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.
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.
Continuing the theme of best-sellers, the waist belts we sell here at K9 Trail Time have gradually been expanding in range too, as the top brands bring out better materials and designs based on feedback from the growing number of participants.
We have seen a number of innovative styles released since we first started canicross and as manufacturers respond to the canicrossers’ needs, we’re sure we will see more new belts being brought out in the future.
One thing that we do often get asked is for a ‘hip belt’ rather than a ‘waist belt’ but the term really just describes where you might wear it, as we call all of our belts ‘waist belts’ but they should all (in our opinion) be worn low down on the hips to prevent any strains to the lower back.
So from our current range, our 3 top-selling belts are as follows:
1 – Non-stop Running Belt – Top of the range and fully adjustable, this belt is the one people seem to stop upgrading at, so we have to class it as number one!
2 – Neewa Canicross Belt – Relatively new and with a great price tag as well as a comfortable design, this belt has been flying out of our online shop
3 – Zero DC Canicross Belt – A more traditional design but with detachable leg straps for those who aren’t sure if they will like them, plus a huge back pocket, this belt has been very popular for years.
Of course we have many, many more belts in stock and would be happy to discuss the pros and cons of them with any customer. The Zero DC Speedy belt is a personal favourite of mine and the Dragrattan Ergo and Howling Dog Alaska belts are all up there but just fractionally behind in sales when compared with the 3 above this year – that doesn’t mean they won’t be up there next year though!
One of the three key items of equipment you need for canicross is the bungee line, the line is what connects you to your dog and can make a big difference to the comfort of your run. When I first started canicross, I just grabbed a lead and attached it to my dog’s harness but I could see very quickly that without a section of bungee, there was the potential for a lot of force to be transferred through the line which could cause damage. The line for canicross is usually around 2 metres when stretched, as that gives the runner enough room to run without tripping over, however both longer and shorter lines can be used in different situations. For example if you are canicrossing at a Parkrun or other event where there are regular runners, you might want to keep your dog closer to you and under more control with a shorter bungee line. If you are training with lots of open space or are using one line for canicross and bikejor, you might want to choose a slightly longer bungee line. The line you use for canicross is an often underrated, but vitally important link in the equipment you use, so for that reason the ‘L’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross is for line.
Your dogs’ harness is probably the most important bit of kit you can buy for canicross and is also probably the bit of kit you will have multiples of too! Getting the right harness for your dog can be very tricky as your dog will potentially change shape the more you train and become a more confident runner, which can mean the best type of harness for your dog will change. I spend hours of my time with people in person, on the phone and via e-mail or messages, helping them to get the best harness for their dog because I think it’s really important in this sport that your dog is comfortable. For canicross your dogs’ harness must be snug on the neck so it doesn’t slip around and potentially cause rubbing, it must allow freedom of movement through the front legs and not cause any restriction or pressure points along the body. The purpose of the harness is to capture your dogs’ energy and send it through the bungee lead and the waist belt to propel you forward. Your dog is meant to be pulling so the harness you choose must be suitable for this. There are so many different shapes and styles to choose from now that making a decision can be confusing, but K9 Trail Time is dedicated to helping you get the right harness for your dog, so I have written many, many blogs about choosing a harness and am always happy to help. The harness for canicross should be your number one item on your canicross shopping list and for that reason, I have chosen harness as my word for ‘H’ in this A-Z of Canicross.
I couldn’t write an A-Z of canicross without emphasising that the main reason for running with your dog should be the fun you will have doing it. I often hear people saying ‘I’m not fast enough’ or ‘I’m not fit enough’ to run with their dog, when the aim should be to get fitter with your dog and maybe get faster as a result (two more ‘F” words for you!). Even racing is generally about the fun you can have whilst taking part in an organised event and most people just enjoy being able to canicross on new trails with a bunch of other like-minded folk. There is also the social aspect for both dogs and humans that gathering canicrossers together can bring, and as I’ve mentioned previously, it’s a safe environment for dogs who might not be so great at being social, to be around other dogs and people from a distance. There is nothing quite like running with your furry pace maker for enjoyment and even when it’s a wet, muddy and miserable day, we always end up having fun canicrossing. So my word associated with the letter ‘F’ has to be fun!