I use either a Dragrattan or Non-stop Nansen Nome x-back harness on a couple of my dogs for canicross, bikejor & scootering because they pull very strongly and these harnesses work well for dogs who are always out in front.

So what other harnesses can you use?

Arguably the best multi-sport option available for strong pullers is the Non-stop Freemotion Harness, which has an attachment point at the base of the dogs’ tail and is designed to direct the pull away from the throat and allow freedom of movement. The neck of the harness has a deep ‘V’ keeping the harness for riding up into the throat of the dog. The two straps either side of the dogs’ spine also allow the spine to flex freely when the dog is bounding in a run and so suits any dogs who really bend and arch through the back when running.

The Freemotion can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, skijoring (skiing with your dog), sledding, dry land mushing, even hiking and is more adjustable than the other longer harnesses which allows it to work correctly for a larger number of breeds who might be broader / slimmer in shape or longer / shorter in the body than the sled dog breeds, who the original pulling harnesses were designed for. I have used the Freemotion on all of my dogs because it is so versatile in its uses and can be adjusted in length to accommodate their individuality.

The Non-stop Freemotion Harness below is one of the best multi-sport harnesses available

The spine of the dog is left free by the top straps and the harness can ‘breathe’ with the dog

Similar in design but with a higher neck piece which may not suit all dogs, is the Neewa Racing harness, again this harness is great for strong pullers, adjustable in length and leaves the back free to arch, however the sizing is more limited in these harnesses and therefore doesn’t suit such a wide range of breeds.

The Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness has a high padded neck and chest piece for your dogs comfort

The Howling Dog Alaska Second Skin or Tough Skin Harness is another option you may want to consider for pulling activities, as it has a simple design, is adjustable around the ribs and by attaching your line at the end of the cord, gives you a happy mix between the long and short harnesses. It falls into the category of a longer style harness because the pull is directed along the body and away from the throat in the same way as the other longer harnesses, however these harnesses are great if your dog doesn’t like things too close to their tail or has had any issues with things in the hip area. The Second Skins also work exceptionally well for stockier, shorter bodied breeds of dogs such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier because they fit shorter on the body.

One thing to note about this harness however, is that it must be used for dogs that pull into the harness, if the Second Skin is not pulled into, it can tend to slip on the dogs’ back and for that reason I do not recommend it for activity where you may want to let your dog off lead in the harness.

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness,

Relatively new to the dog sport harness market is the Dragrattan Multi Sport Harness which is based on an x-back style harness on the neck, with all pull being directed along your dog’s body and underneath, but with the back being left open to allow your dog to move more freely. Because your line is attached to the cord at the back of the Dragrattan Multi Sport, it doesn’t interfere with the front of the harness if your dog moves to one side or another on the trail, so if your dog gets distracted when running, then this might be the perfect harness for you.

The harness is also suitable for dogs who might be a less traditional sled dog or hound shape and has a belly strap for those who might be liable to wriggle out of longer harnesses. I used these harnesses on all my dogs for a long distance canicross challenge we completed in 2016 and they performed perfectly over 100 plus miles, so I can highly recommend them.

Judo with Tegan Multi sport Dragrattan

The Dragrattan Multi Sport harness is brand new for 2016 and a great option for all dog sports

Another of the European harness designs is that of the Euro Harness by Zero DC which comes in both a long and short option. The Zero DC Long or ‘Faster’ Harness is designed to be a multi-sport harness suitable for canicross, bikejor, scootering, mushing and skijor. With the long version pull is directed from the dogs’ shoulders away from the neck and to an attachment point at the base of the tail. The neck of the harness is round in shape which tends to suit the hound shaped dogs better than other breeds of dog and differs from the x-back and Freemotion harnesses which have the ‘V’. There is also no material over the dogs’ back with this harness, the harness material comes from the front underneath and along the rib cage up to the base of the tail, therefore avoiding any potential restriction of the back if your dog really arches through it’s back when it runs.

Pictured below is the Zero DC Euro Long Harness, a great multi-purpose harness for dogs who pull strongly

The Zero DC Long Harness has no material over the back to restrict movement

I have used the Zero DC Euro Long Harness on my Sprollie because when he runs he ‘bounds’ along and his back when running is much more mobile than my other dogs’ backs when they run. Anything which directed his pulling power along the top of his back, such as a shorter style harness, could potentially hinder his natural movement.

The Zero DC Euro Short Harness is designed much more like a shoulder harness with a shorter attachment point mid way down the dogs’ back and seems to suit both small and large breeds alike because of the adjustability of the girth on this shorter harness and it’s suitability for most sports. I have used the short version on my husky cross because the pulling power is lost through the long version when she ‘trots’. These harnesses work well for dogs who don’t always pull strongly because they do not have the longer length of material or webbing which can become redundant if your dog is not pulling out in front. The neck of the Zero DC Short is also rounded in shape which means it may sit a little high on some dogs who pull down into the harness when they pull.

Pictured below is the Zero DC Euro Short Harness, great for both pulling and non-pulling dogs

The neck must allow your dog full range of movement through the shoulders

I mentioned at the start of this blog the Non-stop Line Harness and although we suggest these for walking and other activities, if you have a dog who only lightly pulls or tends to drop back with you, you let off lead for most or part of your runs, or even if you’re unsure what your dog will do to begin with, you can’t go far wrong with one of these.

They are lightweight, robust and with a selection of sizing from 1 to 9, fit most breeds of dog who want to take part in any pulling sports. We really rate these harnesses for all activities and wanted to mention them again because they can be over looked as a running harness but in our experience are very much up to the job.

The Non-stop Line Harness, one of the selection we have which suits pullers and non-pullers

Similar to the Non-stop Line harness is the Neewa Running harness, the main difference being the style of neck again, the Neewa harnesses have a higher padded section on the neck than the Non-stop and do not cover such a wide range of sizes, therefore might not suit such a wide range of breeds.

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness is higher set and more padded than the Non-stop Line

New to the market for 2020 is the Arctic Wolf Adventure Harness which is proving very popular because it is designed to be suitable for all sports and is great for walking in too, it also has a specially designed ‘V’ in the neck so that it suits dogs who have a tendency to pull down when they pull into a harness too. The V prevents any restrictions on the throat when pulling hard which is a drawback with some on the other shorter harnesses.

The Adventure Harness, new for 2020

To conclude this article on harnesses I need to say this is my personal experience of the harnesses I have mentioned when being used on my own dogs. Each of my dogs has a different running style (trot, bound and all out pull from the shoulders) each of my dogs is a slightly different breed which means they are a slightly different shape and so it would seem obvious to me that each dog might suit a different style of harness.

When selecting a harness for your dog, you need to consider the purpose for which you need the harness, how strongly your dog is going to be pulling you and lastly but most important, the individuality of your dog. I have chosen to stock a variety of harnesses for this reason as I don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach and if you can it’s always better to trial a harness to see how it works with your dog and set up before you commit to one. Otherwise you’ll end up like me with half a dozen harnesses for each dog!

If you need any further help I have provided a ‘Harness Consultation’ sheet here: https://www.k9trailtime.com/harness-consultation-questions which will help us to advise you and I would suggest considering the questions to provide us with a bit more information so we can get the perfect harness for your dog.

We also have a video on choosing the right harness for your dog here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8yZ7EFslqE

Race Review – October 2014

October was a slightly less busy month than I had originally anticipated at the beginning of the year, because I had intended on going to the ECF Grand Prix held in France. However due to Donnie’s illness and not being sure of his fitness to travel such a way for an event, I had decided just to bow out this year. There was plenty to keep us occupied on home soil though…

United Canine Sports Club Training Weekend, Hicks Lodge, Leicestershire, 4th & 5th October – The first weekend in October was dedicated to a training weekend organised by the United Canine Sports Club at the Hicks Lodge Cycle Centre in Leicestershire. We went along to help people who are new to the sports gain an insight into Canicross, Bikejor, Dog Scootering and Dryland Mushing. There were organised talks both days and an opportunity to run the dogs on the Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. The weather (yet again) was very warm for October and Saturday nights’ run was bordering on too warm but the temperatures dropped overnight and Sunday was almost frosty, dry and perfect for running the dogs round the dedicated mile loop. The event was, in my opinion, a great success, with lots of people coming away having learnt from those who have been participating in the sports for a number of years. I think we need more training weekends like this in the UK and was glad to have been part of two organised training weekends before the racing season really kicks in.

The training weekend was a great success and we had perfect weather on the Sunday morning for a proper run

The training weekend was a great success and we had perfect weather on the Sunday morning for a proper run

 

Hicks Lodge Dash, Leicestershire, 19th October 2014 – This one-off race was organised in conjunction with Canicross Midlands, who have really added to the 2014/2015 race calender with a race series and a couple of stand alone events, this being the first of the stand alone events. I know I keep going on about the weather but it was another warm day for dog racing and so I knew it was going to be another plod around for us. In spite of this I really enjoyed the route, as it took me on paths around this National Forest Park which I haven’t seen used in previous races we have attended here. Most of the paths are designed for easy wheelchair and pushchair access, however the race organisers took us off the beaten track a little and this made the course much more dog-friendly and interesting as a result.

Judo and I enjoyed our run but it was still much too warm for us to race - Photo courtesy of Soar Photo

Judo and I enjoyed our run but it was still much too warm for us to race – Photo courtesy of Soar Photo

Cotswold Canicross Training Runs, 11th, 15th, 25th & 31st October – At home for a couple of weekends, I took the opportunity to arrange some local group runs with Cotswold Canicross, the group I run when I get the chance! We are lucky to have some lovely trails close by and we are particularly fond of some routes around the Cotswold Water Park, which give plenty of natural water stops for the dogs. I find that participating in group runs gives my dogs a relaxed way to socialise and any novice dogs, new to canicross, seem to pick up the idea better when in a group. I really enjoy the local canicross runs and often wish I had more time to organise them but there just aren’t enough weekends in the year!

We enjoyed spending time with friends on our local canicross runs - Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

We enjoyed spending time with friends on our local canicross runs – Photo courtesy of Colin Roberts

Doughnut Dash, 24th October – This was a challenge organised through Cotswold Canicross but mainly attended by Canicross Wiltshire participants. I found a fantastic little race which was held back a few weeks before in Colchester (more info here:

http://www.doughnutdash.org.uk/info/) in aid of Kidney Research UK. The organisers had some medals left over and so had set up a virtual event for people to take part in, all you had to do was arrange your own Doughnut Dash (run 5km eating a doughnut after every 1km before continuing) and document it with photo evidence. Needless to say this sounded like the challenge I was up for, so we picked a venue with a 1km lap to allow us to return back to the cars easily for the doughnuts. The dogs were all a bit bemused by the sight of us stuffing our faces with doughnuts and none for them! We completed the challenge, some more easily than others, and I’m glad we gave it a go as it was fun to do something a bit different but I won’t be eating doughnuts for a while now (maybe that’s a good thing!).

The Doughnut Dash was a funny little challenge for us but we hopefully raised some money for  the serious cause of charity Kidney Research UK

The Doughnut Dash was a funny little challenge for us but we hopefully raised some money for the serious cause of charity Kidney Research UK

So to conclude Octobers Race Review, I would say the warm weather held us back again in the one race we made it to, although I think the opportunity to do a bit more training and socialise wasn’t a bad thing. It’s really important sometimes to mix up the training that you do, so I think that by doing a few longer runs at home, building stamina, this will help the dogs (and me) when we finally get some weather cool enough to compete in.

Bikejor Attachments – Which one for you?

With so many people starting to take an interest in the sport of bikejoring and not knowing where to start with what to look for in a bikejor attachment, I thought I would write a quick blog to highlight the features of each of the attachments we sell here at K9 Trail Time.

The purpose of the attachment for bikejoring is only to help keep the line away from the wheel and the bungee lead you use to connect to your dogs’ harness must always be wrapped around the main headset on the frame of the bike. Never fix the line to the end of the attachment or to your handle bars. The attachments are not designed to take the weight of the dog pulling and if you attach your line to the handle bars you risk the dog pulling your bike in a different direction to the one you would like to be travelling in!

Arctic Wolf Attachment – Suitable for both bikes and scooters – Link to website:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bikejor-scootering/bikejor-attachments/bikejor-converter-arctic-wolf.html

This attachment is made of metal with a big rubber bungee providing the flexibility in it for unexpected stops. The Arctic Wolf attachment fixes around your bike’s headset with a clamp which is tightened with a spanner and provides a strong point for the arm to be fixed to your bike. The rubber joint and metal arm can be screwed and unscrewed, making the arm easily detachable if you leave the metal clamp on the bike. This attachment is great for keeping strong dogs directed towards the front of the bike, although it it the heaviest of the attachments and it ‘bounces’ slightly with the movement of your bike.

Arctic Wolf Bikejor Convertor

Arctic Wolf Bikejor Convertor

Arctic Wolf Pro Antenna – Suitable for both both bikes and scooters – Link to

website:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/arctic-wolf-pro-antenna.html

The Arctic Wolf Pro Antenna is much lighter weight than the other Arctic Wolf attachment and fixes to the bike or scooter frame with a connection that requires an allen key to tighten it in place and clamps neatly on the steerer tube spacers below the stem on most bikes or scooters, without the need to remove the stem. There is a strong coiled metal spring which provides the flexibility in the attachment if your dog moves to the side or stops. The Pro Antenna comes with a custom manufactured silicon channel to protect the paintwork on your bike so is a good one if you want to try and avoid damaging the frame!

Arctic Wolf Pro Antenna

Non-stop Bikejor/ Scooter Attachment – Suitable for both bikes and scooters – Link to website:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bikejor-scootering/bikejor-scooter-attachments/new-non-stop-bike-scooter-attachment.html

Non-stop’s Bike/Scooter attachment is very lightweight and is fitted on standard width bike or scooter headsets by replacing a spacer, which is quick and simple to do using an allen key.
It is similar in style to the Arctic Wolf Pro Antenna with a strong spring coil to absorb shock and be flexible if your dog stops suddenly or darts to one side. The difference between the two is that this one does require a spacer to be removed on the bike or scooter, will only fit the standard frames and has a bigger ring at the end to accommodate a line with a wider clip.

Non-stop Bikejor / Scooter Arm

Rower-land Attachment – Suitable for bikes only – Link to website:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bikejor-scootering/bikejor-attachments/rowerland-bikejor-attachment.html

The Rower-land bikejor attachment fixes to the bike with velcro and webbing straps, which makes it very quick and easy to fit or remove the whole unit. Once it is strapped into place however, it doesn’t move at all and provides rigidity out the front of the bike to keep the line from dropping into the wheel. The attachment is make from a very strong plastic, which also has the benefit of being flexible enough to bend if your dog were to stop suddenly. This attachment will not fit on bikes that do not have a standard, slightly angled, mountain bike frame, so you will have to check it will work with your bike.

Rower-land Bike Attachment

Rower-land Bike Attachment

Windog Attachment – Suitable for both bikes and scooters – Link to website:

https://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/bikejor-scootering/bikejor-scooter-attachments/windog-bike-scooter-attachment.html

The Windog bike and scooter attachment is the most flexible of the attachments we sell and also the cheapest. It attaches using a very simple system of bolts and washers to fix to itself around the headset of your bike, meaning it will not mark your bike or scooter in any way. It has two different width settings but could also be adapted for thinner frames by using foam padding underneath. The Windog attachment is made of very pliable plastic covered in material, which gives maximum sideways movement to the attachment, whilst still holding you line away from the front wheel.

Windog Bike / Scooter Attachmnet

Windog Bike / Scooter Attachment

Hopefully you will find this short guide useful in making your choice but if you would like more information on any of the products we sell, please do get in touch through the website: http://www.k9trailtime.com

Happy trails!

Running with dogs – Why I canicross, bikejor and scooter my dogs

This is a blog I wrote a few years years ago for a few people who were ill-informed about canicross and these are people who should be supportive of the sport but had reservations about running dogs for whatever reason. I’ve decided to re-publish as I have recently again seen comments suggesting that these sports shouldn’t be open to all and I disagree.

Firstly, I’d like to start with why I got into canicross. All of my dogs are rescues, my first, Tegan is a husky cross border collie and when I first saw her she was trying to escape over an 8 foot kennel wall! She was so over excited and stressed in the kennels she virtually threw herself at me and although I wasn’t sure I could cope with her I thought I had to give it a go as I was probably more suitable to give her a chance than most families.

I spent the first 10 months dealing with her separation anxiety and destructive behaviour, it is not realistic to expect a dog who was rescued as a stray (and was on day 7 in a Welsh pound) to just settle into a routine without some problems. Tegan tested my patience on numerous occasions and I lost a sofa bed, cupboard door handles and a few door frames to her ‘settling in’.

I took her out with my horse which seemed to calm her down and give her the outlet to run which she so obviously needed but there was always the problem of livestock in the fields we could go in and so the opportunity to do this was limited.

I decided a companion would be a good idea and so I got Judo from a national rescue centre – Many Tears, knowing full well it was going to be hard work with another young dog and because he is also a collie cross that he was going to be a high energy dog too.

For the next 8 months we tried a number of activities (Judo was limited by his age) such as agility and flyball to keep their minds and bodies working but nothing seemed to provide the release for them like going for a good run.

Judo was a year old in the May, I had already started running short distances of about a mile or 2 with them since he was about 9 months old, so when a friend suggested I try a Cani-X race with them, the 5km 2 dog class seemed a perfect goal to aim for in September.

As we increased our runs I began to notice that both dogs were much calmer on the days we ran and actually just spent the evenings sleeping around the house rather than looking for other things to do. I also noticed the destruction around the house which Tegan had always initiated, gradually stopped.

You could say the dogs were just growing up but nothing had calmed them to this extent until I started the running and their behaviour improved dramatically. Judo is a very active dog who is always looking for the next game and running gives him a job to do, something to focus on and put energy into.

(Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright of Chillpics)

The competitions we did through Cani-X not only gave us a goal to work towards but meant I could socialise my dogs with other dogs without fear of being judged for not having the perfect family pet. The type of people who we find at canicross events are only concerned for the happiness of the dogs and they also understand what it is like to have dogs with issues, as many of the dogs that attend are rescues, or high energy dogs which would struggle with being walked twice a day around the local neighbourhood on a lead.

I have been competing now for a number of years and have met more helpful and competent dog people in this time, than in all my previous years of owning dogs. I always feel that the dog’s welfare comes first in any of the competitions and there is always knowledge to be shared.

I have over the years of being involved in the dogs sports, taken up both bikejor (mountain biking with your dog) and scootering, which are faster and more intense sports than the canicross but have the additional benefit of requiring more focus from both you and your dog which can tire you out quicker!

Bikejoring and scootering is a more intense work out for both you and your dog because you both have to focus more  - Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright of Chillpics

Bikejoring and scootering is a more intense work out for both you and your dog because you both have to focus more – Photo courtesy of CaniX and copyright of Chillpics

I took on a third rescue called Donnie in 2011, again from Many Tears and his move to me was his 7th at only 6 months old! Donnie is a collie cross springer spaniel who also has boundless energy and had proved too much for his previous owners. With me he has a ‘working’ home because he will always be kept occupied with the canicross which satisfies his innate need to do a ‘job’.

I also have the full support of Many Tears rescue where I got Judo and Donnie from and they are thrilled their dogs are having such active and fulfilling lives. They also know they will never get a phone call from me saying I can’t cope with them and will have to return them, which is what they and most other rescue centres dread most.

So on to a bit more general information about running with dogs.

Dogs, ALL breeds of dogs no matter how large or small, were bred with a job in mind for them. My collie crosses are herding dogs and this is instinctive which means it is in their blood, no matter how much I train them they will always display these qualities in one form or another.

My dogs were bred to work, to run, to think quickly and they love have the opportunity to use these qualities when we go out, they get so excited about the harnesses coming out as they know they are about to get out there and run with me. Dogs are pack animals and they like to be part of a group working as a team, I am no dog behaviourist but I don’t need to be, to see how much these dogs love being attached up to their owners and given the chance to share an experience like running with them.

There have been some concerns raised about too much running with dogs can lead to problems later in the dogs life with joints but all the evidence points to the opposite. We have dogs who are 14/15 years old and are still running the 5km races and loving every minute. Why would something that comes so naturally to a dog be damaging?

I think the problem is that people have developed such a humanised view of their dogs they can’t see that precious little ‘Tilly’ would rather be out running in the countryside, than being walked around on a lead having a ball thrown a few times for them a couple of times a day.

More damage is done to dogs joints by irresponsible in-breeding of dogs that allow genetic defects to be passed on through the bloodlines resulting in a short and painful life for the dog in many cases.

I feel that anyone who cares enough for their dog to spend time running with it is not going to push the dog beyond its running limits. I know many people who could run much faster without their dogs but choose to slow their pace and shorten their running distance so the dog is comfortable and happy.

I have also heard concerns raised about the temperature the dogs are run in. I personally have been to at least half a dozen races which have been brought forward due to concern over the temperatures and have seen runners withdraw dogs when they feel it is too hot for them – the dogs decide – always and without question. No dog owner I know would run their dog in any temperature they felt was a risk to the dog.

Other concerns that seem to have arisen can all be explained by the individual dogs’ situation such as different harnesses used, whether the dog runs muzzled or not and also shouting encouragement or commands to the dogs. People make choices based on their knowledge of their own dogs and I personally don’t question it but any doubters or those with concerns should maybe just ask the owner rather than make an assumption based on their own experiences of dogs which may be very different.

To bring this back to my own dogs and why I’m an advocate of running with dogs, canicross and the other dog sports, is to say that all I see when I go to events are how excited, happy and fulfilled the dogs are to be there and be taking part in these runs. I see many rescue dogs who are often quite mentally scarred and this gives them the chance to let go of the pent up energy in a safe environment.

I have also heard the same type of arguments in relation to sled dogs and the races the mushers complete with them. These are often dogs which would otherwise be put to sleep as without some sort of activity above and beyond what someone would consider a normal twice daily walk, they would be destructive and in some cases aggressive.

I feel the need to point out that rescue centres, vets, and the general dog owning public should be grateful & supportive for the opportunity these dogs get to engage in activities such as running, scootering & dry land mushing because it means there are a few less dogs to rescue, re-home and put to sleep which is something I would hope no dog lover would want.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about or you disagree, feel free to come along to one of the events and talk to the people taking part, witness the care with which the dogs are treated and the joy in their eyes because they are doing what dogs were made to do – run!

Canicross is a great way to give your dog a 'job' to do and keeps both you and your dog fit and healthy  - Photo courtesy of Simon Warwick

Canicross is a great way to give your dog a ‘job’ to do and keeps both you and your dog fit and healthy – Photo courtesy of Simon Warwick