Having run several Canicross races myself, organised Canicross fun runs with Lynne and taught Canicross classes for the last two years now here are the top tips for you to consider when taking part in a race yourself for you and your canine team mate. With our race coming up next weekend I wanted to share with you what I have learned !
No1. Know your dog and how they react in different situations, you may think your dog is great with other dogs friendly and good in many situations however a race situation is very different for a dog. Most dogs natural instinct is to chase some more than others and if you haven't put your dog into a race type scenario before it's wise to be cautious, keep your dog close to you and keep talking to them at the start line to keep them calm with your voice.
Teach your dog all the commands they needs to know,
'Line out', 'On On', 'Hike Hike', 'left left' or 'haw', 'right right' or 'gee', 'on by
', 'leave', 'steady'. The best way to get your dog used to these is by attending some Canicross classes or having a 1-2-1 with one of our instructors. We have specific classes each week on technique, commands and drills so that you know when to use the commands and you dog understands them when you use them it's a whole new skill you are teaching your running partner and it's important that they know what you want them to do. It's also builds a stronger bond and between you both and is what makes you a team!
Mass start - where all competitors start at the same time can be pandemonium, dogs barking because they are excited, scared, nervous - just think how you feel at races. If you have a reactive dog your best bet is to start right at the back to help keep your dog as calm as is possible in that situation talk to them, stroke then and keep their attention it will all help them have a more positive experience. If your not sure how your dog will be around lots of other excites dogs just keep them close and maintain you focus and attention on them.
Wave starts can be better as you start with a smaller group of dogs and runners who you and your dog may already know which can be helpful and reduce the excitement or stress for the dog.
individual starts are more common in multi discipline dog sport events where there are rig, scooter and bikejor races as well as Canicross on the same day. Each competitor is set off between 15 to 60 seconds apart. This means you are running your own race with your team canine team mate, don't have the rush of a mass or group start and don't always have a fellow competitor to chase. More training with your dog alone is required to get them working for you rather than in a pack and chasing.
Things to consider before race day- how far do you have to travel? Over 2 hours and you need to think about keeping your dog hydrated,water if they will drink it or baited with a sardine mashed up in water should work. When to feed your dog before a race is dependant on what time your race is, your dog should never run on a full stomach and needs at least 90-120 minutes after food before being run. Post race you should also wait 60-90mins before feeding your dog to ensure their system has calmed enough to take on the task of digesting food.
During the race over taking can be tricky for all manner of reasons, your dog is playful and wants to say hi to every dog they get the chance to which isn't good in a race as other competitors may not appreciate their dogs focus being broken, lines may get tangled and cause an accident or the other dog could react and cause injury to your dog. If the trail is wide enough to over take let the team in front know which side you are going to pass on before you steam past and give your dog the 'on by' command to keep them moving past without interfering. If you have not taught any commands to your dog and are unsure how your dog will react bring your dog in close to you and either stop or walk to allow the runner to pass safely for you all.
After the race taking care of your dog Very important! water and a treat creates trust and strengthens the bond of the team!